Thanksgiving: From a First-Gen Immigrant

“And that is what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my lack of Thanksgivings, because what seemed to be lacking was what filled me with perspective and pure nonjudgmental acceptance of people and customs, the social and emotional intelligence to succeed in modern society and all my travels.”

Thankfulness. Here I am curled up on a couch in Harlem, New York City sipping French Press from an Edna Mode Cup, as I listen to the clanging of my friend Micaela’s blender fixing to create some sort of millennial rum cake magic. She is slaving away in the kitchen for her family of transplants in this city. Today is Thanksgiving. Now, I have a lot to say about this holiday on colonialism, western imperialism, Christopher Columbus, etc. but I’ll save it. Instead, I’ll focus on the commercial positive aspect that Americans have reinforced on this day: gratefulness and togetherness.

Thanksgiving is traditionally spent with family, sharing a meal and giving thanks. My family was poor growing up. My mom and dad usually had to work on Thanksgiving. They were Laotian refugees who felt that this was a holiday only shared by “American” families. Because of this, my brothers and I spent a lot of Thanksgivings alone. Although, we understood the necessity of our parents having to work, it did not save us from feeling the resentment of cultural dichotomy, and being left out of this cultural phenomenon. I would always feel sadness, and wonder why my family couldn’t be a “normal” American family like everyone else’s? I hated that my family looked nothing like Macaulay Culkin’s family in Home Alone.

But I grew up. And as I grew, my family and I learned that American families come in all shape and sizes. I realized as a first-generation immigrant, the firstborn to my parents, I was a bridge from their world to mine (I wish I could share the beauty and weight it is to hold such an important role). That they too were learning to be a family, to their family, without the help of their families in a foreign country. I accepted that Thanksgiving was not their holiday, and it holds no weight in their life, and that is ok. And that is what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my lack of Thanksgivings, because what seemed to be lacking was what filled me with a social and emotional intelligence to succeed in modern society and all my travel. They taught me perspective and pure nonjudgmental acceptance of people and customs. In our lack of home as refugees, they taught me to cultivate a heart so loving that everyone felt like home when they stepped into our sphere, and as cheesy as it sounds that it would always feel like some sort of Thanksgiving holiday.

This lesson is validated today in my Transplant Thanksgiving in NYC. I’ve been invited by several transplant communities to share Thanksgiving meals with them. I truly admire these beautiful people who have decided to move to this nitty gritty city to follow their dreams alone and unafraid, and are choosing to foster their own versions of families and create new customs as they work to build a life. I see reflections of my parents in them, and it moves me to see that basic humanity is universal. I hope you have a day full of gratefulness as you’re alive and mentally intact enough to have read this to the end. Thanks for reading.  😊

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Poor but First Class to Paris Always

“How to Be Pretentiously Basic”

Poor with 22€ in coins that I scrounged up from the crevices of my couch, some Parisian RER metro tickets in my pocket, and somehow despite all odds of wealth class hierarchy barriers, I manage to always First Class DeltaOne to Paris. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be a real life Avenger super heroine? That’s a pretty unique super power. Cheers to Flight Attendant Privileges. Long hurr don’t curr. Go on girl!  Be ethereal with your badself!

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The story: My bff, who upped and moved to Botswana for the Peace Corp a year ago, has a 12 hour layover in Paris. My sweet friend Miguelito, has recently snagged a well earned job, whose apartment is in desperate need of a proper 17ème arrondissement warming. And I have 24 hours to spare. I’m not one to defy the synchronicity of space, and perfect alignment of my friends. This is clearly fate.

I figured this would be a good opportunity to bring my humanity full circle. As an immigrant fighting to make a place in the world with unconventional international career goals and this still overly priced American education system, I needed to get to France and register for University and my Teste de Connaissance Français, anyhow. Also, as a quirky hopelesss romantic, I’m going to sprinkle my heart with people watching on Parisian terrace, think my thoughts, ponder politics, write my feelings, and speak French or something with my friends. I wonder if I can do 24 hours in Paris with only €22 Euros in my pocket? You think I’m joking… 😉 lol.

Walk tall, smile, it is amusing knowing that this is all part of the adventure. Be open. Never look down on yourself for being different. This is how to effectively be pretentiously basic.

 

For more on my “How to be Basic Survival Guide” for those humans who really stretch their bank accounts to move themselves forward in life, or for entertaining adventures subscribe to theartofbeinghumanblog

(Disclaimer:  please make wise decisions).

Eat, Fly, Love: A Flight Attendant’s Confession

My story starts like any other sappy chick flick: my beautiful man left me at the metaphysical altar for a foreign market investment lawyer. Thanks to poor cultural integration and an overly priced education system, I did the only logical thing a newly single wanderlust strapped for cash could do: I became a flight attendant.

The famous Paulo Coehlo once wrote “When you want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

Some university students become baristas; others become flight attendants. I am the latter: International Affairs’ student by day and Flight Attendant by night, putting myself through school one plane ride at a time. It’s an unconventional super power, but I assure you, if that huge metal tube lights up in flames, I can evacuate you swiftly and safely, within 90 seconds, burgundy lipstick intact, without a hair singed out-of-place (effortless hair flip).

What drives someone to become a flight attendant in their undergraduate career? My story starts out like any other sappy chick flick. It’s the same story that inspired women like Elizabeth Gilbert to write Eat, Pray, Love, or that Frances lady to irrationally buy an ancient house in Italy and live Under the Tuscan Sun. It’s that timeless story of an unfaithful man and a terribly broken heart.

I met a man who awoken my love from its slumber, but had no intentions of returning his. That within itself is not only heartbreaking, but cruel. After moving to Southern France to be an au pair and forget my woes, I came back for him – only to be left again at the metaphysical altar for some foreign market investment lawyer. Due to a shattered heart, poor cultural integration into the American society as a refugee turned citizen, and an extremely overly priced academic system, I did the only logical thing a newly single wanderlust strapped for cash could do: I became a flight attendant.  

As much as I thought that passing out peanuts and pretzels was simple enough to be done by sloths in their sleep, I confess that flight attending is so much more. Being shipped off to flight school (or what I like to call Barbie Boot camp) was one of the most trying, yet elaborate self-expanding experiences. I was gifted Wings. How was I to know the power and symbolism this ceremonial pinning would have in my life?

Alas, here I am in Delta’s First Class, nice and bronzed, as I ship myself home from the Hawaiian island of Oahu to the Minneapolis tundra, just in time to take a Social Statistics midterm. In less than a year, I have spent New Year’s Eve drinking well-aged red wine under the sparkling Eiffel tower, cliff dove into the Mediterranean Sea with gorgeous Romanian Mermen, stuffed my face with fresh handmade pasta in Italy with my Swiss girlfriends, sipped tea in England with my British partner in crime, and flew to Mexico to indulge a Taco Al Pastor street truck craving. I get to train weekly at my dance studio in New York City, and fly out to Los Angeles for $2.99 sushi roll study dates. The cherry on top of it all is that I still manage to do what I actually love, pushing my intellectual boundaries as a student at the University of Minnesota.

This did not come without sacrifice. My heart is still very much healing. That man eventually came back (they always do),  but I came to my senses when I started to drown swimming with weights, and left him this time around. And not to mention, my mama did not risk her life escaping a war torn country for me to allow myself be torn apart by some man who doesn’t deserve me (get it girl power, thanks mama 😉 ). However, two years of hurt isn’t easily effaced by months of magical travel. I forgive him, and am learning to forgive myself. But I have learned that even shattered pieces can be recreated into a new mosaic wholeness. Leaving a man I thought I couldn’t live without was the catalyst to helping me pursue my higher self. In order to achieve the life we desire, we must be audacious enough to look fear in the face and stride past it, like “Bye Felicia!” Talk to hand!

I may not be in an ashram in India or renovating a house in Tuscany but just like the sappy chick flicks we love, my brokenness led me to the most phenomenal job and most serendipitous series of events. Above all, my brokenness has lead me to … me. Healing has come in drinking coffee on the Parisian streets; gratefulness has sauntered in while hiking 1,048 steps to do yoga with the most breathtaking view of Honolulu. Peace came floating in with the wind while driving solo, sobbing to Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love, in the Mexican desert (lol no shame). So cheers to global mobility and hitching rides on planes the way we hitch rides on buses. And cheers to reading international theories by day, and flying planes by night. Cheers to parents risking their lives so that their children can become Flight Attendants and the first in the family to go to college. I’ll end this entry with this, I still gape with astonishment that someone like me could experience such privileges. Our lives, my beloved readers, is only as abundant as we allow ourselves to make it. We must trust in the synchronicity of the journey. When we allow ourselves to be fearless in the pursuant of our passion and dreams the universe is conspiring in helping us achieve it.

-Love, Light, Namaste

 

 

Carpe Diem that Happiness

 “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs


One day, I woke up and decided that I needed a break. I told myself in one of my rooftop soliloquy episodes, as I listened to obscure Arabic music from Nancy Ajram, “ok Soudavone, you’re young, you’re single, your breasts are still perky, and you’re relatively clever, you’ve got a lot going for yourself! So enough of this sedentary, daydreaming thing you’ve got going on, ” so with that I pulled out my figurative “Get it Girl” sticker, stuck one on myself, and made up my mind to move to France.  I was determined, this next year, I was either going to spend it musing existentialism while reading all of Albert Camus‘ literature in the cafés de Paris, or take Ingrid Michaelson’s advice and move to the south of France, and revel in my daydreams on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where I’d possibly meet some tall, dark, brown eyed, international beauty. And so with the Universe working in accord with my burning desires to “follow my heart,” within a week’s time, I managed it! Sweet serendipity, made an appearance, and I found a way to maneuver myself over to France on a student visa.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine and one of the first things she said to me was, “so when do you plan on finishing that degree?” It’s a valid question, and a reflection of the normal expectations of my social construct. I have a year left of my bachelors, and after all, I have been at this for awhile and am getting along in years, which means that I’m outgrowing the social norms of the appropriate age of when students should be graduating from college. To this, I say to hell with it (of course I have every intention to return, but did I mention I don’t have enough funding ?)! I’ve come to terms that it’s ok to step out of conventions, and follow your passions. I’ve seen people zip through college to end up in the same place, I’m at presently. I’m not knocking them. All I’m saying is each and everyone of us, we all have our own individual journey, and I think it’s important that we all learn to respect that.

Is it nerve racking taking the “I am going to follow my heart let’s not be conventional” route? Absolutely, I am frightened out of my knickers. I’ve just stepped off the path of what others deem “successful” onto a windier back road that is far less traveled. (Trust me, the people pleaser, need of approval, side of me is having a major malfunction.)

But here’s the cold, hard reality: at the end of the day, society doesn’t live your life for you, you are left to live that on your own. These emotions that you have within you, you are forced to feel it on your own accord. So please, don’t let your happiness be dictated by an exterior pressure. I write this blog piece to urge the audacity to step out, not to merely follow your dreams, but something more basic, to be courageous enough to identify and realize what they are, because revelation is a beautiful thing. Life is loud, chaotic, and filled with lots of competing interests, so I encourage you to STOP, and THINK for a minute about YOU. Have you ever wanted something so bad before? Well, I encourage you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and challenge you to not be afraid to ponder what you’ve long desire to do, and then go for it. Impossibility, is a wall we build for ourselves, and only we, ourselves can tear it down. Carpe diem, seize your happiness, because no one else will secure it for you.

2013-08-Travel19So there it is, just like that the little polyglotte who loves people, culture, language and travel is going to do just that, love people, explore cultures, develop her languages, and travel til her heart is full to the brim. Seizing her own happiness on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. But it all started with a decision. #getitgirlsticker 😉

Invincible Summer

dew“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” – Albert Camus

Even when it is dark inside, as if the sun will never shine, when the ground is covered with ice and all we know is cold, do not forget that deep down within you there is an invincible summer that radiates life. The rays of your heart refuses to let you be anything other than a better version of you. Embrace your journey and human-ness, because before dawn breaks lays the darkest moment of night. But Dawn always breaks. Let that sit with you as you move through your day. ❤

-Love, Light, Namaste