Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Ami?
I used to have around 40% body fat and I didn’t start exercising until I was 26. I also have partial hearing impairment and grew up with heart problems, but I achieved what I thought was impossible – I became a cardio boxing instructor. Cardio boxing gives me happiness, health, and confidence. That’s exactly why I chose to resign at the height of my social work career. I couldn’t wait to share this wonderful thing with the world.
Can you tell us more about your experience with domestic violence when you were a child?
When I was around three, my father started a publishing company that immediately proved unsuccessful. My parents couldn’t pay the utility bills and had to hide from debt collectors. Pretty soon my relatives in America adopted me and that was only the beginning of a series of unfortunate events.
My adoptive mom often took out her anger on me because she thought she got the short end of the stick in the business partnership with my father. When I think of my childhood, I have memories of being left in the basement, bathrooms, and the garage with her dog.
As I got older, I learned that if I didn’t cry, the beating would stop sooner. Unfortunately, my adoptive mother wasn’t mentally stable in my high school years and that’s how I lost partial hearing in one ear.
Sometimes she would burst into my room in the middle of the night, crying as she explained that she was just taking out her anger on me, that she did indeed love me. The next day, she would act like nothing happened and I would go back to walking on eggshells. Growing up, I was often told that I was worth less than her dog. The healing process was long and painful, and only possible because I majored in social work.
While I was given up for adoption, my younger brother grew up under my father’s serious abuse in Taiwan. I came back to study Chinese in middle school and woke up one morning to hear my father beating my brother and mother in the next room. I really wanted to call the police that day but backed down because of fear. Not calling the police that day might be my biggest regret in life.
Tell us more about your childhood.
I grew up in a Chinese restaurant in America. My adoptive father was a quiet man but he always showed his love for me through food. Because of him, I knew at least one person in that family loved me. I had friends at school, I was close with the librarians, and teachers loved the “smart Asian kid”. School was a safe haven for me. I was temporarily safe from violence whenever I was at school. I was too scared to tell anyone about how my adoptive mother treated me but the positivity I received in school canceled out the negative labels she gave me. I believe this is why I was able to become a social worker, a teacher, and even a cardio boxing instructor later on. I want to be that positive energy for others as well.
You mentioned that you met a guy who physically and mentally abused you. How long did it take for you to get out of the intimate partner violence situation?
When I was a domestic violence social worker, I fell in love with a man who punched me so hard that I was left in bruises many times. He would belittle me and though I find it unbelievable now, I actually didn’t have the courage to ask for help at that time. I just couldn’t bear to be known as the domestic violence social worker who entered a violent relationship.
I would persuade myself that he didn’t mean it and that he was nice when he wasn’t angry. My friends didn’t know that he was beating me but they sensed something was wrong. A year into the relationship, I tried to leave him but life felt meaningless without him so I went back. My going back gave him validation for his actions and his attitude towards me became even worse than before.
Luckily, I became a cardio boxing instructor and the overwhelming positive feedback I got from my students made me realize that I wasn’t the worthless person he said I was. Once I found my own worth and calling in life, I left him.
Can you tell us the most memorable case you worked on as a social worker?
One case I’ll never forget involves a woman who came back to the shelter six months after I closed her case. I was quiet upset when I saw her because I thought she was still stuck in the same place as she was six months ago. But to my surprise she greeted with a big smile. She told me that she found a stable job that pays just enough for her to take care of herself and her child.
In a moment of weakness, she had let her abuser enter her house again but she knew it was time to end the relationship once and for all when he hit her again. Her voice was unwavering because this time she was confident that she could work hard and protect herself and her child. Just a few days later she got some help from a relative and left the shelter again. I knew I didn’t have to worry about her anymore.
Do these experiences have a positive impact on yourself?
Everyone I worked with as a social worker had an impact on me. I noticed that people deal with violence differently and it reaffirmed my belief that we can’t change our past but we always have a choice in how we face our future. If we can’t run away from adversity, why should we face it with a frown and make life harder for ourselves?
The influence that my clients had on me when I was a social worker made the person I am today – a person who chooses to face life with a smile.
Thank you very much for accepting our interview invitation. The HÁI Body collection is a product developed for working women. What do you think of the bodysuit you received?
It blows my mind that such a simple top could look so feminine. It fits perfectly and I love the material. The moment I unwrapped the package, I understood the difference between a girl and a woman. The cut of HAI’s racerbacks really accentuates my shoulders and back.