But I only got 54 likes, 3 hearts, 6 comments on Facebook plus one physical high five. Most of my social network average around 400–500 likes when they deliver their child. Humph.
From a very young age, I always felt different. Not Alien different. But like, I wanted to challenge the norm. Constantly. I didn’t want to accept ‘what was’ just because ‘that’s the way things are’.
The conventional made me question everything. Is there more to life for me than the 3.5 kids, than owning a home? What if I don’t eat three meals a day? What if there was something, I personally, am missing?
I remember shaving my legs for the first time as a young girl. 10 years old I was to be precise. Confessing to my mum was petrifying. I was in tears, at the dining table about to tell Mum what sin I had committed. It, that day, felt like my world was crumbling. For 10 year old me, having to tell my Mum that I had tried shaving my legs at such a young age knowing she would disapprove, was very overwhelming. I always had an urge from when I was 7 to shave my legs, but held off. The desire to remove the thick dark hair I’d inherited that no one else had even recognised, was very real. There I was. Controversial, at 10 years. Forward thinking perhaps. But mostly a pretty fair want, I thought.
You see, I was brought up in quite a traditional family. Italian. (Queue film plot of “Looking for Alibrandi” as a very accurate depiction). I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. Although, sometimes it felt like I was growing up in a small village in Italy. Everyone knew your business. And by everyone, I mean everyone in the local bubble we lived in. If you looked at Mrs Romano from the local supermarket and didn’t say hello and smile as she served you, she would be on the phone to your neighbour within minutes after her shift ended. Your neighbour would then call your Aunty, your Aunty calls her best friend, the best friend calls her sister in law, and before you knew it, Mum knew that you didn’t smile and greet Mrs Romano. Disrespectful. Shameful. “People, they watch you know. They know everything”.
Growing up in a traditional Italian family, meant I was fortunate to be brought up as well mannered — polite, clean, a good Italian girl. A mummy’s girl. My mum nurtured me as a child. Always. And I’m forever grateful for that. I think it’s given me the strength I needed as an adult to challenge conformity.
Being nurtured somewhat meant I was protected and well, when I look back, perhaps at times a little sheltered from the big wide world around me. I was brought up, to be a good Italian daughter. Learnt how to iron, clean the house from a young age, make my own bed; contribute to the household. You know, what women do.
Beyond that, I was always taught, to work hard. Earn your keep. And I had a rare, but very serious burning fire within. To always do better. My very best. Better than my best. I never really expressed my determination or followed that fire, until I was at an age where I felt more confident within. I’d suppress it, for the fear of failing. Disappointing others.
I was raised with good morals, values. Have a good education, study hard. Get a job, work hard. And, ultimately, work towards building a life — a family. That’s all you need to survive. Family. Good work ethic.
And whilst those values are at the core of what’s shaped me today, I always wanted more than that. More than the conventional. I always wanted more than to simply graduate uni, sit at desk from 9am-5pm in a mundane life, have the 3.5 children, white picket fence. I wanted more than this, in my existence. And that, has meant I’ve lived a pretty controversial life thus far. According to some.
The irony though. Now 30, a little older, and wiser, I actually just recently last year, gave birth. Carried for 9 months, was a little overdue in fact. Morning sickness was rife for not just the first trimester, but throughout the pregnancy. Labour was super intense. Painful, stressful. I was riddled with anxiety. Mrs Romano doesn’t know I gave birth. She wouldn’t be happy if she knew the kind of birth I’ve given. In fact, my birth isn’t really spoken about — it’s slightly taboo.
You see, I gave birth to a startup. A very different kind of birth, but one, in my eyes, that is still relevant. A birth that isn’t necessarily conforming, but still, is very much significant.
From conception to carrying and producing the product, I’ve carried my baby, and now, it’s out in the world to grow. It’s now gone through its teething phase, and is learning how to walk. It’s my time now to nurture it, as any mother would. Manage it — the product and the team. The child and it’s network surrounding it.
Achievements, and what others consider to be an achievement or success varies by individual. You see, my particular kind of birth has challenged me, personally, like I have never been challenged before. I’ve had many obstacles to overcome — emotionally, mentally. Many hard choices to make, live with and move forward from.
Giving birth to my startup hasn’t been easy, but, it’s given me purpose. More drive than ever before. There’s days where my personal bank balance has been at an all time low. Days where I’ve chosen not to buy my soy latte and bring a packed lunch (many of those). Days where I have sacrificed some lifestyle choices to push on and achieve what I consider to be a success. Those are all my choices. Days where I have wanted to scream in the lift. Days where I’ve wanted to run away. Cry.
Then, there’s the days where I’ve laughed uncontrollably. Felt an excitement within that I cannot contain. Sang KTV til my lungs can’t supply a stream of air any longer. Days where I have high fived everyone in the office and on the street that I’ve passed by. Days where I’ve smiled all the way home. Where I’ve eaten pizza and drank Prosecco. Where I’ve been able to travel, experience and appreciate so many other cultures, people, ways of being.
There were a mix of emotions at play whilst I was carrying in preparation of my birth. Seconds, minutes, hours, days of being on a rollercoaster. And all because, I chose to give birth of a different kind. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m still very much alive. More so than ever. It gets me up, each morning. And makes me tired, very tired, at the end of each and every day.
Giving birth to a startup is not for everyone. Personally, though, I have found that challenging the conventional, challenging life, and shaving my legs at 10 years of age has gotten me to where I am. Driven. Excited. Motivated. To make a mark and keep the fire ignited. And, well, ultimately, it’s left me needing significant Laser Hair Removal treatment.
So, what will you give birth to this year and grow the next?
My life completely changed at the age of 25, when I listened to gut, my unhappiness. I left a 7 year relationship (that wasn’t right, for me) just before walking the aisle, a mortgage, the great Australian dream, what everyone else wanted, for me. I soon after also left my steady, well paid Corporate job. Because, I knew there was more, for me.
Now, I’m Co-Founder of chozun, currently living in Shanghai, with Ai Ai the rescue cat, @ziaword & the chozun team, my three suitcases, an electric stove, a short term, rental lease. Own 1x electric scooter. And shares (in my own startup). Seeking cost effective laser treatment.