Personal

Finding My Inner Goddess

Each and every one of us has a positive energy, a flame inside of us that exudes the greatness within us. It’s part of our beauty, our mind, and our soul that makes each one of us unique. It inspires and pushes us to go beyond our limits to follow our dreams and our passions. It’s our own magical power. The spark that ignites a flame in all of us is our “inner goddess”.

When the spark is lost

We all have this goddess inside of us, hence my alter ego Exchange Goddess. Some are stronger than others, but it’s still there. Our inner goddess helps us fights those battles that we have in our daily lives. Sometimes the battles defeat our goddess, and we give up. There are times when the fighting becomes too much, and we don’t realize that we have lost her. That was the case for me.

I have spoken openly about my struggles with sexism in IT. It is sometimes called unconscious bias or diversity issues, but simply put it is a form of discrimination. For many women in IT this can be a challenging experience, a daily battle that is fought, and I was no different. This type of negative energy can defeat a goddess. It took a friend asking me a question while discussing sexism in IT for me to realize that my inner goddess was lost.

Will you ever be happy in this field? Maybe this is the wrong field for you?

WHAT?! Why was this man asking me this question? I love my work. I love technology. Could this man not see my passion? How dare he ask me this question just because I am complaining about sexism in my field? I was angry. Was this man so naïve living his privileged life, never having to experience any struggles of his own, that he just did not understand?

After dwelling on this question for a few days, I came up with two reasons why he must have asked this question. It was because of who I had become and possibly his own passive ignorance. He was not seeing my passion or my love for technology. That spark, the positive energy inside me, was not burning. He was not seeing my inner goddess because she was no longer there. I had lost her. Misplaced or perhaps lost in my shoe closet. Wherever she was, she was no longer visible or as bright as before.

He saw frustration, anger, and disappointment, but I do not think he quite understood where it all was coming from. I am sure he understood what sexism, gender bias, and unconscious bias are; we have all gone through those HR sensitivity courses, nodding our heads and thinking, “It’s wrong and should not happen.” However, if someone has not experienced this struggle for him or herself or has not had someone close to them go through the experience, it really is hard to truly understand what it means and feels to be discriminated against.

The Journey…

I had to rediscover my inner goddess. Everybody has a different journey. We all have different struggles and a different path to follow on that journey. In my case, I needed to let go of the anger and pain that I had been feeling about how I had been treated. The people close to me know that the last few years have been tough, especially within the last year. I had so much built up anger that I let it consume me. Anger is like a poison that can eat away you and it was starting to do that to me. I was so afraid of forgetting what I had gone through that I kept holding onto the anger. I did not want to forget it. I did not want to repeat it.

But letting go does not mean forgetting. Letting go allows you to move on and find peace within yourself. This allowed me to accept that I could not change what was in the past but I could change my future.

Using Bad for Good

I know that I was not alone and others must have gone through something similar. What about the future for my daughter? Will she have the same struggles when she enters the workforce? I had so much anger that I needed to channel that negative energy into something positive. I wanted to make a difference and perhaps bring about change.

Using that negative energy to create something positive brought about the Current Status, a weekly podcast/webcast that I co-host with two other women, Theresa Miller (@24x7itconnection) and Melissa Palmer (@vmiss33). It’s a show we do live on air with video using Google Hangouts where we discuss technology with various guests in a relaxed setting. There’s even wine on the show. When I had come up with the idea it was to show the world that we, us women, know and can speak technology. We are more than the token female IT person on the team. We are technical people that just happen to be women. We are smart, beautiful, fun, and we are IT professionals. Current Status has become more than what my cohosts or I had ever anticipated. The show is really taking off and gaining traction within the IT community. It is amazing how much support we receive, and we appreciate every bit of it. To read more about our show check out our Current Status page or head over to our YouTube Channel to replay past shows.

That’s what Goddesses do

Beyond the success of the show, the most amazing thing about what has happened is the bond that has formed with my cohosts. I have found my sisters, the “others” that have gone through similar experiences as myself. I have found other goddesses.

If you have the seen the show, you will notice that we have such a great dynamic with each on air and it really is like that off the air too. We are there for each when someone has a bad day at work or when there’s a promotion. It’s just not all business because when I have a bad hair day, I know I can send a group text to them. When I see some really great shoes on sale, and I cannot decide which one to get, they will be there encouraging me all the way. That’s what goddesses do; we support one another through bad and good.

She’s Back…

For my friend who asked me that “awful” question, I have your answer; I am following my passion for technology and yes I am happy. But most of all thank you.

It has been an interesting journey to say the least, but I have found my inner goddess again. That spark that was once burning so bright, that could be felt across the room, is back. It is much stronger and wiser now. She’s back and she’s ready to take on the world. This time she’s brought allies.

 

Advertisements

Don’t Forget What’s Really Important in Life

Thanksgiving Day starts the holiday season with food, parties, family, and fun. This is also the time to reflect  on what’s really important in life. The world we live in today is driven by material things and we sometimes forget what’s real and meaningful to us.

I am just as guilty as everybody else when it comes to “things”; I love gadgets and shiny new toys just as much as the next person. I’ve done the Black Friday shopping, waited in line at Best Buy in the freezing cold for a really good deal, then racing to another store to do the same thing. It’s what we do on Black Friday right?

When I go through these moments of over indulgence in materialistic things I’m reminded of a story I was told when I was 19 years old. A story that puts life into perspective, reminds me what’s really important and drives home the need to be thankful for everything I have.

The story takes place in December 1978 in Laos; 3 years following the Communist Pathet Lao took over the country in 1975. A young father, in his early 30’s left his wife and their 2 young children, a boy 4 yrs and girl 20 months, seeking a better opportunity for his family. This man, a former Lao Army solider, had seen what horror the communist can do to the people of its country. He’d witnessed beheadings of fellow soldiers and innocent civilians. He knew what the communist were capable of doing and did not want his family to be a victim of any of their doings.

It has been several weeks since he left the village; his wife has started to lose hope since there has been no word where he was or if he was still alive. Just as she was coming to the reality that he may never return to her and their family the young father returns home on a December day. His return was short; he told his wife that he’d found a way for them to escape the communist country but in order to do so they had to leave immediately. The young wife’s younger brother, a teenager, was home at the time and begged to come and the family, knowing this was his only hope agreed to bring him along.  Her other siblings she had to leave behind as they were not at home. The young family grabbed basic essentials, with the clothes on their back said their goodbyes to her mother and secretly left the village by foot. Before leaving the village the young father instructed the remaining family members to hide or bury all their belongings. For the family feared the communists would hunt for them they were to be treated like they never existed.

The escape plan was to meet up with other people that were escaping Laos, at a rendezvous point a few miles outside of the village. With his 4 yr old son strapped to his back, daughter swaddled by his wife and teenage brother in tow they made the hike into the unknown jungle towards the rendezvous point. When they met up with the group they realized they were the only family with small children, this was not received well by some. They feared the family would slow them down and get them killed. The leader of the group allowed the family to continue the journey.

The journey to freedom from the communist was 41km (25 Miles) through the jungles of Laos by foot to the Mekong River. This is where they would escape to neighboring country of Thailand and seek refuge at a camp. For fear of being seen by communist soldiers and being killed the group only walked when the sun was down and stayed hidden within the foliage of the jungle during the day.  This was about a day and half hike on foot but when carrying small children it was even more grueling.

The young children not understanding what was going on around them continued to play, laugh and giggle in jungle not knowing how much danger they were in. If they were caught by communist soldiers it would be an immediate beheading, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, everybody would be killed on the spot.

The refugees came very close to being discovered at one point when they were nearing a highway;  trucks filled with communist soldiers were passing by. Since the sun was still out and as the foliage was light, hiding was very difficult. The leader of the group instructed everyone to lie down on the ground and be very still. This was a problem for the young family, as the 4 yr old son was still strapped on his father’s back and the daughter was strapped to mother’s hip. There was nothing they could do, the father laid down on the ground with his son on his back, the mother did the same, while she smushed her daughter’s face onto the ground so she would not make noise. They were on the ground for several minutes before all the trucks and people had passed them. Narrowly evading the communists, they breathed a sigh of relief and continued on their journey to the Mekong River.

Once they reached the Mekong River it was not completely safe there. The communists knew people were escaping Laos so as a deterrent they planted mines on the shore of the river. Before approaching the river the leader of the group used his flashlight to signal to the people helping from the Thai side of the Mekong River. Once the all the clear signal was received, a small boat was sent from the Thai side to pick up the group and bring them to Thailand. Before the boat made it to shore, someone used their paddle to scan for any mines, when it was cleared they shored up. The man on the boat quickly said he could only take a few at time but would return for the others. He pointed to the young family and said they were would be the first to go. Not hesitating the young family quickly jumped in the boat and started their way to freedom.

The boat ride to Thailand is a big milestone as many have been caught at the river and killed. Making it across the river gave the family hope. They knew they weren’t completely out of woods yet as they still had to travel to the refugee camp. They were told that once refugees make it to the camp they will first be imprisoned by the Thai government before being allowed in the refugee camp. When they finally reached the refugee camp fence they found it was closed for the holidays. Who knew they were shutting for Christmas and New Year’s? The family along with about 10 other people sought shelter in a small hut in a neighboring rice patty field. They would stay at the hut for a week before the refugee camp fences were re-opened.

When the refugee camp finally opened the family went there ready to be sent to prison first but to their surprise the police officer of the camp did not imprison the family. Instead he allowed them in the camp freely and imprisoned the others. The young family did not question the police officer and carried on into the camp as he instructed them to do. The family registered at the camp as refugees hoping that this would bring them freedom in another country.

The Thai refugee camp would be home for the family for 1 year. During the course of the year, some friends, cousins, uncles, aunts, and other relatives of the young family would later join them in camp. They all traveled through the dangerous Lao jungle in search of a better life. Conditions in the camp were horrible; people lived in poverty and were given small rations of rice daily. The family made do with what they had; the wife had a small garden for food and the young father and his cousin (who also had a family with 2 small children) built a hut house which the 2 young families would share while living in refugee camp.

The family was very lucky that they only had to stay in the camp for 1 year. There are others that have lived up to 5 -6 years in the refugee camp. On January 9th 1980, about a year from when they first made it into the camp, the family was granted refugee status and being sent to the US to start a new life. The family arrived in the US on January 18th, 1980 with no money in their pockets, did not speak English, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, but a lifetime of dreams ahead of them.

The everyday hustle and bustle of life I go through is nothing like what this family had to endure. I am sure there are countless stories like this family that could be shared that would make any of us think twice about our problems and be thankful for what we have because others are not as fortunate. The fights over cheap TV’s during Black Friday at Walmart is just so irrelevant when there are people even still today that suffer in refugee camps in parts of the world.

Whenever I think about this story it makes think about what’s really important in life how thankful I am to be where I am today.  I am so thankful to have such a brave father and mother. They were so courageous for escaping our country; knowing if caught they would be killed and going into the unknown to seek a better life for us.

When I ask my father what made him want to leave and go into the jungle not knowing if we were going to make it or not, he responded “ I saw what the communist did to our people, I know what they are capable of doing and didn’t want that for us. I knew very little of what was out there but I knew it was better than what was coming if we stayed.”

What are you thankful for this year?

thankful

*These are the only baby photos the 2 young children have