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Zinnia's Story

Hey hi hello and welcome! I wanted to kick off this ’stories’ series by sharing my own story with you all.

First and foremost, who am i?

My name is Zinnia Dogra, and I am the creative creature behind @storiesbyz_. I’m from a beautiful country called New Zealand, and I currently reside in Auckland. I have lived here my entire life and will always consider it my home. I’m an Architectural Graduate and consider myself a storyteller who communicates through video, art, dance, design, writing - anything and everything.

I studied Architecture at the University of Auckland and graduated with my masters degree in Architecture in 2019. For as long as I can remember, I always had an interest in home renovation shows (massive fan of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), rearranging my room every 3 minutes and playing the Sims purely to build the houses (and then abandon my sims, sorry guys). I’ve also always been super creative and taught myself how to edit videos when I was 10 and Adobe Photoshop when I was 14/15. On the flip side of this, I was also freakishly good at algebra/calculus to the point where I found it enjoyable (lmao don’t come for me) so in theory, Architecture *seemed* to be the perfect direction for me.

2020 has been a super tough year for everyone, so how are you doing? Did you have any highlights despite the chaos?

Human’s are social beings and physical interaction is essential for our survival. I feel as though 2020 really tested my limits in all departments of my life and even though I’m proud of myself for soldiering through it, I still feel like I haven’t fully healed. Like many, I thought 2020 was going to be my year. For the longest time, I’ve been battling severe loneliness (to the point where I could be in a room full of people and feel as though I’m completely alone) and all I wanted was to escape Auckland because it was making me feel like life was nothing but emptiness. I felt genuinely disconnected from everyone, felt as though I had no true friends and only spent my time with a couple of people outside of my household and workplace. As a certified stage 5 social butterfly and extroverted fairy, (as in someone who thrives off social interaction) these two factors coupled together really was becoming a recipe for disaster.

In 2019 i was presented with the opportunity to live my dream and work in New York City as an Architect. I accepted immediately, knowing that this was the ‘escape’ and fresh start I needed. Apart from the fact i was leaving behind a few things that were super special to me and my life at the time, i was ready for the move and it was the first time in a while i felt like i had a purpose and direction. I arrived in New York with a newly ignited fire to live my best life… and then we fast forward to 2020.

2020 started off FANTASTIC. I had been living in New York for 3 months, i had met my now best friend and I was really making that damn city my own. However, there was a giant pit in my stomach because i knew deep down i was avoiding a painful reality, and that was the fact that i really hated Architecture. During my final years of uni, i started to feel resentment, but i ignored it thinking it was just burnout and that after a decent break i would be recharged and ready to roll. January 2020, i realised this was not the case. Having to admit this to myself literally tore me to shreds because i’m a massive perfectionist and knowing that i may have gotten my career path wrong killed me (especially because i spent 5 years studying this profession, and even had a Masters degree in it). Although at the time i felt like a total failure of a human, i’m so thankful I admitted my true feelings to myself because it really lifted a significant weight off my shoulders and it allowed me to start exploring what i really wanted to do in life.

So that seemed like a somewhat happy ending, so how was this 2020 related you ask? Well this was the beginning of the shit show for me. The calm before the storm.

March 2020, what a time to be alive. March marked the last month valid on my US visa, the month i had planned and booked a solo trip around the American West Coast, and the month the entire world flipped on its head. March 13th will go down as the day in history that ol’ mate Corona came to cause a damn SCENE, and was the last day many office plants saw their human caregivers. What did i do on March 13th? i boarded a plane to Canada to see my best friend. 3 days later, i was panic flying back to New York to pack up my ENTIRE life and move home before my home country sealed its borders.

So how am i doing? I’m coping. I feel as though, like other people, 2020 threw so much chaos into my life, but it also allowed me to slow down from my fast paced life to start something i’ve always wanted to do.

What inspired you to start your own business/art page? The short and easy answer may be “the pandemic” but I see that more of an ideal time to start rather than a reason. Really think deep down, if this pandemic didn’t exist, would you still have started a business? Has starting a business always been your dream and goal?

The birth of @storiesbyz_ was a long time coming. Back in 2017, I started this page as a place to share my travel photography, with the goal