A letter to my 20 years old self

Ashka Shen at her home office | Xssat

Right now I’m chilling in Tulum on the coast of Mexico with my American beau and on Sunday I’ll be turning the BIG three zero, that’s right, ladies and gents, I’m almost 30 years old. For the longest time 30 was a foreign concept, something that will happen one day and then before you know it, that one day is here. It’s no big deal, because it shouldn’t be, it’s just another age, but at the same time, this is a chance to pause, look back and see life for the amazing winding path that it is and appreciate its pros, cons and embrace all of its beautiful flaws.

So here’s an open letter to my 20 years old self, I hope you too, no matter your age, whether you agree with what I have to say or not, will take a little something away from this too.

Dear Ashka,

Your 20s is a beautiful age to be, relax a little, take it easier a little, enjoy life and be young. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard and reach for more, you absolutely should, both in terms of career and personal life, but don’t shoulder too much, don’t stress too much, growth will come, in time.

Have a life plan, but feel free to stray from it, because mostly likely you will, intentionally or not. Life isn’t a straight narrow path, nor should it be, cos that would be too damn boring, have an open mind, be adventurous and brave enough to go off the beaten track, to back track, to make a new track.

Don’t worry too much about what others make or think of you, I know this is a hard one, even for a 30 years old, but it’s your life and you only live once, listen to your heart, trust your gut instinct and do what you know is best for you. If that means you’ll hurt someone close to you, or even yourself, so be it, life isn’t full of glitter and rainbow, life can also be painful and sometimes that’s the best way to learn.

Love hard, fall harder and don’t be scared. Know that you deserve nothing except for the best, know that you need to be comfortable in your own skin, comfortable enough to let your guard down and let others in.

Take care of your health, your body, your mind. Life balance is whatever you make it and there’s always a choice, you just have to find a way to make it work for you. Travel and travel some more. Read and read widely. Meet new people, keep old friends, reach out a little more, an email, a call, a text, every little bit counts.

Most of all, be yourself, learn that being vulnerable is ok, to have disagreements is ok, but to follow blindly is not ok.

Enjoy the next 10 years of your life, I can’t say for sure they will be the best 10 years of your life, but they will be full of ups and downs and all kinds of amazing.

Sincerely,
Ashka

New York Guides – Williamsburg

In collaboration with Papillionaire Bicycles

Ever since the first time I visited New York almost 6 years ago, Williamsburg has been a big part of each and every single visit. My friends lived there, colleagues recommended boutiques to shop at there, the coolest bars were there and on my last trip, I airbnbed there. Now that I call New York home, I spend more time than ever in Williamsburg, sure it’s partly because my American beau lives there, but despite all the gentrification talk, Williamsburg is a pretty damn amazing hood.

To guide you through this hood that’s jammed packed with shops, restaurants, bars and things to do, I found the perfect couple, Abby and Mike. Abby is the digital editor at Paper Magazine and she’s lived in Williamsburg for nearly 4 years. Her boyfriend Mike works at a tech start up, plays bass in Soaker and helps run Band Seed and he’s also lived in Williamsburg for 4 years. These are their favourite places, places that aren’t the “must do”s in guide books, places that are simply, local and good.

1 – Blind Barber
A cafe at the front and barber shop at the back, this place serves great coffee and a small selections of donuts and pastries and if you pop in later in the day, just go straight for the draft beers and cocktails. Mike says great things about the haircuts too.

Abby: “We like to grab coffee and breakfast sandwiches in the morning, they have some of the best in the city – try their bacon, egg and cheese or their egg whites, pesto and kale on the toasted brioche.”

New York Williamsburg guide - The Blind Barber cafe | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

New York Williamsburg guide - The Blind Barber cafe | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

New York Williamsburg guide - The Blind Barber cafe | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

2 – 10 Ft. Single by Stella
This is one of the shops I loved on my first ever trip to New York and I still love it, it seems small from the outside, but step in and you are in a treasure trove of vintage goodness. The selection of clothes, shoes and accessories are highly curated and always on point, the stock is regularly rotated too, so you’ll always find something new.

Mike: “I’ve sourced life long items like Wall Street-worthy Allen Edmonds shoes, black gloves that look like they were a prop from a Rossellini film, and once scored an impeccably broken-in Schott Perfecto jacket, and that’s just my leather finds.”

New York Williamsburg guide - 10 Ft. Single by Stella, vintage clothes shop | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

New York Williamsburg guide - 10 Ft. Single by Stella, vintage clothes shop | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

New York Williamsburg guide - 10 Ft. Single by Stella, vintage clothes shop | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

3 – Campbell Cheese
This what a food lover’s dream bodega looks like, they have an amazing selection of groceries, cheese, meats and yes like a bodega, they serve sandwiches too, but trust me, they are nothing like a bodega sandwich, these are simply divine.

Abby: “They have amazing varieties of cheese, locally-made jams, oils, vinegars, chocolates and charcuterie-style meat.”

New York Williamsburg guide - Campbell Cheese | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

New York Williamsburg guide - Campbell Cheese | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

New York Williamsburg guide - Campbell Cheese | Photographed by Ashka Shen | Xssat

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