*This is a letter to my younger self. It's the first in a series of introspective letters to come from different career women, sharing their personal insights. I hope you’ll indulge me as I look back and reflect on mine.
It’s been a long journey, but a colorful and blessed one to say the least.
You are 22, and your first difficult career decision could be your most pivotal one. Mustering up the courage to admit that it’s just not working out as a Behavioral Therapist will be heartbreaking, but you must acknowledge that feeling in your gut. This intuition will become your greatest tool - listen to it and use it. And although you've prepared your entire life for this path (aspiring to be Patch Adams since you were little), don’t worry; it won't go to waste. Everything you’ve learned will be of value in the future. Just be patient.
Umma (mom) will be upset that she’ll be losing the doctor she was grooming you to be, but don’t feel guilty (seriously, don’t give into the Korean guilt). She will say “do you know how many sandwiches I had to sell to put you through college?” - and oddly enough that comment will stick with you for a long time. You’ll realize that this visual of your mother working tirelessly and sacrificing her well-being will become your #1 source of inspiration. It will be the reason you work tirelessly because you want to make her proud and you want to retire her someday. Go back to this memory whenever you’re feeling lost and it will put things in perspective.
Appa (dad) will encourage you to take risks - "you are young and so bright; don’t be afraid to try something new." This will give you the push you need so don’t hesitate when you hear it. Be bold and go for it. And when you do - you’ll set out on the path you’re destined to be on. This is not to say the new road will be paved smoothly, but you’re finally going in the right direction.
Soon enough, you’ll start working in fashion in LA and you’ll love it, but not for long. When the economy tanks, you’ll realize what a fickle industry it is and you'll start itching for 'something else'. During this time, you’ll also meet the man you’re going to marry. You won’t know it at first (you’re dating someone else), but he is the one. You’ll develop an incredible friendship full of deep conversations and poignant moments (not to mention a lot of dancing and eating ridiculous amounts of food); it’ll be so fun and unforgettable. However, God wants you to be still and listen for a moment. You’re about to embark on your greatest adventure yet. So shhhh - be quiet.
In a few months, a whirlwind of events will happen: Umma will get breast cancer and after an arduous round of treatments (including chemo), her subsequent follow-ups will show that she’s recovering positively. This will be one of the hardest times in your life, but you'll get through it (thank God for your sister and your closest friends). You’ll finally start dating Evan. Simultaneously, two random words (stemming from that quiet time) will keep popping up in your head. The words are: ‘BIG’ and ‘INFLUENTIAL'. (I know, they’re totally vague but it’ll all make sense soon). As for that 'something else' you wanted - it's a one way ticket to New York City.
When you get to New York, you'll only have a giant dream with those two words floating around. You’ll have some money you saved but that’s about it - no job lined up, not even an apartment. Don’t be afraid - this is when the adventure starts to get interesting. It’s time to be resourceful and take some risks. You’ll finally meet the ‘Unnie’ (big sis) you've always wanted but never had, SuChin Pak. You’ll learn so much from her and she’ll help you build your network in NY (she’ll also let you crash in her apartment for a month before you finally get your own). You are forever indebted to her.
About a year later you’ll reconnect with some friends from LA. One of which will be young, sweet, Michelle Phan. She’ll allude to a secret project she’s working on in NY, and an opportunity that could be for you. Intrigued by the potential of a beauty career, you’ll set out to learn everything - i.e. studying countless hours of YouTube product reviews. Michelle will embrace you like a sister and inspire you with dreams that are larger than life. She will then introduce you to two very special women: Roseanne Fama and Denee Pearson at big, shiny, L’Oreal. You'll find out what ‘Project Sister’ is all about and then quickly buckle in for the ride of a lifetime. (You’ll also marry a guy with a mohawk - surprise: it’s Evan!)
You see Linette - as long as this letter is, so will be your journey. You'll work your ass off, but love every minute of it. You’ll learn how to build an innovative and beautiful brand - em Cosmetics. You’ll constantly be empowered by the brilliant female executives around you. What you should start realizing is - one day you'll become one yourself (fingers crossed), so think of the legacy you want to build. You'll also realize what an asset your kindness can be - nuture and embrace it. And the fact that you're a 'late bloomer' - accept it because you followed your gut and it lead you to something ‘BIG'.
Be grateful, be humble, and focus on being 'INFLUENTIAL'. No matter what happens, you’re not on this journey alone anymore. You can always go home to your best friend — the incredible man with the mohawk.
With love and big hugs,