This Little Girl is Me
This is probably the most personal post I’ve ever written, and I’m proud to be part of this amazing campaign #ThisLittleGirlIsMe initiated by Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, founder of Inspiring Girls International.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because 70% of girls feel more confident about their futures after hearing from women role models.
It’s important to know who we are, where we came from, and how we can be whomever we want to be in life.
Very Early Childhood
Here are my very early days [up to the age of 11] and some life lessons I learned that have shaped my view of the world.
I was born in Malaysia back in the days when it was called Malaya, to a Hong Kong Chinese mother and English father. In the 1950’s it was unusual to see a Brit from North Yorkshire enter into a mixed marriage [they made it into the Yorkshire papers with ‘Leeds man to wed Chinese girl’!]
What compounded some of the chatter about the marriage at that time, was that my father was a Cambridge scholar and my mother didn’t finish secondary school.
Mum missed a lot of education, as she was a poorly child with many ailments, and the invasion of Hong Kong during World War II saw her family escaping to Macau with few belongings. The chatter was that the level of education didn’t match up and it would never last.
What Will The Children Look Like?
On top of that, some of their friends apparently commented, “But what will the children look like?” [Luckily neither my brother nor I were born with two heads!]
I’m proud (and relieved) to say our immediate families were open and welcoming during what could have been a difficult time.
My father’s work as a Malayan civil servant and academic meant that I grew up in Johore Bahru and Hong Kong, which provided my brother and me with a melting pot of cultural experiences. Our friends were like a mixed bag of lollies from India, America, Korea, Japan, China, Germany and the UK.
We all spoke Cantonese at home as Dad learned to read, write and speak fluent Chinese for his work, and Mum was relieved she didn’t need to learn English.
Colonial Homes & Chickens
The halcyon days growing up in the lush Hong Kong University compound in a massive, elegant colonial-style home were juxtaposed with day trips to the New Territories to visit my mother’s side of the family.
Mum’s family lived in a tiny cottage in a village with many chickens, cats and dogs roaming the streets. I saw that life could be very different depending on where you lived and your circumstances. I embraced both – there was so much love between us all.
When Things Changed
My father died suddenly of a massive heart attack on 1 July 1970. He was 49. I was 11.
Almost immediately my mother, brother and I had to leave the university compound and find somewhere else to live. Our lives changed dramatically overnight.
My mother, who did not speak English, struggled not only with grief but confusion about what to do on her own with two children. My father had always handled every aspect of our lives – financial, legal, schooling, travel – all of it except cooking.
As business was conducted in English, and my mother did not read nor write English, my brother and I, who attended English speaking schools, were required to step up and make adult decisions for Mum.
Growing Up Fast
At the age of 11, I started writing cheques (in English) for my mother to pay the bills, my brother and I had meetings with the Trustee to help Mum make financial decisions and go through the legal documentation, and if I was sick and off school, I wrote my own sick notes to give my teachers (I realised how useful this was when I was a little older and wanted to skive off school!)
I grew up very fast and realised that if I wanted to lead a life free of want, I had to understand how to manage my own money, to learn how life worked and not to let someone else take over my decision making, however well-intentioned.
To cut a long story short, I learned very quickly the importance, as a woman, to be financially independent, not relying on someone else to create the life you want [and deserve], and not to be afraid of what life throws at you.
This little girl became a resilient adult very early on in life.
A Lifetime of Lessons
There is so much more to share – this is just the beginning of a lifetime of lessons learned, obstacles overcome. Over the course of many years, this little girl:
* Overcame much angst, self-doubt and fear
* Moved country 5 times
* Reinvented her career multiple times
* Got married, got divorced, got remarried (I believe in love!)
* Won a Silver medal in the Nike National Aerobics championship & was sponsored by Nike
* Flew as cabin crew for British Airways and Korean Airlines
* Worked agency and client-side in Public Relations in Hong Kong & London
* Was a Montessori teacher
* Ran the New York and Manchester Marathons
* Became an international career coach, author, podcast host and, most importantly …
* I am mother and step-mother to 4 beautiful children and 4 gorgeous grandchildren
Thank you Inspiring Girls International for inspiring this little girl!
#InspiringGirls #WomenEmpoweringWomen #WomenSupportingWomen
And please pop in your calendar to join me #LinkedInLive every Monday morning from 9.15am-9.30am [AEST] for 15 minutes of career inspiration and advice to kickstart your week! Follow the hashtag #JaneCareerTips on LinkedIn to watch all my previous broadcasts covering how to write a #resumé, how to prepare for #jobinterviews and more!
🌏 About Jane
For over 20 years Jane has been supporting executives globally through the emotional roller coaster of a career change, redundancy and job search and helping them to progress in their careers.
Originally from Hong Kong, she has worked in San Francisco, London, Singapore and is now based in Sydney.
Jane is Founder of THE CAREERS ACADEMY, is a LinkedIn Top Voice 2020, Excellence in Practice Award recipient from the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA), author of Navigating Career Crossroads (finalist in The Australian Career Book Awards 2021) and host of Your Career Podcast (voted top 20 career podcast by FeedSpot).