cait +tiff


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T / a little bit of freedom…sort of

Can you tell I have an icon?

I keep saying I’m funemployed.  But I’m really not.  There are clients.  There are deliverables.  There are thousands of photos.  But I just get to decide when I work, and how I work.  That morning post-workout coffee is no longer limited to 15 minutes!

Since leaving my not-so-fulfilling full time in-an-office consulting gig last week, I’ve been feeling like Will Ferrell encountering New York City for the first time in Elf.  Except that I can work my way around Photoshop. I’ve been feeling more responsive.  I’m feeling so much lighter (because sitting is the new smoking).  And I am back to my slightly frantic self (see Muppets: Animal).  Cue George Michael, RIP.

But also like there’s a fire under my ass again.  Because for the past 6 months, I’ve more or less been plotting, Dr. Evil style, of my return to the freelance environment.  There are websites that need to get updated.  Portfolios that need to be shared.  The hustle is real and it is so back.  I have plans that need to get manifested.  I even just drafted something called the Berlin Strategy (doesn’t that sound like a sequel to Homeland?).

Except I might choose to catch up on 12 episodes of Supergirl instead while editing photos I took 2 years ago.

I first came across creative accountability in one of Katie’s posts.   And she’s totally right.  We have our clients that keep our work accountable, but as creative entrepreneurs, who keeps us moving forward?  I’m not exactly a start up with a venture capitalist that wants to see returns.  Nor am I actually in school and have classmates to commiserate with.  And a career coach isn’t exactly in the budget. I needed someone else, in Phnom Penh, who was on the hustle, with clients and personal goals and learning to pursue too.  And all I had to do was ask her out!  We meet for regular coffees, look at each other’s work, bounce ideas off of each other and see how each other are doing on that road upwards.  Doodles may be involved.

This all helps to keep that fire under my ass lit, under control, with enough heat to keep me on my toes.  But I also have some time for myself, to feel bored and find ways to get out of it, and to fail, or figure out a whole new set of things I can do (I see you, coding).  The doors are wide open now and I get to pick which one I go through.  Come on baby, light my fire*.

*Oooh cheesey, but I like it.


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C / boundaries

pink

I struggle setting boundaries. I think it’s attached to being a pleaser, I have a terrible time thinking that I am letting people down or disappointing them in any way, and it hasn’t done me any favors.

I saw this Brené Brown video last week, and it stuck with me. There is a part in it where she explains how some people don’t set any boundaries, get taken advantage of, feel violated, don’t do anything about it, and then become angry and resentful. While watching this, I was unconsciously shaking my head “yes.” I feel like that might be a problem.

I am currently taking classes in self-compassion meditation. I pay a wonderful woman named Heather to help me be less of an asshole to myself, and boundaries come up in class a lot. Brené can clearly tell you why they are so important better than I can, and it’s worth the 5:54 minutes.

Will this ever be a fashion blog again? Who knows. Happy Friday.

caitsig


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T / happy monday / visual meditations

Photo Credit: Rich Stapleton for Cereal x Gap

If you asked 22 year old Tiff about meditation and mindfulness, she probably would have stared at you and said “I don’t exactly have time for that.”  In the background, her mother would have said “Tiffany’s been high strung since she was 2.”  This was a fact until this Tiff sailed past thirty.  End of third person monologue.

As a freelancer, I’ve been starting and stopping for the past six years.  When I was younger and nearing the end of a project, my heart would race a little.  Panic and some sort of crisis would set in.  Especially if there was no project on the horizon.  These days, I’ve learned that there is always a project on a horizon, even if I can’t see it.  Sometimes it’s there whether I want it or not.  Or most recently, the thing I needed but didn’t really want.  And in the best times it turns out to be the thing I needed and wasn’t necessarily looking for.

What on earth does career anxiety have to do with meditation?  Basically, I’ve come to terms with uncertainty.  There is no doubt about the help I’ve gotten from my 10 minutes of daily calm.

But sometimes I get my calm from looking at something.  Actually that happens quite a bit.  Which brings me to these little videos from my favourite minimalist biannual mag, Cereal.  They’re so simplistically photographed.  And while the soundtrack isn’t quite “fire crackling in the wind” or “babbling crook,”  the beat is entirely calming.  I could just stare at these and feel my amygdala get smaller. Happy Monday.

Y U K O N from Cereal on Vimeo.


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T / on quiet time

Photo Credit: Alexandra Roberts for She Explores.

Today I did something unprecedented.  I went quiet.  For only ten minutes.  And it was exactly what I needed.  Professionally-diagnosed adult ADHD notwithstanding, I also suffer from millennial noise, side hustle fatigue and chronic sprinting.  The internal chatter is nuts.  And the fatigue is all too real.  So spurned on by Cait’s amazing words on meditation and equanimity, I did it.  I meditated.  I should also mention that I’m the least likely to do this.  Ask my mom.  Calm, cool, collected child I was not.  Even in my moments of rest, there’s a podcast on.  There’s always something.

I am an extrovert with introvert tendencies that I’m not always aware of.  I said yes to too many things in the past month and tried to find quiet time while still doing things.  My favourite is cooking dinner.  But my mind is still running then.  The wonderful ladies from My Favourite Murder are providing me entertainment.  I am simultaneously chopping, cooking and cleaning.  I always have a TV show on while I’m editing photos.  I tell myself I totally have a relaxing pre-sleep routine of silence and reading.  But that’s completely untrue because I’m on Instagram, reading the news and trying to plan a trip.  At the same time.  My brain generally looks like this:

Yup. My brain is your desktop with too many windows open.

It’s probably why I feel exhausted.

And that’s when I was confronted with the best idea ever: extreme quiet.  It means you’re going beyond the noise.  Restoring all the systems and getting your energy back.  And there’s no expensive retreat involved.  It’s like that cabin in the north I’ve always wanted to own. Ever since I started this desk job, I found myself without my beloved nap.  Geez Louise do I miss my nap.  But the moment, I turned on Calm.com, got my breathing under control (I sometimes forget to breathe, which is a recent revelation), and obeyed that Zen of a voice telling me to tune out, I got there.  I felt like I was asleep at my desk without pulling a George Costanza (been there, done that).  It’s a weird feeling.  You’re literally going dark for a little bit.  It felt amazing.  Like I said, I don’t regularly meditate.  Savasana and I are like me and green smoothies.  But I can see myself doing this every day.

Even if you’re not a desk monkey, I recommend it.  I can’t change how I am living at the moment.  But I can at least make it better.  Calm.com even has a series on anxiety, which I cannot wait to dive into.  And in between I can go back to back to all the things, until they get too much.  And then rinse, repeat.  Try it sometime.

 

 


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C / two things I learned yesterday

I have been taking meditation classes for the past few months. It’s been helpful to have a class every week that helps me be less of a spaz while I am going through a bunch of transitions in life. (Note: transitions take a damn long time.) I am taking a mindfulness series at The Den, which is a little haven of beautiful things and nice people, right near Mood fabrics on LaBrea. The class is taught by Heather Prete, who is the kind of wonderful that people pretend to be. If she started a cult, I would be first in line to drink the Koolaid.

Anyway, the classes are wonderful, and though I rarely feel like I am “doing it right” I am loving it, and the practice has brought a lot of good stuff into my bouncy brain. We just started a new series last night, and the class focus was on equanimity.

I am going to be honest here, I didn’t really know what equanimity was until last night. It’s basically the ability to keep a balanced state of mind, despite the conditions around you. You are able to accept what is, but not in a way that you ignore it, or avoid it. You can still have a discerning mind, and have opinions on the issue at hand, but you keep it together. It’s the ability to accept the situation without adding more layers of stress to it. This definition is clearly from my class notes.

This is kind of a hard one for me, because I love to judge my judgements, and I pile all kinds of stuff on top of seemingly simple issues. It’s my favorite. During the class, Heather said something that really works for me.

“Everything is perfect, just as it is, and it could use a lot of improvement.”

This was said by someone, whose name I forgot to write down.
I constantly feel like I am behind on my life. Switching careers in your 30’s is not a great way to feel “caught up.” When I think about it, and I am feeling rational, I know that there is nothing to catch up on, and there is no place that I am “supposed” to be. When I am NOT feeling logical, I compare myself to others, feel like I have wasted my life making other people happy and now I am looking for work at 33 and everyone else is like 5 and went to art school and is better than me and they have a thigh gap and I maybe this haircut wasn’t the best idea and how the hell do you write a cover letter and this is what a spiral looks like. Ta-da!
I like this quote because its a linear way of resetting my brain, that I am where I am supposed to be, that I am not running late on my life, that I’m not doing it wrong.
The other thing that was said that really stuck with me was this:

“When we lose our equanimity and become deregulated, it means something needs attention.”
Heather said this, and it’s basically a way of saying “THANK YOU,  FOR THE POWER TO LOSE MY SHIT.” That’s how I took it, at least. When we become deregulated and feel overwhelmed, it’s our brain poking us in the face and saying “Hey, dummy. Stop it, I don’t like that.” Then your balanced, chill brain can be like “Oh hi, spaz brain, I see you there. I smell what you are stepping in, and I am going to take care of it.” So while I can try to stay equanimous (new word, 5 points!), listening to how you feel is also super important and your emotions are sort of a warning system for physical or emotional danger.
I am not totally sure if that all made sense or not, but it was super helpful to me.
Love, California Cait, who has totally buried herself in every cliché and is going to do pilates and drink green juice now. Maybe yoga later, who knows?
caitsig


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T / happy monday / the hustle is real

Photo Credit: Create & Cultivate (another great resource for ladies who #werk)

How do I say this?  Life is busy.  I have battened down all the hatches. There is no chances of this ship sinking.  Deadlines are being reached, sort of.  I have clients now!  Which is something I would never have thought would happen if you asked me three years ago.  These are all obviously good things because, you know, #makingit.  But I can’t wait for a break (I’ve got a month left before I get one).  Being stuck at this desk job probably isn’t helping.  I’m also working on weekends.  To deal with it all, I’ve definitely been picking three.  Which means that some things have gotten voted off the island.  But call me a masochist, I don’t necessarily mind it.  Though I won’t say no to a Sunday morning off, either.

I’m not complaining, but the last few weeks have really made me realize the importance of flexibility.  How privileged I was to work as a freelancer for a whole three years that let me learn, practice and prepare for the gig I really wanted.  And likewise, the privilege of falling back on a really well paying job when I realized my bank account needed a boost.  I’m also starting to think about what I need to do to make it all happen, like boundaries, rules, and the power to say ‘no.’  While also being a good friend and partner all at the same time.  And how does being a woman fit into all of this?  These are the things when you’ve got a side hustle going.  And they’ve all been swirling around in my head lately.  Then International Women’s Day happened.  And naturally, I wanted to share some of the things that have kept me chugging along over the past few weeks and helping to get all those things done and living a well designed life.  Oh right, and these all come from ladies.


Photo Credit: Kate Arends.

Community is a wonderful thing.  I have the community in front of me.  The incredibly inspiring and wonderful women who exist in the real space and sweat, and the friendships who might be over a significantly large body of water.  These women all keep me afloat. And then there’s all the women who are letting their voices out on the web.  Kate Arends is one of these women and I’ve been really getting into all of her monthly themed and incredibly honest essays.  This month, it’s Women Who #Werk, and it couldn’t come at a better time.  And it’s all so real.  Definitely pay attention to her space if you’re needing some reads on it all.

Photo Credit: Jessica Murnane.

I’m being a heck ton better about everything I put into my body.  This past month, my pod-crush Jessica Murnane released One Part Plant.  Her podcasts have helped get me through things before, but now she has a cookbook that can help my insides work better. Lena Dunham even wrote the foreword.  After the holidays, my body had taken a literal beating.  I wasn’t feeling great.  Bloated was just the start of things.  Even though I was working out nearly every day of the week, I knew I needed to make changes beyond a single month of clean eating.  And I’m glad I made some new rules for myself: more home cooked meals.  More plants.  More good things.  And since then, I’ve never felt better.

GIF Credit: Libby VanderPloeg

Werk landed into my Inbox the other day.  Right after a conversation with a bunch of multi-hyphenate ladies as we were discussing all the things they do to make things happen.  And what gets left behind.  Ever wanted to know where the flexible jobs were? You know, the ones with the opportunity to work remotely? On your own time? So you could also do all the other things that were important to you?  They’re at Werk waiting for you.


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T / happy monday / not for you

Photo Credit: Tiffany Tsang

Photo Credit: Tiffany Tsang

I got this video from Cait and it is exactly what I wanted to see this month.  I’ve done something athletic since I was tiny.  I think my parents knew I had to get that excess energy out somehow.  And eventually it became part of my identity.  I had to always be moving.  But it’s also forged this resilience in me so I know that I can get through whatever obstacles that life throws at me.  This month I’m challenging myself beyond what I’m used too.  But this isn’t about that.

This is about getting moving in every way possible.  And celebrating all the women who are moving, building, creating, and surmounting. Including you.  You can start anytime.  And you don’t have to be Serena Williams, Sheryl Sandberg or Anna Wintour.  When I think about these women, and the amazing young female entrepreneurs here too, they did it for themselves and their achievements have spread to others too.  And there is no better time than now.

There’s been a few words I’ve been repeating to myself, to keep everything in check: that only person you’re competing against is yourself; that you are your only boundary; and practice, fail, practice, fail, practice, succeed.

It’s exactly what this little video from ESPN-W celebrates (as well as ladies who lift!).  It’s inspiring me more than anything today.  Can you tell that I’m in this weird hyper motivated space?  I blame this video (and therefore Cait!)

I also just discovered that the Notorius RBG gets moving too.  And that makes me really happy.


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C / a year ago

show

A year ago today, I was in a car with my parents on the way to Kep. I was exhausted, because the day before, I had put on my first fashion show.

I think it took me a while after the show to figure out how I felt. I know this, because people kept asking me, and I would just stare into the distance and say “good, really good.” Lies. Nothing profound came to me because it was the beginning, and no one ever realizes what is happening at the beginning.

I do, however, remember everything that went wrong with the show. Every stupid detail.

  • One of the models didn’t even walk because the dress was re-fitted too many times and I tried to save it but I couldn’t.
  • A few of the dresses that were dyed turned out too light, and I hated the sad-lavender color that I couldn’t change.
  • One of the dresses ripped before the show.
  • The makeup took longer than we thought so we didn’t have time for a proper run-through before the show and no one got touch-ups before walking.
  • I really wanted all the models to be comfortable so I ended up designing things more for them and less for me.
  • One of the shirts was made with a neckline so small, the model had to take out her hair, that had just been done, and wiggle her way into it.
  • There weren’t enough drink tickets.
  • At one point, the damn DJ came down to the runway DURING the show to take photos for himself, and missed the cue for the finale. He only came back up to his booth after seeing my head explode with expletives. He had one job. One. Job.
  • I said bad words really loudly.
  • I wanted to include more people but I was worried that the venue was too small so I had to say no to people when they wanted to come support me.

I remember being sweaty, and chugging champagne, hoping it would take hold of my brain, or at least take care of the nerves. I remember being mad at the champagne when it did neither. One of my lovely model/friends did a little toast for me before the show, and it was probably very sweet. I, of course, don’t remember anything she said, because I was SO not in the moment and instead, running through all the scenarios where everything went wrong and someone caught on fire and died and everyone hated the clothes and Anna Wintour was there and said “you will NEVER make it in fashion” in front of all of my friends who by then, of course, hated me. None of those things happened, but welcome to how anxiety feels.

The entire night I felt an inch away from tears, and it was exhausting. Fashion is so glamorous.

I did cry when my dad gave a speech at the end of the show, in front of everyone. It was a happy cry, and my heart still fills up when I think of it. I cried when I saw Tiff walk, because she was the person that pushed me into designing, and had an incredible amount of faith in me when I deserved none of it. I also cried when my mom walked, because it was my MOM and she was walking in my fashion show and how do you not cry? And…I might be crying now, whatever. Mind your business.

In any case, I really didn’t enjoy the show. But I am SO glad I did it. I was scared of it and had no idea what the power of vulnerability would do for me. Putting things out into the world to be judged has never been something I am comfortable with. I even tried to bribe my high school english teacher with two papers, so I wouldn’t have to present in front of the class. When we started the blog, I would tear through every piece I put up, scared that someone might see it and scoff. I’m sure that happens, it just doesn’t actually matter. But I would have never gotten to the place I am now, on my couch in LA, if I hadn’t done the show. The show made me a designer, for real. I designed a collection, my friends walked a runway lined with fake candles, and we had photoshoots and made a damn look book. How legit is a look book? So legit.

So I am thankful for the whole experience of the show. Would I change things? Of course, there was no world where I was going to walk out of the door and make it perfect. But it’s a place to grow from, and I like my cozy little starting point. It was kind, full of people I love, and I got free french fries afterwords. Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be perfect. I can’t handle the pressure of constantly creating perfection, I’m not Adele.

If you want to see photos from the show, they are here, here, and here. I will always be grateful that my messy little show was full of so many incredible ladies. Thanks, guys.

caitsig

 

 

 


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C / busy head

I can’t seem to write a damn thing today. I started a piece about how I look for inspiration in other people’s work, and how fun it can be to cruise through Moda Operandi and pretend I have 4k to drop on a dress. Then I started a piece on how dance had been an amazing source of power and beauty for me this week. I was excited to write it and then realized I had nothing real to say about it. I just like it.

I have felt that way a lot in the last few weeks. I can’t decide on a photo to use for a header, I can’t decided how to arrange things in my apartment, and I can’t decide what to do for the next 10 minutes. I have started writing again, after not doing so for about a month, and that has given a bit of clarity to my days, but I’m out of my groove, and trying to wiggle my way back in. I’m sure a lot has to do with still settling into a new place, job stuff changing and feeling out a new life, but the incredible lack of structure in my life right now is turning out to be more frustrating than liberating.

So I decided to add more structure, and signed up for over-priced pilates classes that will make me feel bad if I don’t go. Hoping that works.

Open to ideas if you have them, have a good weekend x
caitsig


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T / how i’m wearing 2017

I haven’t repeated an outfit since December 1, 2016.  It’s been nine weeks.

Here are the rules:

  1. I can wear whatever I want on the weekend (read: athleisure and party outfits).  These distinct outfits only apply to weekdays.
  2. Plain coloured bottoms (read: the army green, the black and the denim) and underthings are repeatable
  3. I must make my way through every possible outfit combination in my wardrobe before I can purchase a new item.
  4. I get rid of everything that doesn’t wind up being worn or doesn’t fit me anymore when I deem this whole experiment “finished” (I’m nowhere near finished).
Photo Credit: Olivia Rae James (left) and Alison Engstrom for Camille Styles

Photo Credit: Olivia Rae James (left) and Alison Engstrom (right) for Camille Styles.

I started this little exercise on the day I started my new desk job.  I needed a way to express myself and be a little creative since my daily activities as a freelancer were taking a pause that would occupy the better part of a year.  I also wanted to be a little more ethical, sustainable and thoughtful about what I was purchasing and making through a year.  As a textbook hoarder, I collect, and collect and collect. Phnom Penh’s plethora of Japanese second hand shops and flea markets are my wonderland.  I never really get rid of anything until the small tear becomes utterly and completely irredeemable.  I also have a significant portion of my wardrobe made.  In the final months of 2016 I was getting a new piece (or two!) made every month!  I’m also Cait’s beta-tester!

My wardrobe was getting a little out of control.  And instead of paring everything down to nine items, I decided to wear it all.

A little KonMari, a tiny bit capsule wardrobe and a whole lot of mindfulness, I wanted to test the limits of my closet.  I’m also very much a one-sided dresser.  This means I usually open the dominant door of my closet(s) and wear whatever is in front of me, on top of the pile, or just plain available.  Which usually means whatever just got washed and hung.

Photo Credits: Ana Schechter (left and right) and Christine Han (center) for Cup of Jo.

Photo Credits: Ana Schechter (left and right) and Christine Han (center) for Cup of Jo.

Are you getting my drift?  In this time of fast fashion and a hyper-consumption, I accidentally made the resolution to take a pause in my purchasing.

I’m on week 9 now…and the end looms near.  I’m discovering everything that was in the unfortunate dark side of my closet.  It’s “winter” in Cambodia now and I’m completely taking advantage of trouser-friendly weather.  I didn’t know I owned so many tops!

It’s also reduced the time I need to determine outfits. Every Sunday night, I set out my every single outfit I plan to wear through the week (mindfulness – check! capsule wardrobe, check!).  And tah-dah, no more tornados of decision fatigue (read: a huge mess).  I quickly plowed through every single office-appropriate dress I owned (over the first three weeks).  My field work outfits underwent the same treatment.  I’m also discovering items that make me think “what the hell was I thinking?” TOSS! Konmari method, check.  I’m making do with all these low-waisted things I bought in 2011 and eagerly await when access to high waisted everything comes into my radar.

It’s something everyone can do.  For whatever your end goal is. Whether  you’re trying to save a little money this year, or you’re wanting to be a more conscious about your consumption, or maybe you’re trying to figure out what you want to get rid of, this little experiment does it all.  Are you up for the challenge?