A Special Pause In Melbourne

Life always works out if we’re willing to take on the challenges and overcome those obstacles.

When we become “adults," so much of our life turns into a constant “Go, go, go.” Adult responsibilities begin to take over: work deadlines, mortgages, car payments, KIDS… the list is endless. And at the moments when we want to or need to press pause, it seems like the world just can't wait for us.

That’s what life felt like after college in a way. I entered the workforce, had “adult” responsibilities, and went through the motions. Don’t get me wrong, though. I still lived life to the fullest and made sure I had fun. I have no regrets and would do it the same way all over again.

But when I left for Melbourne, I essentially pressed pause on my life. I left the 8 to 5 (or 7 to 4 at Pangea). I left my weekly barre workouts. I left my beautiful apartment. I left my selfless boyfriend… My life in Melbourne was basically a 180 to my life in Boston.

When I first got to Melbourne, I thought I could do what I usually do for a move: find a job, find friends, volunteer… basically build routine. I moved to Melbourne to pursue specialty coffee, so I thought to myself, “Cool, I’ll just get a job at a specialty cafe.” I was wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and felt confident and ready to enter the workforce again.

Even though Australia is an English-speaking country, it is culturally very different from America. And when it comes to coffee culture, Melbourne is in a league of its own.

Things didn’t go as I expected the first month I touched down. It was the peak of backpacker season, so jobs were scarce. I learned having a working holiday visa with no coffee experience wouldn’t get me anywhere in specialty. The place I was hoping to stay for my entire time in Melbourne could also no longer accommodate me. Finding routine was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be.

I believe that life always works out, but someone I met said it more tangibly: life always works out if we’re willing to take on the challenges and overcome those obstacles. Despite the stress, I was meeting new people, open to new experiences, and soaking in as much of Melbourne as possible. By the end of my time in Melbourne, I had a job doing what I love, lived in a two-bedroom house with a fireplace and a yard (!) with my best Australian mate, had a very Australian Holden ute at my disposal, and learned a ton about coffee, perhaps more than I ever would have working at a cafe. If someone would’ve told me those things were going to happen six months prior, I would have shook my head in disbelief, especially driving the ute part.

It sounds so cliche, but life truly is a journey, and on that journey, you meet a lot of people along the way. When I reflect on my time in Melbourne, it was amazing because of the people that made it all possible. The Australian Holden ute, for example, was my friend’s car, who I met at the bar of Aunty Peg’s. I got my marketing job through my Workaway host, who introduced me to her sister who eventually became my boss. I found a volunteer opportunity because I decided to join a coworker for a casual lunch where we ate at a non-profit restaurant. These were all people who helped me establish roots in Melbourne and constantly looked out for me. Although Melbourne was the farthest I’ve ever moved, it was surprisingly the easiest because of these people.

I learned so much from them and in turn, learned so much about myself. It’s the people that make a place, and I’m sure I would have loved any other city if these same people were also there to enrich my life. But since it was Melbourne, Melbourne will always have a special place in my heart.

This coffee and food sabbatical will be coming to an end soon as I make my way home, but I feel so blessed I had the luxury to press pause and re-evaluate my life priorities. I’m excited to get back to the States. I know I’ll have to tackle “adult” responsibilities again, but this time, I feel more ready than ever.

Reflecting on 11/9 Election Aftermath

And to all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks—sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.

This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.

To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

I know that we still have not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But some day someone will—hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.

I want to post this here because I never want to forget. I never want to forget how close we were to breaking the glass ceiling. I never want to forget if my little girl asks me why it took so long for America to have a female president. I never want to forget to have class and strength even when people want to knock me down. I never want to forget that there is still a lot of good in this country and that more than half of Americans wanted to make history.

After the political fray, we're still here. We're still getting up and going on with our daily routine. The sun is still rising and setting. Heck, even the markets closed higher. But today is a reminder that our country still has a long way to go, and we need to do our best as citizens to move this country forward. And the way to do that is to listen more, care more, and love more.

I wrote in my last post that optimism is at the heart of being American. I still have hope, and I am optimistic that our country will overcome.

Thank you Hillary Clinton for fighting so hard. Thank you for championing young women and girls everywhere. Thank you for being a class act and a model for so many of us. Thank you for sparking a national conversation and starting a fire that will continue to burn bright in me.

Reflecting on 9/11 and the Memorial Museum

If you ask any American who was alive and lucid on September 11, 2001, he or she can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard about the Twin Towers. I remember I was a sixth grader walking outside our classroom during morning recess when people started crowding the TVs in the classrooms. We were so confused, was this really happening?

There are significant moments in a nation's history that changes the course of the country just like when America won its independence from Great Britain and when the North won the Civil War. The 9/11 bombing was one of those moments. It's hard to explain to Americans born after 9/11, but almost overnight, it became harder to travel, the country went into a state of paranoia, and Congress decided they needed to defend the country by declaring war and sinking billions into a search for weapons of mass destruction that never existed.

Repercussions aside, 9/11 was a tragic and devastating incident on American soil. Many lives were lost and brave responders also put their lives on the line. That day, it didn't matter what color we were or what language we spoke, we came together as Americans to mourn and help each other recover.

The new One World Trade Center stands beautifully at Ground Zero. The two breathtaking reflecting pools give visitors a sense of how awesome the towers were. The whole site really does justly honor the victims. And then there is the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

I had heard the 9/11 Memorial Museum was a very emotional experience, especially for Americans who lived through it, so I really looked forward to the visit. As I walked through the exhibits, it was emotional indeed. Tears came when I watched a replay of the towers falling. I felt anguish when I heard the firsthand accounts. The artifacts and quotes were touching and powerful. The whole museum was very somber, but it's this last point that evoked an emotion inside me I didn't expect: anger.

Perhaps it's my personality. I'm not the kind of person who dwells on the past, and maybe that's why I avoid Holocaust museums. The Diary of Anne Frank and World War II was a notable part of my American schooling and that included visiting Holocaust museums. I'm not trying to be disrespectful because like 9/11, the Holocaust was an even greater tragedy, but so many museums and memorials curate the same stereotypical experience leaving patrons with the same depressing emotions with the message that the Holocaust was horrible. I get it, but can we move past it already? Am I cruel to say that?

The Holocaust and the study of the Holocaust is what’s occurring in the vast majority of other museums of Jewish history,” Tad Taube, the San Francisco-based real estate developer and major donor to the museum, told me this week. “We need to move beyond the Holocaust.
— Jewish History is Not Just About the Holocaust. Finally, a Museum Gets That.

To me, going through the 9/11 Memorial felt like going through a Holocaust museum. The lighting was dark, the topic was grave, and there were rare moments I felt uplifted. As a citizen living in post 9/11 America, its disheartening to leave a memorial and realize that our country is still wallowing in this pain. The ugliness from our current political landscape is proof enough, and we continue to live each day reminded by policies that supposedly protect us.

Perhaps it's also my personality to have hope. I think what makes Americans different from other citizens of the world is our optimism. We have hope in reaching our ambitions. We have hope for a brighter future. We have hope in the American Dream. Maybe it's naive, but it's inherent to who we are, and I wish the 9/11 Memorial Museum left me with a lot more hope than it did.

To "Turn and Pull" -- Why I Volunteer As a Big Sister

Some days I wonder how I navigated through America's systems. I was the first in my family to travel through the public, private, and higher education system, the corporate business system, and even New York's public transit system. Luckily, I was able to get through them without relatively too much pain.

I got through my childhood and young adulthood by figuring things out on my own, through hard work, and a supportive mother, but there was always one resource I wish I had: a role model, an older sibling or an older cousin who had gone through the system before. My friends were able to study from their older sister's SAT books. I had to buy my own (#firstworldproblems, I know). Their siblings were free tutors, editors, and wisemen when it came to college applications and skin care routines. Heck, I had to do all the road tests for the longest lasting backpacks and the best feminine hygiene products. Thank God I was born in the era of Google, but it would have been so helpful to hear relevant advice from someone who could sympathize with what I was going through at the time. I'm sorry Mom, your Chinese herbal medicine was never going to help me ace a test...

That feeling of being lost and yearning to have someone by my side during those formative years really stuck with me. It pushed me to seek out mentors in the future, but also made me realize that there could be one less person without a role model in this world, and I could actually make that happen.

I've always been on the fence about kids. Some days they're angels and other days, they're straight up monsters (I'm sure parents can attest to that). So when I signed up to be a Big Sister, my immediate circle of friends gave me a serious talking to about the commitment I was about to make.

One of the first times I hung out with L was at her dance recital where she danced Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

One of the first times I hung out with L was at her dance recital where she danced Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

Being with L, my Little Sister, was super tough for the first five months. It was the first time I was dealing with a kid other than my kid sister (who I could yell and scream at), and our personalities could not be more different. There were days I was struggling to find common ground and days I wrestled with giving up. I decided to teach L how to ride a bike, but it became a bad day when she fell after I let go, promising that I would hold on. Trust fell to an all-time low.

The things I let L do to my face... I walked out in public like this, definitely got some looks.

The things I let L do to my face... I walked out in public like this, definitely got some looks.

Gradually with time, wounds heal, positive experiences and memories are created, trust is built back up again, and a relationship becomes stronger. L and I have reached a point where we feel comfortable being silent next to each other. We know each other's quirks and when someone is having a bad day. We've had conversations about expectations, disappointments, and the real world post-middle school. She's only 10. I try to be as honest and transparent with her (with sensitivity towards her age, of course) and give her the really reallies for her to digest.

We have been matched for 10 months now, and recently, I've been seeing a change in her. The girl who disliked doing homework or going to school asked me about what it was like to go to college. The girl that was too scared to get back on her bike asked to go biking this past Saturday. The girl who was too scared to swim the length of the pool without holding the wall every 3 seconds swam today, hands-free from end to end. Her courage does not come automatically without reservations, but the progress she's making is so clear that I can't help feeling proud.

What motivated me to write this was something I saw on our walk home today. I asked L if she was interested in taking swim classes so she could become a better swimmer. She replied with her usual response, "No, because I don't want to." I prodded her with more whys, she said she wanted to hang out with her friends instead, and ultimately said she just didn't want to learn.

I responded, "The moment you stop learning is the moment you turn dumb."

As I was explaining how learning keeps her mind elastic and expanding, I could see the cogs in her noggin churning. She was actively listening to what I was saying, not hearing. It was the first time I saw her seriously considering the argument I was making...

L's quite the bowler. Beat me in candle pin by a huge margin...

L's quite the bowler. Beat me in candle pin by a huge margin...

One thing I loved most about P&G was the mantra to "Turn and Pull" -- women "turning" to other women and "pulling" them in to higher positions; affinity group members making sure to recommend promotions for their deserving members. This mantra sticks with me because it applies to so many people in our lives -- someone like a Little Sister, a current student from our alma maters, or a fellow friend looking for a job.

Our country talks about income gaps, racial gaps, educational gaps... all these socioeconomic gaps and big empty words that become chicken and the egg debates or a round of pointing fingers. Instead, why don't we take action especially for those of us in a position to "turn and pull." I strongly believe that my time with L will impact her life in some way. I hope that I can help her overcome the obstacles and navigate the system that we as Americans have to swim through. I hope I can be that role model for her that I yearned for as a teen. And I hope after reading this, maybe you will consider being a role model for someone, too.