Growing Up AA

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Growing up, race was never a subject that entered my consciousness. It wasn’t until my teens, when we moved to Florida, that I became conscious of my race because others consciously remarked it. Until then, in my own perception, I was Asian because I had been born in Asia and American because the U.S. was the country I identified with. The only time I was ever Asian American was when I had to check off those “race/ethnicity” boxes on standardized tests and other forms (young’uns, this was a world before you could choose “multiracial” or “decline to answer”).

But being Asian American isn’t as much about race as it is about culture. My parents have always said that growing up amidst two cultures means I get to choose the best of both worlds, and that is absolutely true. At the same time, it also means never feeling like you truly belong to either.

It means laughing at something in a movie but not being able to relate it to your own family. It means going over to a (white American) friend’s house for dinner and wondering why your family doesn’t lay out proper (Euroamerican) table settings. And even though my parents have never been stereotypical Asian parents — for example, when I decided to pursue journalism in college, they didn’t threaten to stop paying tuition unless I got on a med/law track, nor did they stop encouraging me to pursue my dreams — there were still aspects of Chinese culture that they enforced in the home. So growing up AA meant growing up trying to balance two worlds, instead of belonging fully to one or the other. And let’s be honest, in adolescence, belonging means everything.

To a certain extent, I carried this imbalance and confusion with me to college. I had a diverse group of friends just as I had always had, but college presented something new: certain groups of Asians and Asian Americans who only hung out with other A/AAs. And honestly, they terrified me. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hang out with only others of the same race, especially those who had grown up in the States. And so I went along with my life, ignoring all those freshman year invitations from the Chinese Students Association, Asian American Intervarsity, etc. etc.

Then in the spring of my freshman year, I ended up in an Asian American Women & Gender class due to a scheduling problem. I was actually somewhat unhappy about it – I didn’t want to be labeled as one of those A/AAs who only cared about the A/AA culture. But the class was surprisingly interesting, and after another Asian American Studies class the next year, I declared a minor in AAS.

For me, my AAS classes were a way for me to learn about Americans of Asian descent, yet as history showed and as I experienced when I lived in more rural areas of the States, there are still many Americans who see AAs simply as Asians who live in America, and therefore, not true Americans. (Please see 1998 & 2002 headlines re: Michelle Kwan.)

Through those classes and through other friends, I eventually did make a couple of AA friends in college whose main group of friends are other AAs, and I began to understand a little bit of why they chose to hang out mostly with other AAs. In general, it was about being able to relate and to belong. But even so, there were times when I hang out with these friends, that I wanted to shout to the world and say, I have more diverse friends than just this! I was still afraid of being labeled.

And so as I finished up college, I was still unsure about what it meant to be AA.

Apparently the AAS department had a better understanding of my own confusion than I did. Upon graduation, the AAS department gave every AAS major and minor a copy of the following book. I packed it up with everything else, and for an entire year, it sat on a bookshelf.

20130627_115807

I finally picked it up last month, almost exactly to the date of graduation, and wished only that I had read it later. The first-person narratives in Balancing Two Worlds made me laugh and they made me cry. The book allowed me to relate to others as they shared their innermost thoughts, and it made me rethink how I viewed AAs as a group. Most of all, it made me realize that I was not alone in my confusion.

I think I’ll always be navigating the two rivers of Asian and American cultures, but this book definitely provided valuable insight.

As it was gifted to me upon graduation, I wanted to pass it along to someone else so that they too may benefit from it. And so I shipped it last week to my friend Amanda, who graduated from Penn this year and also wrote her own blog on being AA. She’s starting her first real-world job this month, so I won’t blame her if she doesn’t get to the book immediately. After all, it took me a year to get to it. But I truly hope it offers her useful insight as it did me.

Amanda, your only obligation after you finish reading Balancing Two Worlds is to write a note on the title page and pass it on to someone else who may benefit.

Why I Left Local TV News

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This week was my last week as a local TV reporter.

In varying degrees and at various times over the past three months, I’ve announced my decision to leave local TV news to friends, mentors, and co-workers. Some were shocked by my decision, but all have been supportive. One of my former internship supervisors said that she always knew that I wouldn’t be happy in local news.

It’s been an evolving decision, one that has taken a lot of introspection and self-discovery, with both professional and personal reasons to why I’m leaving.

I came into broadcasting because I love the power video has in capturing emotions and in telling the stories of others and because I’ve always been a curious kid wanting to learn about everything. And so I made my on-air debut at a NBC station in Montana while in college back in spring 2011.

But two years later, I realized that local news simply wasn’t for me. 90 seconds was hardly enough for me, and too often that 90 seconds covers only superficial aspects of the story. I prefer more long-term, more in-depth work. I also knew that if I were going to continue in the industry, my calling would be in breaking news. It’s the only time when I truly felt alive in the industry (besides when I did special reports). But there’s only so much death and tragedy you can take before you’re stripped of all emotion, replaced only by pure cynicism. Besides the daily work, I also wanted to have more involvement with the business side of things so I can help build growth, but management is quite top-down in TV. Perhaps most importantly, I realized that there were aspects of the direction that the broadcasting industry is heading toward that I strongly disliked.

Personally, it’s incredibly taxing when you’re on-call all the time. Reporting makes for a very unhealthy lifestyle of interrupted sleep and weird meal times, if you even get to eat. Some people say they’ll just tough it out until they get onto the anchor desk, but I’ve never wanted to anchor. (In fact, I was offered a position at my now-former station, but I declined.) Local news is also a path where you have to uproot your life and move every couple of years if you want to get to the top. I’ve been a nomad on the loose my entire life, and while I’ll always have the wandering tendencies, I truly would like a place to call home now.

For all other reasons on why I’m leaving local TV news, please read Tina Fey’s “Bossypants.”

But all this doesn’t mean that I now dislike the entire industry and all the people in it. There are plenty of individuals I know in the industry whom I admire and respect, and I would still encourage students and recent graduates who want to foray into the industry. Plus, I learned a lot of valuable skills and experiences as a reporter that I will take onto my future opportunities.

It took me a lot of sleepless nights to figure out just where I wanted to go from here, and at times, part of me wanted to give broadcast another, perhaps different, chance. While local TV wasn’t my cup of tea, I thought that perhaps the long-form shows of the big networks would be. As recently as this month, I interviewed with one of the big networks to work on their flagship shows, but in the end, the sentimental loyalty to broadcasting couldn’t beat the practical realization that there are much better career directions for me.

Sometimes it’s hard to leave the comfort zone, but without leaving it, you can never explore what else is out there. And so once again, I’m packing up and getting ready to head off to my next adventure — working for a startup in San Francisco. I’m extremely excited and grateful for this next stage of my life and absolutely ready for it.

Thank you to all the viewers in Montana, Chicago, and Nebraska who’ve watched me report and kept tabs on me, and thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported me during this transition.

And good luck to all those who are thinking about making a change or just trying to figure out what to do with your lives (especially the newest Northwestern graduates!).

Photo courtesy of Frances Marymee

Photo courtesy of Frances Marymee

RIP my travel companion.

Tags

, , , ,

My favorite checked suitcase has flown its final flight.

I had just landed in San Francisco and checked into my hotel when I noticed the rip along its seams.

image

This bag has traveled with me throughout the U.S., France, Italy, and  China.

It was wonderful because its four wheels made it so easy to roll no matter how heavy it was and because it had an expansion zipper.

In the States it carried my clothes and belongings when I went to college and as I moved to the cities of Los Angeles, Bloomington-Normal, Billings, and Grand Island.

In France it held my worldly possessions as I ventured into French family life, and then wine and other things when I left France (10 pounds overweight).

In Italy it was group luggage. For one friend it held olive oil for his mom, another balsamic vinegar for hers, and for me, fine leather products from Florence for my family.

In China it born the weight of a professional tripod, greetings gifts, and much more.

In essence, it’s been my go-to whenever I’ve needed to check a bag these past five years. I suppose I saw it coming. The handles had been dying for a while, and one of its four wheels no longer rolled.

RIP, my old friend.

Journalist with a Granola Problem

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve got a granola problem. Similar to my French baguette problem (yes, I ate one today), once I get my hands on good granola I just can’t stop eating it. Because of that, I try to buy granola only every once in a while. But the other day I picked up a box of Sunbelt Bakery’s granola…and then another….

And so I decided I should probably make my own to save some money. After all, I have a bunch of old-fashioned oats (and I don’t really like oatmeal) and random nuts and dried fruits. And the great thing about homemade granola is that you can mix and match whatever grains, nuts, and dried fruits you’ve got on hand, although I’d limit the mix to one type of nuts and up to two types of dried fruits (if they’re complementary).

Here’s what I just made tonight!

d45d5aa9aa89e4f43bdcdcdd72a39007

Homemade Granola

(makes enough to fill about 2 of those tall Ball glass jars) Edit: That’s apparently about 5 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons of dried black sesame seeds
  • 1/4 packed cup of sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup of chopped dried Turkish apricots
  • 1 cup of raw almonds, chopped or sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of pure honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Mix together the oats, sesame seeds, coconut flakes, apricots, almonds, and cinnamon.
  2. In a mixing cup, stir together the sugar, oil, honey, vanilla extract, and salt until well-blended.
  3. Drizzle the honey mix over the dried ingredients and mix well so that as much is coated as possible.
  4. At this point, turn on the oven and preheat it to 325 F degrees.
  5. Spread the mixture in thin and even layers on two regular-sized baking trays.
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes and then stir and redistribute so it doesn’t burn.
  7. Then bake for another 20 minutes or so, checking every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Let cool completely before storing and serving.

Enjoy, granola fanatics!

We’re All Mental: Why the DSM-5 is Crap

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

This week the holy bible of psychiatry came out with its latest edition, the DSM-5, and it evoked a nauseous reaction in me.

Even though I only have basic education in psychology and psychiatry, it’s an area I’ve always been interested in. I’ve been known to flip through the DSM-IV from time to time, and I’ve helped friends through their struggles. So I was very interested in what was new in this edition. When I saw the additions and changes, I almost puked.

Caffeine withdrawal is among the new additions in the DSM-5. That makes half the American workforce and 90% of reporters mental. Eating excessively more than 12 times in 3 months now is labeled binge eating disorder. Let’s institutionalize the entire collegiate population who have late nights studying or partying. These are just the examples I found the most ridiculous; some of the others raise an eyebrow as well.

Mental illness is absolutely real, and all the DSM-5 has done is make it all a big joke. The U.S. has become a society of over-diagnosing. Some behaviors are just normal occurrences in childhood, adolescence, post-divorce, in old age, etc., others have plenty of “nurture” alternatives, and not all illnesses require popping pills. A lot of this has to do with pressure from big pharma, and it’s interesting to note how many people involved with producing the DSM-5 had big pharma ties.

For me, the DSM has lost all credibility with its latest publication. I’d glad to hear that many influential psychiatrists agree. We do need to continually progress forward in treating mental illness, but the DSM-5 is not that tool.