It was a sunny afternoon in Fullerton, California, about 35 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. I was inside on this sunny day, but it was a sunny day during 2020’s lockdown, so I can’t tell you how the sun’s rays glided across my shoulders or how the grass crushed beneath my sandaled feet. I suppose I could have but, well, I didn’t want to walk around outside, I wanted to watch a show or nine as one does during COVID. I was munching on a bowl of freshly popped Costco popcorn in my apartment. My eyes were transfixed on the screen before me. A young Asian actress was playing a still in the closet Lesbian in a romcom on Netflix. The film was directed by an LGBTQ Asian American woman called The Half of It. The film is a triumph for the Asian American community, especially the LGBTQ Asian community, but that’s not why I was transfixed. The young woman, Leah Lewis, had something that I wanted. Not the fame and fortune, though I’ll gladly take that, but drive. Grit. She had the tenacity to go after her dreams no matter what the odds and it paid off.
I lived much of my life in fear. As a kid, it was fear that I wouldn’t be accepted by my peers, that my parents would see me as a failure, that the boy I crushed on hated me. As I got older, those fears turned into being fired by my job, being dumped yet again by another boyfriend, and doubting I’d ever get married or have children. I let those fears run my life so I stopped writing. I dropped out of college. I stopped acting. I thought I should just accept a life behind a desk and be happy with whatever came my way. My dreams were just too big and too unattainable.
Thirteen years ago, as I was temping for a vacation rental site loading content, which was little better than data entry, I received an email. It arrived in my personal inbox and the subject was “Saw you were a writer”. If this wasn’t odd enough, what made it odder was this email was forwarded from my dating profile’s inbox. I had created a profile for myself a few months back in hopes of finding a relationship. I had cited that I was a writer, even though I had never published anything or gotten paid for writing. The guy that wrote me was named John, he lived in Toronto and claimed to be editor of a magazine. He provided links from his magazine. It was an Asian lifestyle magazine featuring celebrity interviews, do-it-yourself tips, recipes, book reviews, and opinion pieces. I was understandably skeptical. I also thought he might just be trying to get into my pants. All the way in Canada. Knowing this, he offered to PayPal me fifty US dollars as an advance for an article which he’d pay me $200 for. This wasn’t a huge sum of money, but for a broke woman in her twenties, it may as well have been a Louis Vuitton bag. I accepted, still skeptically, but wrote the article with the guidelines he provided and submitted it.
A couple of days later he replied and said he loved my work. He sent the rest of the payment and promised more if I agreed to come on as a freelance editor and writer. Thirteen years on, I still write occasionally for the magazine and John and I have become good friends. I currently work full-time as a copywriter, am taking a full course load at a private university, and am a full-time parent to my son, Kai. Life is hectic to say the least, but I am grateful for beautiful, chaotic mess it is.
I had written a poem which won a contest at school when I was in fifth grade but had pretty much canned writing in my pre-teens, teens, and early twenties. I did however become an avid reader, consuming three-five novels a month. The more I read, the more I thought I could do this as well. I thought I had a lot of great stories within me which I wanted to share with the world. So I never thought including that I was writer in my dating profile would allow the universe to usher me into the writing world. I’m fortunate enough to have written for universities, healthcare agencies, travel websites, makeup brands, and electronics companies but there was still something missing.
I loved writing, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love writing. When I am immersed in penning a story, sometimes my fingers fly across the keyboard. There’s something almost supernatural that comes out of me and I know that this my life purpose. However, it’s not my only life purpose. Of course, the most important purpose is being a mother to Kai. He is in first grade and struggles with ADHD so he is my top priority. Professionally, apart from writing, only one other thing has made me feel alive; that thing is acting. In my early twenties, after dropping out of college, I pursued acting head on. I did theatre in high school but stopped thinking it was just a silly kid dream. In the year I pursued it, I was fortunate enough to become part of an exclusive acting group. I didn’t know how fortunate I was till now. This acting class normally required being put on a 6-month to 1-year waiting list, and even then there was no guarantee. I met a fellow actor on set while I was doing extra work. He gave me the contact info and I called right away. Once I started, an agent took me on as a client and gave me access to tons of auditions and casting calls. But then I stopped again. Why? Fear.
If I’m being honest, if John had not contacted me years ago, I may have been stuck in the fear of becoming a failed writer and never pursuing it. His encouragement gave me the push I needed to keep going. And now I am taking Leah Lewis’ performance in The Half of It as my push to pursue acting again. I take headshots tomorrow, haven’t done this in 18 years. From there, I can begin submitting myself for auditions through Backstage or Casting Frontier. Wish me luck…wish that I break a leg. Something, never know what the difference is.