It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions. These are all women who live a life of abundance and bring creativity into the world.
Q. Who are you?
A. I guess one answer to this question is that I am editor of 1808: Greensboro’s Magazine. But I would also say that isn’t all that defines me. I’m a wife and mother. I’m a Korean adoptee who was raised in the South - so I am very Asian and very Southern. I’m also a writer, and have been since I can remember.
Q. What is your work?
A. I’m a writer and editor. I’m a former newspaper journalist. That experience taught me so much about where we live and humanity. I learned to be okay with facing situations that were uncertain - crime scenes, business or council meetings and funerals of people I did not know. Rarely did/do I ever find myself in a situation in which there is someone else like me - Asian and a woman. People assume you’re an immigrant or that you can’t speak English. And there are times when gender or racial biases surface when you least expect it. And yet you learn how to get through a situation in order to get the information you need. While a reporter, I also learned about compassion and humanity and the generosity of others. And I remain a news junkie.
Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. Well, I don’t know if you can call it a project, but I’m super excited to be working exercise back into my life. Before I had my son, I was a gym rat. I trained capoeira, which is very vigorous. I did yoga, weight training, etc. Some people thought my job was related to fitness. But then I had my son, and juggling him and work was difficult for me. We also shared a home with my mother-in-law, and at the end of her life, she required nonstop care and attention. Then I got this magazine job, and I only had so much time and energy. Exercise became this sporadic thing.
My mother-in-law passed away almost two years ago. Things are falling into a rhythm with the job. And my son started kindergarten, so I have some time now to for something I really do enjoy - exercise.
Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. Well, this wasn’t recent - but back in 2013 I decided to leave the News & Record. I’d been a reporter there almost 15 years, and my husband thought I’d lost my mind to even think about leaving a job with benefits. At the time, a lot of people were still feeling the effects of the recession and unemployment was high. But I felt in my heart that I couldn’t continue doing that work. My focus and priorities had changed, and I wanted more time with my family.
So I took a risk and left, with the plan to freelance. I was a strategic. I made it known I was leaving, and that I’d be available for freelancing. I was scared, but I felt in my heart things would work out. I’m glad I did it. I learned that I could make a living on my skills, connections and relationships I’d built through the years. I did it, and I believe it positioned me for the role I have now as a magazine editor.
Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it? If not why not what's stopping you?
A. I’d love to be writing my own book or novel based on my life. I’m Korean, but I was adopted by a Japanese mother and a father whose family was from western North Carolina - the mountains of Appalachia. I grew up on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. My mother was the only other Asian person I knew until I went to college. Think about that. Think about that. What White or Black person you know went through their whole lives never knowing a single other person like them?
My father was a physically abusive alcoholic. My mother was emotionally abusive. My childhood was hard. And sad.
What am I waiting for? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about upsetting some family members. But also, realistically - I just don’t have the time
and energy. My job - which I love, puts food on our table and keeps us warm and clothed - takes a lot of my time and energy. When I’m home, I want to spend time with my son and husband, not in a study somewhere away from them. By the time my son, who’s five, goes to bed, I’m pretty exhausted. Someday though. I’ll write it some day.
Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. To be comfortable with who you are. In high school I felt like I was always trying to prove I wasn’t Asian or a foreigner. Or a goodie goodie. I was also very loud and obnoxious because I wasn’t getting positive attention at home. It was, sometimes, a way to mask what was really going on. And I never ever felt attractive.
I went to a Korean American Students conference in San Francisco when I was in college. And that was the first time in my life that I felt proud to be Korean or Asian. I am still learning to be comfortable in my own skin in every situation. I’m better at it than I was 10 years ago. Even five years ago. I’m better at it some days than others.
Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. Savor or relish the moment. There are a lot of ways that’s phrased. But basically that. I try to be present. It’s hard though. I try to notice when a sunset or sunrise is particularly beautiful. And I’m grateful to be able to see it. When I work out - even when I feel like it’s so lame - I’m thankful for the time and the energy to do it. When I get to spend the last parts of my day with my sweet son and husband, I’m thankful - and I try to relish the feel of soft, clean, post-bath skin and little skinny arms around my neck, pulling me closer. In those moments, I try not to clog my mind with work or responsibilities.
Q. What keeps writing when you don't feel like it?
A. Well, some of it is my job. I am paid to write something nearly every day. The challenge is to write something from me, personally - that comes from my soul - nearly every day. I haven’t attained that yet.
Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I think we, as women, are so hard on ourselves. We’re always apologizing for what we feel like we lack. Always downplaying our accomplishments. Wishing we were thinner, more productive, more attractive - and on and on and on. No matter how much I accomplish in a day, I focus on the things I didn’t get to or didn’t do so well at. At some point- before the age of 70, it would be nice to truly and genuinely feel that We. Are. Enough.
Q. How do you live a Life of abundance?
A. Abundance. Well, let’s talk about material abundance. I feel like I have so much. We are modest in means. But I think about how I grew up and how hard my parents had to work, yet they still never made an income above poverty level. I never felt poor though. And I think about my life today - the things I get to see, do and experience - it’s unreal if you think about it in poor, rural Appalachian terms.
Then there’s the emotional/spiritual side of abundance. I am so thankful to be in good health. To have a mind capable of navigating my job and life and providing for my family. I’m thankful that my family is in good health and that we love each other. I guess for me, living a life of abundance is to first realize and appreciate the abundance that you have. I’ve always had an abundance of people around me who supported and lifted me. And I’d rather have that kind of wealth than any other.
Q. What's your favorite Yoga Pose?
A. I like twisty triangle poses. They make my back feel sooooo good!
Q. Who inspires you
A. People who persevere in spite of great adversity in their lives. When I was in high school, I came across this poem: “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley
It resonated with me.
“Out of the darkness that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.”
As hard as I’ve ever felt that my life has been, there was always someone whose struggle was greater. And they were persevering with grace, tenacity and an unconquerable soul.