In the spirit of Ryder, a collection that embodies reinvention whilst holding onto the things that bring you joy, Dream Rubette Brooklyn Opetaia of Words To Heal You sits down with Ima, our Head of Brand to share on their recent moves to London!
Chatting on all things change and new beginnings, see how they ride the wave of change and what they're bringing forward into 2024...
This is our first date essentially - tell me, who is Brooklyn? What have you been doing up until now and what brings you to London?
Hi! I’m Brooklyn, 22, from Aotearoa. I grew up in Christchurch and Dunedin, then lived the last 3 years in Wellington. I’m now living in the beautiful London! I am an all-around creative, but found my sweet spot in poetry and creative writing. I founded the beautiful mental health organization Words To Heal You in 2020 and have watched it grow into an extremely special community of people. It has grown in a way that has allowed me to move across the world and start to make a real impact in the mental health space beyond my island home in New Zealand! I love people. They’re the central focus of my life. But I also love fashion, love design, love the arts.
I’m Ima (ee-ma ;)), 26, born & raised in Auckland. I started at RUBY at the end of 2017 as an intern while finishing my degree and have been there ever since! Post-lockdown, RUBY introduced Butterfly Leave - offered to long-standing Rubettes who would love a year to travel but still want a place in the team when they come back. I’m technically RUBY’s first butterfly, but I still wanted to work for the team, so really I’m the first INTL remote Rubette. Last year I pitched to split my role in half as Head of Marketing and moved to London as Head of Brand and RUBY were crazy enough to back me and say yes.
I would love to hear more about Words To Heal You, what inspired this platform and what is the vision for it?
I mean, whenever people ask me that question, I always say it started when I was, like, 5 years old. It's just my life story.
I started writing passionately when I was about 9. I've always loved literature, words of affirmation, and poetry. My nana and I lived in different cities and we were each other’s pen pals while I was growing up which kept my love for writing active as a child. When I was 14, I started understanding my journey with mental health and started to feel quite big feelings that were a result of my upbringing. I would always write in my journal about everything I went through and everything I felt. I had a bit of a unique living situation as a teenager and I wrote my whole way through it.
In 2020, after years of counseling and healing, I had made notable progress in my own healing journey and thought I was ready to start sharing all the thoughts that lived inside my journals because they were just sitting there collecting dust and maybe, just maybe, they could be impacting people.
This is where Words To Heal You began. I was only 19 years old and had created an Instagram account with no idea where it was going to go or what it meant, but I hoped that people would find encouragement in my writing. “A virtual safe space” is what I’ve always referred to it as. It grew quickly from sharing my poetry, and now we have a really special community of people who are really passionate about making a difference in the world of mental health.
Sharing so openly across both platforms both personally and on Words To Heal You, is moving with change something that has always come naturally to you?
I grew up in really changing environments. It wasn’t easy a lot of the time. We moved around a lot, I myself was constantly feeling such big feelings from such a young age. My formative years resembled constant change. So I was really familiar with change, but probably not in a positive way. As a teenager, I discovered that if I could gain control of as much in my life as possible, less would change, and I would feel more stable. I thought that I would feel safer if I was in control of what was changing in my life. And my goal was to create a life that never changed. I wanted utter consistency all of the time. As I navigated my journey, I realised that if everything stays the same all the time, I'm never going to evolve or grow. I learned that the hard way because I held on so tightly to that control.
As life happened and I grew up, I now welcome change. My relationship with change has changed. I’ve learned the beauty of releasing control. Of letting life change with the wind and the wave of change. I always want to improve and be better, and with that comes change.
I completely agree. I would say change doesn’t come naturally to me either… I think it’s a Taurus and perfectionist thing lol - I love my routine and being in control a bit too much. But my life has been filled with change since day 1 both personally and in my career at RUBY. Within my 5 roles in 5 years across some pretty big times in the world to say the least - I feel like I’ve had to move through a lot and understand how I best navigate through it all.
How do you ride the wave of change? Is there ever a time when it feels a bit much? What do you do?
My whole life has changed in the past year - I married my childhood best friend, and high school sweetheart, and moved to a country I'd never been to, across the world! I’d never traveled, never experienced this level of business… It has been a little scary, unknown, and daunting at times, but I've learned to embrace it and find consistency in doing what I love.
I love writing and making a social impact so it’s been important to find my sweet spot and tap into my creativity while being so far from familiarity. This is what has made my transition from New Zealand to London feel easier.
For me, I think I’ve just been really fortunate to have some of the best role models in my life to show me that everything will always be ok in the end. You gotta ride it out, get stuck in when you need to and I’ve seen serious magic come out of change, and challenges - shout out Take B_ack Friday, Liam Patterns, The Best Is Yet To Come etc etc. (& my mum).
In saying that, wow moving countries is no small feat. My primary, high school, uni, flat & RUBY, are all within 3km of each other - so moving here was my biggest change to date for sure. So like yourself, it’s been important to bring some routine back - finding my gym, making my smoothie I’ve made for the last like 10 years, my connection back to my RUBY team at home - it helps me move through all that is up in the air if I have some things in my life that are constant.
With all this change, what have you learnt about yourself?
Oh gosh, resilience. I didn’t realise that resilience is a beautiful trait, but not just resilience to get through the hard stuff. Resilience to see dreams come true, resilience to make a change. I thought my resilience was just to overcome hard situations in life, but I learned in positive change that I actually have resilience to do anything that I can put my mind to.
I’ve gotten outside of the bubble of New Zealand for now and I've seen a lot of change and I found a lot of myself through it.
Definitely so much resilience… Although crisis fatigue is something we are talking about and feeling at RUBY, it sounds strange but there’s an element of thrill with the adrenaline of having to scrap your plan and turn around something really quickly, and being proud of what you’ve achieved in times of pressure or when you are reactive. I guess what I’ve learnt is to look for the positive within an unsettling situation.
So, what have you been missing about home? What’s on your itinerary when you’re back in Feb?
I'm just so excited to go back and visit, it's the best place on Earth. First things first we’re pulling off our first-ever physical Words To Heal You experience in Auckland. Which is a dream come true. And after that, I am looking forward to switching off. Let my mind find psychological rest - and just be around our family and friends. I think I miss a bit of familiarity. As much as I love being one in ten million in London, I also love stepping outside and bumping into someone I know.
Very exciting! Aside from the obvious with missing friends and family - god I miss the food!! Sorry London but NZ is just superior when it comes to all the amazing food we have available, I don’t think you understand until you leave that we are spoilt for choice. I already have a huge list in my notes app of the places I'll be going to when I next visit (whenever that is) - Empress Garden, Ockhee & Ragtag are up there.
Yes, the food!! Also shopping and fashion, you would think it’s better here in London but seriously, I’ve learned since moving that our New Zealand brands are some of the best in the world.
I’m also missing dancing on a night out with my best friends to music we love, I’m yet to find my fave spot with DJs that play what I want to hear (lol) but I know that’s a me problem…
SO, in the spirit of Ryder and thinking about this year - what are you bringing forward into 2024 and leaving behind in 2023?
I wrote this list for WTHY at the start of the year:
Most excited to: continue trying new things, have a London summer - fun times in the park, pubs, spending time with friends, etc., travelling to new places, AND seeing what we could do with our Rubettes in London. Also, to give myself a bit more compassion. <3
Leaving behind in 2023: Pushing myself just a little too hard in aspects of my life.
Snaps taken at Jolene, Newington Green.