I was born in Saigon, Vietnam right before the fall of Saigon and emigrated to America at the age of five with a family of two parents, six daughters, a blind grandmother, and a whole bunch of other people on a boat. We lived in two refugee camps on islands off of Malaysia for nearly a year before arriving in America. Thanks to my aunt and her missionary husband, we got sponsored by a Baptist church in the deep south.
My family and I walked to church twice a week every week for several years as a way to express our heartfelt gratitude for their sponsorship. At home, our mom raised us according to her Buddhist principles while embracing who God is. We’d been adjusting to life in America for three years when my parents divorced. My sisters and many cousins were my friends, playmates and rivals.
My first several years in “the land of the free” have had a lasting impact on me and learning the English language was quite a traumatic yet rewarding journey for me. From a young age, I gained a passion for reading and writing, and I’ve often been told throughout my life that I have a gift with words. I was promoted to the first grade after having read Little Red Riding Hood to my kindergarten teacher during indoor recess while all the other kids were playing.
Racism and hypocrisy were two other things I learned from a young age. I was sometimes told to return to my own country, as if being a kid gave me any rights to where I wanted to live at the time! And coming from a poor family, I began working at the age of 12 alongside my bigger sister. Our after-school job was to put sticky address labels on promotional flyers for the new pizza restaurant opening up in our small town. I knew the importance of making money in order to survive in this country from a young age.
Much to my mother’s chagrin, I was just an average student. I never belonged to any clique in school and considered myself a friend to everyone. I was a good kid but definitely stubborn and defiant when authoritative figures like my mom or teachers restricted my independence on any level. I was a Girl Scout for three years and constantly struggled at earning those badges and loved their awesome annual cookies like the rest of America! I was always a skinny kid and I had to get eyeglasses when I was about 9 years-old. Aside from my parents, everyone made fun of me and called me all kinds of names for these two traits. These would be lifelong battles to overcome even after turning 40.
I got my driver’s license at 16 after having learned from my crazy-driving uncles, and my mom got me a used Maxima with a sunroof to drive and I loved that car and the tape deck that came with it! Now I was free to drive myself to my two after-school jobs and to run around with my sisters and friends! I loved celebrating Christmas with my family at this time in my life. At 17, an older sister’s murder pulled the carpet from underneath all our feet. I fell in love for the first time at 18 and learned how to love from the best first love any girl could want. I went to a city public school system all my life, attended three different colleges and eventually dropped out. My dream at the time was to become the best journalist ever.
I’ve never had a desire to hold a corporate job in my life so I dabbled in many fascinating jobs instead. It is through these random jobs that taught me so much about myself, life, people, love, different ways of communication styles, dreams, travel, and about the beautiful, diverse cultures that bless our earth. I was just your average young person going through the motions of life: drifting from job to job; living paycheck to paycheck; dating one guy after another; moving from apartment to apartment.
It was during these older formative years in my 20s and 30s that I grew significantly as a light being in this big world of ours. My spiritual journey started at 22 when my first love also challenged me to take a hard look at myself and I’ve never stopped since. The most phenomenal rebirths I’ve experienced so far occurred over the last few years of my life. I’ve learned too much to keep everything to myself and since I’ve inspired friends and strangers alike, I thought it would be cool if I could reach more people.
Whenever people ask me why I do the things I do, I simply respond, “I’m just following my heart.”
How can anything be right or wrong when we’re following our hearts? How can good and evil exist when we’re just following our hearts? Because when we follow our hearts, we create more love in the world and what is more beautiful than that? So I guess what I’m saying is, if you find anything here inspiring, then I invite you to also follow your heart and see all the miracles in your life coming together because that’s the kind of journey I’ve been on virtually all my life.