Its 1991, Herndon, VA, I’m only six years old and lived here about a year. Its a wonderful new community and a not so developed Herndon. Life is good. I live in a big house, I go to school with my brother, and mom cooks me tasty meals every night. Dad likes to run along with me on my bike so I don’t fall as I start to ride without trainer wheels.
Loved seeing the deer walk around in the forest in my backyard. My dad puts a few bird feeders in our backyard and we watch them eat all the time. Start to put obstacles on the feeder poles since the squirrels are so smart and get to the seeds. Life is good in the animal world too.
Soon after my first year living there, trees start to be cut down. Then more and more. Soon large areas started to get cleared. I didn’t get it at the time but it was the community expanding. More people moving in and more houses needed to be be built. That’s how life works, simple as that.
Then more birds came after to our feeders. One day I counted 20 on a small feeder that can only feed 6 at a time. This is unreal to me. They are fighting to get food. Other birds scrap along the floor for any leftovers. Winter comes along and I see families of deer walking through the empty but once forest. This left a striking image on my brain. It was probably my first real dose of reality with man’s impact on nature. Something seem sad about that scene. The deer seemed lost and confused, there home was gone. Where do they go now?
That community continued its development and expanded. We left back to Annandale a couple years later.
I had a love for animals and always want to play with dogs/cats or see them in the wild. I couldn’t stop even petting my cousins cat even though I was allergic. I couldn’t help playing with her. I thought I would be interested in becoming a veterinarian when I grew up and stuck with me for a long time to do so. I love them and could help be their doctor.
Fast forward 10 more years, I’m in Annandale High School. In my science course, we had to pick a project to research on. I decided out of the choices given to do “deforestation”. Then more classes, more years, more projects with different teachers. Why not keep doing deforestation again and again? I know the subject, I have tons of material on it and my teachers won’t know i’m reusing it, make it easy? Smart huh? Soon I really grew to love the subject.
Senior year of high school, we had to think about what we needed to do for major and a career. Always wanted to be a veterinarian all my life, so I started to research into it a lot what it takes. Eight years of schooling? Have to put pets down? Soon enough, it selfishly became unattractive to me as a career. But I thought what I could I do with animals to help? Hmm why not environmental science? I read a lot about deforestation and how humans are destroying ecosystems. Why save one animal as a vet and instead work to save thousands of animals by trying to prevent deforestation. It seemed to click to me all too well and it was my calling.
Big news, its college time, I”m accepted to Virginia Tech, time to pick a major, what do I want… Environmental Science of course! The last thing any Asian parent wants to hear. How are you going to make any money or get a job doing that? I don’t know, but I think I will be ok, I really like the subject and something meaningful to do. But I decided against my intuition and picked a business major anyway to make people happy and I guess its not a bad choice right? I mean everybody does business.
Its the first day of school in 2003, I go to my first accounting class and walk into a room of 300 people. I see in the front row seats all the future CEO’s of the world. In the middle, the same people as me who don’t know what they are doing with their life and going with the flow, and in the back people who just don’t care about school or their future. I start to panic…..this isn’t for me……I got to get out. It just didn’t feel right, I didn’t even sit down and before the professor could even speak, I left. I went back to my dorm room and contacted the Environmental Department Head Mr. Parrish and met with him the next day. That day I switched over to Environmental Science. My parents not overly joyed initially start to realize its an important field. Climate change and green issues are gaining media presence. They realize its a good career and something they trust me to do if that’s my wish. I hoped one day I could go help the environmental situation in Cambodia which is plagued with issues.
Four years pass, I’m not too thrilled about my schooling of soils and chemistry. I’m actually super interested in environmental economics, crops (yes crops!), and sustainable philosophy. I started the Environmental Student Organization and left my mark. I was super happy with my college experience and what I learned even though I may not have been the best student. I interned at the US Conference of Mayors and Micron Technology and see both sides of the environmental field.
I get a job at the US Conference of Mayors out of college in 2007 and work there for three years publishing best practices on brownfields. Though not the most exciting subject, I did get to touch on many other environmental aspects and really helped some cities out with my work. I liked my work, the people who worked there and what the non profit was about. Making cities more environmental friendly is not too bad of a thing to do for work. Traveling was a bonus too. The place was like a family and I will always cherish it. Our grant ends and there was nothing to keep us on. We all had to leave and find new work. All the while I was accepted to Johns Hopkins Environmental Science and Policy program and get my masters. Everybody is happy and I’m proud of what I accomplished.
Next few years, open seafood restaurant, next few years, I work in the IT field and eventually become a Federal employee. Wait a minute? IT, seafood restaurant? Unfortunately, after the US Mayors grant ended, environmental work was hard to come by. My non profit experience did not translate well into the more technical world where jobs were. Most environmental jobs were either entry or senior level. I was mid level which nobody wanted. My masters degree only hurt me since people thought I was overqualified or wanted to do research. It was a painstaking thing to do emotionally but I had to make a living. I had to switch over to IT to renew my career and provide for a future. I do like IT and it provides a good job right now so I’m happy.
But this whole story brings us to now, 2016, and what am I doing. What am I doing with my passion and child hood dreams. Am I saving any animals? Am I helping prevent deforestation? I’m in an office desk job doing IT work is not what I set out to do. And that brings us to this website and this project, though while its not my career, it can still be my lifes work and joy. I’m now married with beautiful wife and home. My wife, Cindy, encourages me on my passion and we often have thoughtful and very hard debates about these kind of issues. She pushes me and gives me ample perspective. I could not have done this without her. I’m here with My Dear Layla to get back to my roots and do the work I was destined for. To help animals, fight for them, and give them the voice they do not have.