Daily Musings 4: Being Adopted

Originally this post was going to be about family. After much consideration I decided to break it up into two parts. Here goes nothing.

June 1992

In the “small” (population 1 million) town of Fuzhou, Jiangxi China a baby was born. A month later she was dropped off at an orphanage with a piece of paper that only stated her birthday. The orphanage named her Li Fu. Or if you’re going by surname first- Fu Li. In English it has several translations but “Rich and Beautiful” stood out the most…so we’ll go with that. The orphanage was going through a mini epidemic where the babies were getting sick so they shuffled the babies out to different foster families in the town. Li spent the next year and a half with foster parents and two foster brothers. She seemed like a very happy baby.

In February of 1994 a strange family came to China and took her to her new home in the United States of America. She was scared on that airplane and didn’t let anyone sleep for the 18 hour flight home. (Please don’t bring babies on flights with you!). She thought the woman was okay but was severely disturbed by the man’s facial hair. Overtime she forgot that she was in a foreign country and quickly learned to adapt to her new life. Growing up was fun for Li. She had lots of friends and was generally very happy. It wasn’t until she turned six she noticed something was a little different between her family and some other families. She didn’t look like her family on the outside. Naturally as a curious child she asked her mom “Where do babies come from? Did I come from your tummy?” Her mother probably wasn’t ready for this question but told her the truth about coming from another family. Li was satisfied enough for now.

Being different and being adopted didn’t seem like a big deal. It was only a big deal when other kids pointed out that she looked different than the rest of her family. By answering that she was adopted resulted in “why?” That wasn’t a question that she knew how to answer. When she turned 10 she asked her mother a harder question. “Why was I adopted?” Her mother gave her another truthful answer but toned down version of what was going on in China at the time.

Let’s switch narrative gears.

If you’re not familiar with China’s population control policies let me give you a brief history lesson. It started with Mao Zedong’s crazy reign and belief that population growth would secure China’s power. The Chinese population grew by 400 million people in a span of 25 years or so. By 1970 the government asked families to start having children later in life to slow down the population growth. Despite the population rate slowing, it wasn’t enough and the government adopted the one child policy in 1980. Along with a one child policy the government set strict rules on what age a person could marry and what age they were allowed to have children.

There were some exceptions to the rule that if a family gave birth to a girl they were allowed to have a second child in hopes for a son. Sons would make money and take care of the families when they got older. If you violated the ruling then that family would be subjected to a fee based on income levels. After a family had their first child a lot of women were forced to use an IUD and then their tubes were to be tied after having their second child. In many cases babies were forcibly aborted, some were thrown into rivers or left in boxes to die. Most of these were girls.

By the late 80’s and early 90’s the government were seeing some high mortality rates amongst births. It put pressure on the government to find a solution to the problem and they opened up the opportunity for the babies to be adopted abroad. The United States was a primary customer so to speak until recently when the government found adoption trends slowing down. The one child policy was repealed and now families are allowed to have up to two children as a result of a disproportional male to female ratio.

This was the country that I was born into.

I’ve been asked countless times if I want to go back to China and find my real birth parents. My answer is no. My REAL parents are the ones who brought me to the United States. They are the ones who fed me, raised me, and provided for me. The only connection I might want to explore from China would be to find my foster family. Growing up my two families kept in touch for a few years. We would exchange letters back and forth.  Some of them came with photos with me and my two foster brothers. I hope I can find them again someday. My biological parents might be dead for all I know. I don’t know if they left me because they needed a son instead or with the intention that I would hopefully have a better life.

I think being adopted gave me a unique perspective on life. I grew up in a multi-racial household. In fact it’s hard for me to understand the concept of “race” because growing up I was surrounded with people who looked different than me. That is not meant to be offensive. I am the true experiment of nature vs nurture. I think nurture wins. I think it has given me a natural curiosity to explore things that are different than me. I don’t want to come off as self-righteous. I took a class in college that pointed out generally the term “adoption” is met with a melancholy connotation. I want to show that being adopted isn’t a sad thing. Being adopted is one of the best things that could have happened to me. I used to think by being a girl it meant the bitter end of the lollipop. Because of my gender I was given the chance for a better life and bigger opportunities.

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Daily Musings 3: Why I Became a Personal Trainer

To get to know me better, I am going to share how I came to be a personal trainer. I figure this will be a good place to start since the past two posts have talked about me exploring career paths.

I went into college thinking I’d becoming a psychologist. Like many other psychology majors, I wanted to self-diagnose and interpret every Freudian or Jung theory screaming, “Oh my god! That totally describes me!” Not too soon after I found out psychology at the undergraduate level was boring and I wasn’t going to finish school if I kept having to learn about theories that all sounded the same. I moved on to biology. I knew I liked how the human body worked but I didn’t enjoy zoology or botany. Plants and animals hardly interest me at a scientific level except in the kitchen when you realize that room temperature and humidity have effects on dough rising. Back to the drawing board. In hindsight I might have chosen a professional degree but instead I chose Exercise Science.

In high school I discovered running made me feel better. It was the most freeing feeling in the world. During my second half marathon, I blew out my right hip flexor and probably gave myself a stress fracture on my left ankle due to improper training. Okay let’s be honest, lack of training. I guess you’re not indestructible at 19 afterall. After that I took a Bootcamp class that was taught by the lovely Miss. Trish. She had a commanding presence and strength about her that I found intimidating but alluring. I wanted to be strong like her too.

Once Bootcamp ended, I entered my first CrossFit gym. I took classes there for a month and loved every minute of it. But my broke ass college student pocket book couldn’t afford $130 a month for a gym membership. I took a break and went back to running for 9 months. Running became frustrating because my rip hip still hadn’t full recovered. I had a fairly steady income after getting a job at a medical clinic and decided to give CrossFit another shot. I would be addicted to CrossFit for three years after.

I joked around with my friends and co-workers that work was my husband and CrossFit was my boyfriend. It gave me a sense of purpose, community, and self-love. Prior to CrossFit my self-esteem was subpar. I’m not a small Asian girl and for a long time that bothered me. I compared to my other Asian friends and didn’t understand why I couldn’t be a size 0 or 2. I did everything to be small and squeeze into my size 4 pants. For a few years I went as far as throwing up after my meals. I don’t do that anymore. If you know me now- you know how much I love to eat. These days I have to remind myself about portion control. Sad panda!

I was never into sports growing up. I played a little soccer when I was 9, some tennis and dabbled in martial arts during middle school. CrossFit was the right type of sport for me. It was a sport that was individualized to my abilities, a sport where I easily got stronger and be competitive. My body was made for the sport of fitness. Minus gymnastics- damn you muscle ups! Over three years of consistent work and a few competitions I felt the side effects rolling in. I’m not talking about ripped hands or the occasionally missed box jump. I’m talking about strained Achilles, nerve pain down my left leg and my shoulders protesting overhead movements.

I had a coach and good friend help me out with mobility movements and accessory work to keep me strong and functional. We were pretty crazy despite performing corrective work. It was three workouts a day back to back. At the time I think it was a good distraction to put all my energy in while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. I was working in healthcare during the multiple work outs a day time and wanted to move on. That year I got my CrossFit level 1 certification. I ended up coaching a few CrossFit Foundation classes at that gym. I had a lot to learn.

Timing is a funny thing. Time is your best friend because it’s always the right time. No matter what you end up deciding, it’s going to be the right decision at the end of the day even if you don’t realize it at first. One of my closest friends and someone whom I consider to be a sister told me that her gym was hiring new trainers. I figured I might have a shot because of my degree and my obsessive nature. I got the job and started learning a whole new side of fitness.

The transition from working out with people who like the feeling of uncomfortable death to normal human beings that just want to get fit was challenging. The concept of it was hard to grasp. I learned a whole new side to corrective exercise and pain management. I use some of these methods on a regular basis and I have noticed my body becoming more physically stable. It’s been a lingering thought to be able to combine a CrossFit type concept with the corrective work as a baseline for the general population.

I thoroughly enjoy personal training and I get to have a lot of fun with it. It’s a job that I get to be creative and help people at the same time. I want everyone to feel strong and self- love. I want people to be able to function in their later years in life. It’s gratifying when a client of yours comes to you hunched over with a bulging disk and a year later is doing hand stand push-ups. The human body is capable of amazing things and a lot of it has to do with your mental game. Your body does what your mind tells it to. When you put a restriction on yourself such as “I can never do a pull up” I can guarantee you- you won’t do one because you’re basically saying it’s not worth even trying. It’s not a secret that most women have to work harder for upper body strength but I could say the same for men in proportion to lower body strength.

I became a personal trainer for people to realize that they can do anything they put their mind to. As humans we were meant to move and stretch. Our bodies are equipped to walk, run, twist, jump, lunge, and lift heavy shit when we absolutely have to. There are always going to be modifications if you have a physical limitation but I promise you there is a way. It all comes back to the mind. Mental toughness is something fitness has taught me. It is something that I will always strive to work on.

Daily Musing 2: Frustration

During my freshman and sophomore  years of college I had a friend, and let’s just call him J for anonymity’s sake, tell me that I was very neurotic. (The general definition of neurotic: abnormally sensitive, obsession, tense and anxious) Low and behold I become obsessive with that term for the years to come. However the problem is when I was younger I used to think that I was the only one suffering from being neurotic. I thought I was the only one going through all the crazy self-sabotaging doubt in your head. Now, I can say with certainty- I am still neurotic and so is most of the population at one point or the other. The difference between now and then is how I handle my neurotic behavior.

Throughout high school and college I would let my emotions take over and my grades certainly suffered because of it. I enjoyed working more and exercise because those were mindless tasks that allowed me to focus in the present. I could never sit still. I would call, text or IM friends until I got sick of listening to myself. I give my friends the credit for always being there and helping me realize that the things I was feeling were absolutely normal. I just happened to be much more vocal about them.

Nowadays- I still get like that from time to time when things are bothering me. If you reference to my previous post, I am currently going through the “what now?” shock of “Wow you’re not going to be super successful straight out of college. Sorry boo.” The past two months in particular have been difficult. Thank you boyfriend, friends and family again for being patient with my existential crisis. I will say that I have been better about being self-aware when these things are happening and the behaviors that I exude. I also try to process them in a healthier fashion by accepting that I am not in control of everything and this is a normal spot to be in. The hardest is part is knowing that anyone else in this position would surely feel the same.  I wouldn’t expect anyone else to feel normal during this time, so why should I?

My mental health mission is to find Zen. I have been trying to practice meditation for 10 minutes a day. It is the longest 10 minutes of my life. It takes about five to even think about sitting still and even when I start counting breaths- my mind is multi-tasking and trying to solve another problem. It’s only been about a week and a half. I’ve got the rest of my life to get better. In the mission to understand what Zoe Zen is I have started reading a book by Alan Watts called the “The Way of Zen”. This book introduces the origins of Zen and also gives tips on how to practice Zen. I enjoy learning how Buddhism isn’t a religion, but a way of life and is more Chinese than Indian.

One of my greatest strengths and weakness is want to know the ‘why’ in relation to human behavior. Humans are amazing creatures. We are so intelligent and have a lot of potential yet dumb as bricks. For example- let’s just build weapons that cause radiation poisoning because that seems like a great idea. Or electing a president whose vocabulary is limited to “great”. Those are other topics. My point is wanting to know the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for humans results in frustration. Frustration can be defined as feeling dissatisfied with an outcome and the inability to let go. For example as a personal trainer I have many clients that get frustrated with their goals not being met. Below is a sample dialogue

Me: “Why do you think you are not meeting your goals?”

Client: “I don’t know I have been really trying but nothing is working.”

Me: “What things are you trying?”

Client:  “Coming here and working with you is one. I have been trying to drink more water and drink less alcohol but it’s really hard when all of my friends want to go out. And then once we drink we eat more.”

Me: “I can understand your frustration. One thing you could try is stopping at a drink or two and communicate to your friends that you are working on making yourself feel better”.

Client: “I know but it’s just so hard”.

As someone who genuinely wants to help people reach their goals and make them feel better, these answers are very frustrating to me. Understandably my client is also frustrated. I know change is hard because we all WANT to change something or the other but are we willing to do what it takes? Obviously this is a made up and shortened conversation but it goes back to me wanting to know ‘why’. It’s rewarding to learn things about people and what motivates them but it’s also hard because I can take it personally when someone doesn’t listen to my advice. They might even quit training. But I cannot let their actions take over my mission to find “Zen” so to speak.

I don’t know if finding “Nirvana” is appealing to me. But learning about “Zen” and the concept itself helps me find better behaviors when I am feeling frustrated. Arguably, in the journey of finding “Nirvana” you would not actively be trying to find “Nirvana”. Trippy. Yes…I just wrote trippy.

WARNING: CHEESY ALERT!!

The last bit I want to add is that you’re not alone. I know that probably seems out of left field but I just read a heartbreaking post on Facebook (Oh social media- yet another rant later one) by one of my oldest and dearest friends in her journey during the “What now?” phase. It saddened me that the things she was feeling and contemplating – she felt she needed to deal with those feelings alone. We’ve all been there. Even I need a gentle reminder that it’s okay to accept help. I am really blessed that to have such a wonderful and strong support system. In reality I feel like the things I worry about these days compared to a couple of years ago are trivial. But no matter who you are or what point in life you’re at please try to realize other people are going through it to and the best way to make it through these times is together.

Daily Musings 1: What do I do for the rest of my life?!

I always wanted to be writer. In fact, at the age of 14 I wrote my first hundred page novel. It was about a girl named Izza and her internal conflict on wanting to be a boy. Basically, it was about me when I thought being a boy would be easier. (But that’s another topic) Now at 25 I haven’t written a single creative article since college. I’m pretty sure the endless lab reports zapped the abstract creativity out of me. One thing science did give me though was the ability to process things using the mind and heart. It’s been two years since I graduated college and thus have inherited the classic “what now?” mindset. I left college thinking I’d make it into healthcare administration and quickly learned that healthcare was filled with a bunch of high strung, stressful, gossipy women. Sorry but not sorry if that offends you. These days I’m a personal trainer. For the most part I really love personal training. I get to wear tights to work every day, kick people’s butts, and develop rewarding relationships with my clients. However my schedule being dictated by early morning pre-work workouts, late evening after work workouts, middle day gaps and not to mention the unsteady paycheck leave me wanting something a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that any industry that one goes in has grunt work and you have to trudge through some mud to get where you want to be.

The hardest part about trying something new is taking the first step. For example, my first step is writing and posting this for the public to read. The little voice inside my head is whispering at me, “Zoe- it’s not like this is an original idea. No one cares about your comments.” But that is just me being afraid and there’s no point in living in fear. Maybe no one will read this post. Maybe people will think it’s stupid or brave. A friend told me once that he could tell I always have something to say. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter because I am writing and sharing this for no one else other than myself.

Last month my dad told me he was retiring at the end of August which set me into an interpersonal panic. I am thrilled he is finally leaving a job where he’s been unhappy for as long as I can remember. I admire his dedication to work through the mud and do what he felt he needed to do to support his family. However what this means for me is absorbing some costs that I didn’t need to before- namely health insurance. (Health insurance rant coming to you soon). Personal training does not provide insurance benefits. As someone who is still relatively green to the industry I haven’t built up a steady client base to make enough to cover those costs while feeling financially stable. In all honesty- some of that is my fault. I could be doing more calls and outreach to get more clients. Maybe I need to do more research or earn more credentials to help further my value in my clients’ eyes. I also know that it takes time and like with anything else- you get what you put in.

This panic has lead me to question what I am doing and if it’s what I want to do long term. Can I handle my schedule being dictated around everyone else’s’? Can I accept the unsteady paycheck? Is fitness supposed to be a hobby or a profession? Intuitively I know that everything will work out and the answers will come on their own when the time is right. Go youthful impatience. In the meantime, while trying to let things happen, I am focusing on doing things that make me happy. I am trying to up my EQ. Hopefully I’m not driving my boyfriend, friends and family bonkers with my constant banter of, “what if what if what if?!?!?!” Luckily they are all amazing and incredibly supportive.  In the famous words of Dori “Just keep swimming”. So, here we are. Day 1 of being a writer in the books. Thanks for tuning in.