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Don't Fence Me In

· freedom,independence,choices,financial freedom,Being Yourself

I’m trying to get ready for a trip to Europe, and as I write this, it’s around the time of the Full Moon and the Fourth of July.


Usually on the 4th, which is U.S. Independence Day, I write about freedom, since it’s one of my top Core Values, and today I’m going to, as well.


While traveling makes me feel more free, today, I want to write about a slightly different kind of Independence. I want to write about Independence and freedom from other people – their opinions, their beliefs, and their hold on you.


…whether it’s independence from a parent, a partner, or a friend…


One of my favorite Cole Porter songs is “Don’t Fence Me In.” However, as a kid, growing up in Texas, boy did I feel fenced in.


I grew up in a suburb of Dallas and Ft. Worth, and being Asian wasn’t the norm.


The Church – and I capitalize it because if you grew up in the south, you know what I mean.


If you didn’t grow up in the south, “The Church” is an entity of its own.


It was most people’s social community.


It was THE WORD. Yes, the Bible’s words AND the word on how you’re supposed to behave in society and just BE.


Besides learning the Books of the Bible and memorizing new testament Bible verses, the Baptist Church we went to, told us that Halloween was the devil’s holiday, so we weren’t supposed to celebrate it. It also told us the Smurfs were evil, so we shouldn’t watch the cartoon.


However, most kids still celebrated Halloween and watched The Smurfs on Saturday mornings.


How do we learn to separate fact from fiction, or more importantly? What should we believe is THE TRUTH?


I’ve been thinking a lot about this, as I had an argument with my mom recently.


Most of the time, I would not be “airing out my dirty laundry” in public like this, as Southerners would say.


I just started to think about how many arguments people have where we each believe that we are right and the other person is wrong? That the way we feel is the truth and the only truth? And that if we feel hurt, the other person must be the perpetrator of that hurt?


I also started to think about the words Independence and Freedom.


Before the age of 12, I was always the “good girl.”


I did what I was told.


I ate what my parents ate (unlike my brother who was a picky eater, whom my parents would indulge by going through the McDonald’s Drive-Thru before we went to eat at a Chinese restaurant).


I always did my homework before anyone could tell me to do so and made straight A’s. I was Teacher’s Pet and all that stuff that made you a “good girl.”


Before I went to Junior High School, my parents moved us to the “richer” part of town. They built a custom home in a cul-de-sac a mile from the Texas Rangers baseball stadium. Our next door neighbor, at one time, was the pitcher Kevin Brown. Rafael Palmeiro lived down the street, and other players lived in the same neighborhood. I never thought we were rich, but we were comfortable.


Moving there, one of my best friends at church was extremely popular, so I joined her crowd of girls. They weren’t mean, but there was definitely pressure to fit in.


You had to wear the right sneakers, the right jeans, and date the right guys. When one of the “right guys,” a football player, who just happened to be Asian too, asked me out, I was peer pressured into “going with him.”


It was the second time I “went with” an Asian kid, just because everyone wanted me to do so. I think because of hormones and the peer pressure, I started to rebel.



I rebelled against the group, eventually having a big falling out. I rebelled against my parents. I talked back, yelled, went goth, listened to a lot of “The Cure,” “The Smiths,” “Erasure,” “Yaz,” “Depeche Mode,” got depressed quite often, felt suicidal occasionally, and definitely didn’t feel free or independent.


My parents also fought all of the time, so all I wanted to do at that age was either disappear or escape. I dreamt of the day I could go off to college, live in the Big City, and not ever come back home.


Well, that day came, and my mom came with me to New York City. The day she left me at my dorm at NYU was both the saddest day of my life and the most exciting and liberating.


We both cried.


Then, my life began. Each day, I made choices on my own. I chose when and what classes to take. I chose where I wanted to work, where I wanted to play, and whom I wanted to play with. Those four years were some of the best years of my life.


I felt the most “ME.”


And that’s freedom.


Freedom is…


…To get to be the truest version of yourself.

…To not have to date the Asian American football player, just because he’s popular and your friends all tell you to do so.

…To get to choose what you get to do with your time.


While at NYU, I had three jobs, a full load of classes (I could’ve graduated a year early but I was having so much fun, I chose to stay for another year, which also meant more student loans…)


This entire blog post was written for you and for me.


It’s to remind us that as an adult, you have choices.


You don’t always have to do, to believe, to be what others want.


Instead, you get to choose, and that’s true Independence and Freedom.


It also means that with your money, you also get to choose how you want to spend, save, invest or not to invest.


You also get to break free from how your parents operated with money.


My parents fought about it constantly. They hid money and spending from each other. They were either too cheap (Dad) or too lavish at times (Mom). And yet, they also were products of their parents who were survivors of World War II and quite frugal. So, I get it.


I don’t judge. That’s one thing my clients always tell me. When someone new has a call with me, they usually start out by apologizing for not understanding money or having “too much debt” or not having a budget or anything in savings. They feel ashamed for being a certain age and not having any money saved for retirement or embarrassed about how much credit card debt they’re in. However, by the end of the call, they usually say, “You made me feel better. You didn’t judge me. I feel lighter and more relieved.”


That’s freedom. Don’t you think?


Freedom is that feeling of lightness in our bodies, like we can just float away like colorful balloons and land anywhere we want in the world.


Freedom is a state of mind.


My freedom playlist during this time of the year (July 4th in the U.S. and July 14th in France):

“What Light" by Wilco,

Redemption Song by Bob Marley & The Wailers,” (This video is too beautiful not to share...)

and of course…

“Don't Fence Me In” written by Cole Porter, sung by everyone from Willie Nelson to Ella Fitzgerald to The Killers but my favorite version is the one by David Byrne. Enjoy!

With Love, FREEDOM & Gratitude,


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