I’ve always thought that there’s something captivating about roaming through the streets of a bustling city alone at night. With no particular purpose or destination, yet not aimlessly either, I get a swelling sense of content from watching the people around me move and moving with them. In big cities, night’s don’t always feel uncomfortable or sinister, especially from an onlooker’s perspective under the warmth and light of the streetlights, shop lights, billboard lights, car lights, bar lights… All of the lights. Maybe it’s the naïve child in me who simply enjoys the physical comfort of being around people. At the risk of sounding like an angsty, misunderstood Holden Caulfield, there is a meditative tranquility about being still in a busy place.
With three of four finals out of the way I thought I would take some time to reflect on the beauty of the city. Having been caged inside confined walls of concrete study rooms for nine to ten hours at a time for a straight week with pages of notes, flash cards and sympathy cookies baked by a friend’s brother who’s exams were long over, it’s easy to forget there’s a world outside of walls. I often catch myself reminiscing about memories of Hong Kong and New York – cities where the crowds are bigger and the lights are brighter, where the city feels alive and electric.
I fell in love with New York City in the fall of 2011, my first visit. The intricacy of the gridded roads, grandeur of luxury flagship stores on 5th avenue, mass lands for parks and buildings where colonialism met modernism – it all seemed otherworldly. I knew instantly it was the city I would, one day, love to call home. With a rough estimate on the whereabouts of Up/Mid/Downtown were, I was dead set on familiarizing myself with street names: play the part of the local New Yorker (although daily rides on GrayLine double decker buses probably gave my tourist status away).
Standing in the middle of Times Square, where the lights give off a false impression of day, it was hard to imagine living in a city so beautiful. Is there a point when locals become immune to its beauty? I don’t think New York’s novelty could every wear off for me. I guess, one day, we’ll see.
With university finals dawning, my Internet crashing and everyone’s stress levels snowballing, I decided the best thing to do was to turn my room into a make-shift photography studio. Obviously, slightly inappropriate and unproductive to the high-achieving grades that I am hoping for, but I truly needed an outlet. That was, honestly, the reason why I started lifedeesigned.com in the middle of all this academic chaos – divergence, relief and (a little bit of undeniable) procrastination.
There’s something nostalgically pleasing about going through my bag at the end of the day. Piles of receipts from dim sum the day before, scattered pens and highlighters, and the occasional discovery of two dollar coins that aid my uni-kid pockets in feeling less broke are just some of the old discoveries that create trivial excitement. Being the friend with band-aids, tissues, wet wipes, Hollywood Tape and extra pens with her at all time, you could say I’m anything but a light packer. But after long hallways walks and 160 uphill steps connecting my school’s campuses, I have learnt that the concrete jungle of a school campus is no friend to over-packers. And so we have the bare minimum:
Notebooks, one for every subject of that day
Juicy Couture camo bag, occasionally substituted for my Cambridge Co. ‘Batchel’ when things get too heavy
Dior reading glasses with its black case
Gold Kate Spade purse
Current novel (a memoir), My Paris Dream by Kate Betts (a review will be coming up)
MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch in a gold case
Makeup bag by The Balm Cosmetics for all my lipsticks, balms and first-aid necessities
Go-to lip products: NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream (Istanbul), YSL Babydoll Kiss and Blush (No. 8) and Carmex lip balm
Crabtree and Evelyn Gardeners Hand Therapy hand cream
Spot anything you think is classifiably unnecessary? Comment down below.
Identity is something that we all struggle with at some point in our lives. ‘That’s what our teenage years are for’, they say. But I don’t think we ever stop trying to find ourselves – or find a way to portray what we believe to be our true selves.
I did not recognize her.
I remember scrolling through my Instagram feed, as I do every morning. My dazed morning state acknowledged the all-famous ‘Jenner’ surname, but against the backdrop of a Jessica Lange look-a-like, the name ‘Caitlyn Jenner’ triggered no familiarity. It was only until later that night when I was asked ‘who is Caitlyn Jenner?’ that I was prompted to type The Name into my search bar. And it clicked. She had done it and she looked beautiful.
From a young age, we’re told ‘be yourself’, yet many of us are still shackled by the constraints of society. There is nothing worse than enduring the words ‘why are you doing that?’, accompanied with a face of bafflement and/or disgust. Sometimes, it makes you angry for having to explain yourself, sometimes it makes you doubt yourself, your identity.
Photograph by: Annie Leibovitz
Yes, the teenage years are full of identity experimentation, fashion fads and punk rock phases – a time when experimentation can be an extension of your identity. But to those trying to hide their true identities, experimentation must seem like a privilege. I relish in the embrace of uniqueness and am nothing if not a devoted believer of self-expression. So when I saw Caitlyn Jenner cladded up in old Hollywood glam, beautifully decked in coral lipstick and effortlessly elegant on the cover of Vanity Fair, I knew a new generation of self-expression was born – and she looked beautiful.
Bruce Jenner was a great athlete, he was an inspiration, and from the perspective of an on-looker, he was a great father. Bruce Jenner is a legacy to the world. Caitlyn Jenner is, and will be, a legacy to the generations ahead.
* Caitlyn Jenner’s cover for Vanity Fair hits stands June 9th, 2015
Considering how often we use it daily for practicality, it’s so easy to forget the simplistic beauty of lights. But when you stop to think about the numerous cultural and artistic festivals that celebrate its beauty, we are reminded that its sole purpose and existence may not just be to light dark hallways.
Every year since 2009, the months of May and June have been renown to usher in countless spectators to Sydney’s CBD as colorfully animated visuals are projected onto the city’s buildings and signature landmarks. They call it Vivid Sydney.
This year, I had my first experience with Vivid.
It was an incredibly cold night of several ‘firsts’. Having only been in Sydney for a few months, the city’s train system was never something I identified with as ‘convenient’ or ‘user friendly’. But I was pleasantly surprised at the plush seats and the ‘traffic-defying’ speed it took for me to be transported to Circular Quay. Out from under the stark, florescent lights of the train and onto the streetlight lit streets of the evening, the lights of Vivid were everywhere. From merchandise vendors to the projections on Customs House, enigmatic lights fuelled the pep of Sydney’s pedestrian’s steps more than usual. I remember standing in awe as vines crept up the Customs House and flowers blossomed, ushering in a cinematic spring in the midst of the city’s winter cold.
The trail blazed on along the harbour where people were drawn to the lights, like a moths – with people bumping into each other, everyone seemed to have lost awareness of space. But I knew it was all well worth the fight when the Opera House came alight (see what I did there?).
Walking home, I thought back to when I was younger. My cousin and I had teamed up to participate in a Moon Festival walk with some 80-90 other kids. I remember us parading around suburban neighbourhoods, arms tired from holding up colorful fish lanterns that glimmered from the tealight it held inside. What is it about little lights under a dark sky that captivate us so intensely? Like a childhood love, it’s something none of us can really grow out of.