Welcome to Project Fabulous Femme! Once or twice a month, I'll introduce you to a Fabulous Femme who's inspired me. I invite them to share their perspectives on being a modern woman and other vital corps topics. Please be kind, curious, and open-minded.
Meet Ji Eun (Jamie) Lee.
Two names? You can call her Jamie, but government agencies like the Post Office use her Korean name, Ji Eun. I met Jamie working at Tipping Point, when I was at an existential tipping point. In order to make ends meet in the startup days of vital corps, I was the Controller-for-Hire for three startups. Feeling need to devote more time to vital corps and craving a move back to Western MA, it was time to find a replacement for me as Controller – enter Jamie! As I was transitioning my responsibilities to her, we got to know each other. Jamie is a like whipsmart onion with layers of such diverse and cool interests.
These days, she's works as the Senior Director of Operations at TreSensa, a mobile ad tech startup based in NYC. She also has a side hustle as speaker and workshop leader with a focus on helping professional women overcome negotiation anxiety at work. Considering our mutual love of supporting other women through practical skill-building, our paths have continued to criss-cross to this day. Ironically, she’s a Smith alum, so those paths cross in NYC and Northampton, MA. I could keep hyping Jamie, but let me just introduce you to her. Now, introducing Ji Eun (Jamie) Lee!
Q + A
How would you define being a modern woman in 2015?
Being a modern woman in 2016 is as much a conundrum as it is a privilege.
What do I mean? I had to figure it out myself, so I looked up both “conundrum” and “privilege” in the dictionary.
According to the Dictionary app on my MacBook, “Conundrum may refer to a logical postulation that evades resolution, an intricate and difficult problem.”
In other words, there’s no easy answer to being a modern woman.
Today, in the wifi-connected, organic-coffee-drinking, texting-and-tweeting modern world, we are all cognizant of the promise of gender equality. Girls can climb mountains, literally and figuratively, just as high and fast as the boys. Case in point, google the 14-year old bouldering wunderkind Ashira Shiraishi and consider we may have a Madame President in the White House in the near future.
The promise of gender equality is big, and it makes sense. There’s a growing body of research that shows that gender equality benefits both genders, our families, communities and organizations. The promise motivates us to do and be better. Yet true parity — in wages, in opened doors for opportunities, and in political representation and more — seems to elude us and seem just out of reach. We live this conundrum every time a key decision that impacts our bodies, our work and our lives is made behind closed doors by men.
But then there also is privilege which is defined as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”
At an early age, we develop faster than men. We have the choice (in most states) and power to bring forth a new consciousness into the world. We have all the access to people, knowledge and bandwidth that our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers never had. With hard work and focus, we can advance professionally to the highest levels and get behind those closed doors where big decisions are being made. Women in rich, modern societies enjoy this special right.
Then, at old age, we tend to outlast men by four and half years. We have significant advantages.
So in a nutshell, being a modern women is both a conundrum and privilege. It’s hard and it’s beautiful. It’s frustrating and it’s glorious. It’ both an ongoing struggle and a joyful ride, and we have to keep moving forward.
What do you think modern women should give more of a shit about?
I’d love to see women give more of a shit about setting our future selves up for success and embracing getting older. I think this is important especially since we live in a culture that fixates on youth and lionizes mavericks (read: men).
As we get older, we become more comfortable in our own skins, get better at listening and asking for the things we need, while our wisdom, know-how and earnings potential grow right along with us. It’s a beautiful thing, so I want more of us to fully embrace it and consciously work on setting up a comfortable and luxurious lives for our wiser, older selves.
I’m 34 now and I wonder what my 84-year old self would need to live a comfortable and luxurious life. Maybe it’s real estate or a business or investments that generate passive income. Probably warm weather, proximity to nature and a closet full of gorgeous but super comfortable shoes. Definitely a community of friends and family who warm her heart.
What would she be proud of and what would she regret? I think, more than anything, she would regret having wasted time mired in self-doubt, fear and passivity instead of doing things that bring joy, connection and mastery. Joy, connection and mastery require commitment and an investment of time, effort and attention. So I have to start today when I’m 34, for the sake of my 84-year old future self.
Conversely, what do you think modern women should give less of a shit about?
Setting our future selves up for success takes focus, so that means less brain space and resources spent holding ourselves to unattainable and outdated standards of femininity. I’d love to see modern women stop worrying that we’re not thin, quiet, pretty or likable enough.
When I say “modern women” I’m of course talking about myself. As a recovering people pleaser who loves to be liked, I’m all too familiar with the paralysis, fear and shame induced from trying to meet contradictory and unhealthy expectations put on modern women.
Just a few weeks ago, I caught myself standing in front of the mirror inspecting the cellulite and pinching the fat in my thighs and saying, “Ugh, I gotta do something about this.” For awhile I kept looking at other women on the streets and comparing my jiggly thighs to their thin and flawless ones, feeling undesirable. Which I know to be a load of horse garbage. My future self doesn’t give a shit to about that kind of stuff, and neither should I.
When did you realize you were meant to be a _____? How did you know?
In fall of 2014, I realized I was meant to be a Toastmaster when I attended my first New York Toastmaster club meeting as a guest of a friend. I knew right away I had found my tribe of supportive strivers and talented speakers after hearing the members’ prepared speeches. Each speaker shared a personal story to deliver an inspiring insight. Each speech uplifted the audience. Then followed thoughtful and astute evaluations by other members. I was hooked.
Public speaking is an exercise in vulnerability as much as it is a discipline in communication. I particularly love the in-person, human-to-human aspect. As a member of the audience, I love reading the speaker’s facial expressions, hearing their voice fill up the room and taking in their body language while they share their knowledge and stories. As a speaker, I love engaging the audience, making them laugh and seeing their reactions.
I often think this is so much better than reading Facebook status updates.
What’s your favorite non-negotiable act of self-care you do to decompress or recharge on the regular?
In the morning, the first thing I do is to pour myself a cup of tea, open my journal and jot down whatever I dreamt overnight, am feeling right now or still occupied with. I let the words sprawl out, unedited and unruly for about a page or two or three. Then, I write a list of things I’m grateful for and state an intention for that day. It helps me be grounded, positive and focused. Journaling in the morning is like a cup of joe for the soul.
What keeps you going when you're feeling down and out?
A handful of times each year I go through a funk that makes it really hard for me to get out the door, make eye contact with people and speak without constantly apologizing for my existence. To get through this, I do a few things.
First, I take quiet time to be alone, to read, to seethe and to write my Shitty First Drafts, or my ego’s whiny, twisted version of the story about how everything sucks, how I’m never gonna be good enough and it’s all hopeless so why do I even try. I let it all out — all that irrational horse garbage clunking around in my head and wearing my soul and body down
After I calm down a bit, I write another list of every little, big, dull and shiny thing that I’m grateful for. I’m grateful that mail got delivered today. I’m grateful I went to work and there was work to be done. I’m grateful for the pen I’m holding. I’m grateful for all my loved ones. I go on and on writing this list until I get distracted or start feeling a little silly about the gratitude I feel for the hardwood floor.
Then finally I have to get out and reach out. I have to get out of the house and move my body, even if it’s to just walk around the block. I have to reach out to a friend, even if to just say hey, how are you, I’ve missed you, what’s going on?
Then much later, after I’ve recuperated from my down and out funk, I go back to read my Shitty First Drafts and get a good chuckle out of them.
Who’s a fabulous femme inspiring you? What makes her so fab?
The women I work with at my day job are a group of fabulous femmes who inspire me toshow up and work hard and collaboratively. Their diligence, their dedication and their innate sense of inclusion and community help drive the company forward. Working with them makes my present life prosperous and sets me up for even greater future success. So I’m grateful for the fabulous women I work with. Thank you, (in alphabetical order) Beth, Christine, Elena, Kirsten, Lupe, Nicole, Sarah, and Val.
If another woman wants to connect with you, how would you prefer that happens? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out my blog on jieunjamie.com. [Kara note: You can also sign-up for her newsletter there, which always has really practical, actionable negotiation tips or a really honest story about how she learned those lessons.]
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