Perhaps you’ve heard various versions of the American dream a million times already.
In this all-too-common version, an Asian kid excels at math or science and ends up attending a reputable university. He graduates with flying colors and gets himself a high-paying professional job.
He becomes an accountant or a lawyer or a doctor and makes his parents proud. And he repays them for all their years of hard work by making sure that they never have to worry about money again.
Maybe he even goes to grad school before marrying a nice Asian girl. They pop out a couple of cute kids and live in a nice big house.
'Tis the (Asian) American dream, after all.
I guess you could have called me the stereotypical Asian kid. I immigrated to America in elementary school without knowing a lick of English. ESL wasn't a thing yet, so I walked straight into a classroom full of English speaking kids who all looked at me like I was an alien from another planet.
In some ways, they were right. To say that I experienced a bit of culture shock would be an understatement.
Learning English was about as fun as getting my teeth cleaned. I still can’t tell you to this day what the heck an adverb is, but I sure as hell tried to assimilate as quickly as possible, getting rid of my immigrant accent in two years flat.
Credit the kids from Bayside High for helping me get through those years. Even now, I still have a crush on Kelly Kapowski. She's so damn dreamy!
No matter how hard I tried to assimilate, though, I still got picked on a lot. Thankfully, I never got stuffed in a locker or physically hurt, but the mental punishment on a young boy was plenty enough.
After a forgettable high school experience, I ended up going to a prestigious undergrad business school. I then became an accountant. I got my CPA, my MBA, and was a third of the way through my CFA before figuring out that all those letters after my name weren’t doing a lick for me personally.
And for what it’s worth, not financially either. The MBA tuition drained my wallet dry.
But that’s another story for another day.
I’ve always enjoyed reading interesting stories, and for a while I found a way to tell them through my camera lens. It was my creative side that I didn’t know I had been craving for all of my life.
After all, math was safe. A job in accounting was even safer. There was always an answer to an equation. There were rarely any answers to an art.
Ever since I can remember, I have been telling myself that I sucked at writing. I was the Asian kid who knew math, and that was that. Even the cover page of my final high school English paper was full of mathematical equations. That was the extent of my creativity at 3 am the night before it was due.
I stopped taking any English classes whatsoever after my freshman year in college. I was convinced that I really did suck at writing.
But for some reason, I’ve been itching to write for years now. I just didn’t know where to begin.
I’d sit in front of a computer, staring at the blank screen. Sometimes I'd bang out one or two pages if my mind needed decluttering. Other times, I’d start checking Facebook after 5 minutes of nothingness.
And besides, family responsibilities kept calling me. As the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son, I heard (and still hear) constant reminders of how proud I’ve made my family throughout my business career.
Although I was happy to be of significance, something was missing. I wasn’t nearly living life on my own terms.
Right about now, the critics in my head are saying “Be proud that you’re Asian and you are able to provide for your family. You are living the American dream!!!"
The critics are right, of course. But there has to be a balance somewhere.
Ironically, I don’t balance very well as a Libra, so I went for the extreme. I left my hedge fund career a few months ago, with nary an established alternative income source nor being completely out of debt. What I do have is a bit of savings and my childhood room.
Necessary? Most definitely.
I’m not worried that I’ll never made another dollar again. Okay, maybe slightly worried. Not a day goes by without me thinking about where I’m headed to next.
For now, I’m enjoying quality time with my family in both Taiwan and the US, traveling cheaply with my
fiancé from Poland, and growing up day by day.
One thing I do know, however, is that what I had wasn’t what I wanted. Whether you call it gutsy or stupid, I had to make a change, my (Asian) American dream be damned.
And along the way, I’ll be sure to keep my camera and laptop nearby, hoping for the more-than-occasional dose of creative inspiration. In fact, it's one of the biggest reasons I started this blog.
I’ve taken the red pill, and there’s no going back.
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