Amy Li

Guest Post by Amy Li

Dear younger self,

When you were a little girl in China, you wanted to be a gypsy — to sing, dance, and travel around the world. The truth is life is a long path with lots of surprises along the way. You are absolutely correct to always follow your heart and your passion, work hard, and make your dreams come true.

You probably will not realize your curiosity about the world will fly you over the Pacific Ocean. You’ll land in sunny California. You’ll get to pursue something you have always love — creativity and art. You’ll work your ass off and get into one of the top design programs in the country. You’ll get recruited by one of the top internet brands and have your first iPhone app featured in the New York Times.

But the truth is, the word “dream” will have many different meanings in different stages of your life. You will learn sometimes a corporate career is not necessarily the most fulfilling for your personal growth. You will apply and receive a scholarship to the top social entrepreneurship program Singularity University at NASA, known for empowering leaders to use technology to change the world.

And you will learn that life can be as dramatic as a movie. While you are inspired to change the world, you’ll be shocked by a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. Your dream will take a back seat to surviving.

Your fight will teach you that while pain is real, so is hope. You will learn that things do get better, no matter how bad they may appear. You will survive and come out an even stronger person than before.

You will learn that your dream will return and your cancer will reveal a new mission in your life. The love and support you receive will make you want to give back. As a cancer survivor, you will learn that you are not alone.

You learn that patients are often homebound and very easy to fall into depression. You will discover that creative arts therapy can really improve quality of your life and ease your pain, and it’s been proven by published medical research.

Sadly, music and dance are very underutilized in healthcare. So, you’ll build a live video platform so patients like yourself can dance and laugh with anyone, any time, from the comfort of their home.

You will learn that recovering from cancer and moving on with your life is hard, but being a social entrepreneur is even harder. You may sometimes question why you chose a much more difficult path, but the love, support, and appreciation you will receive will make you quickly realize your newfound dream is worth it.

You will also realize self care is not selfish, and mental health starts with yourself. And you will write this poem to tell yourself it is ok to Let Go.

Letting go is a process
when the shock is over and the pain
starts to overwhelm
it is a decision in the mind
yet, a struggle in the heart

You breathe deeply
hoping to ease the pain
It decides to linger all around you
through your muscles, your bones, your cells
it tries to take you over
it tries to break you down
all you can tell yourself is to never give in

Listen to that music you always love
dance your heart out to that beautiful tune
as you swing, bounce, jump, hop, extend,
you will get it slowly out of your system
your muscles, your bones, your cells

If your tears decide to visit you
let them flow, and flush out like a waterfall in the forest
‘it’s ok and it will be ok’
the waves will gently whisper in your ear
‘you are just as beautiful as you always were,
after the rainstorm, there is a rainbow,
in your heart, in your eyes, in the sky.’

Kristina Wong

Guest Post by Kristina Wong
As part of TEAM (Together Empowering Asian Minds), a new campaign to address mental health among Asian American women, APIA women are publishing letters to their younger selves.

Dear 12-year-old Kristina Wong,

It’s me — your older OLD ASS self writing from the future — 2016!

If I remember you correctly, you are wearing two pairs of scrunchy socks over tacky bright leggings, your peers shun you as a “weirdo pervert,” and you stay awake at night wondering if you’ll ever engage in sexual activity.

Surprise Young Kristina! Nothing changes in the future! The difference is… you will actually forge a CAREER out of your awkwardness! That’s right! You are going to grow up to be a PERFORMANCE ARTIST!

I know what you’re thinking:

What the hell kind of doctor is a “performance artist”?
How will we break the news to Mommy and Daddy?
You mean I really won’t have sex in the future… ever?

In the future, you will monetize your agony for big bucks! (Ok, maybe not big bucks. Maybe not any bucks.) But a hell of a lot of people will know what a freak you are and you won’t have to hide it anymore! As it turns out, a lot of Asian American girls are living in complete fear of failing as you are right now! Like you, they are incredibly unhappy and terrified to let anybody know that they are terrified and sad and scared! It’s like you and all these other depressed Asian American girls are the Goonies (if the Goonies was a secret society of girls governed by shame and fear).

By the way, the actor who played Chunk from The Goonies is going to be your entertainment lawyer when you are older, but that’s another letter.

Where was I? Oh yes! When you grow up, you are going to bypass the Miss Saigon auditions altogether and make a one woman show called Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s a show about the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American women. It’s a statistic you don’t know exists now, but when you read about it shortly after college, you’ll think: Wow, seems so unbelievable and yet, so innately something I understand.

You will write your show without permission from anybody in Hollywood! You will stand alone on a stage and tell people all over America what a nut job you are! And people will pay to see it and give you a standing ovation after! And then you’ll get in the newspaper and occasionally, someone will flip you some grant money! Somehow you mastered the tragedy plus time equation and made a show about depression into a comedy!

What you have been told success looks like — it’s a crock of shit. You will drive yourself crazy chasing somebody else’s dream. If you live in fear and deny your own truth (which is, that you love being a big fucking freak) you will be killing yourself on the inside.

From this older stage of life, I will say it still is very difficult to deal with self-loathing and doubt. But what makes it easier is you are getting bolder, braver, and put up with less bullshit year after year. You speak up for what’s right. You do what people tell you is completely impractical. You build the road that never existed before. This is your journey as an Asian American woman.

Now stop picking your zits.


P.S. When you get to high school, you need not flirt with the boys who do theater. They are gay. Yes, really. But you won’t find out until years later.

The above is excerpted from an upcoming feature for Together Empowering Asian Minds (TEAM). Kristina Wong is an Ambassador for TEAM, a national public awareness campaign aimed at addressing urgent and unique mental health challenges faced by young Asian American women and their loved ones. TEAM will be holding campaign kickoff events on September 20 at college campuses nationwide. Follow TEAM on Facebook for more information. Link to Article.