My 2016 journey. The good and the bad

Thursday, 5 January 2017


The Journey

I was moaning to the husband recently about my lack of progress in my professional life when he stopped me. He reminded me that I started out in October 2015 with 5,000 followers on Instagram. By January 2016, my numbers were over 10K. Exactly a year later, it stands at 44,900. I was so focussed on nitpicking my faults and lack-ofs that I forgot to see the big picture.

The growth happened organically, albeit with a few strategies put in place by me to improve my entire feed. I learned as much as I could about Instagram. Literally whatever I can get my hands on including putting myself out there to network. The latter wasn't as easy as I'm not exactly the most sociable person. It also grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to a lovely lady called Siobhan who founded the famous Instagram account called Pretty City London and featured my work on many occasions (Thank you, Siobhan. I'm eternally grateful!). It was mind-boggling to think a couple of my images drew more than 10,000 likes each.

I started collaborating with Hero to run Smartphone Photography workshops. A huge thank you to all who'd participated. More feedback were relayed to me so we decided that the final workshop was to cater specifically to businesses who wanted to incorporate Instagram efficiently as a marketing tool. I was blown away by the enthusiasm of all the participants who were so keen to learn that they happily stayed back for an additional 45 minutes.

Some clients wanted one on one customized sessions so one thing led to another, I started a small consulting business. Again, it wasn't something I'd set out to do beginning of the year. I took on more photography projects working with some of the most inspirational women (check out Online Stylist and Lois Avery) and brands that I personally like.

I'm still a long way from achieving my goals but I've learned that it's the journey, not the destination that matters. I remember hearing a talk by Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter who drew a graph of her path to success. It was nothing like what everyone has imagined, a slow but definite upward trend. It was a scribbled mess with no definitive pattern. Yet, if you looked from afar at its 10 year performance, you'll see how many milestones it has reached.


Harsh words and dealing with difficult people

In the past year and a half, I've heard my share of harsh words, from raging obscenities, torrents of abuse to outright disbelief that I'd amount to anything. It's even more difficult when they're from a family member and close friends because you take their rants to heart.

What upset me was their sense of entitlement. Their "I'm more important than you"mentality.  They take no responsibility over their verbal diarrhea. The fact that others have had to deal with the emotional scars from their many tactless tirades. That it's ok to throw tantrums when things don't go their way and screw anyone who happened to stand in their path. Because they're ALWAYS the victim. The words thank you and I'm sorry aren't even part of their vocabulary.

The very act of tearing another person down is often a sign of deeply rooted insecurities hidden behind a veil of arrogance.

The thing is I hate confrontations and I deal with them very badly. My first reaction tends to be flight rather than fight. I go mute and then tears start to form. And then I hide in my she-cave for weeks to recover. It's taken me this long to finally grow a thicker skin, to stand my ground calmly and apply a little wisdom. I had to make the tough decision to not let the toxic relationship continue. That's a difficult thing to do if you're a people pleaser, which basically means you're everyone's dogsbody.

It's normal to disagree. After all, we're all made differently. There are ways to compromise and work together without belittling the other.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."  - Proverbs 14:15.


Health Issues

I've been blighted with a number of severe IBS episodes (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It's been a year of adjusting and readjusting my diet, sometimes on a daily basis. I've re-introduced some food types back into my diet carefully with some success. However, a few slices of dried mango brought me to my knees followed by a 12 hour non-stop of pain, vomiting and being close to passing out cold on the floor. It took another week of bland congee diet (and barely anything else) before the low level pain was just about tolerable.

I am thankful that it's IBS, not cancer. I've had a friend who succumbed to cancer unexpectedly and another who has just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. My health issues, in comparison, are minuscule and controllable with careful dieting. In fact, thanks to IBS, I'm even more careful with what I put into my mouth and my diet has improved tremendously as a result.

What did your 2016 journey look like?

**All photos taken with iPhone 6S Plus


  1. I had family health issues in 2016,and my own problems, so I'm happy it's over and very much looking forward to a better 2017!

    1. Life certainly keeps us on our toes with its ups and downs. Here's to a better 2017!

  2. Ah bless you Marlene, I love how honest and level headed you are :)

    2016 b*tch slapped the sh*t out of me. In every possible way.

    On one hand it can always (ALWAYS) be worse. But yes, 2016 was relentless.

    The end result was that my anxiety levels were through the roof. Now I was always anxious and a worrier, but this was becoming unmanageable. And I tried everything from exercise and herbal remedies to praying and meditation.

    So I bit the bullet, went to my GP, had a long chat and got started on anti-anxiety medication. I don't know what prevented me from doing this sooner, the stigma, the thought that I am/might be loopy, whatever. The irony of it was my BFF almost ended up hospitalized a few months prior due to insomnia, panic attacks and sheer exhaustion and I was all - thank heavens you went to see a doctor. And yet I waited this long (facepalming myself here).

    It was a bit of a rough go in the beginning (why didn't anyone tell me about the poops? :), but now after about 2 months I am finally feeling like myself again. After a very long time. It even helped with my stomach issues and PMS (TMI I KNOW, but worth mentioning :)

    Obviously my point isn't just take anti-anxiety meds and everything will be hunky dory. But rather that we (women especially) can be very hesitant to ask for help. It can be our default setting to put on a brave face and keep on going. Even though we are running on fumes. There is always something to do, someone else to take care of. So yes, by all means keep pushing on, keep working, keep doing your thing. But there is no shame in taking a breather and asking for help if it's needed.

    That's one good thing that a**hole of 2016 taught me :)

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. It'll be very helpful and inspiring to many. It's difficult to see your own situation with a clear eye when you're in it every single day. It's a little like when someone mentioned to me that I'd lost weight but I couldn't tell because I see my own face everyday....

      yikes. Do tell! I've learned the hard way about side effects of meds that no one ever tells you about. Yeah, most of us think we can handle it all without help until we are on the verge of collapse.

  3. I wanted to offer you some words of encouragement re IBS. In my early 40's I had several years of persistent stomach issues which left me severely depleted. After many medical investigations I was diagnosed with IBS. I never found one clear trigger for attacks; nor did I find any consistently effective remedy. The good news is, over a couple of years the episodes decreased from several times monthly (and lasting from 3 - 7 days) to a few times a year (now). I have read increasingly that there is evidence IBS may be linked to hormonal changes and is most commonly diagnosed in perimenopausal women - in my case, the symptoms virtually stopped when I hit menopause. I am unsure of your age but do not discount hormonal causes and treatments in any discussions with medics and your own researches. Best wishes. Susan, London

    1. Thank you for the eye-opening account which is most helpful. For the most part, I've been left bewildered by the state of my gut and the constant pain. I'm in my early 40s so yes, the theory does apply to me. Most of my friends who're hit with the same IBS problems (both male and female) are all in their 40s too. The triggers change which is literally a pain in the a$$. I'm really pleased to hear that there's light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you ever so much for sharing your story.

  4. Marlene you've had such a fantastic year on Instagram and I love seeing your gorgeous photos pop up into my feed.
    I'm totally with you about IBS - have you ever tried the FODMAP diet through your local hospital as that was how I managed to find my triggers which were gluten, onions, garlic (I could cry as I love it so much!), leeks and spring onions - once I took those out of my diet things settled down however I still have the odd occasional Irritable Bitch Session when I need to be left in a padded room with a toilet.
    I'm so sorry to hear about your friends Marlene, IBS is a bitch but cancer is even worse.
    Looking forward to seeing all your wonderful photography in 2017! xx

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