Australia || 2016

Growing up, I remember reading my essays in school and feeling inferior to my classmates who seemed to be way more talented with their work. The struggle was real. Somewhat ironic is the fact that people see me as an extrovert when in fact, I am hardly ever brave enough to step into uncharted territories no matter how enticing it may be. However, over the last 12 years, I have written more than 500 pieces with so many still half-written drafts sitting in my Google Drive just waiting for an opportunity to be turned into something from nothing. And isn’t funny how something that started out as a peer-pressured decision became a journey of self-discovery and vulnerability? The 12-year-old Denise would have shuddered at the thought of writing stories and sharing personal encounters that people actually like reading.

I get asked quite often about why I don’t have a niche. It’s true. If you focus on one topic, you could actually get somewhere with your work. There are days when I envy those pristine white minimalist fashion blogs, mouthwatering food sites and wanderlust feeds of travel bugs. But the more I try to be “niche” the more I realise that it is just not for me. I think creativity is subjective and my peers who are creatives seem to be jack of all trades, master of none. Sure, most of the creatives I know are graphic designers but they’re also amazing photographers and everything about them just screams aesthetics.

When I started in 2015, I wanted to be a writer. In every sense of the word. It was 2am on a cold spring weeknight (because the UK only knows extreme cold or burning hot, never in between) and I had to study for my final law paper but all I was itching to do was write. So write I did. The first piece published on this site was melancholic – a nomad student about to go home after being away so long but in the confusion of timezones and distances, questioning what does home really mean.

As I grew with the ebb and flow of life, the following years were filled with try-hard wannabe fashion expositions, half-arsed badly edited travel vlogs, and kind of but not quite gastronomic fare. I tried to fit myself into a mould because that is what is expected of me by society. One cannot make it without a niche. Now don’t get me wrong. Writing about fashion, food and travel took me to amazing places, pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me do things that teenage me never imagined doing. Trust me, it takes many long sessions to get comfortable in front of the camera. But they brought only temporary joy.

The truth is, I do have a niche. And it took me 12 years to discover it.

I am a storyteller. And I have so much to share. My family, my friends and boyfriend call me “drama queen” but I think I’ve always just been able to feel a little more and if I begin telling my life’s story, there would never be enough time. Maybe I’m a little more sensitive than the average person, a little more aware of the way things function, a little more used to ponder about the small and big things, a little more exuberant because I feel things so deeply. There is a gap. And I’ve always seen the empty void of brokenness that is covered up with beautiful Instagram filters and Google-plucked quotes. I’ve always felt the struggle of feeling like life is a lonely road. I tell my stories because it exposes the raw and the ugly, and people should never feel like they have to face their demons alone. Life is all about the highs and lows but nobody ever wants to talk about their cry-on-the-toilet-seat moments. Well news flash, I’m not ashamed to tell the world that I am a crybaby.

With only two months left in the year, I can say that 2019 has been one of the most challenging yet life-changing years I’ve ever had to live through. It has brought out the most grotesques facets of my being and yet saw me blossom into a stronger and more resilient individual. There is still so much that I want to share but everything is beautiful in its time.

Just for today, I want to recognise that I have never failed anyone – including my sometimes self-loathing self. If only you knew all the mountains I’ve had to climb this year. Oh if only you knew.

Dear 18, you made it through those terrible nightmares and flashbacks. And you will tell your story. Just you wait.