Building Confidence in Networking (Again)

The start of #HashtagHustler in August 2013, at SXSW V2V
The start of #HashtagHustler in August 2013, at SXSW V2V

Starting this month, I’m getting back into the networking game.

I realized last weekend (while planning out networking events to attend for this month and June), that in general, I hadn’t been as social the past couple of years. I had written about this in a previous blog post thinking that I had actually just burnt myself out in mid-2013 from committing to too many events.

I realize now that that was only part of the story.

In mid-2013, I closed down my first business, TAOpivot. During that summer, I was in flux about what my purpose in my life, my career was. Although I hit up the first annual SXSW V2V anyway, I realized that I no longer had much to talk about in terms of what I did for work. I was embarrassed.

And even though I started my second business (Ms. Kwong’s Baked Goods) shortly thereafter, I still didn’t feel like this was in alignment with what I wanted my career to look like. Don’t get me wrong: I loved baking, but it didn’t feel right for me in terms of a long-lasting career.

Therefore, I avoided social or networking events in the Denver area. I was uninterested in doing a 30-second pitch on what my business was about, because I knew I didn’t have the passion for it. So instead of fumbling along with the facade, I just opted out of attending many events. Hence, my absence in the Denver business and startup communities.

Since Hashtag Hustler has been officially established at the beginning of 2015 (I say that HH actually began in mid-2013 as well, but I didn’t have the full-fledged business concept fleshed out until this year), I have felt more encouraged to attend more events in town, to spread the word about my new, better-aligned business. Because I haven’t been so active in the business community the past two years, of course people don’t quite know me nor HH yet.

Luckily, my confidence is building back up from rock-bottom: I am ready to show Denver (and the world!) that Helene and Hashtag Hustler are ready to get back into the groove and build up business relationships again.

My Voice, My Identity.

My Ignite Denver talk from 2013: you can listen to my voice in this video and see what I’m talking about.

Tonight I went to the First Friday Art Walk on Santa Fe Drive in Denver with Ryan: it was his first time going to the art walk, despite the fact that he’s lived in Denver longer than I have. I hadn’t been back to a First Friday since mid-2012: I used to go with my friends from DU when we were still in school.

At the first studio we went to, we were greeted by the proprietor and then she immediately said to me, “My, you have a deep voice.”

Sigh. First off, how is that a way to greet patrons? She might have meant for it to be just an observation, but it offended me and got me thinking about the many other times others have said things about how “unique” my voice is.

It’s as if they can’t fathom the idea that me, a Chinese woman, would have a “deep” voice instead of…what? What kind of voice do they expect for me to have? A shrill, high-pitched voice because that’s what I’m “supposed” to have?!

I just don’t understand why people feel the need to point out this fact about me as if it’s something I can easily fix. I was born with this voice, this body type, this everything–how do you expect for me to change something that is unchangeable?

On the flip side, I have also received comments from others about how wonderfully unique my voice is: a family friend once said that I have a “radio voice” that is very soothing.

I am proud of my voice and how I speak: I would never change it for anybody else. I just wish that people would accept this fact and also keep a filter when it comes to what they say to others.

Transition Period

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Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve been working a couple gigs to make ends meet. In the past month, however, I have left those gigs due to poor treatment from employers and low pay. My next step in my career is currently undecided.

I’m one of those people who think quite a bit. I have many interests, so therefore I have many career paths to choose from. This is both exciting and frightening to me.

While all of this is happening in my work life, I have also been slowly packing up my apartment to move soon to my next apartment. I have lived in this apartment for two years now, and it feels right to be moving on from this point.

It’s like all of this timed out perfectly to tell me It is time to move on to the next chapter. New beginnings, new paths.

Sometimes we just stick with the status quo and just watch life pass on by us. Every once in awhile, a swift change kicks us back into gear to take action on new adventures. I feel that we need this to make life enriching.

Now, I am not leaving Denver/Colorado anytime soon. A new home (where the rent is much more affordable) will make a difference, though.

In terms of my career, you may be noticing a few changes around here in the next several months. As I am currently in the midst of packing up and moving in to the new place next weekend, the posting schedule may be off. But I promise you I will resume my #supportlocal posts! There are so many great Denver businesses to highlight.

In the meantime: be well!

Getting Held Back in Sports

I have failed a class before.

This happened when I was 7/8? years old; one of my sisters, my younger brother, and I were enrolled into summer swimming classes at our hometown private pool. I could not perform the strokes and exercises well enough; so, while my brother and sister advanced to the next level, I was held back to try the same level again.

Embarrassed, I reluctantly did the class again and still fared only mediocrely compared to my new classmates. I walked away from swimming that summer feeling like I was stupid for not knowing how to swim properly.

This year, I experienced a similar experience: my family and I went up to Beaver Creek for the Easter holiday. Most of us enrolled into ski school to learn a few things about this winter sport (none of us had really skied much, except for the Montana family). I was ambitious and registered for the whole weekend so I could get as much out of the experience as possible. Plus, I live in Colorado: shouldn’t I be required to know how to ski?

My first day of the class, we were only about 30 minutes into the class and I already felt my insecurities and embarrassment arise as I watched myself fall behind my fellow classmates. My knees locked up as I attempted to maintain balance on my skis; the instructor was patient with me at first, guiding me along while we were still in the practice area.

Then, we went up the gondola so we could practice on more realistic turf with kid skiers and other beginners. I saw my niece and nephew getting the hang of skiing in their little class; meanwhile, I was struggling still to keep up with my classmates. Finally, one of the ski supervisors came up to me and told me how my class instructor decided I needed to have special individual instruction due to my slowness holding back the class.

Again, I felt embarrassed and down on myself. How come I cannot get the hang of this like everyone else? After awhile, though, the supervisor changed my mind and made me practice up and down the conveyor belt area, all the while encouraging me, giving me high-fives when I accomplished successful form and technique.

I ended up skipping out on the ski class for the rest of the weekend, opting instead to have my oldest sister guide me in my skiing form on the last day.

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I talk about these two instances because I want to point out how I freeze up with insecurity when it comes to sports, classes, etc. Perhaps growing up chubby made me feel that I was not capable of doing well in sports like all the ‘normal-sized’ kids out there. I always placed last in the mile run during Presidential Fitness Tests in elementary school; to this day I refuse to play volleyball because I am reminded of how terrible I was in middle school PE classes, serving the ball off to the left and never over the net.

Do I think something is wrong with me? No. Do I think the school system, our society, causes for kids to feel upset/discouraged/embarrassed too easily when it comes to things they are not great at? I’m not completely sure. In this day and age, we are so quick to blame society on problems in the world; but is it fair for me to use society to blame for my insecure feeling when trying sports out? My ski-school experience was definitely an experience, and I kept reminding myself during the first day that my assumptions of my classmates thinking I’m “slow, fat, out of shape” were probably wrong. We’re adults now, right? We can’t be thinking about “Oh, that person is so slow with this sport”, right?

To this day, I can’t help but wonder if, when I do do well with something athletic, if others are cheering me on genuinely or if they’re just cheering me on in a condescending fashion because they’re thinking, “Ha, this overweight girl *actually* did something right?” Maybe I need to examine my own thoughts before I go and make these assumptions again. How do I shake the feelings from childhood though?

My Lack of Cycling: An Outlier?

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Today was Bike to Work Day; needless to say, I did not partake in it because I still have a fear of being out on the road alone like that. I kept thinking today, “If I had a helmet, I’d consider it.” But alas, I do not have one yet.

In recent years, the cyclist culture has taken off: I remember while living in San Francisco, I observed Critical Mass, watching the swarms of cyclists go down Stockton Street by Union Square. Since moving to Denver, I’ve come to know the Denver Cruisers, B-cycle, etc. More and more people are commuting by bikes these days.

I want to ride a bike again; I did a lot of circling around the front yard when I was a kid. I remember the excitement I felt when I transitioned from tricycle to bicycle. I’d show off some moves to my mom and my little brother; once, I leaned over too far and fell over, skinned my knees. Oops.

Perhaps many of you know about my accident in 2010; major head injury and trauma. Since the accident, I have been super cautious about where I’m walking and making eye contact with the drivers when crossing ths street.

When I see cyclists zooming by cars on a red light, or cyclists drinking and messing around with public transit, I become very anxious (and angry). I fear I will see an accident happen before my eyes; I feel angry that the cyclists would be so bold to risk death for a good time, playing chicken with a heavy car or bus.

I know I should not be so fearful for others and for my own venture out with a bike again. But when you almost lose your life once, you want to preserve the second chance you got at life.

And that’s why I’d rather walk or take public transit. Cycling appears too dangerous for my psyche still.