Honoring the Teenager In Me

May 7, 2023
Greenpoint, New York
Photo by Maddy Stoopack

   I’ve spent most of my adult years with the majority of my writing practice limited to quickly fired off emails, the writing heavy with passive aggressive corporate language. The automatic instinct to press ‘return’ twice and type “Best, Jess” is an impulse hard to shake...so I’m launching a blog!

I just turned 30, and this new decade feels like a return to the teen I was in suburban Sydney: writing obsessively, reading 300 books in a year (for real — I was bullied and told I would never have a boyfriend. To quote my primary school bully, “Boys don’t like girls who read”), taking film photos of my classmates moving through our suburban lives, and attempts at creating art -- photos of the shadow of my hand against a tree, an out of focus portrait of myself gazing out of a window. I have always been that person, I just lost touch with her for a while.

I had to spend my 20’s chasing a version of success that felt safe to me as a child of refugees. It was a vision built on the mirage of financial safety, in the only way that I thought was possible for someone like me (from a working class family, not coming from a background of art, as an Asian woman) - by being a corporate ho. 

When I graduated from high school, I remember reading the entire college entry summary guide front to back and crossing out everything I knew I didn’t want to do. A bachelor’s in communications was the only thing I didn’t cross out, and it seemed a good a choice as any. My understanding of who I wanted to be was buried beneath what would end up being years of self examination and therapy to excavate, so I made my goals to what felt real to me - financial security and stability. 


I am deeply grateful for the person I was in my 20’s. There were very real lessons I needed to learn by slowly expanding my circle of emotional and spiritual safety by taking small, calculated risks that built upon the last. I describe my patchwork career thus far as “random” (I’ve worked with: cricket protein, consumer handbags, sustainable group travel trips and tech startups), but as with all things in life, looking back now, it feels logical. Each new step was taken after finding the right footwear to from the ones prior to it. You get to where you need to go by taking tiny steps that feel like nothing until you realize all that nothing becomes soemthing real and consequential. 

I don’t regret all the time I spent in my 20’s not writing or shooting. I was busy building a sense of safety in a loving, supportive relationship with someone for eight years who didn’t end up being the right person for me, but was the right person for the young person who left New York in 2013 with lanterns looking for herself (full quote from Emily Dickinson: “I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.”) I was busy learning how to ignore wanting other people’s validation and friendship, I was busy having fun. I was busy fucking around and finding out. I was busy building relationships with incredible people in New York who inspire me every day to try harder, be more emboided, to relax my anoos. 

Hopefully this blog is a continuation of being on that path for me.

Photos I took when I was 14 I recently found from my Flickr

Starting a blog feels like a great way to return to writing and sharing and creating in the same way it was for me in that janky room in Yagoona, Sydney. Uncoupled from monetization and the instant affirmation of sharing on social media. A special secret pillow fort for me to write in and share photos on the internet. A room of my own.

I had a conversation with Derek, who helped designed this website (thank you Derek! Get in touch with him if you want a cool slick website like mine), about teenage creative hobbies. That first touchpoint with creation and exploration for the pure sake of it, before the rest of life hit the gas. The distance between me and that person is so much closer than I imagined, and I’m so glad for it. It’s cool to have a blog again.

I’m glad you’re reading this if you are. Thanks for being here. Feel free to email me if you ever have anything you want to share or ask: jess@scallionpancake.co.


Some of the first film photos I ever took, age 16