An Immigrant American’s Dream

I’m a middle aged Gen X Korean-American immigrant who speaks perfect English. I was a toddler when my parents moved the family from Seoul to the city of Brotherly Love back in 1974. And if you ever ask me where I’m really from, I will probably have passing thoughts of backhanding you. You can attribute that to being raised a Philly girl. 🤣

Growing up, we all have our dreams. I have a vivid memory (from when I was 9 years old) of watching my parents getting naturalized as US citizens. When it was time for them to take the oath, the judge instructed that children need not raise their right hand. I remember feeling a bit indignant hearing those words even though back then I probably didn’t even know what the word “indignant” meant! I adamantly raised my right hand as a proud new American taking her first of two oaths. Some 12 years later, I swore in to join the Marine Corps.

Side note: I still get chills hearing the National Anthem. Although I’m now a civilian woman, (ok I have always been a woman 😂) if I’m wearing a cover (hat), I will take it off and stand at attention.

Atypically, my parents were not merchants as many Korean-American immigrants were back in the 70s. Along with the usual racial slurs, I often fielded the question, “Do your parents own a store?” I would often think, “No, you asshole, why the fuck would they own a store? They’re musicians!” I truly enjoyed learning the creative intricacies of profanity as a Catholic school girl. It was somehow empowering to me. Like a literal “Fuck you!” to the world. *I seriously was destined to become a potty-mouthed Marine.*

Looking back, an inner struggle was born. While I truly believed that entrepreneurship and financial freedom was the American Dream, I felt somehow ashamed when people would ask, often innocuously, if my parents owned a store.

Then my little ego created a story. Because that’s what egos do! I thought, “No, my parents are better than yours because they’re ARTISTS! They don’t sell stupid stuff or do anything as demeaning as wash and polish other people’s nasty feet and toes!”

What I did learn was the struggle of being a freelance artist. Times were always tough financially, but they were noble indeed. The story of “starving noble artist” was deeply imbedded in my consciousness, as if there was shame in commerce and commercial interests and financial success. You know, because, there’s got to be some level of greed in wanting financial freedom, right?

However, I always secretly wanted my own business. I didn’t understand the allure of getting a “job” and going into the “office”. I had a few of those in high school and soon after I (finally) graduated college. Not only did I not understand the allure, I just didn’t understand the lifestyle. I grew up with both parents mostly being home whenever. My dad would have gigs and random part time jobs here and there in the early years to make ends meet.

Fast forward to 1997, my first son was born. I had 6 weeks of maternity leave. I didn’t last more than a week before I gave my notice. As jobs go, that was a pretty cool one. An international diamond buyer. Kinda like a spy but not. 😂 But it truly troubled me to spend most of my day away from my new baby. I thought, “WTF is the point of having one and not being there to raise him?”

At 27 years old, I told my then husband, “We’re starting our own landscaping business.” He had been working with his brother in law in the industry. I knew I could get clients and win contracts. Most important, I was able to stay home, breast feed, and keep my child close, while I closed business. Our marriage may have dissolved but that landscaping business is still profitable 23 years later.

Then came husband #2 and business #2, I often mentally refer to them as baby #5 and #6. (I have 4 real children) Hahaha. Sorry, I’ll ease back on the ex-husband snark. 😂 I had rediscovered my love of dance and fitness after my first divorce so I tell husband #2, “Let’s open our own dance studio!” He was teaching part-time as a salsa dance instructor and had just learned after no Y2K meltdown, his services as an IT professional were no longer needed. He’d held a fairly high level position for 16 years at a major investment bank. Yeah, talk about “job security”.

One thing I am pretty good at is declaring shit and making it happen. Within 3 months of my declaration, I was cutting the ribbon of my first of 3 locations, teaching people how to dance, connect, and feel good in their bodies again. This went on for the next 10 years. Lots of struggle, pain, and tears as most small biz owners face at one point or another on their journeys. I built out 3 locations not because of expansion but because I lost the first space to the Ritz Carlton, the second to divorce, and the third to depression and mismanagement. I still can sob about this if I allow myself to live in regret. But being unstoppable requires retelling the story highlighting the silver lining. You know, there are no mistakes, only lessons, yada yada. 😁

As proud as I am of having had the balls to even start my own businesses before I was even 30 while popping out all kinds of babies, I now clearly see the self sabotage. That “starving yet noble artist” narrative nearly destroyed me.

Here I am, still an indie contractor/entrepreneur. I’ve been on a journey of recovery since I closed my last business nearly 10 years ago. Talk about mimicking the struggles of my freelance musician parents. My addiction has been one to disappointment. I was comfortable recreating the instability of my childhood. Being the underdog and conquering the seemingly impossible has been one of my go-to narratives. On a darker note, I also allowed both emotional and physical abuse in my personal relationships. It’s taken time, but learning to love yourself is possible, and it is arguably the most important life lesson to learn.

So what is this life all about? This is the age old existential question many mid-lifers face. For me, it’s resolving the past by simply letting it be and letting it go. Learn the lessons and truly let go of the expectation that it could’ve been any other way. Because it can’t and couldn’t have been. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Once that’s done, you have a beautiful blank canvas to begin creating again, wiser, stronger, more inspired than ever before.

Wow, not sure where all this came from because this post started as a means to give a huge shout out to my fellow entrepreneurs, especially those who are building their network marketing businesses. Do not let anyone shame you. You are sharing a quality service/product and an opportunity of FREEDOM to so many. Keep your belief strong and learn how to say “Go fuck yourself!” all the while still giving and putting yourself out there!

I’m grateful for what network marketing has done for my family as much as I’ve tried to sabotage THAT as well. But how tragic, the usual type who shames others for building their own businesses mostly from home so they can raise their children and be financially free usually identify as staunch “Americans” who also don’t necessarily vote for social programs. Ah, the irony of it all. 😂

Whether you’re an immigrant or not, it’s YOUR life. Sell stupid stuff if you want! Make that money! Dream big and live an inspired life. Let freedom ring! That is the American Dream! And no, I will most likely not love you long time. 🤣💀

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