Jen YihComment

About Me: The Real Story

Jen YihComment
About Me: The Real Story

If you've been paying attention to my personal social media, blog posts, etc. you've noticed that I've been rampaging around the world this year and I seem to be on the moon with happiness, gratitude, and it just all looks like stars and butterflies, doesn't it? 

Here's the real story. Here's the real me.

I came from a small town in the Midwest that no one outside of Chicago probably knows about. I used to be embarrassed when I told people on the West Coast where I was from but now, more than ever, do I appreciate my Midwest roots. As an 8-year-old I had two dreams: to become a writer and to travel to Paris and sip coffee in a French cafe (I didn't even drink coffee at the time). But I was always acting older than my age. At 15-years-old I was given the opportunity to go to Paris and dance at the American Ballet Academy, can you believe it? So I did, and I danced and I sipped a milky coffee at the Cafe de Paris just behind Notre Dame. This changed everything...I thought maybe, just maybe this is how life works. Cliche as all hell, but if you can dream it, you can do it. 

I went to Brazil at 17-years-old. I was supposed to go to school, but I didn't really. I traveled around with my extended Brazilian family and friends to Sao Paulo, Presidente Prudente, and finally landed at my tio and tia's beach bungalow in Ubatuba, Brazil. It was there I slept in a little hammock, swam, learned to surf, and was without the internet, a cell phone, or television - just me, my 60-something-year old aunt and uncle, and the neighbors with the clay tennis courts who were well into their 70's. I realized I liked hanging out with older, wiser people and the slow, simple, quiet life. But the Brazilian beach days came to an end. It was May of my last year of High School and my mom was e-mailing telling me I had to commit to a university. How could I think about going to college while I was beach side in Brazil? If I had it my way, I never would've left. 

But I went on to busy, bustling, cold, and windy Chicago with aspirations to become a writer. The first class they had me take in my journalism course was "Persuasion" - I sat there in my first lecture thinking - what the hell? I don't want to write to persuade people of anything. I don't want to write to sell... I just want to cut my heart open and bleed all of my emotions onto a piece of paper & hopefully somewhere, someone is going to connect deeply with it. But we live in a pretty utilitarian country where everything we learn has to be "applied" - information is far different than knowledge. So, next I took a course in Political Philosophy - we read Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, all the great minds... the people who made me THINK, my mind twist and bend in all sorts of ways. It was easy, I declared my major to study Political Science with an emphasis in philosophy (aka in Greek philo means love, sophia means wisdom, aka the love of wisdom)

I did all the "right" things, you know? Figured I'd go to law school, got an internship at a publishing company, was hired to write my first novel (one I wasn't too proud of). The Brazilian beaches haunted my dreams, I missed it so much & I hated Chicago. So, I transferred to the University of Wisconsin Madison, whose Political Science department was ranked 11th in the nation. Schooling was also a fraction of the cost & a major financial relief on myself & my family vs. private school. I studied abroad in Italy, thank god, my saving grace. Finally, I was with people who were mixed race like me with immigrant parents, who spoke multiple languages, and felt like the odd one's out. These people became my friends for life and still are. So...Rome was the European version of myself. I studied art and literature and drank too much wine during the day. I'd end up at my 3-hour figure drawing class, drawing naked people with my headphones in buzzed from my 2PM aperitivo session. It was a good life. 

Graduation was a blur, I just wanted to get out of school and go see the world. I moved to Hawaii. I lost my mind there. I wanted to be a writer still but felt like I should've been going to graduate school to do something practical like law school. My first job ever was writing content for a luxury real estate company but I was fired quickly. Deflated. Defeated. Depressed in the beautiful Hawaii. So lost and confused, curious about how the world worked & if "following your dreams" was something that could really be achieved. Then, I worked for an artist. This alone showed me that there are creative people out there that are hugely successful. I didn't lose hope, but I did have a break-up & booked a one-way flight off the island. 

I landed in Portland, Oregon to work as a producer and creative manager for the next 3 years. Working alongside great directors, graphic designers, product designers, animators, photographers, filmers, and more. With great companies like Nike. But at the end of the day, I was still selling something - just like they were trying to teach me to do in Persuasion 101.  I realized I didn't want to sell things, I wanted to sell ideas, beliefs, and provoke thought & inspiration. 

So, I came back to writing. I made this blog. I booked tickets around the world. I started writing two books. I found an agent. I was hired as a travel writer. And here I sit in Russian Hill, San Francisco trying to stay true to those ideals & my stubborn beliefs...while trying to find a balance between enjoying the world and trying to change the world. 

I'm not going to tell you the details quite yet of what I'd like to publish in the next year or two, but I am working hard every day to make sure I don't disappoint you or myself & make something great, something true, and something pure without the ties of selling or persuading. 

If you'd genuinely like to stay tuned, subscribe to the newsletter & I'll make sure you're the first to know about when I'm ready to show my work to the world. Terrifying. 

Thank you Mark Welsh for these beautiful photos and Emily Soddenger, stylist.