1. I’m Japanese-American.
My cultural heritage includes a lot of white rice, expectations to get perfect straight A's, as well as the saying: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”
Plus, our family pretty much had an American Dream story - all the opportunities I've been given in life are the legacy of my hardworking parents and grandparents.
Which is to say, that embarking on "a journey to discover my personal path to happiness” felt very counterculture – and not in a cool, groovy way.
If you also come from a cultural and family background where stepping outside the lines feels high stakes, I get you.
2. I thought college might be kind of boring.
So I picked a school in the most exciting place in the world: New York City. I majored in English and American Literature at NYU, where I nurtured great ambitions to write books (still do).
The best part of my education happened outside of school though. I gave myself an art education in NYC’s museums and galleries. I worked as a personal assistant to avant-garde composer La Monte Young and artist Marian Zazeela. My first job out of school was for an art magazine. The best perk was getting to take home review copies of giant, expensive art books.
3. In my former life, I was an aid worker.
Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, I went to Port-au-Prince to work as a public information officer for a global humanitarian aid organization. My job took me into crowded tent camps and the remote countryside to talk with Haitians about their situation following the earthquake, to report on response efforts and liaise with international media.
That year was full of surreal moments, such as spending Thanksgiving making sandwiches for The New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, who I took around the next day to interview Haitians helped by relief programs.
In 2013, my job also sent me to write about the situation of Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan, and in host communities in Lebanon. I visited Zaatari, the fifth largest refugee camp in the world, with 80,000 people.
It was incredibly meaningful and intense work, and taught me so much about hardship and human resilience.
4. I live in a medieval house.
Its earliest records go back to the year 907 A.D. For an American, my mind is blown by this kind of history. The house has very thick stone walls, which means I have to wear sweaters indoors most of the year, and low doorways that my husband has to duck through. (Good thing I’m short.)
I live here with my husband and daughter, as well as pigs, chickens, dogs, and a reservoir filled with very loud frogs. We're 100km from Barcelona and half that distance from France (where I periodically go to stock up on Dijon mustard and stinky cheese).
5. My CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) themes are Empathy, Strategic, Futuristic, Maximizer and Responsibility.
These definitely show up in my business. I love helping clients discover their strengths. I continue to be surprised at how many of us struggle to articulate our strengths – and the power it has on our lives when we can.
6. I've completed a nine-month wilderness survival class, during which I made fire using friction, no matches ... exactly once.
I also learned to build my own shelter out of sticks and ferns, make a bow and arrow, set traps, weave baskets out of ivy, and tan animal skin (which I would prefer never to have to do again). You might consider this typical for an Oregonian, but my friends thought I was nuts too.
7. It took me 11 years to follow through on my sabbatical dream.
My first excuse, upon graduating college, was that I needed more savings. Then, when I had money, my excuse was that I had my elderly dog to care for. Then, when my elderly dog died, I was just too plain scared to quit my job. Finally at 34 years old, I realized I had to do something about this dream.
Still, in the months leading up to my quit date, I continued to use every excuse in the book.
I never would have made the leap if I hadn’t had a professional at my side to keep me accountable. My therapist at the time kept reminding me, week after week, how important I said this was to me. Until I could tell that she was sick of me.
Self-disgust is what finally got me to walk into my boss' office to turn in my notice.
It's still one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I'll be forever grateful that I had someone tough on my side who insisted I get out the door.
The biggest lesson I learned from my sabbatical is that there is powerful medicine in keeping your promises to yourself.
Everything changes when you start to make good on the things you always told yourself you’d do. A whole new world opens up and embraces you – and you feel so good you embrace it back.
Okay, now that you know lots about me...