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Cultural Identity

A brief history of the Teochew people is that they are from South China and migrated to Southeast Asia because they were under attack by the Mongolians, who were barbarians that would pillage and plunder villages, forcing people to leave their homes. From what I read, there are conflicting views on whether the Teochew people were originally from the region of Chaoshan or that they came from the north and inhabited the region. This debate seems to be a common one, but I'm not all too sure why it matters.

 

Nevertheless, the Teochew people are mostly populated in Singapore and can also be found in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and parts of Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States. They are a culture of people with their traditions and language and depending on where they migrated and settled, they acclimated to their new home.

 

Like many Asian families who move to foreign lands, the Teochew are trying to keep their language going with the present and coming generations and they also speak the native languages of the places they live. It appears to be a culture that is deeply rooted in their ancestry, and they're not the same as "just" Chinese. It's ethnic diversity that I know matters, I'm just still so new to it all.

 

It has been a bit strange learning about a culture within Chinese culture. Not once in my entire life have I ever done any research on Chinese culture. The only thing I've ever really known is their food, which is probably more American than Chinese. Growing up in Seattle, WA as a child, I always enjoyed being in Chinatown, eating the food, and being surrounded by Asian people. Since I didn't grow up around a lot (or any) of Asian people, it's comforting when I am around them, even to this day.

 

But now that I know that I'm part Chinese, it's slowly opening this door to a world that is much bigger than the world I lived in before finding out my ancestry.

 

Before I saw myself as Cambodian and Japanese I have eaten dishes from these countries and have learned how to make a few native dishes too. I've dabbled in research here and there about the cultures and felt connected because I knew my blood was connected. I could imagine my ancestors standing behind me and guiding me on my path of life, and I have "bonded" with people who are also Cambodian or Japanese.

 

But now, now that I know that I'm Chinese, that is a HUGE culture. I mean, they're a dominant force in the world economy and make up a large percentage of the world's population! And, for my entire life, I've been telling Chinese people that I'm not Chinese, and then have to endure their utter disappointment.

 

Am I the only one?

 

It makes me wonder if there are other Asian people in the world who discovered hidden Asian ancestries that they never knew they had, only to feel confusion riddled with an identity crisis.

 

I don't know what any of it means and I certainly don't know what it means to be culturally Chinese. But what I can say is, it does feel kinda nice to know that I'm now part of an even larger community. And the next time a Chinese restaurant manager asked me if I'm Chinese, I can say yes (followed by a long story of how I just found out and that I'm also Japanese and Cambodian).

 

The other thing that I feel confident about is the fact that regardless of my cultural identity, I am and always will be an Asian-American woman, first and foremost.

Thicker Than Water

I've never been interested in doing a DNA test from sites like Ancestry.com or 23andMe. My background is that my dad was from Cambodia and my mom is half Japanese (Okinawan) and half Irish, so what else is there to know? And every time someone has asked me "where are you from?" my answer is always the same… Texas. And, I'm half Cambodian, a quarter Irish, and a quarter Japanese.

 

Low and behold, my wife got me a DNA kit for Christmas, so I said, "why the hell not," and spit a good amount of saliva into a little plastic tube and shipped it off via USPS. During that processing time, I started to uncover a little bit of information on Ancestry.com and searched for information on my parents in hopes of just creating a little family tree, which is basically what the site is for - to grow your family tree. They have all kinds of records – birth, death, immigration, marriage, every kind of record possible, for the United States. To say the least, there isn't much information on Asian people coming into the United States, other than a boarding pass from when my grandmother came from Okinawa in the '50s.

 

Uncovering the little information that I could, it left me feeling, meh. While I have two brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and all the rest of them, I don't have any contact with any of them. Not even my parents. It's a complicated story that may or may not be in a future blog and a situation that still leaves me a bit lonely, especially during the holidays, because I don't have immediate family. Fortunately, I do have amazing people in my life that I call framily, and I have an incredible wife and mother-in-law, so I'm not actually alone, just wishing I had more family to connect with. Grief has many faces.

 

Nevertheless, yesterday I got the test results back.

 

There were many, many shocks. I mean, I'm literally shook to my core because I was not expecting the results that I got. While I can confirm that my parents are in fact my parents (I was thinking about worst-case scenarios), I'm not what I've always believed that I am.  

 

You have to understand something. Asian-American people are ALWAYS asked, "where are you from," and it's because people want to know what nationality we are. I get it, it's not necessarily rude to ask, it's just annoying to always have to talk about it, especially when I'm American, first and foremost. Also, Chinese people always do the same thing, and they're usually very disappointed when I say that I'm not Chinese. Or at least I think they're disappointed?

 

The fact of the matter is, I'm Chinese.

 

My DNA says that 37% of it is from Southern China. THIS IS CRAZY! I'm Chinese. For nearly my entire adult life and probably some moments in my childhood, I have been telling people that I'm NOT Chinese, and I am.

 

The other thing is, I'm not Irish. I'm Scottish.

 

My whole identity has now been blown open! Furthermore, after contacting a cousin that I have in Cambodia, she confirmed that our grandfather was half Chinese. HALF CHINESE! I was thinking that the Chinese probably came from hundreds of years ago, but no! My grandfather! It's crazy and I'm still processing it. But here's what else I'm uncovering about myself…

 

I've never really had family around. I grew up an only child, was in foster care, and didn't have any relatives growing up. When people talk about their family this and their family that, I cringe and hope the conversation will move in a different direction so that I don't have to stand awkwardly and uncomfortably tell people that I don't really have immediate family. It's a strange position to be in, especially being Asian because that culture is known for having tight-knit families where multiple generations live together and everyone fully respects the mother and father, regardless of how old or young they are.

 

But when I got the results, I wished that I could talk to my immediate family about it. I wished that I could share the shocking results with my brothers or ask my parents more about their backgrounds. I wished I could hear stories or gain even more information about my DNA truths. And I got caught in a sort of whirlwind of emotions and broke down in sadness and barely slept last night because my thoughts were swirling around, memories were deceiving me, and I just felt sad.

 

When I got up this morning, I talked to my wife about it, and she gave me advice that I instantly felt resistance to. She said that I should reach out to people – the aunts, the cousins, and whoever else so that I can hear more of the story. She hates to see me upset, and she even felt bad for getting the DNA test for me, but she thought that it would be good for me to see my ancestry.

 

Needless to say, I took her advice and reached out to the cousin who told me our grandfather was half Chinese, and I also connected with a relative who popped up on Ancestry.com who shares 15% of DNA with me and is listed as 1st – 2nd cousin.

 

After finding out that she is indeed my 1st cousin (she is the daughter of my mom's brother), I also found out that we're only about two years apart (1 year, 6 months, 21 days) and she only lives 2 hours away from me.

 

I'm shook, yet again. I thought that maybe she was younger and, in some state, far away. I thought that she probably was going to talk about her big-ass family and just see my message, say hi, chat a little bit, and then not chat for a couple of years. I didn't think that it would be a big thing, but it turns out, we have a lot in common!

 

We chatted all morning, became friends on Facebook, stalked each other's Facebook, and talked in a way that seemed like we've always known each other. It was an instant connection to start chatting with her, and I know that we JUST started chatting, but I feel good about it. She's just as excited about meeting me as I am, and we share very similar interests and hobbies, we have similar backgrounds and pain bodies (yes, we got deep already), and we seem to have very similar personalities (based on texts, alone). We're already planning on meeting each other in a few weeks.

 

Wow. Things can change instantly.

 

I don't know where this will go. I don't know what doors are opening and what I'll uncover as I tap into this Chinese heritage that I have. But what I do know is, I have a cousin! and that is a major blessing in my life. It's what I needed, and maybe it's what she needed too.

 

What I'm confident about and what I know to be a truth is, when we're in our darkest moments, those sad moments where no one sees your tears, there is hope. There is light. You can't see it because your eyes are closed when you're crying and the tears blur your sight, but there is a light in the dark valleys because life happens for us to learn and grow, it's not happening to us as punishment or anything like that. So, after being in a valley for a day, I'm a testament to the fact that it gets better. Even better than I would have ever expected. 

 

Maybe blood IS thicker than water. 

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Author Update

 

Since publishing my first book, my personal life has been chaos. With this pandemic still in full affect and I live in Florida, well, being a salon manager hasn't been the most fulfilling job. But, the one thing that has kept me grounded and at peace is knowing that I am a published author and that people are still buying my book.

 

I had an incredible book launch party via zoom in July and nearly 30 raving fans attended! It was not only good to see friends and converse with them, it was great to be able to have an official launch where I could talk about my journey, my book, and what else I'm doing. I felt like the author that I am and it was a much-needed ritualistic necessity; like a baby shower or a bachelorette party. I'm thankful for all those that attended and for all the love and support I received. It's even more important now during this pandemic that we lift each other up and support one another.

 

Through all of this chaos I'm learning a lot about myself (even though I'm in my mid-thirties) and I'm still very much evolving, especially as a writer. Its funny how in one moment you can feel like you know everything, and in the next moment you're reminded that you haven't the slightest clue what's going to happen. The only thing that is for sure is that change will continue to happen and we have to adapt to it. I'm staying grounded in my writing and using my passion as a way to escape my lived world.

 

Since my writing has to adapt and evolve, my focus has too. If you're reading this, I hope that you'll follow me as I leap into uncharted territory. Into writing places that I've never ventured into and into a realm that I've never touched. I'm tapping into my roots and into my heritage and will be writing more about the Asian American experience. This pandemic has uprooted people's emotions on systemic racism, and racism has been rearing its ugly head because everyone's got a camera. And I've come to realize that I have my own opinions and perspectives that I have to share, especially about being Asian American.

 

As I transition my writing from salon manager to the inner Asian American, I hope to uncover more of me. Leaderly Life was just a surface situation, a step, the tip of the iceberg of the writing that is really within me. And while I will always love my first, my second is now in my sight. Wish me luck!

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Post Book Launch

It has been 10 days since I published my book and while I haven't sold millions yet, there have been a few people who are already posting on social media about it and giving my book great shout outs. I was really worried at first because I haven't received my author copies, yet other people are receiving theirs. This is due to Covid19 slowdowns and authors all over are experiencing the same dilemma, which makes me feel a little better about it because I know I'm not alone. Fortunately, those who have received my book are posting little videos about it and I can visually see that it looks great! I worried that it would have a dark line down the middle or the printing would be smudged, but everything looks great.

 

Since I'm a 'self-publisher' I'm also learning a lot about this world and navigating KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and I'm seeing that my expectations do not meet what they are offering. I would like to be able to see how many people are purchasing my book per day, but I can only see how many books are being shipped per day. With it being that way, I have only sold six books even though I have marketed it to about three-hundred, plus social media. So, while these numbers are a little daunting, I'm still moving forward with my marketing strategies and getting this gem out into the world! This journey will test me in all the ways I expect and don't expect it too.

 

The next thing that's been interesting is that while I planned on launching this book in the summer, I was also planning on launching my YouTube channel at the same time. Since I published early, I sort of forgot that I needed to actually make YouTube videos, and last week I published a welcome video, but I need to learn more about video editing. The videos that I have contain content but do not have any visuals, and it is going to be a big learning curve for me to figure out. So that's a hurdle that I'll need to jump over, gracefully or not.

 

Overall, I'm still proud of myself for making it this far. I've struggled my whole life with wanting to be an author, and now that I am, I'm doing a great job. Self-publishing takes work and is like having another full-time job and I'm very happy that I'm pursuing my dreams. After this adventure, I will have the experience and every other book will be a bit easier.

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Book Launch Day

One thing is for sure, life never goes according to plans. Even the most well thought out business plan has to constantly be edited and dates extended. In my case, I planned for my book to be launched in July and then Covid19 happened and I was able to get ahead. And today, I published my book for the whole world to purchase! I'm having so many emotions, but I'm mainly just proud of myself. I've worked hard for a long time, and now it's here for the world to see. I know that this is only the first of many, and the first of the beginning and I hope that I can help people to help other people.

 

At the beginning of the year, I promised myself that I would take my writing seriously and begin to write and publish – getting my writing out there for other people to read. And I've done just that. Once you decide with all of your heart and mind that you want to achieve something, nothing will stop you, and in fact, the universe will move mountains to help you achieve your goals. The only thing that will stop you, is you. So get out of your way and begin a life that you've always dreamed of.

 

This book marks the starting point for so much more to come. Leaderly Life is a brand that will have merchandise available for purchase for leaders. The brand representative that Leaderly Life is a way of being and being leaderly happens in all aspects of your life, not just in the j-o-b. I'll also be launching an online leadership course in the fall (planning at least) and I will be offering one-on-one and group Life Coaching, as well as, business consulting and speaking engagements.

 

My mission is to help people live in alignment with their purpose. I believe that we are all here on this earth to accomplish great things whether it's being a mother, an entrepreneur, an athlete, or all of those things. Success is not about the destination, it's about the satisfaction of walking the journey. It is the joy of living a life of passion that is filled with an abundance of happiness. Success is whatever you dream it to be and it has no size restrictions. The only restrictions you give it are the ones that are in your mind. And those can be changed if you are open to it.

 

I hope you will follow me on my journey. Subscribe to this website and follow me on social media. Feel free to reach out, comment, and ask questions.

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A Writers Life

Writing has been that one thing that calls me every day, leaving a voicemail in my mind, reminding me that I haven't paid attention to it, haven't picked up the pen and put it to paper, and telling me how much it needs me. It is a daily fight that I have with my excuses that tell me all the reasons why I can't do it - I'm too tired. I already love what I'm doing. I don't need to write, no one is going to read my work so why bother. I don't have time to write… and the conversation has been going on like this, every day, for over a decade. And while I have written many things (I have binders and notebooks FULL of poetry, novels, and essays), I've continued to not make a big deal about my writing. Maybe it's because I didn't give it as much value as my career in salon management, or maybe it was all of my insecurities, or maybe both. Nevertheless, while I have always considered myself a writer, I hadn't considered the importance of being an author or being a writer who writes with the purpose of publishing. At least, not until the beginning of the new year 2020.

 

           I was completely drained from the hectic holiday season in the salon and was becoming impatient and pessimistic about the world, which is very opposite of my 'normal' character. And after having a heated discussion with my wife about my unusual behavior, she pointed out that I spent the majority of my time helping to fill up other people's cups, and she felt that I needed to find ways to fill up my cup. While at first, I wanted to disagree and argue that my behaviors were about all the things that were going wrong, she was right. So, I started to listen to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins, Les Brown, and Maya Angelou. I began listening to their words, every morning and even listened to the same videos over and over again. Their words filled up my cup, and as a matter of fact, their words had my cup overflowing with energy and motivation that made me commit to serving what I knew in my heart was my purpose of helping others through my writing, and very quickly I went from having all the excuses to getting my book off the ground.

 

           What happened with me seeking out my own 'life coaches' is that I was able to push away the brain fog and see the big picture, and be in alignment with my passion and purpose. Since the new year, I've created the business platform for Leaderly Life, completed the editing and book design, and now I'm marketing the launch of my first book! Sometimes I can be hard on myself and not give myself credit for the work that I do. I tend to bulldoze through to-do lists and not sit back to look at my accomplishments. This makes me a huge hypocrite because I always tell my team to make sure they celebrate their little accomplishments. But, sometimes it's easier to give advice than take it, right?

 

           Needless to say, I'm very happy with where I am at right now and feel very accomplished with what I've done. And now that I'm already in the book launch faze, I'm looking into what I will write next. Because now, I'm a writer who publishes. A writer that wants the world to read my work. And I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy it as much as I enjoy crafting it all. Because all of my work comes from my lived experience of this crazy thing called life.

 

 

 

Let me know what questions you have and if there's anything, in particular, you'd like to know about. 

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Why I created Leaderly Life

I started Leaderly Life while I was in college studying business. I had left management and was just behind the chair, discouraged that I had failed at being a salon manager, and determined to learn more about the topic and do better my next time around. I had failed not only because I quit. But I had failed because I had made no positive difference in the lives of the people I was serving as their leader. I took this to heart. While I consider myself to have a high level of common sense and am also a friendly person who can make quick connections with people, I felt like I didn't have all the tools that I needed to help stylists succeed. I had a blueprint on how I was successful in my career, but everyone's version of success is measured differently. Everyone not only beats to their own drummer, but they also have different dreams, desires, and drivers that make them do, or not do things. And when I decided to go to college, well into my thirties, I just needed answers – I needed to know how to impact salon professionals. Fortunately, I picked an incredible college (or it picked me) that opened my eyes to this whole world that I didn't know existed because you don't know that you don't know something until you learn about it. And what I learned in college was leadership. More importantly, I learned how important leadership is for our entire world. That the world is run by more people who have titles but lack leadership, and also run by micro-managers who think more about the processes that need to be done versus the influence that can be made.

 

Ask anyone if they've ever had a horrible boss and every person who has had work history will tell you their own story of a boss who didn't care about them, who made them feel worthless and only gave them horror stories to tell. While I've had my fair share of horrible bosses, I've mostly had bosses who just didn't know any better. They, and myself, were never educated on the possibilities that they could do more than just bark orders. And it's to no fault of their own because managers are just doing what their managers tell them to do, while those managers are doing the same. I once heard that leadership trickles down from the top, but what about the effects of the "telephone game" where once the message gets to the last few people, the story is completely different. My point is, leadership cannot come from the top and trickle down, it has to come from the bottom and branch out like a sturdy oak tree. Leadership for the manager means you are teaching others to be leaders too. You are showing people how a leader speaks, acts, and engages with everyone. Because a leader is more than a title, it is a way of being, intending to make great changes in the lives of others.

 

The other big chunk of things that I learned in college was that business is business no matter what kind of business it is, and the whole world is one giant business. Everything that is happening can be seen as a business. Therefore, the implications mean that every manager, and every person, has a responsibility to be a leader in their own lives. With this leadership ability, a business can flourish and be successful even through failure. Leadership means that even if you fail, you get back up and you do it again, just with little tweaks here and there so you don't make the same mistake twice. My goal with Leaderly Life is to teach this. The principle idea that leadership is not only good for business, it's good for the greater good of the world. Living a Leaderly Life means living a successful and abundant life that is full of your potential. One of my favorite motivational speakers, Les Brown, says that the graveyard is the richest place in the world because it's filled with hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled. I'm paraphrasing, but the point he makes is grand. Do you want to take your hopes and dreams to the grave? When you're lying on your death bed, what do you want to say as you reflect on your life? Don't you want to feel good about all of your

accomplishments with the things you did, the words you spoke, the relationships you made?

 

Leaderly Life is all of those things for me. I want to look back on my life and see how many lives I was able to help and how many leaders found their potential and helped countless others. I want to see the domino effect of leadership going on and on for decades. And while my writing can seem utopian and fantasy-like, Leaderly Life is concrete. I've created a leadership guide that managers can utilize in their business and I'll have an online leadership course for those that want to dive deeper into leadership. I'm also creating Leaderly Life as a brand where I'll have merchandise for people to purchase and have as a tool and reminder of their true potential to have a leaderly life. Because the possibilities are endless. You can pave whatever road you want and make it however long you want. And I hope that Leaderly Life is just the beginning of your leadership journey.

 

I hope you'll join me on my path of living a Leaderly Life. 

 

 

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