What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone just starting off at college?
"Pick a place where you think you’re going to be happy but also a little bit challenged. A lot of people sometimes think, “I wanna be away from home,” but you just want to be in an area where you think you can grow—where you think you’ll be happy with your education."
"The biggest decision I made was to have kids because it’s a big responsibility. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that at the time."
What made you decide to have kids?
"Too many nights at the bar, I guess. It was time to move on from that."
How do you feel that living in New York City has impacted you?
"It has made me more busy—more American."
What’s your definition of American?
"Somebody who is always striving for something and takes a lot for granted."
"The hardest decision I’ve made in my life was deciding to cover my head. I was born and raised here so I was worried about what my friends would say and the judgements I would get. When I was in high school, for instance, someone pulled my friend’s scarf off her head.”
What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling to balance their different cultures?
"Be confident in what you believe. We live in a melting pot and everyone is different. There is no single American type. I’m an American. I was born here."
"Getting married was a big decision. I didn’t get married until my early 40’s, so I was pretty set in my ways. I worried if I would be giving up my identity. You know, I had a career, my own house. I was self-sufficient. I was making this commitment with this other individual - would it work?"
So did your identity change or did it stay true?
"It was enhanced."
“People do so many things in high school and then in college, it seems that you have to pick your life and go do one thing, while forgetting about all your other interests. I wasn’t willing to do that. I ended up getting three degrees: a degree in music education and voice, a degree in technical theater, and a philosophy/pre-law degree. I was in law school and then I decided to drop out and pursue the arts instead. I realized it was what made me happiest and I decided that I didn’t care about how much money I made. My parents gave me a hard time about it, though.”
What’s the hardest part about working in the arts?
“It’s a challenge having an unstable job that changes month to month. But I’m not doing this job for the money or for the fame. I don’t get paid well and I work backstage so I don’t get credit or glory. But when times are hard, I just remember that this is what I really love to do.”
“It was a huge decision to leave China and come here.”
What advice do you have for someone who’s coming to the United States from another country?
“If you want to come here, you need to know what you want and actively go after it. You need to know your purpose.”
Looking back on your past, do you see any turning points; that is, a key event or experience which changed the course of your life?
“My mother’s death when I was eight years old. My father was deaf and consequently, I had no one. So I had to fall back on myself. I essentially became street smart and continued to be smart for the rest of my life.”
What does “street smart” mean to you?
“I grew up in New York so you had to negotiate a very complex crowd and a very complex kind of society. Street smart meant you had to know very fast who was trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It still goes on, even in a town like New Haven.”
What advice would you give your eighteen-year-old self?
“I would’ve saved college for later. I got out of highschool when I was sixteen because I dropped out and got my GED so I could start college because it would be paid for if I was under eighteen. I did two years of college and got out. I didn’t appreciate it. I got nothing from my two years. I feel like I could’ve held off and gone to college later because there was a lot more I wanted to do. I would’ve traveled first.”
Did you travel after college?
“Oh yeah. I’ve been all over the United States. I’ve gone hitchhiking and train-hopping.”
"I’m a retired gynecologist. I tried one thing and then another until I found out what I wanted to do."
What did you want to be when you were younger?
"The Prime Minister of Australia."