Going Beyond Your Comfort Zone
by Kristina Lin
“I encourage you to not just live life, but to live life alive.” – Charlene Chen
This year, I had the honor of receiving a scholarship to attend the NATWA II Convention in LA, where I got to listen to many amazing female speakers and panelists share their stories, experiences, and wisdom. One of the keynote speakers on Saturday was an interestingly talented and diverse woman named Charlene Chen. Her life journey is unique and is rarely found in Taiwanese Americans, male and female alike. How many Taiwanese American women do you know who have dual bachelor degrees in Psychology and Computer Science, have a MBA degree, worked four years at Deloitte Consulting, and are currently working at KickStart International in South Africa?
When I first saw the title of Charlene’s speech, “Going Beyond Your Comfort Zone,” I was already intrigued and eager to hear all the advice she has to offer. I am still learning to explore and expand my horizons, as a current undergraduate student, but what does that really mean, and how can I do so? As I listened to Charlene tell us her story about her big transition from a comfortable life working in business technology in the US to a whole new continent altogether, where she was sometimes discriminated against, I was inspired, to say the least. Her speech did not lecture us on pursuing a “typical Taiwanese profession” or to give it up completely, but instead encouraged us to pursue our passions and interests. This is always easier said than done, but I believe that is the moral of her life story.
After offering us life advice, she opens the floor up to the audience of both first and second-generation NATWA attendees, asking us what we consider to be stepping out of our comfort zone. The responses the NATWA I attendees gave ranged from supportive to hilarious: opera singing, writing a book, learning stand-up comedy, playing guitar, going to Ethiopia, skydiving, and even pole dancing. It was heartwarming to see how enthusiastic the people who spoke up were, when they really began to dream big. There is a little bit of Charlene in all of us, a desire to explore and live life alive.
Charlene’s talk concluded with a Q&A session, when the audience asked questions such as how has her worldview changed since going to Africa, and what she thinks the worldview of Taiwanese Americans is? Unexpectedly at this time, Charlene’s father and a few male family friends advised her to seek a boyfriend and marriage, in a joking and lighthearted tone. Yet this made me think back to the Taiwanese values of filial piety and expectations of raising a family. For Taiwanese Americans, how does this play out in our lives? What does it mean to embody these Taiwanese values yet simultaneously pursue our “American” independence and individuality? I certainly wish Charlene the best and hope that if she were to get married, her spouse would be supportive and willing to travel the world and live life to the fullest with her.
The beautiful thing about Charlene is that she does not talk the talk, but she truly walks the walk. She personally exemplifies what it means to step out of your comfort zone and to embrace life and to pursue your passions. Although not everyone will end up working in Africa after listening to and meeting Charlene, I believe that many people have been touched or inspired by the way she takes risks and challenges herself. And so begs the question: Am I challenging myself and stepping out of my comfort zone?