You can find these shoes in…

Chicago, IL, USA

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They belong to…

A 36-year-old- San Diegan who moved to Chicago six years ago for a job offer. An archivist at a non-profit organization by day, she spends evenings and weekends on her side business, an apparel company that celebrates America’s immigrant heritage.

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What it’s like to walk in her shoes for a day…

I came to Chicago alone six years ago for a job offer and still live with just my dog. During the week, I wake up, feed and walk my dog and then go to work.

I’m responsible for creating a database of historically relevant information about my organization. That involves cataloging, research, writing and digital preservation duties. I enjoy my job, but I’ve been obsessed with my side business since the day I started it.

Even when I’m not working on my business, it’s at the forefront of my mind. When I’m not working on one of these jobs, I play with my dog, explore neighborhoods in my city (even after six years, I’m still in many ways a tourist) and meet friends for meals or events.

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Growing up in her shoes she was…

My parents were refugees from Vietnam. They raised me in a culture completely different from their own. I was raised to be a good Vietnamese girl, which meant being quiet, doing my homework and staying home most of the time.

Unfortunately for my parents, it was difficult for me to adhere to these expectations when what I saw was American kids going out, having a good time with friends and going to dances and parties. I felt like an American girl trapped in a Vietnamese family. I acted out in ways that would be unremarkable to the average Western family, but were viewed as rebellious and disgraceful to my own.

Although I’ve grown to appreciate my parents much more as an adult, I still feel the cultural effects of being kept as small and insignificant as possible. Like many adults, I’m still trying to recover from the lasting effects of my childhood.

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Her biggest challenges day-to-day…

In my day-to-day, I am not too concerned about being a woman because I work in a woman-dominated field (the library sciences) at an organization that is extremely progressive. I also grew up with a mother who was, and remains, entrepreneurial and self-sufficient. I’m surrounded by strong women.

The only time I feel conscious about my womanhood is when I am alone at night. It is then that I feel vulnerable and unsafe, conscious of the possibility that if I were to be assaulted, the world would not see me as the victim.

In the bigger picture, I’m aware of the political reality of women’s rights being affected by a climate that does not take our needs seriously. I am lucky to have all my needs met thus far, but I know that this may not always be the case, and that there are women in my geographic and demographic proximity whose needs are not a priority to the system.

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What are the advantages of being a woman in the 21st Century?

The advantage of being a woman living in my life today is that I can create opportunities for myself, speak up for myself, and defend myself as needed. I may not always be successful, but I have more personal power than many of my predecessors have had.

My side business is one example of that. I wanted to open a business, so I did it. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but I had the full legal and technical ability to make it happen. If we were to go back in time, I may have had to ask my father or husband for permission, register the company in their name, and who knows what else. Thank goodness I have the freedom to make decisions as I see fit.B

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One thing you should know if you’re going to walk in her shoes…

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” A woman can do anything if she believes it is possible. It may not happen on the first try, but creativity and hustle will get you anywhere.

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Flashbulb memories (s) or what it’s really like to walk in her shoes…

Two weeks ago, my mom called to ask me if I could meet her in Dallas in few days. She has been feeling unwell and heard about a religious healer that could help her. Despite my utmost skepticism, I knew my mom just wanted my support, so I went with her and kept my mouth shut.

I’m constantly looking for the balance between loving my parents and questioning their choices. It also happened that the day after I agreed to go to Dallas, I was offered an amazing opportunity to have a booth at a cultural event in my neighborhood. The event was scheduled for first night I’d be in Dallas. It would have been perfect because its attendees were a core part of my business’ demographic – Americans born into immigrant families. I obviously couldn’t participate in this event, and didn’t fail to see the parallel – a good Vietnamese daughter always helps her parents.

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Hey you, can you relate to JO’s story? Do you have a favorite quote or thought? Share it in the comments

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How about YOUR shoes?

“This story, it is unique, it is hers and it tells you something about being a woman in the 21st century.

If you identify as a woman, your story is just as important. CLICK HERE to get the questions and be part of our story, history and  Her-story.”

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