I blinked, and it happened: I crossed over to another decade and am venturing into the dirty 30s.
These are the years that people say to cherish most, when you learn the most, truly become and adult and come into your own.
But what do I know about that? I've only been 30 for a short while, and I'm still filled with fear, not knowing what to expect and wishing I'd come further in my life and career.
I suppose the best I can do is to reflect on my goals and maybe give my younger self some advice.
I'd say that, for most of my life, I've been pretty lucky. I grew up in Canada, with Vietnamese immigrant parents who worked really hard to raise my brother and I well. They were strict with us, and they were overprotective. But they were very social, and that reflected in us, being raised in a martial arts school with a plethora of kids and adults to interact with.
That led to my brother and I pursuing careers in the performing arts, much to our parents' disappointment. Don't worry, they got over it. I wanted to be an actor, and after much arguing with my parents, I went to college for theater.
If I had to go through school again, I'd tell myself to actually read the coursework. I don't know how I passed — apparently I was good at making things up on tests — but I seldom finished reading any of the materials. And I regret that. I still use a lot of that knowledge, but I wish that I'd let some of those readings soak in, instead of having to reread them.
Also, looking back, I would have done better on tests. I didn't even know you could graduate "magna cum" until I was sitting in my gown, giggling at "magna cum laude" and watching my friends receive their diplomas.
I would also have spoken up more. People thought that I was shy and timid for most of my life — or the more painful description, meek — because I am petite Asian woman, and that is how we are often perceived. Little did they know, I either didn't like them, didn't think that what they had to say was pertinent or was waiting for them to finish so that we could move on.
I'm much blunter than people thought, but I feel I've missed some opportunities because I let that perception slide. It has benefited me, letting me get away with things, but overall, I wish I hadn't let them slip up.
I would have volunteered and interned more. Growing up in the suburbs with an immigrant family, I didn't know where to look for opportunities. I didn't know cool things existed, and I basically lived under a rock.
Later in my career, I wished I'd interned at Conan as a script intern or at NBC — just to learn something different. You can't do those internships when you're already immersed in your career.
A couple of years after graduating, I moved to New York City. My career was going well in Toronto, but I was still hungry to study acting and badly wanted a change of scenery.
I loved it. The city was great. It was everything that I'd wanted. But I struggled through school. Three weeks before leaving, one of my best friends committed suicide. She had been struggling with depression for the last eight months, and then it finally happened. I should have deferred my enrollment, but I wanted nothing more than to leave.
Focusing in classes was difficult. I didn't have anyone there to talk to about it. I didn't tell any of my classmates until near the end of the school year. I thought that would be the last thing any new friends would want to hear. I kept things up with a very new long-distance boyfriend, looking for support.
In retrospect, this maybe wasn't for the best. I think I kept him around as more of a crutch, and it stifled me. As for my friend — just always tell your friends how much they mean to you and how much you care.
School remained difficult. It took me over a year and a half to find my stride. And it was still a struggle to get people on board. I was only starting to develop my true taste and to tell all the naysayers where to put it.
What I learned was that, even though people are like-minded, taste is taste. Not everyone is going to like your stuff, but don't let that get to you. Keep doing it, get really good at it and don't mind them — your crowd will show up.
In the words of Wayne's World, "If you build it, they will come."
I ended up staying in New York after graduating from acting school. Purely by fluke. I booked a play with a friend and decided to stay. That boy and I broke up, and I was approved for an artist visa.