Restless Journey: Finding a Place to Fit In But Not to Settle

A story of a Harvard student going through IVF

Author: Skylar Grace (page 3 of 6)

One Day…You Might Ask “Why?” – A Letter to My Future Children

This is a letter to my future children:

I might never meet you. You might not exist after all. But I have the urge to write this letter to you, even though I am NOT a parent yet at this point.

The world around us is full of unknown. From the scientific point of view, we are having some serious climate change, in which we might encounter more natural disasters in coming years. We have a new president elect, who is known for his nazisum, zero political wisdom, lack of empathy and countless childish behaviors…We are still in wars. There are people suffering and dying every day. Our world is still very much unjust and people are talking about migrating to Mars.

So, in case one day you might ask “Ma’ma, why did you choose to bring me to here?” All I can tell you is that, you are the symbol of hope and love, despite our world is chaotic and in full mass.

Yes, I know this answer might seems irrational. And the decision to bring you here carries tremendous amount of risks (even to my own health)…Yet, your papa and I still believe that even in darkness and crisis, we still have our very own liberty to create joy in our lives. And there is nothing more joyful than your arrival.  Whether we are in times of crisis or good fortune, we still believe that each and every one of us can harness our destiny and power. You will inherit our wisdom and put them in good use.  You will have the fresh perspective of this universe as our faith and love are embedded in you, even before you are born.

I swear to God that what I am confessing isn’t from the Star War’s script (I hope you know what Star War means in your generation). It is straightly from my motherhood’s instinct, something that it grows on me since I lost your old brother/ sister earlier this year. We live in the world (Silicon Valley) where everyone is obsessed with the ideology of entrepreneurship. But let me tell you, the process of becoming a parent, in my opinion, is the most entrepreneurial spirit one can ever have. There is no mathematical formula to predict the risks of parenthood. It is because the risk is indefinite. Yet, millions and millions of folks chose to become parents every day. I guess their reasons are similar to mine.

I hope you will have the courage and spirit to create your own destiny; I also hope that, within your capacity, you can share your joy and wisdom to those in need.

Love,

Ma’ma

If I Ain’t Got You  By Alicia Keys

Some people live for the fortune
Some people live just for the fame
Some people live for the power, yeah
Some people live just to play the game

Some people think that the physical things define what’s within
And I’ve been there before, and that life’s a bore
So full of the superficial

Some people want it all
But I don’t want nothing at all
If it ain’t you baby
If I ain’t got you baby
Some people want diamond rings
Some just want everything
But everything means nothing
If I ain’t got you, yeah

Some people search for a fountain
That promises forever young
Some people need three dozen roses
And that’s the only way to prove you love them

Hand me the world on a silver platter
And what good would it be
With no one to share, with no one who truly cares for me

Some people want it all
But I don’t want nothing at all
If it ain’t you baby
If I ain’t got you baby
Some people want diamond rings
Some just want everything
But everything means nothing
If I ain’t got you

Some people want it all
But I don’t want nothing at all
If it ain’t you baby
If I ain’t got you baby
Some people want diamond rings
Some just want everything
But everything means nothing
If I ain’t got you, yeah

If I ain’t got you with me baby
So nothing in this whole wide world don’t mean a thing
If I ain’t got you with me baby

 

The New Presidency: What Shall We do?

A letter to us from President Obama

A letter to us from President Obama

This is not easy to swallow. We are scared. The nation is scared.

I, too asked the same questions “where is justice? what is faith?”
How could we still keep our heads up knowing that the path ahead of us will be a bit more difficult and challenging now?

Reading this letter that was given to us at our naturalization ceremony, I then realized…
Faith is indeed within us. I still believe in social justice. I believe in Black Lives Matter. I believe in equality in gender, health, education, same sex marriage, and economic opportunities.

If you, too are the believer like me, we now need to work even harder to protect our civic rights and to look out for each others, whether s/he is an immigrant,

a young girl with dream to become a president, a person of color, senior, or someone living in poverty, etc.

As the day has just began, think about how you can become a more engaged citizen in your neighborhood, community and to keep this faith as contiguous as possible.

And…if you have dream(s), go chase it and kick some serious axx!

What If?

Traveling is good for both physical and mental. I flew back to Hong Kong last month to attend a family member’s funeral service. Though losing a relative is tough, the bittersweet is that I have another opportunity to gather with my family and closed friends.

Like last time, I went by myself (mainly because my hubby is too busy to company).

My mentor always said “you have to advertise to the employers that you survive in US all by yourself with no family around!” Interestingly though…I didn’t realize the normality of lunching with your best friends and/or booking tables for dinner with family members till I was in Hong Kong. The feeling of being surrounded by familiar faces, especially those whom you are so closed to, struck me every day when I was home (HK). People meet up with their friends after work. Family members check in each other regularly. And when there is tragedy or celebration, family and friends come to you….

That’s how people live! I guess I miss out a lot, ever since my husband and I came here as an exchange student 20+ years ago. We built our career, we each find our way to expand our network, we gain our footing in this foreign land all by ourselves. It is uneasy but I think we did it well.

But, we only have each other….

Not saying we don’t have friends and long distance relatives (only his, not mine) in US, yet, I started to wonder if I have become too dependent on my husband, the only ‘family member’ I have here in US.

When I read about how other women recovered from miscarriages / child birth drama, they often mention about their parents, relatives, closed friends and how they came together to ease the pain…I begin to wonder what my life would be if I didn’t leave for US 20 years ago. What would I do if I chose to stay in Hong Kong back in 1998? What kind of clothes would I be wearing? How would I look? What would I be doing for living? Would I live with my parents? Would I even be close to my family at all?

I remember a year prior to becoming an exchange student in Alabama, I created a little ‘plan b’ for myself. I called it an alternative path in case I did not get accepted by any US college. The plan would be returning to Hong Kong and to attend The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, potentially majoring in Drama / Directing. I also planned to stay close with my boss and producers at RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) for job opportunities. Now I look back, I have to praise the 17-year-old me for her dedication. I know it wasn’t easy at all and yet, she knew best.

I know deep down, it would be a good plan. Drama has always been my passion since grade school. I spent more time screen writing and directing plays than studying. I was on the stage every day; I would argue with my best friends for every details about the story line. Even when I attended high school in Florida, I joined the forensics team to interpret poems and to perform on stage. It was liberating and fun. I knew my ‘plan b’ would still work if I had to come ‘home’.

As you already knew, I ended up continuing my education in US and the rest is history.

I was riding the subway in Hong Kong the other day and I was trying to imagine what kind of person would I become if the history was rewritten. This is what I know for sure:

I would be looking down on my phone the entire time and minding my own business while riding the subway.

I would be in some trendy clothes, although it might look odd to some people.

I would probably living by myself in a tiny apartment or renting it with a closed friend.

I would be producing, directing and acting days and nights and skipped most of the family events.

I might meet a lot of friends through work but never become close.

I would not rest.

I would travel a lot and not saving much money.

I would be drinking a lot, although I can’t tolerate alcohol well.

I would go protest (if I have time).

I would stay single because I didn’t meet Jackson, my husband.

Therefore, I would feel incomplete because of that =)

Hong Kong

A Test

In college, a test or an exam always takes place in a control environment. You already knew  what to prepare, the duration of the test and when your results will come back. Test after test, semester after semester…sometimes I wonder, my 4.0 GPA wasn’t a reflection of my intelligence. Rather, it just demonstrates how well I know the system and my devotion to ‘nail’ it.

Yeah I know….here comes my ‘impostor syndrome’ again.

BUT…you would agree with me that our world is a far more complicated place and we are being tested by your relationship, career, and literally everything every day!

What my miscarriage has taught me is that the road to recovery and the journey of ‘try again’ do put your marriage in an ultimate test. The physical and emotional drain do kill the ‘romance’…let alone the challenge of ‘timing’. One time, I almost ‘gone crazy’ when we were traveling and sharing an Airbnb unit with a group of friends during my ‘most fertile window’. Knowing I will lose the ‘chance’ to try this month due to lack of privacy immediately brought me from cloud nine to hell. I was upset, depressed and wondering why my husband did not treasure our time together. Instead, he chose to play board game with others till the break of dawn! I felt like I have become the old lady in the house as I was the first one crawling to bed not long after dinner.

And like many couples who married for many years, we are beyond the stage of “steamy teen romance”.  It is not easy to recreate the ‘passion’ in the middle of a busy week, if that happens to be the Peak day (according to the OPK…)

Week after week, tests after “tests”…even an iron man would start wondering ‘Why?’ – why am I doing this? Where will this lead me to?

I ask myself these Qs zillion times. I could have stopped what I am doing and go pursue a high paid position that would require me to travel around the world; I could leave this home and move across the country to start a brand new life. I could just let go everything – the life we built together.

But I know I can’t resist of not seeing the man I love to become a father, and I can’t see myself living a fulfilling life without my husband aside. If we can’t pass these tests, there is no possible way we could parent our future kid(s) together. Every demon I am fighting is a spiritual lesson prior to becoming a parent. I don’t need to prove myself to the world; I just need to keep myself grounded.

At the end of each day, I know my unborn child, the one I lost on Feb 26, 2016, has already served his greatest purpose even he didn’t make it to full term.

 

Tears are dry but they are still running

Today is my supposed ‘due date’.

I woke up feeling fine, following my routine and doing my things. Yet, as the day progressed, my tears are out and becoming non-stop.

I never realized that my ‘due date’ was around Mid Autumn Festival, a special Chinese occasion in which families would spend time together and enjoy the full moon.

As I was walking my dog last night, I saw a big full moon above our heads. It was so bright that no flash night is needed. And then I realized – “oh…it’s the family gathering season…and OMG! S/he was supposed to born around this time….” Then I just burst into tears.

The idea of ‘togetherness’ (from the festival) and the absences of my child became a very brutal reminder to myself. As my dog and I were strolling around the neighborhood, I kept wondering – if my pregnancy was a full term and my child was born this week, this would be the most amazing Mid Autumn Festival…we would be eating mooncake, celebrating ‘togetherness’, and holding our ‘bundle of joy’ into our arms…our house would be full of laughter…

That sounds like a complete fairy tale to me.  But here I am,  bracing the cold by myself and picking up dog poops in the dark, under the bright full moon.

My mentor, who became a widow few years ago, reminded me about ‘togetherness’. She said “the most important thing is…at least you two are TOGETHER. Nothing more precious than that..”

I know I can choose to count my blessings, be grateful and just act like it is just ‘another day’. But no word can ever ease the pain when your child died inside your womb. No one would ever feel the weight of self-sabotaging thoughts unless you are ‘one of us’.

The pain is endless.

The Advocate

It is uneasy to be an immigrant. It is challenging for a woman to grow her career, esp here. The amount of hurtles one has to go through is unimaginable, if you are both the former and the latter.

Growing up as a single child with working parents, I was mostly raised by my aunt. I didn’t really ‘move in’ to my parents’ apartment till I started high school. May be I was on my own for the most of the time, I found myself never get used to be taken care of or being adored by someone. Not until I reached adulthood did I realize that I’ve developed a sense of ‘rejection’ or uneasiness when someone shows kindness to me.

I tended to think that people must be ‘crazy’ when they complimented me. I always thought that I don’t deserve all these attention  as I am not good enough. Years of ‘self-doubt’ (aka in medical term:  impostor syndrome) has buried my body and soul with tremendous amount of pressure. Like Tina Fey said about herself “Oh God, they‘re on to me! I’m a fraud!”

As I thrived in my career, I met many brilliants thought leaders and managers. They became my mentors, my good friends and inspirations. But deep down, I still have that ‘uneasiness’ when I face them. I question “why would they give up their schedule to meet me?” I still tend to call myself ‘fraud’ when I see someone stepping up to advocate for me. Emotionally, I am torn between the feelings of “am I really a fraud?” and “do I really deserve this?”

Crazy, huh? At times, I looked at my Linkedin profile and whispered “you fake this whole resume!”. But then I can come up with samples and facts to justify every accomplishment I wrote.

When I had my miscarriage, the darkest side of me would say “yes, you deserve it. Because you have been a fraud all your life!”

Since I broke the news of my miscarriage to my mentor from work, he messaged me with encouraging words and compliments. I didn’t really know how to respond or stay engaged with him other than sending him many thank you notes. Since I am no longer working in that company, technically speaking, there is no benefits for him to continue mentoring me. Yet, he’s never given up on me. He emailed me before vacation and had his secretary to schedule 1:1, despite his busy executive schedule. He told me he has been thinking about my work situation and wants to send my resume to his allies. He coached me how to make a pitch to recruiter; he is thinking all types of strategy for my next career destination.

“Olivia, some people would stand up again after they fall. They would keep on going and do their jobs. But you don’t just do your job. You set your bar high and exceed the expectation. You are in the category that I admire…” he said today.

My emotion went from “am I being a fraud?”, “why is he doing this to me?” to “let accept his kindness and be grateful”.

This immediately brought me to gratification and peace. I accept that he is my advocate ; I accept that he is always out there looking after me and showing me positivity.

I am not thinking about how my career will turn out from this point.  I just want to focus on myself, my well-being.

Me, growing up alone.

Me, growing up alone.

 

The Best Solution – Surrender

The process of waiting for your next pregnancy is an emotional and physical torture (whether you’ve experienced miscarriage or not). And regardless of how caring and thoughtful your significant other is, no one can truly understand the journey unless s/he is in your shoes. You can call me ridiculous but unless you ARE the one counting your cycle day by day, tempting/charting your basal body temperature 1st thing in the morning, setting reminder to take prenatal vitamins, making sure your OPKs are in stock (and being used in the perfect timing every month), documenting every symptom, and making weekly acupuncture appointment, you really have no idea this puts a woman in a 28-32+ days roller coaster train ride . No one likes stress. But ‘doing it right’ (according to the medical profs) requires more works than taking any finals and/or writing a thesis. And BY THE WAY, this is no one time deal – you have to be a Resilience Queen going through the 5 cycle of grief every month after BFN (big fat negative pregnancy test). There, you have to pull yourself up again and start the whole process all over.

Like I said, unless it happens on you, it is hard to imagine the pain .  Not even you, Caitlyn Jenner…

let me clarify this is NOT STRESS. IT IS PAIN. It is repeated humiliation, physical and emotional drain.

I am not giving up. Yet, I just want to live. While motherhood is on top of my bucket list, I want to give some decent respect to my body and soul.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu

I think the best solution for now is to give it up to nature. Surrender is like music to my ears now.

 

 

 

Can I Not To Envy?

I used to envy about a lot of things: people’s background, connection, job titles, intelligence, accents…you name it!

I think that has a lot to do with how I was being raised. My mom (or maybe mostly Asians) always said something like “See? So and so are getting good grades on their finals!” or “they must be very rich…not like us!” Because of those kind of mindset, I have been in a journey called “never ending envy”. Or I called it “NEE” syndrome.

It was until recently that I saw a quote from Martha Beck saying “what people think about you is none of your fxxking business!” That was such a relief!

Yet, with the setback of my miscarriage, I envy again of people’s pregnancy. When I saw couples holding a cute baby or a pregnant woman walking on the street, I would immediately say to myself “why I couldn’t be one of them?”

It hurts. I cried.

A former mentee of mine announced her second pregnancy over a month ago. Her first born is about to turn 1 year old. Looking at her baby pictures and seeing the smile on her face made me wonder “why this can happen to her so easily?”

Just when my level of jealousy reached sky high…I received some shocking news last night – she has just been diagnosed with acute leukemia. Her pregnancy has to be terminated due to treatments.

My heart broke. My tears are becoming a sea. I simply cannot imagine how one can survive through this ordeal – a life and death decision of your child before the beginning of your own painful battle, which only has 50% chance of winning…How could someone have the strength to do it? I know I can’t.

Here I am. Looking around myself. I have health and time, the luxury that allows me to be TOGETHER with my love ones.

All these things are PRESENT…so why should I find things to envy about?! Why not embracing what we have now and be content?

Can I? Can we?

 

My Harvard Application Essay

The Atlantic has recently published JFK’s 1935 Harvard application. It is fascinating to see how the school’s application process has evolved in the past 8 decades. Though JFK’s essay revealed that social status and personal connection were primarily the keys to Harvard admission, which might still be the case in today’s world, I think it is (nearly) fair to say that our school is now valuing more about prospective students’ appetite on solving the world’s problems and their EQs.

The essay Qs I was given during my admission was the following:

” Write an essay describing a challenging situation or interaction you faced. In this essay, please tell us the background on the situation or interaction, who was involved, your role, and the end result. Please note that positive outcomes do not always make the most compelling essays.” (2 pages MAX)

I am not here to prove to you that my application essay was the model answer. Rather, I want to share with you my personal story, in which it has sharpened who I am today.

My Choice Reflects My Hopes, Not My Fears

At the age of 18, I left Hong Kong and came to a small town in Alabama. I was told that the upcoming year would be adventurous and joyful because Guin High School was ready for an exchange student like me.

I arrived at midnight to a cold and empty airport and was greeted by my host mom, Kristin. During the long and quiet ride home, Kristin’s only conversation was to tell me that she had an 8 year old daughter. To this day, Kristin’s background is still a mystery. I don’t understand why she applied to be a host family. She was never interested in my culture or education.

Little did I know my whole world would change again overnight. Kristin told me she was unemployed, broke and needed to move in with her father, who lived in Niceville, Florida. My suitcases were not yet unpacked, but I had to move again. Facing an unknown future, I was scared. No one in Alabama knew I had left and no one in Florida was expecting me. It was not the exchange program experience I had foreseen.

After a 6-hour road trip, we arrived at Kristin’s father’s home. My new host grandfather was a Vietnam War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was shocked and unprepared to ‘adopt’ me. I was no longer the exchange student on a mission to experience American life; I was now a foreigner in a mental health patient’s home. My only hope was to survive.

There were days when the house was empty and so was the kitchen pantry. Even though I had a mailing address, the life I was experiencing was that of a homeless person. Starvation became a daily routine. The only access to basic necessities was through school. I grabbed extra food from the school lunch program and signed up for culinary class because making meals was  part of the curriculum. To fight hunger, I even ate my classmate’s leftovers. Just when I thought I could be self-sufficient, my experience took a dangerous turn.

One night, when the grandfather returned home from work, we were alone in the house. He came to the kitchen where I was doing homework and stood extremely close to me. His nose was less than an inch from my neck and I could feel his breath. He kept shouting, “I hate you woman! I have guns in this house!” I tried to escape the kitchen but he blocked me. I asked myself, “Do I have to fight for my life?” I burst into tears. When the grandfather spit in my face, I turned around and threatened him with a kitchen knife screaming, “Stay away from me!” I do not recall how long I held the knife, but he eventually stepped back and left the kitchen. I knew if I did not leave that house, I would not survive.

My plan to escape without alarming the grandfather was to use the school bus. My bus driver never disappointed me. He picked me up every morning at 6 a.m., rain or shine. The night was long and lonely. I put my arms around my suitcase, sat in my room and prayed. The bus arrived and my driver made a joking comment about my suitcase. I choked out, “Get me out of here, please!” The moment the doors of the bus closed, I knew I would be safe. I had overcome fear by taking a leap of faith.

In the end, my year did turn out to be adventurous and joyful. I found a family and friends with whom I have stayed connected to this day. I had empowering experiences traveling and competing with the high school forensics team. I was able to sleep, study and assuage my literal as well as emotional hunger. At the end of the year I received a scholarship to study at the University of Nebraska. Through this experience I learned that I could overcome powerful negative situations, a formative lesson that continues to shape the person I am.

Your heart leads you to destiny

Destiny

I am fortunate enough to have several job interview(s) after graduation. But as it turns out, I have yet to meet a company that excites me. Some are just not a good fit. A good friend of mine once told me that we have to be thankful for those whom rejected us. It is because they do us a huge favor by preventing us from ‘disasters’ – I think that is VERY TRUE.

For the past 3 years at Harvard, I was trained to be in a competitive environment (thanks to the traditional school / GPA system…). It wasn’t a hostile – ‘dog eats dog’ situation, but rather a ‘race’. A race that requires you to correctly answer numerous Qs in the least amount of time; a race that pushes you to be the exceptional among others.

I start to realize that type of environment has turned me into someone that relies on validation. I became obsessed with score, prizes and judgement from others. It seems to me that I have been using the whole job hunting / interview process as a way to validate myself, in the absence of exams and scoring. I felt devastated when someone rejected me or criticized my qualification; I felt less of myself  when I didn’t land a job that seems to be related to my major.

I felt excited when someone was inviting me to interviews, yet deep deep down, I secretly prayed for not being employed.  I get goosebumps when someone is showing interest to hire me or telling me a ‘start date’.

So I then realized…I was using the job application system for self validation. I need to stop.

For the past few days, I resumed my meditation routine. It is my way to listen to my own intuition. I always receive good vibes or even messages while meditating. Here are the words I received these days:

“circumstances and judgement do not define your characters, your value and your souls.”

“you are empowered by love.”

“you are much bigger than you thought about yourself.”

“you must treasure what you have now. Your freedom is luxury.”

your heart leads to you destiny.”

If you ask me what I want to do after graduation, my heart is telling you that I don’t want to work for somebody. I want to build something that I can own and treasure.

I am on the road called ‘my own destiny’.

Older posts Newer posts