a new start
They say change is as good as a holiday. I hope they're right - whoever "they" are - because I could use a holiday.
Anyway, I digress. Let me start from the beginning.
When I first started my Instagram account in 2013, I was still working as a full- time pharmacist. For a couple of years already, I'd dreamed about leaving retail pharmacy behind, starting a food business and calling it The Change Room. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to make my move, some bright spark had already registered the business name and I had to settle for Change Room Foods instead. No biggie, though - at the time, I couldn't see myself working with anything but food.
Change Room Foods was my passion project; my escape from the daily grind. I never dreamed that I'd be able - or have the guts - to do it full- time. Oh, but a girl can dream. So, between photos of the raw cakes, protein balls and energy bars that I made for my customers, I posted inspirational quotes and updated my increasingly growing number of followers about my progression away from pharmacy, and into food.
Now, the thing about social media is that it preys on human nature. When you post a photo of something and receive a large number of likes and / or (positive) comments, naturally, you experience a surge in confidence and motivation. The validation makes you feel good - it's a (virtual) pat on the back; an indication that you've done a good job. So, of course, you're led to believe that you should continue to post similar images and write similar captions.
On the other hand, when you post a photo of something and receive lower levels of engagement and apparent validation, the opposite happens. Your ego deflates, you (at least temporarily) regret posting the image, and if you're anything like me (*cough* a perfectionist *cough*), you start wondering whether it's you.
Oh, God. Maybe you're not as funny as you thought you were. Maybe you're not as pretty as you'd hoped. Maybe you're not as artistic as you'd considered yourself to be. So many maybes.
What ends up happening - or at least, what happened to me - is that this journey through moments of, "Ahh, I see! That's the sort of picture people want me to share!" and, "Oh, sheet. Why the fudge did I have to post that picture for?! Should I delete it?" curates your feed.
Two and a half years later, as you're about to turn 29 years- old (yes, I know, I don't look a day over 16. Thanks, guys!), you'll look through the photos on both cameras, both smart phones and both laptops of yours and realise - quite soberly - that the only pictures you've taken have been of food.
There are no photos of yourself with your beloved twin brother or your almost- sister- in- law. There are only a handful of photos of yourself with your boyfriend, whom you've dated for almost four years. There aren't even photos of your fellow InstaFoodies, with whom you brunch on a weekly basis. It's all just food.
And then it'll hit you all at once: Remember when you used to buy and read fashion magazines every month, because you've always loved fashion? Or when you'd use every moment of free time to go for a run outdoors, because you've always loved fitness? Or when you promised your parents you'd one day take them traveling around the world, because you've always had wanderlust?
What about the time you actually believed your mum's friend's friend when she said you'd been an interior designer in a past life, so you started reading architecture magazines, because you've always loved design? Or when you'd spend whole days in art galleries, trying to decipher every masterpiece, because you've always loved art?
Those things - those other parts of my personality; other parts of my life and my heart - had given way for food. Because for me, food was the road to validation. Every time I captured and then shared online an image of what I ate or cooked, I was rewarded with likes, comments and new followers - sometimes even re- posts and shout- outs!
I'm not complaining - really, I'm not - because these likes, comments and followers helped consolidate my desire to leave retail pharmacy behind. I quit my full- time job as a pharmacist in late 2014, and finished up my part- time job a year later.
What I'm trying to do is explain why, on the cusp of my 29th birthday, I decided to let go of the Instagram handle @changeroomfoods (I'd stopped my healthy treats food business in 2014 and had no real reason to continue using it) and instead, adopt the handle (surprise, surprise) @mandy.banh .
Instead of photographing my meals on my birthday, I decided to look up at the brilliant blue sky, framed by fairy lights, and capture that, instead.
I still post photos of food - I still love and work with it - but I've started sharing other sorts of photos, too. There's more of me now, and as time passes, I'll continue to learn how to share the different parts of my life with you.
I've spent years cooking (and then eating) things for the sake of creating regular Instagram posts. I've put on 6 kilos (healthy food still leads to weight gain when eaten in excess, guys) and neglected my other interests. But now, I'm doing this for me. And although it feels weird, it feels good. I hope you'll support me - but if not, I hope I won't let it curate my feed.
There, I've said it. Change Room Foods has changed. This is my new start. And it kinda does feel as good as a holiday.