June 11, 1987. Year Zero.

                                       GEMINI BABY.

                                      GEMINI BABY.

My body was not born here, but my spirit was. A seed mistakenly exported..."

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I grew up in Southern California to Thai immigrant parents, coming into the world eleven years later than my sister. Like many immigrant families, most of our vacation times were reserved for going back to Thailand to visit relatives while my classmates at the private school I attended did cool things like go dirt biking in the desert. I remember coming back to school after summer breaks with stories to tell of my time in the jungle where my mother was born, surrounded by rice paddy fields, lush green hills, and the occasional waking up to spiders bigger than my hands. 

 

This, however, is a picture of tough baby June at Disneyland, constantly bullied for her coke bottle glasses and her resemblance to Mowgli from Jungle Book.

"The longer I was gone, the more I shriveled up. A weed amongst the red, red roses..."

Although I lived a fairly comfortable life, it came with a cost. My parents worked long hours to provide for us and to send money overseas. When my sister was unavailable to babysit me, they called upon an old neighborhood acquaintance to do so. Little did they know his intentions for watching little girls came with a cost: my body.

His secret died with him, though mine lived on for years. That little Mowgli girl was already protecting herself, arms crossed and ready for war. She would grow up to be a fighter.

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But before all seeds sprout, they must incubate. In my elementary school years, I voraciously drew to avoid conversations with others. It was worse enough that classmates and teachers would tell me that my parents were going to hell for practicing Buddhism, since my school was a Christian institution. (My parents had no idea of this indoctrination, and only sent me there for their extended childcare hours.) The bullying was so severe until I eventually left and joined a public school.

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It was here where I joined theater to help me break out of my shell, and was casted for lead roles throughout high school. I went on to college to study Communication Studies and Theater Arts, where I was involved in Theater of the Oppressed and several small productions that dealt with culture and identity. This inspired me to begin writing original poetry and music to share my personal experiences, and to also uplift the narratives of marginalized groups that often go unheard. Spoken word led me to speak for nonprofit organizations and facilitate workshops around storytelling for other young Asian Americans who did not fit the model minority myth. I hosted one of the largest open mics in Long Beach called "Break the Silence" which ran successfully for five years, and co-founded the first Long Beach youth slam poetry group that prepared local teenagers for the largest international youth slam poetry competition, Brave New Voices. With the support of TeAda Productions, I was given the opportunity to write a play about my own mother's journey immigrating from Thailand to United States called "Chasing Shadows," which explored what it was like to chase our past using Thai shadow puppetry.

"I had to feel the soil by going up, and landing in a place somewhat foreign."

After graduating from CSU Long Beach in 2010, I returned back to Thailand to learn more about my roots. Little did I know that I would end up joining a reggae band, travel the country as a keyboardist and vocalist, and end up back where my mother was born for our final show. I also spent time in Cambodia to help run an organization called Tiny Toones that taught street kids how to breakdance, and created music to empower young people to embrace their natural beauty.

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In 2014, I returned back to Long Beach and got a job at a domestic violence agency as a community organizer and prevention specialist. It was my duty to have more conversations around healthy relationships with youth of Southeast Asian American descent, and to create alternative community responses if violence were to occur in a pilot program called Close2Home. I was an empowered woman and had processed my childhood trauma through intellect and the arts, and felt a privilege to help pioneer this work in the city I loved.

But something interesting begin to happen...

 Almost two years into the job, my body became sick from the many stories it began to absorb over rape crisis calls and workshops where intimate details of people's traumatic histories were shared. Despite the work I had done to own my story, my body never truly had the space to heal. And I knew I wasn't alone, for I could feel the passion being drained from those who worked around me. While I fought tirelessly to bridge institutions with grassroots efforts, I was told it was my job to advocate for the organization's mission instead of the community's needs, and that I lacked a filter on my opinions. My values felt conflicted, and I missed my carefree artist days. Then, the greatest blessing occurred...

Two months before turning 29, I was abruptly fired from my job. The last words to roll from the tongue of my boss was, "You're a free-spirit. Go and be free now."

Almost thirty years old with no job, no career, and no idea what the future would hold.

So I did the unthinkable. I joined the circus.

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Just kidding. Instead of locking myself in my room to cry (which I did a fair amount of) and hug my body from the pain that was locked in my hips after all that work, I wanted nothing to do with any profession related to that field - so joined an aerial dance and fitness studio. It was here where I felt the pain dissipate from my body, especially as I celebrated my sensuality with other women without shame. 

Shortly after, I received my yoga teaching certification to work with survivors of sexual trauma. I became a certified transformational life coach through Leadership that Works, which helped me move people from a place of trauma and victimhood to possibilities and empowerment.

And I did a TON of work around my womb space to release anymore trauma being held in my reproductive system, including a trip back to Thailand to learn about how it is my ancestors healed.

"But when I found my roots, I was no longer a bud. I rose above the mud as a lotus..."

June 11, 2017. Year 30. I was invited to co-facilitate a doula training in Long Beach where my mother came to speak about her traumatic birth experience in US hospitals, and how it was so different from the culture she grew up in where people had babies at home surrounded by their loved ones. It was here where I realized how much of her pain I had also been carrying. As we both sat alongside one another, we were breaking a cycle of silence and passing on something greater.

If trauma is intergenerational, so is resiliency.

Whether it be through the arts or coaching, it is my calling to cultivate that seed waiting to sprout that is already within each of us. Since then, my journey has led me to open up my own consulting business (Green Tara Guidance) where I am called to facilitate wellness workshops for non-profit organizations in need of self-care; integrate the arts and social justice in youth curricula; women's healing circles; hosting/moderating panel discussions around trauma and healing; speaking engagements for high schools, college campuses, and organizations around the need for heart-based communication and collective healing; and  a personal life coaching program for those in need of a shift in their own narrative.

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What drives me is to make my ancestors proud, and to witness their rebirth in the next generation.

My body was not born here, but my spirit was,
A seed mistakenly exported.
The longer I was gone, the more I shriveled up,
A weed amongst the red, red roses.
I had to feel the soil by going up,
And landing in a place somewhat foreign.
But when I found my roots, I was no longer a bud.
I rose above the mud as a lotus.
— Mekong River (written by Jumakae)
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