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Why #TotalTransparency is Now My Motto - Part 1: Journey before California


...because after years of soul-searching, which started as the quest for my true passion in business, I came to the conclusion that my personal mission is to "do the right thing while inspiring others to do the same." I now believe that the only way to inspire others is to be 100% transparent about who I am, what I do and how I do it. I have to take control of the fear of being judged by others for being my true self and for the mistakes I have made to get here.

This is my "Why". This is what makes me get up every day full of  the desire to live.

All my life, I had been running away from problems. I had always been frustrated with things that were not done "right" by my book, and I had chosen to deal with my frustrations by escaping them. I was born in Vietnam in the early 80's, when most of the country lived in poverty while dealing with the aftermath of the War. As a kid, I had so much compassion for people who were poorer than my family, especially if they were old. I always thought that when I grew up I would make a lot of money so I could help them all.

(Life on Vietnam's Mekong Delta)

As I got older, I started to notice injustice everywhere. I saw the police taking bribes from the people: bad guys and good guys. I saw students buying grades. I saw employees buying promotions. I saw all kinds of things that I did not agree with. I was frustrated but repressed my frustrations because I thought this was an unavoidable part of society. After all, I was part of the system too. 

It wasn't until my first year of college in Vietnam that I finally had enough. At the end of the first semester, the gym teacher told me my badminton skills were too weak to pass the class, which meant I would lose my scholarship. My classmates told me he did this to many people, and all I had to do was go to his house and give him some money in an envelope. What seemed to have been just another glitch in the system made me flip the switch. 

I did not go to his house. I spent the next semester applying for scholarships to study abroad instead, which landed me in America the next year. 

(Freshman year: representing Vietnam at our school, next to my dear friend Sonam representing Bhutan)

I started my American Dream in the Midwest, with a wonderful experience as an international student in the beautiful liberal town of Madison, Wisconsin (after a brief spell in Iowa, of all places). There were certainly difficulties along the way, but that's a topic for another day. But my fascination with the new and mighty country wore off after being in the workforce in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a few years.

I got frustrated with the system again.

I didn't like how there were so many big box retailers in the Midwest. I didn't agree with how employees were treated by some of the supposedly most influential corporations in America. I was shocked by the common farming practices used by the agricultural industry. I am far from being political but parts of the Midwest became too conservative (and sometimes racist) for me. I felt trapped in a marriage that I entered because it was the right thing to do after so many years of dating, even though I truly loved my ex-husband as a person. 

So I escaped again, this time to New York City, convinced I had managed to leave my "Midwest problems" behind, and now my American Dream would truly begin. 

(The quintessential New York lifestyle: summer rooftop BBQ's. Here with some of my first and best New York friends)

New York was everything I thought it would be. Fun, fabulous, full of energy, culture, opportunities and ambition. Being in New York in my mid/late twenties and early thirties, after a divorce, helped shape the woman I grew up to be, both positively and negatively. I still love New York with all my heart, especially all the life-long friends I met, but toward the end of my time there, I started to feel that the city's energy and my energy were no longer fully in sync. I started to feel out of place at parties where the men were wealthy finance guys and the women were Russian models. I started to feel embarrassed coming up to club bouncers with so-and-so's name, in order to cut the line. I grew tired of having to "look cool and fabulous" all the time and coming home to a tiny windowless studio apartment. 

As I began to feel like my life was a pretense in the world's most glamorous city, I landed a cool job in Los Angeles. So together with the boyfriend and the dog, I shoved my "New York issues" aside and left for sunny California. 

(to be continued)

Los Angeles, April 29, 2018

1 comment

  • LaBetra

    Hi Linh,
    Great article! I’m glad that you’re willing to share your journey. I can really identify with your struggle, but we still had some good times at Wartburg! I can’t wait to read part two!

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