My parents are the only two people that I feel so personally damaging to my wellbeing that I've chosen to cut off ties with. It's not something I share often but I don't hide it or feel shameful either. Over the decades though, they became more human as I got older and found compassion for two very brilliant and capable people riddled with troubled values and emotional immaturity. But I can say I'm grateful for some of the things they did right.
They always made sure their two daughters, born in the 70s in patriarchal Korea, never felt that we were not good enough. If anything, I was explicitly told that I, a girl, can do better than any man, in school work, in owning a business and in leadership. They taught me taking a backseat was never an option. If there were a slight possibility that a teacher or an adult put a conflicting thought in our heads, they declared a battle and made them pay. These two people who brought me a lot of pain, sadness and agony, were undoubtedly also an army behind my back, unwaveringly, when it came to equality. Sis and I were the same people then as we are now. Seo was a class president for all of the years I can remember, and I read, wrote and mothered other kids. We never doubted we could do anything we set our minds to.
The first time Seo and I met my now-ex husband, he tried to give us direction to get out of the area we were in. He was immediately dismissed by both of us. Months later he said, "You and your sister cannot be told you can't do something. Your backs get straighter, you immediately stand up taller and broaden your shoulders as if you are ready to fight." I always tucked that observation away. In our 30s then, it was a compliment that we became those women with lifelong practice of not taking "no/not good enough" for an answer.
I've always had way more sensitive and introverted nature that proving to my parents I felt I was good enough came at a personal price. I really would have preferred not to stand up or fight, but I learned to put on the armor if I had to fight. In fifth grade they made me campaign for class presidency because a teacher told me I should give up my spot for someone else and now we had to prove a point. I hated every moment of it and didn't win, but my parents took a great pride in the fact we stood our ground. Every morning during the campaign, I wanted to hide. But I showed up instead.
Add the lifelong practice of putting up a good front when your family life is burdened with alcoholism, violence and emotional abuse, I became a pro fighter. You channel all the anger and frustration into something positive, showing up for people and yourself.
This morning I find myself in that familiar feeling of getting into a battle mode even when I'm scared, sad and don't want to. I am reading the posts of you my friends, especially those with children, especially daughters, and especially minority women as daughters, and I think of my parents. At 42 and childless, your kids are all my future too, and I'll get up today and every day and do what I know to be right, so they have one more able advocate for them.
That is a promise.
When I was gifted a second generation iPhone, almost ten years ago, it gave me two things: a camera that went with me everywhere and a tool to connect with people in the form of social media apps.
Give a food loving extrovert with marketing background such tools and you get a food blog, as a Facebook page. That's how2GutsyGirls started.
While I was blogging for fun, I spent a lot of my own money, time and resources to go to the restaurants to order all the right dishes, then take pictures and post about them. I did it out of passion, as many of you are doing now in managing your own social media channels. It was fun -- I loved the food, the photos, writing and ultimately, sharing. But it was expensive and sometimes I felt that I wasn't really connecting with people.
Since then I've transitioned to serving the other side professionally. I advise small businesses in marketing through Thrive RVA and spend a lot of time talking to them about how to build and leverage their social media presence so they can engage with their audience by telling authentic stories. We talk about the right platform for their product/service, who the right influencers for them are and how to reach out to them. Small businesses and start-ups need all the exposure and help they can get, but they seldom have the funds for advertising. So social media becomes more important until they grow, IF they get to grow.
In the last several months, I've met strangers who came up to me and said, "You are Sarah/Sarah Choi/ Sarahchoi.rocks, right? I follow you on Instagram." I love that so much. It's taken me years to build that and I love meeting the real people behind their Instagram presence. I wish I could sit down and have coffee with them, take pictures of lattes with them, go hit up taco joints with them.
In the sense of Malcolm Gladwelll's Outlier concept, I am a Connector. Connecting people gives me tremendous joy. Connecting WITH people gives me the energy to do everything I do, which right now, is a lot, even in my Type-A standard. There's a lot on my plate between a new job at COTU and opening of Origin Beer Lab. There are a handful of Thrive mentees I want to spend more time with, but haven't been able to. When life bombards me with work and robs me of opportunities to connect with people meaningfully, it drains me of energy which I absolutely need. So on my day off today, I'm going to counteract that by launching #igersrva community mail list:
I invite the power Instagram users and leisure Instagram users of Richmond to sign up on an email list managed by me. Let's own our community as #igersrva (Instagrammers of Richmond - already exisiting hashtag). It's free of charge to you, all you are agreeing to do is to be ok with receiving emails from me. Emails will have information on meaningful offers requesting your presence, nothing spammy or annoying. You can leave the community any time if you find it to be not worth your time.
2. Small Businesses:
I invite my small business owner friends - restaurateurs, shop owners, tech start ups, makers and service providers - to send me ideas and products they would like to showcase to our #igersrva community. Maybe you want to provide a fall menu preview, showcase new cocktail menu, launch that beta version of your app and see what the Ux is like or test samples of a new product. Whatever the offer is, it has to be free of charge to #igersrva or a very nominal charge that's optional. I can help you figure that portion out. Must comply with all rules and regulations such as ABC. This is also free of charge to you as well, that is, until we grow so much that I'd need Mailchimp money coming form somewhere. ;)
3. I, Sarah Choi, will be your connector in sending out the invites from the businesses to #igersrva and managing the backend of #igersrva community. Every community needs a mother hen and I'll make sure nothing spammy and offensive goes out to my community.
Get it? Are you in? Sign up below!