The last few weeks of living in South Africa had a very unique aesthetic – an oddly placed haven. And it was in this phase that I found one of my now favourite things.
Think old-fashioned decorating – soft couches and doilied table cloths; reality TV – wasting away grey afternoons on the over-cushioned sofa; the epitome of cozy – odd paintings in the kitchen that reminded me of my Ouma‘s, carpeted floors serving warmth from the tiles, an abundance of blankets, beds that were just the right height off the floor; and the lullaby of zips – as we fished between suitcases for our things in a way that should be frustrating but just feels kind of endearing to me now. There’s one evening which sticks out in my mind perfectly embodies this absurd yet picturesque chapter I was in.
We – my mom, sisters and I – had gone over to a friend’s house to borrow her piano. My sister, Paige, and I had music exams coming up: she and I both played solo piano, and we also had a piano-violin duet (in which I was the violin). Since the house we were staying in in June didn’t have a piano, we needed to borrow our family friend’s.
So after a few run-throughs of scales and songs to our small, yet enthusiastic audience, we thanked our friend for the kind use of her piano, and drove back home. On the way, we stopped by Woolworths.
For my dear non-South African readers, Woolworths is a South African retail chain, think clothes and home-ware but also the best grocery shop you could imagine. Upon googling Woolworths for your convenience, I have found there’s also an Australian supermarket chain called Woolworths. My Woolworths is not that one. I’m not saying you should visit the motherland solely to visit Woolworths, but if you don’t experience it at least once you’d be missing out. Big time. What with my love for a certain South African soap opera and cats, I already have a slight old-lady persona tucked away in my personality. The fact that I really love Woolworths doesn’t make the old-soul label any easier to shake off. I was not sponsored by Woolworths to write this paragraph, but I should’ve been.
As I was saying, we stopped by Woolworths to grab some pasta-pots for supper since it was late and we were all too tired from driving around town to practice for music exams to even think about cooking. The shop was quiet, so naturally we were rowdy like no time before. I was skipping around in a bright yellow hoodie, violin strapped to my back, making small-talk with the sushi chef so I could help myself to the abundance of samples there were laid out on the counter. Turns out he used to play violin, but no thanks, he didn’t want to borrow mine. Then it was time to pay for our pasta pots, and I was spinning down the aisle to get to the checkout, I spied myself a magazine.
Even more exposition is needed to put this into context. I’ve always had an eye for nice design: I have more fonts on my computer than actual, important documents and routinely flick through magazines to comment on the layouts. This habit of mine was only encouraged during my time as a designer for the Blue Thread – my old school’s online magazine. And so, when I saw the colourful yet contained, minimalist yet excited magazine cover peeking about between the circus of typical teenage magazines and kitsch tabloids, it wasn’t only desire, but duty, that called me to pluck it off the shelf and onto the checkout lane belt.
Promising my mom I’d pay her back for it, I flipped through the pages, fawning over the design and the content. It was beautiful! It was incredible! It was love at first sight!
It was everything I’d ever wanted in a magazine.
And so kids, that’s how I met Teen Breathe.
Although it was the design of Teen Breathe that caught my eye, the articles inside equally earned a place in my heart.
See, I’ve always loved magazines. I learnt to multitask in the aisles of Sainsbury’s in England: my nose stuck in the latest issue of SparkleWorld while my peripheral vision steered me around the shop, sparing me from crashing into shelves and shoppers. I spent a good chunk of pocket money buying stacks of J-14, M Magazine and Shout in my tween and early teen years. Long before Blue Thread, I’d even teamed up with some of my friends in the library at break time to put together a magazine – it was just a lot of hot-mail emails to each other and futile attempts at using the early versions of Microsoft Publisher. I even put my Mom’s Pick n Pay rewards card to good use and collected every month’s edition of their Taste magazine.
But none of them truly hit the nail on the head. They satisfied the innate instinct I have to collect issues, but what was written never cut it for me. I didn’t want the truth on the latest rumours about my favourite stars – I never watched enough TV to be interested anyways – and I obviously grew out of SparkleWorld.
I knew what I wanted: good design – like the special edition of Ideas we kept in the lounge – and helpful content – like the various Girls’ Book of Glamour and friends I had stored on my shelf. The existence of this ideal magazine was so obvious in my brain, and yet: it was nowhere.
That is, until Teen Breathe.
The issue I picked up that cozy evening in Woolworths had articles ranging from combatting jealousy to revamping your bedroom, the history of suffragettes to composing study playlists, celebrating diversity to healthy breakfast ideas. And that’s just one issue!
Teen Breathe is so wholesome, so fulfilling and so relevant.
For me, it really is what I have been looking for in a magazine, what I’ve always wanted to both read and create. But even looking at the bigger picture, Teen Breathe really is a fresh breath of air to the magazine scene.
For so long, girls have been bombarded with magazines that focused on celebrities, that preached embracing insecurities and then drowned them in airbrushed adverts and dangled the A-list lifestyle above their heads, just out of reach. Although I used to be obsessed with them, in hindsight in does strike me as grooming girls to be able to sell them magazines like Cosmopolitan that interview the latest, greatest stars and adorn their covers with the oxymoronic headlines on “Embracing Who You Are” and “How to Lose that Stubborn 10K”.
Teen Breathe cuts all that away. It really is a magazine that focuses on and embraces mindfulness.
I guess this post is part backstory, part Teen Breathe review. I’ll try not to get sentimental, but the magazine really is synonymous to me with finding the sunspots in grey afternoons. Every issue reminds me of the weirdly placed yet wonderful aesthetic I lived in through some crazy weeks.
And that’s what Teen Breathe is about. Finding refuge in a chaotic world. Mindfulness. Wellness. Healthiness. Happiness. It’s still quite a young publication – they’ve just released their eleventh issue – but it’s already making such a big impact in the media teenagers – and especially teenage girls – are fed.
I won’t try separate my review of Teen Breathe with the story of how I found it: I think they fit together. In a world where I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for, it was a breathe of fresh air.