by Lynn Kim Do

Not A Dollar & Surely, Not A Dream


Long Overcoat - The Reformation // Joanne Tank - Brandy Melville // Frika Jeans - Style Mafia // Black Mules - Steve Madden (similar) // Nishi Earrings - A Peace Treaty

When I was at the height of my impressionable age—1, 2, 3 years old, a common practice at my family’s parties  was a grown up, usually my uncle, would squat down so low (so they can level out the playing field), ask me a real grown up question but in a little tiny, whiny baby voice, and, finally, gather the room to entertain my naive,  adolescent, and full-commited answer. The room would always end in a collective eruption of—“awwww, omg she is so cute! Wooody, wooo, goo goo, gaga." Yes, I was a cute and articulate baby. After that, the cutest child in the world (me) would get an affectionate yet very painful pinch in the cheek or a dollar. I was the little girl with an Asian bowl haircut running around the neighborhood with a rice bowl in one hand and ginger candy in the other. Cheek pinching came more organically to my aunts and uncles than monetary-giving. I suffered from red cheeks and I didn’t even get a dollar for it.

So, one of the most common questions that I received during this torture move disguised as love-behavior was—"What do you want to be when you grow up?" 
Ah, I hated that question. I still do. 

My cousins and I would say things we've seen on an episode of Rugrats or Hey Arnold!, like a teacher or a garbage man, or jobs we would have to spell out on our homework sheets, like D-O-C-T-O-R, or even jobs we saw around our family, like manicurists or a blackjack dealer. I believe, I said I wanted to be something along the lines of a singer or an actress. Singing was quickly ruled out because, although I was a member of a choir in middle school, I couldn't hide the fact that I was truly tone deaf. My enthusiasm did not make up for the lack of talent. So, I moved on. Acting, well, I might still have a chance there. But anyway, the point is that I had a crazy dream. This grandiose idea. Now, many of us can say that this dream was absolutely unreasonable. Like being an astronaut. Actually, I don't think I even know anyone that still wants to be an astronaut.

At the same time, I now retrospectively see that I wasn't presented a lot of options. The people I knew who held jobs around me worked within the Nail Service business. The people I knew outside of my circle were so so far away, like within a TV screen far away. I didn’t know what was attainable, but luckily, I also didn’t know what was unattainable. My mother passively supported anything I did and never discouraged anything I did. She never pushed me but she never told me I would fail, either. Except she did say that short hair would make me incredibly ugly. But, I think I changed her mind. What ever I was going to do or be was entirely up to me. My mentor calls it a “vaporware dream,” as in my dreams and my idea of the ability for it to be real came literally out of thin air.

Hence, my indecisiveness. 
And hence, my success today. 

I was never the kid that was given a dollar growing up like my other cousins nor did I receive any help outside financial help during college. On top of that, I never really had a dream. Let me rephrase, I never had a specific overarching dream. Or the typical dream that society understands it as. If you ask me the same question right here, right now, I will not be able to tell you what my dream is. Honestly, I was never even capable of creating a 5-year plan, not even a 1-year plan. I know what I want out of today, what I want out of tomorrow, and maybe even the next month. To me, in order to succeed, know what you want short-term and live each day purposeful. The long-term will come later. One of my favorite lines that embarrassingly came from a recent daily horoscope read states—“If, indeed, you set off confidently in almost any direction and keep walking purposefully ahead, you will naturally find your way to the right destination.” I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a large dream nor am I putting those who do down. I just want to tell those who are confused, who have no idea where they want to end up or what job they want to do, or even who they want to be, I want to tell them—you—that it is okay. I am with you and I am a living testament to that route.

Photos by Phillip Van Nostrand 
Written by Lynn Kim Do