Each month, we will spotlight a new Storyteller in our Storyteller Series, without whom, Project Ava could not do what we do. Read more stories here.
Write an aphorism you live by:
‘Nankurunaisa’ – ‘Nan kuru nai sa’ – なん くる ない さ
The phrase comes from the Okinawan language meaning “everything will be fine”. I first heard the phrase watching an anime as a kid and it somehow stuck with me. Rather than worrying about every small thing, I try to take things as they come and make the best of it. I realized life is often too short and there’s a plan for everyone. It might not come quickly, it might take you a few tries to get it right, it might not be what you expected, but it works itself out. It’s funny how we look back on our younger years and realize how we’ve grown into who we are now. We can stand by idly or make an impact on the world. You’re always growing, and changing, and you can look back and see how much you’ve made a difference, and everything will be fine.
Why did you become a Storyteller?
I became a Storyteller because everyone has a unique story to tell. But we don’t hear those experiences from certain places and people. I grew up in the South. Born and bred in the woods on countryside, but my upbringing has always had an Asian influence — even when it was hard for me to relate. I don’t come from the typical Asian household. I didn’t really have an identity till my college years. That’s why I’m here as a Storyteller: to tell my story from a different lens. To create empathy of what it’s like to grow in a different place, different time. To build that connection between the reader and myself. I want to have the opportunity to tell my story but also listen to yours and see how we relate, how we differ, and build a bond together.
Where do you consider home?
My home? I don’t have a specific home. I think my home is away from “home”. Places to visit and people to see. The connections I’ve built over the years have provided me wondrous places I can visit anytime and to meet with people who I’ve become really close to over the years. Plane seats, train cabins, and fold out futons have become my bed;coffee bistros and quaint cafes my office. My home isn’t this physical object, but moments I’m experience with those around me… But if we were to get technical about it, Atlanta is my home. It’s a place of good food, great friends, and incredible scenery where everyone greets you with a smile and a “How ya’ll doing today.”
Who inspires you?
My biggest influences are my close network of friends who got me into the advocacy scene. People from all over the world who just started sharing their stories with me and opened my eyes up to their life experiences. The more I listened, the more empathetic I became and understanding of how the complex the world is. As I began attending conferences like ECAASU and MAASU, I found a place where people shared not just shared similar passions, but also challenged me to look beyond. That inspiration fueled me into diving deeper into analyzing what’s wrong with the system, how can we overcome it, and really make a change. These close friends shattered my illusions and started building a clearer picture for me so that I can continue what I do today.
What impact do you want to have in the world?
I want to impact the world by creating a forum where people can tell stories and be more empathetic to one another when listening. Whether it’s writing, poetry, art, or technology, I believe we all have a unique story to tell through different mediums. I want people to share stories, but also understand why those stories are told, and then form their own. I believe if people listen a little bit more to others, we can impart great change. I believe storytelling is a powerful tool and with it we can be come to care for others more.
When did you find your passions?
I found my passion during my last years in college. Not really privy into the Asian American and Multicultural scene, I didn’t have a sense of identify growing up. It wasn’t until I came to college and joined Xi Kappa, an Asian Interest Fraternity, that I started to really understand exactly who I was. As I learned and really networked with like-minded people, I began to understand the importance of the issues we face. Another turning point for my identity was joining the ECAASU National Board and really seeing young minds take part in advocacy. This motivated me to try to learn how I can better involve myself and learn from others. I found my passion blending being a designer and an advocator together to make me stronger.
How would you like to improve yourself?
I want to be a better storyteller through writing. Design is something I come across on a daily basis. Writing is a different story. I feel like as I continue to be more involved and listening to other individual’s stories, I can somehow capture that and convey about it better with writing. Oh and cooking, I could always learn to cook better.
If you’re interested in more design and storytelling work by Kai, you can find them below: