I first fell in love with Ru Yu’s work when I saw her illustration of a girl with flowing, aqua hair. The serenity in it is so palpable, I was drawn to it immediately. I wanted to gaze at it all day! So as I am (very slowly) putting together my personal branding to represent myself online (it’s always hardest to do it for yourself!), the easiest part was in picking the person to help me convey my self visually to the digital world.
Funnily enough, it was through working together and reading my fledgling blog that she found out that she’s a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) as well. And that’s also how the idea for my column was born – we bonded over “OMG, me too!” moments and it was such a revelation to me to finally start being open about my sensitivity, and in meeting other kindred spirits in this way. This openness and bonding over our shared experience of the world felt so valuable to me, that it inspired me to create this column for others like us out there too.
So here’s Sensitive Warriors – my column featuring Highly Sensitive People/Empaths, their thoughts on sensitivity and the work they put out into the world. I’ll also be quizzing them for their thoughts on how they convey who they are through their personal brands – especially relevant I feel, for the growing number of self-employed/freelancers/multi-hyphenates out there!
GET TO KNOW RUYU, 26
Ruyu is an illustrator and polka-dot painter. She also works part-time at Ohvola, a Singaporean blog shop.
On creating as a way of life:
Was there one moment when you just KNEW you had to pursue art/create? How has the process been like for you?
I’ve enjoyed art & creating since as early as I could remember things. I’ve always thought of creation as a peaceful and therapeutic process, so the one moment when I knew I had to do something about this was when I was in the second year of my Architecture course. I dropped out of university and took up fashion design. Looking back now, it wasn’t because I lost interest in Architecture design, but because I was more immature then and I was overwhelmed by the work load and stress.
More importantly, I didn’t like the feeling of creating under immense stress. A lot of those creations didn’t feel genuine and I didn’t feel alive nor happy. At the end of everything, I only felt relieved that it was over. I didn’t feel like I wanted to create again.
So of course, the same thing happened in my fashion design course. I loved my foundation year, but then suddenly we were expected to churn out collections and I realised I didn’t know how to do that. I felt like something was missing and there wasn’t a lot of room for exploration, and I found myself lost in the madness again. But I stuck through it because I had to learn to manage stress, and I also wanted to prove that my decision wasn’t a childish impulse.
Juggling passion & practicality
(After graduation) I was basically living off my little savings and when I had none left, I started relying on the supplementary credit card from my mum. I know my parents worry about my future and they persistently asked me to look for jobs that pay well so that I could gain experience, earn and save money and only then pursue what I was interested in doing.
But I really dreaded working only for money – going into a contract job to sit in an office, go for lunch at 12, and come back and work in the office, knock off work at 6 and squeeze with everyone on public transport/fight for cabs. My mentality was, “I don’t have to wait till I have a lot of savings before I can do what I enjoy doing. I can do it now!” …But that was such a low point in my life because I knew I was in my comfort zone with their financial help.
“But my boyfriend was very supportive throughout it all and I found the courage to cut up my credit card and really work for what I want, on my own. What motivated me was that if I start to earn my own salary, then I can spend it where I want to without anyone’s consent. And I wanted to prove that I was capable of surviving independently, doing what I enjoy doing.”
So I went on a job hunt, met a few obstacles, was in a cycle of sticking to my decision then doubting it, then sticking to it again. During this crazy job hunting emotional roller-coaster, I concluded that I would find a part time job so I could do my own work at the same time. So here I am now, with a 3 day work week, doing something fun that I’m good at.
“My job at Ohvola is such a blessing.”
Of course my pay cheque isn’t comparable to many of my peers, but I’m still really thankful for it because it takes care of my basic needs and enables me to create freely without having to stress over whether people would pay for my work. This whole fiasco also taught me how to manage my finances and budgeting, which is a really good thing because I had zero money sense before this.
On work & branding:
Speaking of work, how did you come up with your brand “Porukadotto”? How does it reflect you and your style?
I took really long trying to come up with a name that I like. I’ve always loved the Japanese culture of how they are always super sensitive and attentive to details, and I value details a lot. I’m always mentally picking out and noting good and bad details in everything – design, customer service, systems etc. But I have no idea how to speak/write Japanese so I used Google Translate to translate several words I associated with until I found “ポルカドット”, Porukadotto, which means Polka Dot. I love polka dots! And it’s a bonus that my name “Ru” is part of the word hehe!
One of my favourite quotes:
“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” -Steve Jobs
I’ve also always had a thing for kids, I love kids. I love their energy – they’re like happy chubby bubbly wide-eyed cuties beaming with wonder, curiosity, and excitement. And I think it’s sad that this part dies in the process of “growing up”.
So I hope that my work can one day be magical and whimsical, inspiring and encouraging people to dream and live, be alive.
(P.S. I sometimes dream of having a polka dotted dog in my future white walled home hehe. I love dogs too!)
What are your thoughts about being an HSP/your sensitivity?
I don’t particularly feel anything about being a HSP at the moment! I used to feel like I was unusually sensitive/emotional/petty over minor stuff – that if I manage to catch myself before I get overwhelmed, I’ll realise that it wasn’t really worth getting upset about. But at that point, no matter how minor, it felt like a really big deal. Sometimes there’ll be so many voices/thoughts going on in my head at the same time and I sometimes wonder if I’m crazy or overly paranoid and overly sensitive.
Or sometimes I’ll find myself feeling really emotional and I’ll feel like crying even though I couldn’t pinpoint why I was sad and I thought maybe I was having some kind of depression. But I think sometimes I just get super overwhelmed by everything happening around me and everything going on in my head and crying (and screaming/biting) is my form of release.
Inevitably, my relationships with people can be quite challenging. But I’ve already been dealing with it for 26 years… haha I hope I’m somewhat better at managing being a HSP now.
Sometimes being a HSP can be really ultra annoying, but I try and focus on the advantages of being a HSP. I think there are lots, and I feel it’s especially useful in regards to design, like being more sensitive to colours, textures, materials.
I’m also quite OCD over the tiniest details. When I paint, I must use rough watercolour paper because I think textures complement my style of work even though textures are not really prominent in pictures. I seldom like the ones I paint on matte paper. If I cook something but haven’t figured out how to plate it nicely or it doesn’t taste good, I will never post it on my instagram. My instagram posts have to be somewhat colour coordinated/balanced and I’m guilty of going back and deleting some posts later on. I picked up HTML just so I could tweak the look of my website now and then, even if I’m the only one who sees it or notices the difference. In photoshop I guess it boils down to aligning and obsessing over every pixel.
I didn’t know that there’s this whole study going on about HSPs. I mean, all this time I’ve just thought that people (especially myself) should stop taking things too seriously and being so stressed out/worked up over nothing. I’ve always thought of it as a “problem”, which I wasn’t able to solve no matter how much I try. But reading your blog (I was seriously like “this sounds like me”, “omg i feel this way all the time” almost every single time I read your blog posts/captions/facebook status!!!) and being introduced to Elaine Aron’s research and books have made me be more at peace with who I am and how to manage everything that comes with being a HSP.
How do you manage stress?
I do stuff that’s therapeutic to me. There’s a huge list, which includes:
- shopping on asos (my fav online store! hahaha)
- quiet shopping alone on a weekday (love freelancing because I can do my shopping when everyone else is at work)
- grocery shopping and cooking
- drawing and painting
- listening to music
- watching korean dramas (there are days when I’m so overwhelmed that I’d stop working entirely and take time out and finish the entire 20 episodes in 3 days)
- go to the airport (I love the airport because it’s so spacious and quiet!!!)
- take a bus ride (I love bus rides especially on double deckers, right in front! but I really HATEEEE it when people chat continuously or TURN ON THEIR MUSIC/VIDEOS ON SPEAKER MODE! LIKE SERIOUSLY?!)
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I have chatting with her! ♡ -Kerrie