As a loud-mouthed scrawny kid in Sydney, born into a Chinese Vietnamese (and Singaporean) refugee family, I was desperate to be different from my family, yet too shy and intimidated to jump into the crowd.
Being the product of a working class immigrant parents in the 90s meant a few things:
- Do what you can to fit in. Don't attract attention.
- Suck it up. "You think this is hard? Try fleeing a war-torn country by boat, giving up your life savings in the dead of the night!"
- Work hard - specifically in math and science. A white collar economy-proof job is a must. No one has time for creativity and the arts.
- Suppress your feelings. Don't talk about it. Don't acknowledge it. Be a man.
- Ignore the blatant racism as conservative media and politicians push their "Asian Invasion" rhetoric
My dad always told me children only had to worry about two things: health and happiness. We'd have the rest of our lives to stress about everything else.
The advice sounded simple enough. Now as a yogi, I try to strip down the complexity of real-life adulthood and live by that basic principle. But some of those layers are iron-clad.
The underlying theme of many childhood experiences shaped by a western philosophy of individualism and capitalism is: there is success, get on with it and achieve it.
In other words: Do what it takes. Keep a laser focus. Ignore distractions. Zone out the periphery.
What if that smaller voice or peripheral blur is an opportunity to realize your true self? What if it's a longing to fulfill your life's purpose?
Welcome. This is where I am.
I've had to remove myself from the seemingly mandated understanding of what work is. I've had the pleasure of working in communications for a national breast cancer charity, managing the publicity for poppin' venue openings in Singapore and producing segments for a breakfast TV news program in Australia. There's since been a shift.
Ironically, in the Godzilla of all rat races, I find myself living my best life in New York City.
My goal now is to pass on my experience to youth through yoga. But - I don't care how bent your knee is in warrior 1, how straight your headstand is or if your hips touch the floor in child's pose. What I'm interested in is how young people can use the tools of yoga (not just asana - the yoga of poses) to cultivate grit, motivation and perseverance.
Young people today have their own layers of undoing, not too dissimilar to mine. While our foundations are different, our scars vary in size and arsenal differ in depth, Oprah says, we all just want to be heard.
Being still. Connecting with others. Tuning into yourself. Being aware of your limits. We start to hear ourselves. We find our voice so others can hear us.