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“Life is not difficult, you make it difficult.”  - Tim T.

As an immigrant, I still get asked these questions quite a bit even though I’ve officially been in Canada longer than I have in Taiwan (the country that I was originally born and raised in) -

Random person: Why did you move to Canada?

Me: To learn English.

Random person: Did you whole family come with you?

Me: No.  I came by myself.

Random person: How old were you when you moved here?

Me: 17-years-minus-one day-old.

Learning a new language, new customs, celebrating different holidays, being away from childhood/best friends and families back home, going to school in a foreign environment – not as easy as it looks.  But, it worked out for the better.  After all, I DID learn English.

After 16 months in the Canadian high school system, I went to university for Marketing – getting into an advertising agency was all I ever wanted.  The glamour of the media and the lavish lifestyle that was highly subsidized – what’s not to like for a young buck?

Did it pan out?  Nope!  How many people do you know that went to school only to graduate with a student loan that they can barely afford on top of even just their day to day expenses?  Ok, I wish I could tell you THAT was my excuse.  Like most Asian immigrant children in Canada, I was blessed with parents who really believe in the power of a university degree.  As a result, my education was fully funded by the bank of “love”.

Since working at an advertising agency didn’t work out, I was presented with an opportunity to get into the sales industry.  However, this was not an easy decision – my struggle was that the industry in general had such a bad reputation.  Fortunately, I had a mentor – from a local program call “Leaders of Tomorrow” at the Vancouver Board of Trade, who happened to be a high-level executive in the sales departments at a major telecommunication company in Canada.  He very quickly helped me understand what “be the change you want to see” could mean if we applied to it in real life.  So, I decided to embrace this ‘change’ and abandoned the career that I had planned my entire university life for.  After all, change isn’t that big of a scary idea to me at this point.

Similar to most people I’ve come to know, I worked hard.  The upside is that I got to accumulate valuable work experiences and collect new titles very quickly in the corporate world.  The downside is that I was hit with my third, albeit, minor heart attack in life.  Oh yeah, did I mention that I’d had two heart attacks by the age of 19?  I had a corrective surgery at 20 years old.  To add to the rap sheet, with my 3rd (and hopefully last) heart attack, I experienced a severe downward spiral depression.  Today, I sometimes joke that – 3 heart attacks didn’t kill me, but the depression almost did.  Coming out of depression has been both the most trying and rewarding life experiences to date for a somewhat sheltered person like me.  However, calling it a ‘blessing in disguise’ would definitely be putting it lightly.

It allowed me to REALLY examine me, and my life, and every moment leading up to my sobbing uncontrollably on my 30th birthday – which I had planned a extravagant birthday celebration with back to back cruises and theme parks with my loved ones.  Liked it or not, this was the reality.  At 30, I had hit rock bottom.  I was sad, angry, depressed, lethargic – virtually every possible word that you can find in a textbook that describes symptoms of depression, you could use on me.  It took 2 different counselors, 2 psychiatrists, and 3 psychologists to just keep me alive.

I loved the work but hated the politics.  Even then, I normalized my struggles and pain because that seemed to be the same thing that everyone in my life did.  Now, what I didn’t know back then is that we are the sum average of the 5 people we hang out with the most.  I swallowed my pride for the paycheck just so that I could, too, join my friends in misery – we all know miseries love company.  That is also why I enjoy being out on the road with like minded people these days.  It’s funny how we support each other.  When we get together, our conversations don’t revolve around how horrible we think the tax system is (which, by the way, we will show you tomorrow that it’s actually pretty good for entrepreneurs – we don’t make the rules, we just understand and follow them), the gas prices, horrible bosses and lousy co-workers, etc.  We talk about our travels – work related or not, we talk about how we creatively acquired another property or structured a new deal, we offer each other our insight and expertise to allow one another to grow.  It’s a completely different environment.  It’s definitely one of those “if I had known then what I know now” situation.

With great power came with great responsibilities – I had 4 teams to manage across 3 different time zones.  Slept with my blackberry next to my pillow.  Traveling a ton ON MY OWN TIME.  Before I knew it, I had a 3rd heart attack – albeit minor, I was no longer as young as I was when the 2nd one happened.  It put me out of work, and I had to go on a long term leave for recovery.  The cherry on top at this point is that I also got diagnosed with severe depression.  Everything just came crashing down.  This was happening around the time I was turning 30.

Now, for my 30th birthday, I had planned a very nice vacation style celebration with all my close friends.  When I left Taiwan at the age of 17, I came to Canada by myself – it was a fresh start and it was scary.  I remember crying every night while doing homework because my English was barely kindergarten and I was essentially in grade 12.  I was fortunate enough to meet friends who were also immigrants like me, except that they came to Canada at much younger ages, and they taught me how to speak, helped me with my homework, and would hang out with me.  The support I had from my friends were incredible and that’s why, to me, my close friends are like my family.  In fact, 4 years after moving from Vancouver to Edmonton, my best friend also followed suit.  The point is, I had planned a 3-week vacation to go on 2 book-end cruises and Orlando in between with about 8 of my closest friends to celebrate my turning 30.  I ended up spending my 30th birthday in bed, throwing up, popping pills and clinically depressed – thinking that the world had done me wrong.  Like a good student, I followed my doctor’s directive and never stopped seeking therapy and better physical health – through eating better and exercising.  Before I knew it, I was coming out of my depression and my physical health improved.  Obviously, it didn’t seem like it was happening all that fast as it was happening.  However, looking back now, I realized that my life, the life that I chose and created for myself, was the definition of insanity – do you know what the definition of insanity is?  I simply realized that my life wasn’t going where I wanted to go despite all the effort I had put into it.  I was going down the wrong path!