“You should have been born a boy.”
I heard this countless times growing up, mostly from the women in my family. It was a shitty thing for them to say then, and it’s still a pretty shitty thing for them to say now. It seemed especially wrong when my brother was within earshot, because it implied that he should have been born a girl. But it wasn’t that at all. It was more about me.
I was a risk taker, even at a very young age. And Korean girls aren’t bred to take risks. This seemed wholly unfair to me then, and it still does now.
It’s been months since I last blogged, months since I felt safe and at peace enough to sit and write anything outside of email correspondences here and there. When life throws me curveballs I usually let them hit me and then go around picking the balls up, collecting them for future use. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since the New Year.
I thought maybe I was just going through some pre-midlife crisis. I thought maybe I just needed to suck it up and keep going. But my days were excruciatingly long, for too long, and most of my time was being sucked up by my little Korean takeaway Rice House. So in June I first started having thoughts of maybe closing up shop and doing something else. But what was that something else, exactly?
I found what I thought might be the perfect job for me, at a private school here in Ghent. I applied and made it to final round interviews, but didn’t get it. Ultimately, everything happens for a reason and this was just not the time and place for me. I was disappointed but I moved on. I applied for another job that popped up on my radar. It was filled already. Bummer.
As the weeks passed me by, I grew more physically drained and emotionally exhausted. Personal life, or lack thereof, aside, my life seemed to revolve around Rice House instead of the other way around. My son Noah grew taller and smarter, had more questions, needed more answers, and I desperately wished for more hours in my day to spend with him.
I had to choose: my business or my family.
I’m oversimplifying it for the purposes of this blog, but really that’s what it boiled down to. So I did some soul searching, and ran circles around my head. I cried and I cried some more. And when I couldn’t cry anymore, I sat down and asked myself these 7 questions, and in this order:
- What happened exactly that I want to do something else? A LOT.
- Do I truly want to stop what I’m doing now? Yes.
- Do I truly want to start a job hunt and work for someone else 9-to-5? Maybe. Maybe not.
- What do I truly want to do? Write.
- Where do I want to do it? At home.
- Am I good enough at it to make an actual living off of it? I don’t know, but I’ve been paid to do it before.
- Do I believe in myself despite all odds? Yes.
The next week, last Wednesday to be exact, I announced that I’d be closing Rice House on September 24th. It sent a ripple into my community in Evergem, and surprised most people who follow me on social media. Only a handful of people weren’t surprised because I’d kept my cards very close to my chest, sharing with only those closest to me.
The photo I used is an old one, from a 2015 Libelle Magazine article printed about me and my family, and Rice House.
As of last Wednesday, I have listed Rice House up for sale online. I have returned to school in the evenings, to improve my Dutch even further, should I ultimately decide to seek employment here at a Belgian firm. I registered myself on some freelance writing platforms and have snagged three writing projects to date. I’m in the process of winding down my small business, all the while telling myself to breathe, drink more water, sleep, and cry if and when I need to. They’re not necessarily sad tears because I’m very excited about this next phase in my life.
Rice House has been good to me and for me in so many ways, since it opened its doors in 2014. Moving here in 2011 was still one of the best decisions I made in my life, but it was not easy always being the outsider trying to make her way into society. There will be clients, my employees and things I may miss once I close the doors to Rice House, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right where I am.
But public reaction has been varied. Some are happy for me. Some think I’m crazy. I’d recommend to the people who think I’m crazy: Ask yourself those 7 questions above. And then come talk to me again.
Noah is happy if I’m happy, and I am happy. That’s all that matters. And maybe I should have been born a boy, but I love very much being a Korean girl who takes risks to achieve happiness. This will never change.
So I look forward to getting back to writing, and being able to grow my nails and paint them pretty colors again now that I don’t have to worry about passing food safety inspections, and not smelling like fried dumplings at the end of every night, and chaperoning Noah’s school trips from time to time…and spending time here with you all.