Updated: May 26
| This is the 257th story of Our Life Logs |
I planned to climb out of my castle and ride my white horse to victory. To me, it sounded simple. Unfortunately, no one told me that a leap from the tallest tower makes for a great fall.
I was born into a Korean-Japanese family. I think the best word to describe my childhood is: extraordinary. My parents met in Tokyo, Japan, and my dad fell madly in love with my beautiful mom. They were 18 years apart in age, but my dad was persistent in getting to my mom’s heart. Soon, they tied the knot and had over a dozen miscarriages before they had me at seven months, as the “miracle child.”
My mom became a businesswoman and my dad, a high-ranking political leader for the Republic of South Korea. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out between them, and by faith, my mom remarried her long-lost friend from high school who was the youngest son from the Japanese Mafia Family.
Fortunately, my parents remained great friends. My stepfather looked up to and respected my biological father. I loved them both and was their princess. My biological father was always on TV, and the whole nation paid great respect to him. His words were like gold in many people’s lives, though I never knew why till years later. My stepfather, on the other side, was a very handsome and powerful figure, too. Strangely, I looked very similar to both of them and people often couldn’t guess which one was my birth father.
The unique life got me living in Taiwan, South Korea, and eventually, Hawaii. We had many properties. Our family friends who were famous and noble—including the presidents—would come over for parties at our homes. My friends, however, were only allowed to come over to three of our homes: one in Honolulu, the other two near the Paris Park and Hyundai Tower in Gangnam, South Korea.
My life was above average, but not to the extent that some of my relatives were. To give you an idea, one of my cousins received an entire temple with a golden Buddha for her birthday. Still, I grew up with butlers, nannies, drivers, and bodyguards who treated me like a princess, and I indeed always got my ways. I was also protected from the outside world, but I desired my own freedom.
Hawaii became my daily paradise as I grew up, and I was a true Island girl. There was never a shortage of warm air, breathtaking scenery, and incredible food. Hawaii was the place of many memories and my budding dreams.
From as young as three, I loved to sing, influenced by my mom and gospel choirs of some churches I have attended. I can still hear my mom belt the lyrics to the Enka music (traditional Japanese songs) that filled our homes, along with hierarchy and celebs. It was always a party at our place. From her, and from the entertainment culture of the islands and Asia, I fell in love with this form of creativity, and as I got older, it became my freedom. Singing allowed me to take off the mask of my family’s legacy, and instead, put on one of my own.
I was often frustrated because of my parents, especially my dad, who tried to lead me to the path already marked by his footsteps. They believed that I could do better for myself, that I could be as influential in the public sphere as they were. But I wasn’t going to walk away from my happiness and dreams. My mom, however, wasn’t as strict as my dad. She somewhat supported my dreams and even provided me with the costumes for the performances.
In my teenage years, my mother began making some bad investments that would make us lose financial privileges in time. One day, with a bit of advice from two A-list actors, along with a love letter and a one-way ticket to Hollywood from a friend, I decided that it was my fate to move out to California. To give myself a financial cushion, I even sold my first sports car, received at age 14, and a beautiful white piano.
Since I had grown up around successful people, I believed that I had the power to retain that success on my own. I had no idea that to find success, you must work for it. It isn’t just handed to you like it always was in my younger years. I had to learn this the hard way.
I wasn’t all that worried when I first arrived in Los Angeles because I still believed that I would be fine. But in reality, I wasn’t even 21 yet, and I carried a naive determination of “I will make it on my own.”
I found a hotel in the heart of the city that I could live out of and bought an old luxury car which eventually broke down, causing me so many problems, leaving me with a Nissan at the end. My savings was dwindling more with each passing day, and I still had too much pride to call my family for help.
One particular night, as I was walking down the hall to my hotel room, I heard a woman being beaten by her mate. The very next time I saw her, without hesitating, I gave her a key to my place and said, “If you need a place to hide from him, you can use my room.” Then I left the hotel for another day of job searching.
I remember being very stressed out that day because my funds were getting low, and I was worried if I’d be able to continue staying in LA. One phone call would’ve turned things around but I still had too much ego to return home and hoped no one would come out to California, looking for me.
When I got back to my hotel room, everything had been emptied. My clothes, money, and even my favorite pink blow dryer, which was gifted by my cousin in Japan and meant so much to me, were all gone! I put the pieces together and realized that the couple had robbed me. I was too naïve. It was then I realized that I was in the Big City of Lost Angels, not like Hawaii, where everyone knows each other and we are like one big ohana. I sunk to my knees and began to cry. My innocence was slowly slipping away.
With almost nothing to my name, I started living out of my car, squandering the money I had in my pocket that hadn’t been stolen.
One night, as I squeezed my limbs into the backseat of my car, I remember having one of those “I can’t believe this is my life” moments. I had always been lucky and fortunate with everything since birth, that this was all so new to me.
Then, I met a homeless man at a gas station who was asking me for food. I thought this was unusual, for I had met homeless people who asked for money, but never food. So, I took him to get some food. He told me he lived out of that gas station. When we went inside to pay, the worker on the cash register started sharing some stories with us, but I was in a hurry to get out of there. The homeless guy thanked me and started washing my car in the rain.
As I drove out of the gas station, I rolled down the window to have my last disgusting cigarette, a crumpled-up piece of paper flew into my car and landed on the dashboard. I picked it up, only to find out that it was a ripped-up scripture from the Bible that read, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. John 15:18.”
As I stared down at the writing, tears streamed down my face. I saw that scripture as a sign to look at things from a different perspective, to realize how lucky I truly was.
Months had passed by and I decided to go and see if the homeless man was still there at the gas station. When I got there, the same employee from that one rainy night was working. He remembered me. I asked him about the homeless man, whom I bought the food for that night. He looked at me as if he had seen a ghost and said, “Are you OK, ma’am? There was only you and me here that night.” He wasn’t joking. I left there dumbfounded and confused. As I got in the car, the scenes from that night started daunting on me. It all made sense. Why was the homeless man washing my car in the pouring rain, and why was he asking me for food instead of money? He must be an angel in disguise. That cleared out the doubt in my heart.
After that incident, I was invited to the Boyz II Men’s record release party at the House of Blues. A woman approached me with compliments on my looks, asking if I sang. I told her that was what I love doing and she gave me a flyer with information about an audition which would be held at the Edmonds, owned by Tracey Edmonds (Babyface’s ex-wife). I prepped myself with all the greatest hits of Whitney Houston and Destiny’s Child and aced the audition, getting signed to an indie label in a four-part harmony girl group “fourtune.”
With things falling into its place, I was beginning to feel that my dreams were coming true. Shortly after this, I met my husband and had a beautiful daughter and there are endless testimonies thereafter, but to make a long story short, there are miracles that happen every day, somewhere, to someone, like having a baby or waking up each morning. And then there are some that are hard to describe, ones that can’t be chalked up to natural order and coincidence. At times, you have to fall to reach your highest. Through my journey, I have learned the greatest lesson that no riches could’ve ever bought and that is to be grateful in any circumstances for it could always be worse.
This is the story of Tia J.H
Residing in Sunny California, Tia, an island beauty, uses her diverse talents through performing to bring communities together. This has given her the opportunity to share the stage with a number of great artists. Coming from a fortunate background, Tia grew up with no concept of hardship until she was on her own, living in LA and trying to live out her entertainment dreams. After going nearly broke and living out of her car with too much pride to ask for help from her family, she received a sign from the universe that reminded her how fortunate she was. Tia has had many great opportunities through her singing talent. She was invited one year to be a guest singer at the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and Telethon Television Program before getting pregnant with her daughter in 2004. She abandoned her singing dream after having her child and facing severe depression but picked it back up when she realized she was meant to use her singing voice with her faith to help people. Aside from her artistic pursuits, Tia has a passion for sharing and giving to the disabled, currently working as a behavioral coach. She enjoys hosting her journal page called “LifeStyles with Tia,” where she shares amazing stories along with her personal interests and much more official content to come.
This story first touched our hearts on October 19, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker, Tia J.H |