I have been waiting for permission.

I want to write and publish books — novels, essays, poetry — and all this time, I’ve been waiting.

Some of the waiting has been good as I’ve polished my craft and gained experience. Some of the waiting has been forced due to family and personal obligations. But now, now it feels as if the waiting is stalling. It’s fear manifesting as procrastination and modesty. It’s lie after lie, excuse after excuse, and resentment after resentment piling up higher and higher until I’m embarrassed by my own timidity.

It’s galling to admit that I have been just waiting for the universe to hand me what I want on a platter, wrapped up with a bow. To think that if I’m good enough, people will notice.

I’m old enough to know better. And yet, the mentality is hard to shake. I make noise, but only just more than what people expect from an Asian American mom — not the amount needed for people to really take notice.

Being the quiet, passive Asian is so outdated

Because I am a very loud person and largely shameless, people often assume that I love attention. Let me confirm and affirm: that is absolutely true. I love when what I do inspires, comforts, or even enrages and challenges people. After all, that means what I say matters. I was here. I made a mark. I affected the universe somehow.

Except I also hide in that attention.

I deflect. I divert. I dilute. I diffuse. I dissociate.

I do everything in my power to downplay and self-deprecate. I qualify my achievements. I make myself small.

All that swagger just to make myself disappear.

I always thought myself inured to such cultural hegemony. No Little Miss Shy for me! No demure Asian here! No good little Christian girl anymore! How could I forget that I’ve marinated in it since birth. There is no escaping; only unlearning.

There is so much still to unlearn. To divest. To extricate. To root out.

How disappointing that after all this time believing I was different, I am cliché after all.

Recasting how I present myself

It’s time for a new story.

While a lot of my fears are of failing in public, many are also in what I assume success looks like — in particular, the Asian Hustle Network version of success. All shade intended, I cannot stand that version of “winning”: braggadocious, self-aggrandizing, clout-chasing, transactional, and narrowly defined by monetary gains.

I despise the constant dick-measuring, the immediate sizing up of whether someone is worth talking to, if they can be useful in some way. I almost never thrive in such situations. I always shrink. I rarely mention how I’m the entertainment editor for Mochi Magazine, the longest running online Asian American women’s magazine. I elide how I’m an author and writer, occasional YouTuber and podcaster, and bilingual homeschooling mother of five.

I hate the artificiality of it. I’d much rather make myself invisible by hiding in my Clark Kent alias. Nothing to see here: just a boring housewife, Asian American edition. I watch in real-time as their eyes glaze over at me when they conclude I am of no use to them and their ambitions.

Except, why am I allowing the people I hold in contempt to define what networking and success should look like? People generally work with and pass business along to their friends and people they like and respect. I already do that and people already do that for me. And as for success, all I really want is to do what I want, when I want, how I want. I already do that.

I already network. I already succeeded.

I don’t need to play some game of one-upmanship, of only reaching out to people when I require something from them.

Who is stopping me?

Allow me to swerve into a seemingly non-sequitur section. (I promise, I have a point.)

Occasionally, people will comment that they wish they could get paid to read books, watch movies or TV shows, and listen to music. When I was working before I had kids (it didn’t matter what job), I often wished the same. I thought being a critic or a reviewer at a magazine or newspaper was the only way to do such a thing, and even after the onslaught of the internet and bloggers and now influencers, I didn’t realize it was something easily within my grasp.

Here’s what I did not realize at the time: you want to review movies, shows, records, books, whatever? You can!

There is literally no one stopping you from watching a movie and then writing a review about it. There is no huge industry secret. Whether it’s a product, a show, a concert, a restaurant — it doesn’t matter. There are no actual qualifications other than consuming a thing and then writing about the thing you just consumed.

The internet has flattened access — and more than ever, it’s relatively easy to break into the critiquing business.

Whether or not you’re good at it, if people like your writing, if people even see your writing — that is not the issue here. The issue is whether or not you can get paid to do such a thing.

And maybe you won’t for a while. (It took me a few years.) Maybe it takes you a long time to get a following or to get comfortable or good at consuming something with a critical eye and then communicating it in a compelling way. Maybe your format is video or podcasts or essays. It doesn’t matter. You can do it. No one is stopping you from doing such a thing.

And if it’s truly difficult for you to do something without looking for someone else’s approval, then let me be that voice.

Do it.

Do it a lot.

Do it consistently.

Do it until you either get good at it or until you realize you don’t want to stick with it until you’re good at it.

Do it until you no longer love it or want it.

But for fuck’s sake (for your sake), don’t wait.

Don’t wait around for some deus ex machina to drop out of the sky and give you some great calling or some piddling justification. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do something you want to do. (Consent, yes. Permission, no.)

(Here’s where I bring it back.) I’m realizing there are so many things in my life that I keep waiting for someone to come up to me and say: VIRGINIA, I WANT TO PAY YOU TO DO THIS THING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO.

Yes, they would say it in ALLCAPS because they are just that excited to pay me to do this.

Except that is almost never going to happen. (I don’t want to preclude the possibility because a bitch can fantasize, okay?)

But in almost every other iteration of life, if I want something, I have to go after it. I have to pursue it until I either get it, I don’t think it’s worth it, or I no longer want it.

I’m done waiting for permission. That’s how this story goes.