New Year’s Resolution: Simplify

#2: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Unbeknownst to her, my HSC Mathematics teacher had the most profound effect on my daily outlook. She wore three gold hoops in each ear, was wildly intelligent and shared her stash of peppermint tea when the going got tough. Most significantly, though, was what became a miracle cure to every exam-pressured brain block and dead end we had from that point on. “Keep It Simple, Stupid“, she scrawled on the whiteboard on the first day of the rest of our lives (two years of hardcore Maths constituting a lifetime, that is), and coloured in the first letter of each word with what turned out to be permanent marker – we spent the rest of the hour colouring over the letters in whiteboard pens (a hot tip for any of you who end up in education), while Ms McFarlane explained the importance of the mantra. I certainly embodied her description of the student with the tendency to over-complicate everything, and tackle too much at once. Every Maths problem was made up of bite-sized components: even the most difficult of circular motion (or god forbid, probability) questions were never

impossible under exam conditions.

The Religious Studies class that occupied the classroom after the bell was well baffled by the mammoth KISS ghosted across the board, and Maths went on to be my favourite two hours of the day (though I’d never admit it).

Even so, it has taken me three years to understand that the doctrine is also applicable to ordering lunch or planning your degree. That said, simplicity, not to be confused with laziness, is an art form that the 21st Century makes almost impossible. We’re capable of holding three different conversations with three different people on three different technologies at the same time. We’re working multiple shifts, internships, and studies until society (née Human Resources) deems us worthy of whittling it all down to just one day job. But somehow, Ms McFarlane had it down to a T – the afternoon she announced that she had decided to have toy soldiers for dinner, I thought she was the coolest kid on the block.

That said, three gloriously sleepy mornings watching Paris wakeup from our rustic window ledge, wearing naught but a pseudo-sheet dress, finishing the 2€ box of cherries we’d bought coming out of the Métro the night before, and having absolutely no plan for the rest of the day, does not mean that I’m going to uproot my triple life here in Sydney and move to Bali. A KISS simply puts your garble of a To-Do list in perspective – that is, in 2013, I didn’t bite off more than I could chew, I just took the bite while having three conversations, doing cartwheels, and making three more To-Do lists of things I should maybe think about doing.

Never talk with your mouth full.

My high school homeroom teacher was convinced that I would take Pure Mathematics in University, and sometimes I wish I had – there is so much straight forward, instantaneous, unconditional gratification in solving a Maths problem.* None of this convoluted legal wordplay, or grand marketing gestures, or… The Internet, period. Or, perhaps, I just haven’t figured out how to simplify those just yet.

Give it another three years.


Blu Moon Dress from Planet Blue

Shot on Canon T60 and Ilford Delta 100 35mm film in Paris

*Unashamedly, I went away for two weeks to the National Mathematics Summer School after I’d finished with HSC Maths altogether in Year 11 – my brain has never been so strained, and I kind of miss feeling like you’ve run a marathon after sitting at a desk for two hours…

  • Pleasure to read, witty and humorous, and some beautifully breath-taking photos.
    K.I.S.S. will be engrained into my brain for life.

  • Maria

    Ms McFarlane has had a profound affect on my life too! I just wish I could tell her! And yes your writing described her perfectly. Although I would have added so much love to give.


Margaret Zhang is a Chinese-Australian photographer, director, stylist and writer based in New York. Since her digital beginnings in the fashion industry in 2009, Margaret has worked with global brands including Chanel, UNIQLO, Swarovski, YEEZY, Clinique, Lexus, Dior, Gucci, Matches and Louis Vuitton in a wide range of capacities both in front of and behind the camera, while completing her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at The University of Sydney.
Though regularly featured in print and digital media as a model and personality alike, Margaret’s pho tography, styling, and creative direction has been employed by the likes of Vogue, L’Officiel, Harper’s BAZAAR, NYLON, Marie Claire, Buro24/7, and ELLE internationally. She has been listed in Forbes Asia’s 30Under30 and TimeOut’s 40Under40 lists, and her work has been recognised as shaping the international fashion industry by the Business of Fashion BoF500 Index, and ELLE Magazine’s Best Digital Influencer of The Year Award.




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