Nelson Mandela Quotes

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Nelson Mandela Quotes


“What counts is not the mere fact that we have lived, it is what difference we have made to the lives of others. that will determine the significance of the life we lead” -Nelson Mandela

“One of the most difficult things is not to change society but to change yourself ” -Nelson Mandela

“Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished” -Nelson Mandela

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.” -Nelson Mandela

Follow up on Shame

Incredible Encouragement & Connection 

I’m deeply moved by the support that has come out from the previous post about the really dark humiliating issues of shame. Writing something so vulnerable can come off as excuse-making or attention seeking or begging for sympathy.

The intention for me writing was simply honestly. MeganYoungmee_Shame3The overwhelming response was hearing it out with openness and offering support, encouragement and love. Friends and total strangers opened up to share stories, kind words and insights and it has been a huge blessing.

Shining light on things that happen brings out the ugly truths most of our society hides. This stuff affects to people we know but it’s sometimes easy to forget. Bad things exists around us and created by us. I said what I said because I want to be accountable to the people in my life. I refuse and won’t make excuses, hide or rationalize my behavior. I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore. I’m on this planet to learn.

Some big lessons have come out of this.

The Idea of a Quick Fix to Shame
People have asked me “What is your plan, How are you going to fix it?” I appreciate the question and well, I think if there was a simple solution, every person with depression, anxiety or anger issues on the planet would have jumped at the chance to not put someone through this and not feel the horrible guilt and shame associated with the aftermath. It’s a complex problem with complex answers, having an open forum on it is a good start. Being responsible to myself and the people around me is another part of the process. Choosing to not repeat the behavior is the next step.

Solid Advice.
A friend reminded me that following adrenaline and the excitement of change can also leave a big crash and hangover. It’s important now to slow down, take stock and allow my brain to wrap itself around change of the last year (and intense last 3 months) and not allow myself to hurt others in the meantime.

Other friends encouraged me to have a plan, connect with other people, write,  and remember to reach out.

People have offered books, blogs and introduced me to others who might have gone through something similar.

Group Therapy
My brother and I were talking and realized how writing and being transparent was a version of a therapy for me to help break the cycle of secrecy and isolation. I didn’t expect is how many people came out to say how they had felt something similar and share their story. The idea of group therapy is to be able to connect to people who feel similar things as you. It’s the recognition that personal struggle and demons are part of the human condition. Being imperfect but willing to recognize your faults and work on them together is a step in the right direction.

Somehow this article ended up doing just that. He said, “It’s therapy for you to write it, its therapy for other people going through it and its therapy to reflect and get wisdom from others.  Now you know who to reach out to and who is there.”

Responses from Folks who Haven’t  Personally Struggled with Mental Health
I had some people reach out who never experienced something like this and therefore no point of reference or baseline of understanding of mental health. Overall, it was  encouraging because many friends still responded with openness and love.

One person mentioned that it helped them understand what another friend was going through. Another sent me a message that they had never dealt with something like that but are grateful that I’m ok. Some people were disturbed and shocked. Some were embarrassed for me, others had to face their own demons and secrecy. The full range of responses were fair.

Polarization of Feedback
From this post I saw perfect love and absolute hate. Something so polarizing means it hit a nerve of something massively emotional. For people going through depression or supporting a someone battling a hard time, there was an outpouring of acceptance and appreciation. On the other side there were hundreds of people that were repulsed, angry and couldn’t believe that I would publicly air things that I “should” keep to myself.


Kicking a Gal When She’s Down: A Word on Public Shaming

These were the first negative comments, or trolls I’ve dealt with since starting a blog.  An initial thought was.. Wow. My first troll! This is kind of amazing. I wrote something that made people feel something, even if it was anger or disgust and they were moved to actually leave a comment.

Getting people do do anything on the web is actually very difficult. I used to work for a start-up where I did design internet marketing and social media. We worked our asses off to get people to act, respond or click. Usually it was just to like us or go to a new page on the site and it was really difficult.

So I take any action as a good sign that the post made them feel something. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Some folks told me left comments on reddit saying I should have “pulled the parachute cord” and that men should “Keep a firm hand gents or your woman will display this embarrassment to the world. She will make a pussy attempt at offing herself and then blog at fucking novel length about it.”

I had to reflect on what was written and try to understand where they are coming from. The sad realization was that it was people who have been deeply hurt by someone like me in their life. For that I’m incredibly empathetic and profoundly sorry.

Rage and disgust are honest and understandable reactions. I’ve been on both sides of a violent relationship, the recipient of really damaging comments and physical abuse from both men and women. I can get how people would be repulsed by my thoughts and it would trigger the need to attack someone. But isn’t that the problem with the cycle of Abuse/Shame/Suicide?

This type of public shaming of a post that tells someone, “You are not allowed to feel this and how dare you have the gall to post your experience.” It invalidates peoples emotions. It continues the myth that we should “man up” and deal with the experience in stoic isolation.

With a trend of cyber-bullying-induced suicides of our teenagers, we adults really need to take note and try to lead by example to not proliferate this kind of behavior. Myself included.

There are ways to reach out with criticism, advice, and feedback that is constructive, such as writing a personal email. Growing a thick skin is going to be important if i choose to be vulnerable with online content, but so is cultivating openness to hearing where people come from by letting every comment be a part of the conversation. My question is “Why is it that people spewing hate almost always do it from anonymity?”

Each one of us has issues. It’s easy to compare and try to say one person’s thoughts or experiences are more important than another’s. I think its more nuanced and relative than that. Everyone goes though a personal journey that is super subjective. My worst day is maybe a cake walk for someone else. I may have been through horrors that some of you only heard about in movies. Does it matter who’s hurt is “worse”? Pain is still pain.

For men reading who have been hurt by an abusive women. I’m deeply sorry. I’m profoundly understanding of your anger. No one deserves to be the victim of someone else’s issues. I make no excuses and will be accountable for every action I’ve put out into the world. Thank for reading and I’m open to understanding where you are coming from.

Repeat behavior shows me that the commonality of the experiences is me and the solution starts with me.

A Word on my Husband.
Joel is a better man than I have ever known. He graciously teaches me about unconditional love, patient kindness and forgiveness. I have not felt like I deserved this kind of acceptance and I’m humbled by it. I am so proud of him for standing up for himself, taking care of his needs and not allowing inappropriate behavior. He’s a brilliant, good man who see’s everything and can do anything (seriously) Thank you for seeing me, getting me, teaching me and deciding to work together.

A Final Note from a Shame Expert.
I found this Ted Talk after I wrote the post on abuse and suicide. Brené Brown is a shame and vulnerability expert and says some amazing things about how shame defines who we are and why it causes crappy behavior.  It’s got some beautiful advice and insight.


Some quotes include: 

  • Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage. -Dr Brené Brown
  • Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.-Dr Brené Brown


A Shameful Truth: Suicide and Abuse

Suicide and Abuse

Today was a hard day.

No that’s an understatement. Today was a miserable, horrible, terrifying, life-threatening day.

And I created it all myself.  

I do a lot of writing about meditation, travel, self-betterment, reflection, community, wellness and generally up-lifting things. It can make me seem like I’ve got answers, that I’ve figured things out.

I haven’t.

Well, I think I’m in the process of figuring some things out, sure, so are all of us. But I have a long long way to go and nights like tonight make me realize just how far I have to go, how much I have to learn, and how I need to self-regulate and be accountable to face all parts of who I really am head first.

If anything, writing about healing and self-betterment make me feel a bit like a big hypocrite. Interestingly enough, many writers of similar topics and therapists have the biggest struggles with these things. It’s the reason they were so persistent in learning how to cope with themselves. Anyway, I digress.

I can act like a manipulative, abusive, mentally-unstable, borderline psychotic person. There might be a few of you reading who have unfortunately seen this. And I’m overwhelmingly sorry and I’ve always felt ashamed and regretful about the way I’ve acted and the people who have been affected. The worst part is that they are always the people closest to me – my parents, my boyfriends past, my closest friends and roommates. They have gotten see the deepest darkest parts of me, poor souls.

There may be others who might think, “Aw, you are being hard on yourself.” 

Well, yes, I am being hard on myself, I usually am, but it doesn’t mean I act any less abusive, manipulative or mentally-unstable.

Confession: Today I ripped up my marriage certificate, I called my husband terrible, condescending and mean-spirited names, I hit him repeatedly and threw things. It was complete unfounded and not instigated by him. Shamefully, It wasn’t the first time for us or for me in past relationships.

He left me for really good reasons. I act physically, mentally and emotionally abusive. He stood up for himself that he didn’t deserve to be treated with this kind of disrespect especially as he’d always loved me so openly in return.

When he left, I put a big sharp knife to my throat, sobbed hysterically and made intense stabbing motions towards my belly, heart and throat while yelling at myself to just finish it. I pictured the blood rushing out of my body in sweet relief and I promised myself this time I would not and could not fail at killing myself. If I was going to do it, I’d be sure I hit a major blood vessel to drain me as much as fast and thoroughly as possible. No scars, no calls for help, no property damage, no post suicide-attempt healing, I just wanted to get the job done.

This battle lasted for 12 hours.

I hated who I was and what I did and didn’t know how to care about changing it. I even told Joel to pick-up Teddy the next day, making him worry about my safety. It was mean and awful on so many levels.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this or done this, but it is the first time, I came to my own rescue. And it’s definitely the first time I’ve aired it publicly.

It’s so sad, that I even researched the most efficient ways of killing myself. Turns out jumping off a building over 10 stories high, running in front of a moving train or slicing your jugular vein are the most efficient ways that hurt the least and cause the least damage if you don’t have a gun. All of which are surprisingly difficult to accomplish. The statistics are crazy.

Tonight, all I had was a large kitchen knife.

Last time, I had pills, and I took them and I failed at accomplishing the terrible goal on my mind. in 2008, I put my self, family, friends and ex-boyfriend through hell and ended up in the Los Angeles Mental Hospital for a few long expensive days because I was considered a danger to myself. I’ve been to jail after a physical fight with an ex-boyfriend. I’ve made suicidal threats before, I’ve even tried to jump off of the Rose Bowl during an actual game.

I bring these things up, because, suicide and abuse are a familiar pattern. All created by my own anger and shame.

I’m not proud of these things. I’m telling you to illustrate that mental health issues are something I’m overly familiar with since I was 7 years old. I’m airing it to change the secrecy/shame cycle. These things have been a part of my reality.

I’m not saying this to be morbid, and not even as a cry for help, (not this time anyway). I’m writing it because it happened. It’s true and usually what I do after something like this is would hide it. Hide it from everyone I know. Hide it from everyone who might have an idea of who I am that is better than what I did tonight. I’d try to hide it from myself and try to make myself believe that everything was going to be fine, fine, fine if I just avoided it and ignored it.

Joel told our parents what had happened and I was mortified. I wanted to stay in my own secret dark world and believe no one could see that I had these horrible flaws. My inlaws now know I’m nuts! I don’t want to put my family through anything else. When my mom reached out with love it spiraled me even deeper into self hate. How could he shine light on things instead of letting me wallow?

In the past, with secrecy and justifications, I’d learn to hate myself more deeply each time.

Not this time. This time there is something to learn from the experience that will hopefully help me and maybe even someone else.

So, why did I do it?  Why did I hurt him? Why have I hurt others?

I had a bunch of terribly rationalized reasons for it. “He didn’t do this right, or that right” but it all comes down to much the harder realities, the Real reasons, none of which are his fault.

My own deep self-loathing. Self-hate.  

I have had the problem of hating myself for a really, really long time. Where does it come from? I could pull out a laundry list, some which might be unique to me and some we might all have in common.

My biological mother and father left me on a train when i was a baby, I had 3 sets of people I called parents before I was 2. I was sexually abused, I had abusive relationships. Most women hate ourselves for something. The media isn’t kind to women (or men for that matter) and makes us feel pretty worthless at times like we need to fit a perfect mold to finally be complete. We all have our motivations for acting out.

We all have traumas. Mine are not so special. There is no Poor me.

None of them justify what I did, but it does help me set the stage for the reasons Why, which start the process to come up with a solution or a change. It also helps me empathize with myself because the fact is that bad behaviors don’t just come from nowhere.

For years, I’ve been working through this stuff, with therapy, body work (dance, yoga), plant-medicine, self-reflection, opening up to people trying to be honest with myself. Until a couple weeks ago, I thought “It’s working, I’m past it”. I felt confident in how far I’d come.

But today my mindset regressed and I started to tell myself, “maybe just maybe all of that stuff was total crap and I was no farther than I was 10 years ago.” After all, how could I be back here, hurting people.

But that was another lie, the same old lie I used to believe. 

So why do I do these things and then put myself through hell for long drawn out hours?

After he left I was home by myself, I mentally and physically beat myself up, rationalized my actions, Why did I make him feel worse? Why do I put my mind and body through the ringer and have a hard time un-spinning the death spiral where I aimed myself? What is wrong with me?

Is it some sort of other world spirit possessing me? Is it that I’m just that bad person that will repeat the same mistakes over and over again? Why do thoughts like, “They always leave; Well I’m fine without them; I’ll never change; I have no friends; I am alone and it’s my fault; I push everyone away; They all hate you anyways; It’s hopeless” come into my mind on a repeat track?

I tried to figure out and went between talking to myself, crying with self-pity, asking myself questions, praying to God and the universe for answers, and yes, understandably, questioning my overall sanity. The backdrop of the wracking rainstorm of Peru beating down made it a complete visual metaphor.

I think might partially come back down to a couple little words : I AM.  

That sounds esoteric, but let me explain. I get caught believing that who I am, my permanent essence and identity, is what happens and how I feel  in the moment. I get honestly confused. When I act out like a crazy lady, from years of hurts, hardships and protection, and repeat behavior, I start to think it’s all I am and all I ever will be and I want to murder it and get rid of it forever.

I forget.

I forget that there was anything else I’ve ever done or been that might have been good in the world. I think, “I’ve done it again, everything you’ve built up and learned is worthless, because right now, you are a very bad person and a psycho. Nothing works, You will never change.”

After spending time learning new languages, I think there is a huge reason for this. We don’t have two forms of the world To BE in English. Spanish and like, every other language on the planet separates our essence and self from temporary states of emotions and happenings. In English, there is one reality- I Am nuts, now, then and forever. The words to be/I am, define us.

You’ll notice that I specifically used the words, “act” crazy than “I was crazy or am a crazy” in my writing. I’m trying to separate these concepts so I don’t continue the lie and confusion that my temporary actions ARE who I am. I need to separate the definition that who I am isn’t purely the things I do. It’s a process of changing my language and changing my mindset of myself.

Another really bad habit is that I have also been looking for someone to protect me from myself. I bought into the Hollywood myth maybe that someone else can complete you and fulfill all of your needs. “Marriage” I thought, “might just be the final thing that will fix my abandonment freak outs..”

Here was Joel, balancing me out in almost every way and being so much of what I needed to save me from myself. It seemed like the perfect final solution to my problems.

Marrying Joel was the best and hardest things for someone who is genuinely afraid that anyone who knows who I “really am” will leave me eventually. Classic abandonment complex.

You can ask my mom, I put her through hell and back, pushing my boundaries to see if she’d leave. She never did, but I ran away 3000 miles away. See the pattern? I do my best to sabotage so I can later blame people for leaving. Counterproductive, I realize, but the gosh darn truth, especially for adoptees.

I kept thinking, “If only he did this, and only did that, he could unwind my crazy and we wouldn’t be in this situation.” Well, if he couldn’t save me who could?

But my damage was still there and I quickly became dependent on his kindness and helping me get out of negative mindsets. We both quickly realized he couldn’t fix me.

Also, I’ve been on another fun little mission to sabotage what Joel and I are starting down here. A business where we will finally build something that is ours. A microbrewery where we support the local economy, make an honest all natural product that brings people together. Tres Osos Brewing.  

My deep fear of failure is unreasonable. So deep that I have used it to basically squash anything good that can happen to me. Especially if I think it could be really great. I really believe in this venture and my so, I guess, my radar to seek and destroy good things was on full alert.

Again, these are not excuses, just realizations of the giant walls I feel like I need to put up in front of myself to keep myself from getting too hurt.

It made me really think about why I was so terrified for people to see me for what I did. He did it so they could send love and be there to support us. I could barely handle a text from my mom saying, “How are you?”

It was the secrecy and aloneness that made the whole thing so much worse.

So what kicked me out of the shameful, secret cycle of self-hate and suicidal thoughts?

After a couple naps, lots of tears and prayers, I thought, If I were Joel, I’d write on my facebook. “Hey friends, Megan is going through some really hard times right now and if you could send her a little note to reminder her who she really is with a memory, story or anecdote, I think it might help change her night.” 

I started thinking of friends who might reach out and tell me things that made me remember who I really am. I began picturing old and new friends and the meaningful conversations we’ve had along the way. I thought about people who made a difference in my life and those lives I might have affected in some small way.I realized I might just be someone who is thoughtful and will reach out to someone to talk if it seems like they are dealing with something hard.

Funny enough, I actually had small but beautiful conversation from a dear friend from college who actually reached out at the exact moment to tell me that she had really been moved and valued the time we had together when she visited for the wedding.

I was proud of myself, “Megan, That would be the greatest thing to do for someone going through this. It’s kind and it would be exactly what that person would need, It’s totally something you would do.”

That’s it. I had to realize that sometimes I’m nice.
Sometimes I do good things and I’m not just a miserable mean person that hurts other people. I act that way from time to time, unfortunately. But I can be a decent human being. That helped me snap out of wanting to kill myself.

It doesn’t undo what happen or get rid of all negative thoughts. It doesn’t fix the fact that I can act abusive. That’s going to be a long road of accountability and self-control ahead. BUT. It’s a good start to start doing less damage to myself, which can’t hurt.

I’m far from perfect but I realized I am learning and it is a choice. It’s a seemingly impossible one sometimes. It’s easier to wallow and hit the repeat track of self hate, but it is doable.

I can be my own hero and my own savior. 

There is no quick fix, there is no on solution that makes things better. It’s a constant process of working to love more, learn more and be better.

This doesn’t mean other people can’t help the process. It also doesn’t mean we should reach out to others to help or to even better ask for help. But I did realize that I have that empowered ability to get out of the funk and that only I can change my mindset. It’s unrealistic to expect people to fix external things or help me find the answer to my own damaging problems.

Suicide rates are up all around the world. It is one of the biggest killers in the world and we shouldn’t all feel shame and loneliness that no one else knows what it is like or people will judge us for having these thoughts.

Abuse is a bigger problem than any of would like to admit. I bet we’ve all been affected by being abused or being the abuser in some level of life, even if it’s at work or a manipulative friend. Shame and self-hate with abuse might just be a chicken/egg situation. Did I get ashamed from abuse and then continue the pattern with other people? OR did being suicidal cause me to be abusive out of my own depressive state? Either way transparency and self-love, I think can help break the cycle.

Honesty with ourself, openness with each other, and an earnest change in actions, are the only way we can face it and make a difference in their damaging effects of the shame spiral.

An earnest apology to conclude.

I’m so sorry for hurting my most loved ones. I’m sorry for saying damaging evil things. Those things can never be erased or removed. Violence is completely unacceptable. Every day, poco a poco. I’ll try to hold my tongue, put myself in time-outs, breath, meditate and act with patient love.

Many times I’ll fall, but damn it, It’s worth continuing the fight. This feels especially true when you find someone as loving, patient and sweet as my husband, not to mention my family and my friends who have stuck by me through my darkest hours.

A special thanks to the girls in LA who nursed me back to health in 2008 and my parents who never left me and never stopped loving me. Thank you for your prayers, your kindness and your grace.

A special and deep apology to my kind and wonderful Joel who has stood by my side and is still always the first one willing to work together. He teaches me about what love and grace are each day and he’s willing to work through things.

This is a somewhat ironically timed post after showcasing wedding stuff but it is what it is.

DIY Barn Wedding Recap

Non-Traditional, Potluck, DIY Barn Wedding
with a budget, planned in only 2.5 weeks.

MeganYoungmee_WeddingDIYAs Plato once said, “Love is a serious mental disease,” but he followed it up saying it’s the “joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the universe.”

As a girl who struggled about the concept, “Will I ever find someone who gets me, do I think true love exists, do I actually want to get hitched, or even believe in marriage?”, here I am sitting in Peru a month after the wedding with the love of my life and my husband forever.

And it still hasn’t quite sunk in. You can ask Joel, I accidentally call him boyfriend from time to time and think of running for the hills out of pure habit. I was a conflicted girl for reasons that weren’t that I didn’t love him; it was my own insecurity and doubts about the idea of forever.

Somehow with his constant reassurance, deep patience, and unwavering love that goes beyond anything I thought was possible, here we are, with wedding photos.MeganYoungmee_WeddingDIY3We married, we made the right decision and I feel like an incredibly lucky woman to find my soulmate at 30 and know after all, that he was was absolutely right for me.

It was dream wedding with a 3K budget that we planned and executed in only 2 and a half weeks. It was a budget barn, DIY and completely untraditional potluck wedding. (FULL GALLERY)

We could only have made the actual event happen with the help, love and generous gifts of our closest friends and family to accomplish what was seemingly impossible to most. There was no registry, there was no catering, no bridal party, processional, cake, or white dress.

The traditions we held were the ones that meant something to us - a feast cooked by the people we love, enough alcohol to be festive, a lovely setting, and a promise we made to each other in front of the friends, family who could spend the day with us were the traditions we honored.

That was it. That was our day and our dream.  We did it with our community and included everybody who was willing.

People astounded us by coming out of the woodwork to offer lighting, sound equipment, christmas lights, tulle, candles, mason jars, fire pits, lanterns, and even box trucks for transportation. Talented photographer friends offered to support us with the gift of their skills and we ended up with 6 people shooting the wedding from all angles.

The best part was, we were able to spend quality time building out all of the decor by hand with people we loved.

Our friends, and mothers worked together over warm conversation, to create newspaper origami birds, elegant light fixtures, paper flowers made of secondhand books, centerpieces of branches, and spray painted tin cans, and candles. The ladies cut paper circles that Joel and I later sewed together with chandelier drops and strings to turn into a backlit archway that looked like seashells and sparkles. MeganYoungmee_WeddingDIY2 Our dads and brothers built log platforms and custom made tealight holders out of recently fallen trees. We were even so lucky to have Joel’s superman brother, who literally got back from the army a few days prior, help us in the barn for long hours climbing barn beams to hang tulle and take epic pictures. The guys strung lights together for hours.

Some friends drove for miles to bring us chocolate fountains, keg buckets and glass jars. Other friends surprised us with the support of a keg that was paid for without asking or wanting anything in return. The spirit of generosity was in the air and it profoundly touched our hearts.

The wonderful family that rented us the barn furnished the place with antiques that they had been collecting for years. The space was full of plush red crushed velvet couches, a mishmash of beautifully crafted chairs, old oak desks – all for free. Can you believe the generosity?

Their family of boys hauled trash, climbed pillars to install electrical lines and swept the barn out with us. Some even helped hand-paint signs and sculpt centerpieces.The day before the wedding ten kids were running around helping us decorate branches with what they called “little diamonds” – cheap chandelier drops I found on Amazon.

The best part was, Joel and I spent 8-10 hours a day at the barn the last week to install everything as a pair. It was a learning and growing experience learning how to work together. It was a collaboration made in DIY heaven. We concepted and executed everything as a team. Where I would get overwhelmed by details, Joel would swoop in and finalize all of the nuts and bolts. Where he’d need a visual eye, I could help out with problem solving from a broad perspective.MeganYoungmee_WeddingDIY4 The extra bonus of the wedding concept that was that 90% of everything we used was recycled or pulled from the abundance of nature, which was not only cheap, it was green.

There was more food than anyone could ever eat, and someone was even so bold to say said, “This is the best wedding food I’ve ever had- I have 30 different bites on my plate”. The potluck allowed us to invite everyone because when everyone brings enough for themselves and a few extra people, the food issue fixes itself.

Our budget went to the support Bausman Barn and the family who took care of it, a selection of artisanal beer kegs, yummy wine, a fully stocked bar, craft supplies, printing large canvas travel photos, a few rentals, seats, cocktail tables and yes, even port-o-pottys (every girls dream ;).

We might have challenged the status quo. We might have redefined what a wedding was for some. We we did it for ourselves and our authentic desire to start a life together filled with simplicity, meaning and generosity. I hope you enjoy the entire library of photos.

Special thanks to:
Ben, Lorena, Joeleen and Johnika Hubbard
Kate Jeffreys Photography
Jeff Oberholtzer, Wings of Steel
Scott Quintavalle & Sasha Skolnick
Ryan & Katie Summers

Roger Fitzwater
Greg Zittle
Sarah Munroe & Doug LaRocca
Jared, Leah & Ayla Krempels
Jay & Dawn Oberholtzer
Dan & Vicki Krempels
Every one of our incredible loved ones who gave generously of their time, love, gifts, food and presence.

Feel free to purchase photos by the talented Kate Jeffreys. Password: Ted

Here is the complete gallery DIY Barn Wedding Photos - All, DIY, 90% recycled, hand-made, crafty wedding in Lancaster, PA. Much love Megan Youngmee and Joel Oberholtzer

Barn Wedding Photos

Gallery: Non-Traditional Potluck Barn Wedding Photos

The Barn in Autumn during the day

Read about the wedding concept and the recap.


Read more about why we chose a red dress.

Jeff_IMG_6739 Jeff_IMG_6743_2

The Ceremony


Crafty Details inside the Barn.

Lighting installation with Christmas Lights and Paper Chandelier Archway


Kate_MG_6045  Kate_MG_6073

Our friends and family

The Barn at Night


If you would like to purchase photos are more images here by the talented Kate Jeffreys. Password: Ted

To rent this incredible space:

Jon Owens is the owner Brookline Builders: They specialize in historic renovations.

Pictures of the barn before and during the work

Men and Women According to Google

What are we searching for; what are we finding?

I’ve used google image search to compare and contrast visual things in my design research as a standard part of my inspiration process.

Here’s an example
Just look up Harvard vs USC. Harvard shows stoic seals and beautifully kept grounds highlighting vast libraries. Meanwhile, USC shows sunny football games, hot girls and lots of cardinal and gold. Right away, I think you can get a sense of things from how people label images and what we see on the internet.

One afternoon when working on an icon where I had to draw a silhouette showing men and women, I did my standard inspiration research bender where I get general ideas by google image searching it.

I stumbled upon this: When I looked up women silhouettes, I found stiletto wearing, half-naked, bending over symbols of females, and in stark contrast,  men silhouettes showed guys in suits, running things, standing tall, and looking busy.

MeganYoungmee Quote ManWoman

My internal response was, “Wow, You’ve got to be kidding” Is this real life?

I kinda forgot about this until I watched this video as posted by Upworthy and produced by Emma Hall. It demonstrates how autofill in the search bar shows how we as a collective group of users search for things around gender issues.

It’s well, really sad. I certainly don’t think everyone thinks such blatantly demeaning thoughts about woman and feminists, but I do think it’s worth questioning as a whole. Understandably, I’ve been afraid of using the word feminist because of the stigma.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve noticed an imbalance of male to female power in the world. I’ve even been doing a lot of reading on what defines men to try to be both as objective and empathetic as possible. This article specifically talks about the challenges of masculinity which I found incredibly insightful. Being a Man can be really tough.

It doesn’t change that the symbols we see, the autofill forms and the leadership in the world is unevenly tilted towards the man camp. I think it’s time to redefine who we are as both men and women.

Wedding Traditions

The Meaning of Things

As Joel and I work together to plan the wedding that best represents who we are, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking and research about the history and original purpose of wedding traditions.

While it may seem crazy to some that we have been putting together an event for 200 people in only 2 and a half weeks, we can do this because we chose a potluck party, picked the ideas that are significant to us and worked together, as we both have some time off work to make a simple but hopefully beautiful event.

Through our decision making process we uncovered some interesting history on how wedding traditions got started and eventually were ingrained into our culture.

The Wedding Myth
I think the standard wedding story and customs are pretty familiar to most. A diamond ring costing a few months salary, a gaggle of willing bridesmaids, an expensive white dress, a towering cake, bouquets and arrangements, giving away the bride before a religious and/or legal ceremony, specific rituals to fulfill like dancing with parents or the garter toss, all during a catered event full of immaculate rented table settings. To top it all off there is a wish list of dream items to fill a new home.

Sure these details are customized for each bride, some ladies opt for a cream dress, some pick cupcakes, some choose to forgo certain traditions like the tossing of the bouquet, but generally the formula is the same. It’s a culturally infused myth that is encouraged with reality TV, movies, songs, and societal norms. Anyone who doesn’t follow this is having a non-traditional wedding and bucking the trend.

Little girls are told to live their lives looking forward to the happily-ever-after moment per Disney movies and romantic comedies. It’s an end goal and it usually looks the same.


The Business

Wedding planning has become a complex business of selling you things to fulfill the American myth of the princess wedding. It’s a 51 billion dollar industry. That’s 5 times bigger than the movie theatre business.

There are blogs, magazines and huge companies that exist for just this. Long lists, spreadsheets and pin boards show you how to have the perfect wedding.

The planning and purchasing all cost time, money and a bit of the couples’ sanity – all of which could be used to build a life together, but is instead used for a one night event that we are all, well, kinda expected to do.

Our Research on Wedding Traditions
So, as Joel and I started putting together framework for our big day, we researched how some of these customs came to be and would love to share a few interesting ones with you.

The Diamond Engagement Ring
De Beers is the most well-known and powerful monopoly in the world. Through violence, market manipulation and outright lies and fraud, Cecil Rhodes and Harry Oppenheimer – backed by JP Morgan – bought up and controlled the entire industry to fix the price and create the illusion of scarcity.

Most people don’t know that diamonds are one of the most common gems on the planet. They are simply compressed carbon. We can even easily make perfect ones out of any dead matter (because anything alive is made of carbon)

Through strategic marketing, product placement in key Hollywood films, paying european royals, and celebrities to wear them at high-profile events, and spending billions on advertising campaigns since the 1930s, the men in power created the myth that they are forever and a girl’s best friend. Only 100 years ago, there really was no diamond engagement ring.

Diamonds are a girls best friend

The White Dress.
In 1840, Queen Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert and wanted to impress everyone that she was rich enough to wear a dress that she’d never have to wear again. It was made of a rare fabric of the time because no one else could bleach their natural colored fabrics. Commoners followed whatever fashions the queen chose.

Thanks to the Victorians, we women got to corset our ribs to the point we couldn’t breath, decorate our bums with ruffles to create a more pleasing shape to men, and yes, we got the pristine white dress for our big day.


Throughout history, more women have been married in red dresses than white, as it is a  common wedding tradition to wear a red dress in Chinese, Indian, Celtic and many other cultures. The color is known to represent luck, love, and passion. Meanwhile, white was known as a symbol of death, (like ghosts and burial gowns) and was worn by some to show the death of the life alone.

Weddings have been a legal and financial agreement from families to exchange and control money and power. Men had the name and power of the family, while women were worth actual money or goods.  Because of this financial exchange between selling off daughters, there was an industry of people kidnapping brides for ransom.

To protect the bride, her friends would be required to dress in the same outfit of the bride to keep her from being stolen.


Other history states that the western bridesmaid tradition is thought to have originated from Roman Law, which required ten witnesses at a wedding in order to outsmart evil spirits by dressing the same as the couple, so that the evil spirits would not know who was getting married.

The Bouquet
Flowers are incorporated into the wedding ceremony as a symbol of fertility but they also have been used as a way to ward off the plague, as women would keep herbs close to their noses to protect themselves from illness.


The Veil
The wedding veil started as a way of protecting a women fro evil enchantments. They believed it could scare off spirits.

Our Conclusions

Many traditions come from pretensions, superstitions, and power relationships. These practices and symbols change and morph over the years but are copied and appropriated as they fit the current norm.

Our Choices

Both Joel and I never judge or look down at these traditions. Many can be lovely and important to individuals based on their own experiences and values. We simply wanted to ask why people did them, how they started and what they signified. Then we asked ourselves whether or not it meant something to us and we chose what we would include accordingly.

The things that were meaningful to us were simple: promising to love each other and start a life together in front of our family and friends. Sharing a feast with people and celebrating with a fun party to kick our life into gear. Exchanging handwritten vows and wearing a ring that symbolizes eternity and cyclical nature of life. Finally, adding some of our own creativity and passions into it whether it was through a music playlist, lighting, or art installations.  

We collaborated on a lot of DIY projects, and worked on everything hand in hand. Doing things with our community helped us be able to spend valuable time with the friends that were interested in creating something really beautiful with us.

That is what a wedding meant to Joel and I. It will be non-traditional and probably considered bucking the trend. But it will be significant to us and we are blessed to have each other and such an amazing community of people in our lives to help bring everything together and support our ideas, in yes, such a short amount of time.

Read more about the concept.
You are invited to the event on Sat. Oct. 19.


Wedding Details: Official Invite


JM_WeddingInvite_V1_LRDownload: Printable Invite: Invitation 


Joel & Megan’s Wedding Potluck 

Saturday, October 19th

5pm – end of party

the Historic Bausman Farmstead
1631 Millersville Pike Lancaster, PA 17603

Please send total # of Guests to
Please let me know if you can’t make it or if you’d like backyard camping space.

1507 Millersville Pike, Lancaster, PA
New Life Church Christian Fellowship Parking lot (there is a lighted sign on the corner)
Shuttles run from 4:30-5:30 from the church parking lot, as well as after the event.
Go directly to Parking, put your food in the back of the shuttle and we’ll bring you over to the barn to avoid traffic jams

Backyard Tent Camping
1825 Driver Ave Lancaster PA 17602
Available upon request.
Guests can set up, drop off or get ready prior to the event on friday afternoon – there will be one bathroom available to share.

Hotel List
To come – we’ll post shortly

Closest Airports

Food Prep Notes
Please bring serving spoons & have dish ready to serve on a platter
There will be a shuttle running back and forth from the parking lot to the barn to transport you and your food.

Dress Code
Dress to feel great. Nothing formal. Evening fall party attire. Indoor/Outdoor.

Ceremony Seating 
There is seating for Immediate family and standing room for all of our lovely guests. (don’t worry – the ceremony won’t take more than 20 minutes. Promise.

Extra notes
There are some mosquitos still flitting around, so feel free to bring a little bug spray. We sure will.
Bring blankets or chairs if you want to picnic on the grass. There will be limited seating but plenty of room to spread out.

Wish List
Our hearts are bursting as friends have been asking for ways they can help out with the event. Here are some things that have come up in our planning. No pressure but if you have these resources readily available, we’d certainly appreciate the help.

  1. Sheer White Fabric
  2. Extension Cords
  3. Power Strips
  4. Fire Pits (2)
  5. Generator
  6. White Christmas Lights
  7. Plants

Participation Opportunities:

  1. Help with Set-up
  2. Help with the Event (fire tending, directing flow, driving, bartending, teddy watching)
  3. Any skills or fun thing you could add to the party.

Anything that you leave, we’ll track (put your name on the borrowed item on a piece of tape) and on a spreadsheet and then we’ll drop them off after the event.

Download the Printable Invite in Black White for details: 

Our Wedding Concept – Food & Friends


Our Darling Friends and Family

Please save the date for the evening of Saturday, October 19, 2013 for our wedding celebration.

Whoa! so soon? Yes! Here’s why. We aren’t planning an extravagant event, which greatly reduces planning time, and soon after the party, we’ll be moving out of the country. Lot’s of change, we know. We’ll get into the latter, at later time.

So, here’s our silly vision for a wedding.

Most folks picture white dresses, pristine table settings, gorgeous floral arrangements and mountains of gifts. We wish we saw this. It would be simpler for you than what we’re about to ask of you last minute.

Joel and I are interested in doing a social experiment. Shocking? Us doing something a little different or seemingly strange. That’s why you love us, right?

We not going to have bridesmaids, groomsmen, a registry, an expensive gown or a catered reception. We aren’t doing a destination event. There will be no rehearsal dinner, no bachelor party, no engagement event, no wedding shower.

What we want is each of you, our beautiful friends, family members, who have seen us through the highs and lows of life, to join us in celebration with a community potluck to send us into our lives together as a married couple.

Instead of looking at how much you want to spend on a registry list that will fill our home with stuff, we want participation that will fill our hearts with warmth and our heads with memories. We get this might more difficult than clicking a button to ship or buying a card.

We want your beautiful faces present, with one dish of your choice – a veggie, an entrée, desert, cheese or tasty beverage. (We have an inkling that we’ll end up with exactly what we need)

If you don’t feel comfortable cooking, buy a veggie tray. If you don’t feel comfortable around food, arrive with just your smile. If you feel moved to offer something else for the event like twinkly lights, candles, photography skills, a barn venue with a fire pit, a ride for a friend out of town, a room for someone to stay that night, a back yard for camping, a poem or crafty diorama, we’ll welcome it with appreciation.

But, we ask politely, that you not give us any purchased gifts or money.

Our part will be giving you a reason to celebrate and providing a space, music, tables/chairs, alcohol – Oh yeah we won’t forget plates/cutlery and other necessities… no eating with your hands :).

The reasons for this is this. We don’t want to have to pick and choose who is “honored” or “obligated”, depending how you look at it, to come celebrate this joyous occasion with us. We don’t want to worry about plus one’s and who we can afford to invite.

We don’t want to think of the politics about who’s is going to sit where or who we have to leave out. We want everyone who has ever touched our lives- you, your loved ones, and your children to be invited in sharing this day with us.

People know our values have gone through a shift the last few years. We really believe inclusive is the new exclusive, collaboration is the new competition, community outlook is the new individualism.

You get to save a little money hopefully, feed a new friend your favorite dish, have a good time at a nice little party and celebrate our love with us- simply and deliciously.

Are we cheap? Sure, maybe a little. You know we spent money trying to learn lessons, travel and follow our passions. Are we idealistic? Yes, duh, you know us well enough. But we are, who we are, and this is how we would like to honor what we have for each other.

Everyone can enjoy the short, sweet, but symbolic ceremony and have the reception immediately after in the same location. Feel free to join for one or both parts.

Let us know. The more the merrier. We will track guests for RSVPs to make sure there is a space that will fit the group of people that show up.

We don’t want to pressure anyone or put them out. If you feel excited about the possibilities of this idea and have a way that you want to be part of this as a gift to us, we’ll be forever grateful.

We’ll cherish your participation more than a paper-wrapped gift that will collect dust.

We aren’t religious people, but we think the reason the Jesus could feed that huge crowd, is not simply miracle from heaven, but a miracle of the graciousness of people. Once everyone saw sharing, they couldn’t help but bring their own bread and fish to help keep the party going. It was a miracle of the generous spirit of people.

We think we might just see this miracle.

Please RSVP to and let us know if you’ll be able to make it. 

We’ll send an invite via email, text and Facebook when we get a few details worked out, like time and place hopefully in the next week or so. No paper invites for us.

PS: A note to our LA friends and friends around the country: We are truly sorry this is so last minute. We get that it’s wild for us to ask you to drop everything and fly across the country for a potluck in 3 weeks. If you are able, we welcome you with open arms, and promise a beautiful, fall setting in a lovely, small town, if not, send your warm thoughts and blessings and we know you love us whether you can be present or not :)

Much love and many thanks,
Megan & Joel



Feel free to share the wedding concept.

DMT Spirit Molecule

The Science behind the Ayahuasca Experience.

Pscho-active, hallucinogenic chemicals are back in mainstream research and dialogue. They’ve linked a single chemical, DMT to what people experience in the spiritual realm whether it’s in meditation, dreams or near death experiences. DMT, Spirit Molecule, is found in absolutely anything that is living on the planet.

Suspend judgment and do a little research on why we are afraid to talk about psychedelic drugs. Educate and entertain yourself by watching this documentary, DMT Spirit Molecule:


MeganYoungmee Quote_Consciousness


Interesting Quotes from the Doc.

“Any kind of consciousness that is not related to the production or consumption of material goods is stigmatized in our society today.”

-Graham Hancock

“Why is it in the entire western world, these substances that have been found to be so interesting by hundreds of cultures for thousands of years are prohibited?

How did these cultures that consider themselves to be enlightened, democratic, and scientific get to declaring plants illegal? It can seem weird but there is clearly something deep and revealing about the nature of these societies.”


10 Travel Lessons

Most travel lesson lists are really similar: You learn gratefulness, open mindedness, flexibility, and an adventurous spirit to try new things. I’d have to agree with those but I found some nuanced lessons on the road I’d like to share.

Here are my top 10 Travel Lessons.

Megan Youngmee 10 Travel Lessons

1. Good, Thoughtful, Smart, Kind People who Build Something Should be Rewarded.
We currently live in a world, where the the big business guys win a lot. I chose the underdogs, the local mom and pop restaurants, the independent trekking guides, and the start-up hostels, and I was consistently rewarded with beautiful experiences. There was a heart and passion behind it, because there was real person, who deeply cared, running things.

Starting a business is HARD. Starting a great one is almost impossible. Our society doesn’t make this process any easier with subsidies and very real monopolies. This is why I have chosen reward this choice with my dollars. I want to help make that lifestyle- independently following a dream to create something of value- a sustainable choice.

Megan Young mee Small Business Quote

2. With any Bad Day, a Good Day is Close By
It’s easy to think things are permanent when bad things happen. Travel can get tough with sick stomachs, getting lost, getting over charged, dealing with mean people, feeling lonely, losing things or having them stolen.

My advice: Wait, 10 minutes and sometimes the worst day can turn into a great one within just moments between.

Travel really puts it into perspective because your highs can go really high and lows can go deeply low and a lot of times you end up seeing them right next to each other. I’ve noticed the ebb and flow of the lovely perfect days moving into the rough ones and back again and realized that’s just what life is about. Wait, be patient and see things change.

3. You Don’t Have to Use as Much as You Think you Do. Regarding Everything
When you live out of a carryon suitcase for 6 months, especially as a woman, space and weight become an issue. I have to haul everything I need on me, so what I use becomes something I really take into consideration. Beauty products, clothes, shoes and a lot of the things I felt like I needed, are all things I’ve learned to cut back. I even started taking shorter showers, using less shampoo and eating less (within healthy limits, of course- less snacking and binging) All consumables can be stretched farther than I once thought.

4. There are Always People Who Will Do Things Better and I Have so much to Learn
I noticed in other cultures, sometimes people do something just plain better than what we do it in the states. I loved seeing that. Better product design, more efficient transportation, a socialized system that doesn’t leave people bankrupt if they get sick. I like to learn from a country’s or individual’s research through trial and error. It gives me a new starting place from which to think and I realized  we always have to start from scratch.

It’s easy to become complacent about skills or solutions that work “fine” but seeing what’s working out in the world in new place challenged me. It forced me to see more and inspired me to keep learning and keep getting better.

5. Sometimes its a Good Thing to be “Unproductive”
The western world is pretty into the words “To Do”. They indicate action and an end goal. They’ve got a driving motive to accomplish something. It’s the central concept of bucket list way of traveling: Checking off things from a list, “doing” Machu Picchu, finishing that book, getting the stamp in the passport… It’s a never ending list to To Dos. This is how I used to define productivity.

I spent more time simply “Being” and experiencing when I traveled. I relished in each moment, tasted food because I wasn’t busy multi-tasking, meditated, wrote without purpose and spent time in nature. The balance of doing and being became real to me on my trip. I felt happier, less anxious and more comfortable in my own skin. Ironically, I’ve never accomplished more in my life.

6. Follow the Path of Least Resistance
In western culture we think everything is linear. From point a to b, choose a straight line because that’s what is most efficient and direct. I like to look at nature for inspiration regarding this lesson.. a perfect system that does everything well, easily, without much thought and it’s utterly efficient.

A river rolls down hills in an S curve back and forth across the landscape, cutting deep ravines in the earth, slowly and even gently. It hits a boulder and it goes another direction, no big deal. In the mean time it goes on a beautiful journey and waters everything around it.

I tried to do this on my trip and now back in the real world and it’s worked kinda perfectly. I try not to fight myself and momentums that build up or slow down. If I backtrack or seem to not be moving forward, I try to remember that sometimes the road is windy, because it’s going around a mountain rather than over top of it, or even worse, blasting a hole through it to get to the other side.

Megan Youngmee Path of Least resistance

7. Judge Things but Don’t be Judgmental
I’ve separated the concepts of judgement and being judgmental.

I guess, I define, judgment as using critical thinking to weight out options and perspectives and come up with an opinion or conclusion. Before traveling, I tended to try to not judge things, but found myself in an area of not knowing what I thought. Now, I try to take all details into consideration and make the wisest choice I know at the time.

Everyone has a reason for doing things, they might just not be mine. In cross cultural experiences, people will do a lot of things that don’t make sense to me. But, whether it’s culture or a personal belief, they have valid reason for their actions and thoughts and I try to put myself in their position for better understanding.

I think I’ve mixed up those ideas in my mind somewhere along the road, but they’ve become very clear through my journey.

8. Live Without Regrets
I found the expression: “I knew what I knew, now I know what I know.” on my trip. We don’t intentionally try to screw ourselves over when we are making decisions. We take the most information we can and make the choice for those reasons. Then if it doesn’t work out like we hope, I think we spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for things we didn’t know at the time.

“I should have known.” we say. That word sucks. Should. You didn’t know. Period. Going forward try to know more and make a new decision. Don’t be mean to yourself for not knowing everything, all the time. That’s impossible and unreasonable. Because of that, regret nothing.

10 Travel Lessons

9 Follow Your Own Path.. not Just Lonely Planets.
I totally get why there is a big tour book industry. You simply can’t know how to get everywhere, like someone who’s been there before. I look at the Lonely Planet type trip like a cup of Starbucks coffee.  It’s comfy, and you know what to expect and it’s a pretty safe bet for your 3-4 dollars.

That said, some of those little indie shops make the best damn coffee you’ll ever have in your life. Maybe its off the main path, maybe it’s more expensive, maybe you have to hit a couple crappy shops first, but you don’t want to miss that perfect place with the live acoustic music, cozy chair, great ambiance and the most ridiculous latte you’ve ever had.

Not planning every moment, not following the sheep, and taking some big chances gave me some of the most incredible experiences of my life.


10. Appreciate the Little Things.
Ok, ok this one is a standard answer, but seriously. A warm shower after cold ones, a great meal after crappy ones, a real toilet after a hole in the ground, or a conversation in your own language after not speaking the local language for a month, become precious gifts in your life.

Enjoy the smallest details and not just the big accomplishments of the trip.

Thank You Speech Worth Hearing.
Ashton Kutcher Quotes

Opportunities, Sexiness & Living Life beyond Default.

Hey guy, cheers for having the balls to say things that aren’t easy or popular, and saying it with passion and gusto. Here’s the video link. I won’t make you listen to the screaming girls who don’t care about what he says, but instead, here are worthwhile Ashton Kutcher Quotes and a transcript of the speech.Megan Youngmee Quote AshtonMost teen award speeches never reach the public sphere, let alone go viral. And thank god, as they are usually pretty vapid.

But when truth is spoken, especially on a stage where it isn’t usually voiced, it rings loud and clear.

Chris Ashton Kutcher challenges the next generation to think about their definitions of hard work, sexiness, and life that isn’t lived passively in default mode.

Megan Youngmee Quote Ashton

Megan Youngmee Quote Ashton Megan Youngmee Quote Ashton


Side note: when he needed a table for a meeting in an LA restaurant, he came over to my friend Elizabeth and I to ask us for ours and bought us a round for our troubles. A simple but genuine gesture. I like the integrity of his generosity.


What’s up? Oh WOW! Okay, okay, lets be, lets be brutally honest, this is the old guy award, this is like – This is like the grandpa award, and after this, I get to go to the geriatric home. First of all, I don’t have a career without you guys. I don’t get to do any of the things I get to do without you.

You know, I thought that uh – hi! I thought that it might be interesting in – in Hollywood in the industry the stuff we do, there’s a lot of insider secrets to keeping your career going and a lot of insider secrets to to to making things tick and uh I feel like a fraud.

My name is actually not even Ashton. Ashton is my middle name. My first name’s Chris. And – and – it always has been. It got changed when I was like 19 and I became an actor.

But there are some really amazing things that I learned when I was Chris, and I wanted to share those things with you guys, because I think it’s helped me be here today.

So it’s really 3 things.

The first thing is about opportunity, the second thing is about being sexy and the third thing is about living life.

So first the opportunity. I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work… When I was 13 I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof. And then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant. And then I got a job in grocery store deli. And then I got a job in factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And ever job that I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.

Number two: being sexy.

The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. Everything else is crap! I promise you! It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous.

The third thing is something that I just re-learned when I was making this movie about Steve Jobs.

And Steve Jobs said: When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get in too much trouble and maybe get an education and get a job and make some money and have a family.

But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing and that is that everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own thing, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life – don’t live one, build one – find your opportunity, and always be sexy. I love you guys.

Said with passion

On Returning to South Korea
Adoptee Motherland Trip


On the last leg international stop of the travel portion of my sabbatical I, by some luck, was able to travel to South Korea, where I haven’t returned since my adoption almost two years after my birth in 1983.

The luck came in the form of an obscenely cheap plane ticket found on from Rio through London to Seoul, back through London with a final stop In Pennsylvania allowing me to spend almost a month rediscovering my roots by means of being introduced to the Korean culture for the first time ever.

I experienced a roller coaster of emotions from dire insecurity, and resentment to a feeling of acceptance of myself and my life as it is. As I look back at my time in Korea attempting to stay nonjudgmental in my reflection, I was uncomfortable and lost more than not, but there are moments of recognition and found a true feeling of home in the end.

Folks have been asking the questions, How did it feel, Did I fit in? Did I feel accepted even though I was an adopted asian who grew up in white America? Did I like it? Those are all simple questions with somewhat complex answers.

So, how did it feel? 

The short answer is: awkward, terrifying, uncomfortable, strange and wonderful. I think the longer answer comes in the form of this article, conflicted with a tough start but with a positive out look at the whole experience.

Did I fit in?

Physically at first glance, to most people, I looked like I should fit in. The clothes magically fit, the shoes slide on my short wide feet perfectly, and they knew how to cut my hair. It was fantastic.

When I asked if natives could spot me as a foreigner (note: I use the word foreigner, they don’t use international or traveler, they very specifically use the word foreign) there was a resounding response of, “Haha, absolutely, duh.” from a well-intentioned hostel owner and others in Seoul.

It came down to a just few simple things: I smiled too much and showing teeth was unseemly for a woman. My talking and laughing loudly was tasteless and slightly disrespectful. I looked people directly in the eyes more than I should which made me come off as too confident, aggressive, and too proud.

My body was overly muscular and I was way too dark, as many girls and guys alike avoid the sun and go as far as skin bleaching and avoid heavy working out to avoid building muscle. I was about 10 pounds heavier than most Korean girls. I’m 5’2 and 110 pounds, not exactly someone westerners would say needs to lose weight.

I didn’t have thick eyebrows, because I pluck into a western arch, nor did I have the pretty-standard Korean 20-30 something plastic surgery, thinned nose, shaved jawbone to create a heart shaped face, and double-eyelid surgery to make eyes appear bigger, more open, and more western. I wasn’t wearing as much make-up (if any) like most Korean girls and my hair wasn’t perfectly coifed in the 1 of few standard cuts that were trendy (a bob, thick bangs, a perm or Victoria Secret sexy tendrils)

Even thought I didn’t show up in the standard travelers backpacker uniform, of cargo pants or leggings, a cotton tank top and my hair pulled back, I still didn’t fit in fashion-wise.

My outfits of sun dresses, stylish blouses, and tailored shorts, which I though presented a reasonable city girl persona from LA, didn’t match the same level of fashion consciousness that goes through Korea, as I wasn’t wearing high-fashion brands. Coach, LV, Tory Birch and others are more common in Seoul than in Beverly Hills.

Megan Youngmee Fashion in Korea

As a general standard, the culture encourages super-girly, youthfulness with big bows, polka dots, ruffles, sherbet colors and things I well, find slightly eerie. I guess I’m not down with the notion that  grown women should be dressed like little girls for a number of reasons.

On top of all of that, Korea is a very conservative place, and the fact that my shoulders weren’t always covered, was another glaring fashion and culture mistake.


This judgement took place was all before I even spoke or interacted with anyone. This wasn’t exactly the warmest of responses from well-intentioned Seoul locals, but one thing I could always count on was Koreans being painfully honest for good or well, less than great for my self-confidence.

Much of this wasn’t to the same extreme when I got out of the city, but for the most part, I noticed a superficiality run through the culture and I found myself a bit of an odd gal out.

Culture Differences and Similarities

Culturally, I there were feelings that I didn’t exactly fit in either. For 10 years, I have been trying to bust ass in a man’s world, trying to be more of a guy in the boy’s only club. Only now do I find some balance in being a female leader as an actual woman and not one wearing a tough guy mask.

At first glance Korea seemed to me to be the land of soft, quiet, demure little girls. The country still values traditional gender roles in its most stereotypical sense. By cultural rules, guys make major decisions, eat first, talk first, and are more than less, the bosses.

I realized that the ladies have found this interesting space of emulating the little girly-girl where they primp in public in front of huge floral motif mirror and take photos of themselves in coffee shops, but I heard pretty consistently, that they run the show at home with their husbands and sons. It’s a standard story that you hear. As soon as a woman gets married and especially after having kids, she becomes the tough tiger mom.

What I did get on a personal level was that I related to the plight of the Korean woman who is expected to do and be everything.  At home there was an expectation to cook 3 enormous meals a day, clean daily and perfectly, teach and care for the children and, now, in the last 10 – 20 years, they are expected to have a well-paying career and be a professional.

There is a huge generational and gender roles shift much like the states so over time I empathized because I got what they’re going through.

Korean/ American Disconnect

For the first week,  my original snap judgments were that Korea is a land of discipline, superficiality and conformity, where there is a complexity of gender issues.

Sometimes the over the top niceties and politeness get in the way of people honestly communicating or being able to move through social rank in Korea. It’s great that in the states, if you want to talk to someone you can reach out, but in Korea, you can’t meet new people in Korea unless directly introduced.

I’m glad to have grown up with an American mentality in many ways. Traditions and existing hierarchies matter less. I can be a small-town girl and the daughter of a welder and still grow up to go to a top university and run big meetings at huge companies.

I spent the last 12 years in economic and cultural diversity, learning from people around me as I went to school and worked in Los Angeles. I could move from the group to group, asking questions, reaching out to people who I wanted to meet because of their incredible story and felt richer for it.

It seems much harder to move around in the Korean society because last names matter so much and people are expected to fulfill specific roles.

In the states, we aren’t afraid to break some rules to get things done. During my time in South Korea I came to appreciate our somewhat western cowboy, look at ourselves as individuals, as Americans.

I also felt incredibly lucky for the first time, to have grown up in the US, with a childhood where I could play outside and get dirty. I became grateful that my home was a place where we didn’t lock doors and we could slow down to look at the lightning bugs. I was still a mini over-achiever as a young girl with dance lessons, and honors classes but generally I got to be a kid.

The stories I heard, were that a lot that kids didn’t have full childhoods because they were in massive competition with each other at such an early stage of their lives. They worked like adults with a million intense extracurriculars, tutoring, homework and really difficult and sometimes abusive school situations. (11 year old girls at a Buddhist monastery camp showed me their welted bruises from being smacked repeatedly with sticks and the plays they showed were of violence and yelling.)

Hard Observations from Seoul

The experience when I first walked into the Korean salsa club also demonstrated a stoic, determined, intensity around hobbies. I was sort of horrified and taken aback at how mechanical it was. No one danced alone. You could only dance with partner or you were kind of encouraged or forced into a corner to practice the steps in a group in front of a mirror until you adequately knew the steps so you wouldn’t embarrass yourself with a partner.

There was nothing emotive, sensual, or free about it. All of those things are why I love dance and it broke my heart.

You weren’t allowed to just dance they way I had been able to in South America, liberated and free to feel the music. It made me want to break every rule, get subversive and crush the dance on the floor.  That was until I realized I didn’t know the technique or the moves. It made me appreciate their incredible discipline and through knowledge of what they pursue as a hobby.

I may have judged the addictive patterns of heavy drinking at night, hyper-caffeinated coffeehouse culture during the day, and chain smoking and technology in hands every time in between. Then I realized, it wasn’t too far from our recent American values, as we had exported many of them.

It scared me when I found out that the reason the subways were so sterile with sliding glass doors covering train tracks to protect society from themselves because of the enormous amount of jumping suicides. I felt sadness as I ventured through the underground tunnels in silence because most people didn’t want to shame their family by being a musician in the metro stops.

Let’s be fair

Early on I was overwhelmed with culture shock, which surprised me because I feel like I’ve had a bunch of experience traveling. I don’t mean to be overly negative about the country, and certainly as a visitor or outsider that wasn’t part of a guided tour, I couldn’t always get a clear idea of the culture.

It’s hard for anyone not to judge a place immediately, especially someone who has mixed feelings about a country exporting hundreds of thousands of babies to the highest bidder (a Korean native’s words, not mine)

Rejection, abandonment, confusion, feeling like I didn’t fit in. Those things weren’t the entire country’s fault. It might just be the starting emotional state of many adoptees because for me, just being back the country for the first time alone, brought up a lot of those issues.

I had some of my lowest lows of my sabbatical in Korea. It was overcast and gray many days and I felt like it reflected my mindset.

Over time, the clouds broke and the spring colors showed through. It gave me perspective to show me see how lucky I am to have the life that I have which I’ll explain in the latter part of the post because I think learned patience in Korea, to not snap to conclusions because some of my initial thoughts turned out to be unfair judgements.

The Nicer Observations

Some things I really appreciated were the amazing, thoughtful, product design whether it was energy and space-efficient washers in small apartments, or hanging racks above the sinks.  Efficient thoughtful problem solving and clean design an integrated part of society.



I liked people’s level of respect for others. There was no loud obnoxious conversation on the metro and people were considerate of each others space. Folks queued up fairly anytime there was a wait. Earnest handwork was a standard practice, in every part of life from the work place to learning tango.

It was impressive that people too pride in style, skin care and fitness as a whole. I liked that even though sometimes people might have gone a bit far on the superficial exterior appearance thing, both men and women in Korea were generally really well dressed, were in shape and had tidy homes.

The Real Change Happens

The incredible shift in the trip was my stay at the Buddhist Monastery in Songisan National Park. I had a heck of a time getting there, as I didn’t know changing bus schedule or, well, how to read or speak Korean outside of the basics.

I had a hard time eating in the smaller villages on my way down because I didn’t know the rules that places closed at 8 or 9 or only served groups in a barbecue setting. The motion of crossing your index fingers to say no was repeated as I was turned away from a number of establishments.


Sweaty, tired, hungry and in tears after the depressing week alone in Seoul, I arrived pretty broken, and I had arrived later than I stated, a no-no in Korean culture when you don’t have a phone to let them know you would be late.

I intended to stay only a couple days but I connected with a some wonderful women who made my entire South Korean experience worth the hard times and I ended up staying almost 2 weeks.

The first person of note was the host and manager of the temple stay program at Beopjusa, Judy, a 50 something, retired ibanker who was tired of the city grind and loved spending time in the peaceful mountains and helping people connect to the simpler Buddhist lifestyle.

Once she understood my situation, a broken-down adoptee, returning to the homeland, she was full of empathy and understanding. She introduced me to cultural rules with gentle kindness and told me about her beautiful daughters and the difficulties of being a woman in Korean society.

Judy would tell people very curtly that they were to be kind to me even though I didn’t speak the language and sometimes did things that were out of place within their rules, as it had been pretty common that I get a disapproving look for not speaking the language fluently.

She yelled at one woman who broke down and hugged me and asked me for forgiveness for her judgement and for what her people did to generations of Korean adoptees – orphaning and removing them from the country. They both had daughters and couldn’t imagine letting them go through what I had gone through as a baby.

Another life changing person in my life was Bokwan, a gentle, sweet spirit who gave her life to the Buddhist Monk life 10 years prior to us meeting. We would sit and have tea and talk about the meaning of life or take long slow walks through the mountains as she would remind me to slow down, that life wasn’t worth rushing.

One night she knocked on my door to let me know that the lanterns for Buddha’s birthday were illuminated for the last time of the season and we walked the magical grounds taking in the beautiful painted, paper colors in the dark serenity of the night. Under the stars we chatted quietly and took photos of the beauty.

There was a fellow Korean volunteer was my age, Lemon, a high-fashion gal from Seoul who wanted to get away to the mountains for a weekend. She taught me the language and introduced me to all of the food and the significance o the lotus flower root and other delicacies and invited me out with her friends to go dancing once I returned to Seoul the night before I left the country.

I was a volunteer, only supposed to clean beds and sweep floors and other odd labor jobs but when they found out that I had skills in writing, marketing and design, I helped them with their Wiki page, traveler reviews and web updates.

Translating and rewriting online text describing the temple was part of my new job. I happily wrote so that English speaking travelers could have the same amazing experience I did: chanting with 30 monks in a candllit temple under the stars, eating delicious Korean vegetarian food, drinking from fresh water springs, hiking the pristine mountains and connecting with local Koreans.

I even got to teach a class to at risk middle school to high schoolers while they stayed at the Monastery. It was an inside look at how young kids are treated and how society trains them early to be who they are expected to be. Wonderful bright-eyed, misunderstood kids looked at me and saw me as a person and I reciprocated. I got what they were going through, trying to retain themselves when the world tries to tell us who we should be.

Connected to a kind and talented Korean yoga instructor who taught at the camp, who said listening to ancient wisdom and connecting her mind to her body changed her life, was another highlight. When I would want to connect with Korean speakers, she became my translator. She even explained the the subtle nuances of interactions when the middle schoolers told me in so many words that they were appreciative for my time, what I was able to teach them and for seeing them as people. As a good friend would, she even drove me 2 hours to the bus station, giving me gifts and warm advice upon our parting.

The friends I made there called me sister or daughter and I realized I believed them. They taught me about the closeness of Koreans, that they considered each other family and and I was part of it. They gave me guidance on my travels and invited me to come back any time.

I felt so grateful and lucky that after feeling unaccepted, broken down and a bit of early disgust and resentment towards the culture, I could find empathy, sweetness and wisdom from such wonderful people.

Moving on from the temple was incredibly difficult but I landed in the south of the country, ocean side, where I visited monasteries on the water and connected with some cool local kids, one of which was the owner of the hostel where I stayed, Yeosu, backpackers.

They introduced me to even more delicious food, showed me around the town, shared music, and taught me more about what it was to be a Korean.


Coming Full Circle

FIrst impressions were rough, but they were around capitalist hustle and societal pressures and my insecurity as an adoptee. Once I moved away from that and opened my own mind and moved away from the fear of judgement, I found some really amazing things about the country and the people.

Once I got out of the hustle of the city, people invited me into their lives and homes like family. I’ve never felt that before. That feeling of being fully accepted and part of a culture immediately without trying. Just because of my face and being born in Korea, I became a little sister or a daughter.

I looped back up to Seoul to see the city with fresh eyes before leaving the country. I felt light as I stayed with a really bright expat girl for the last few days of my trip where I saw beautiful markets, walked parks and enjoyed city for the first time.

Folks in Seoul integrated nature through their city, and even though they didn’t always have respect for what was old, (they would knock down old cultural buildings to build 20 identical, looming, generic high-rises with ought a thought) they took care of their city with dedication and love. They were body aware, respectful, had thousands of words for flavors reflecting their passion for food and were people just like me, just trying to figure things out.

About the Biological Parents Question

I didn’t look for my parents, nor did I feel compelled to this time around. It crossed my mind and if doors started opening in that direction I would have jumped at it. I think it will be another time an place when I return. Visiting the orphanage and my foster family are on the list but I’d like to do more research and thinking about before I delve into that pandora’s box.

This trip was just me going from observing from the outside to acceptance, by my people and by myself.

Final Thoughts about Myself after this Trip

I’ve become proud of my heritage as an Asian and a Korean, but my upbringing as an American still define me.  Being a women of this generation defines me. Being who I am, a creative, a writer, and an enthusiastic, open-minded but at times cautious person defines me.

Identities and roles are challenged and shifting everywhere, especially as people move towards or away from our current model of consumption. Thats what I noticed at home and abroad.

I like that people can’t guess everything about me at first glance, that I’m a deeper well than people might assume, whether it’s that I look young, am a goofy girl, that I’m an artist, look asian or don’t look asian enough.

It’s become kinda fun to surprise people and remind people not to judge a book by its cover- that someone young can have wisdom, a playful person can have depth, an artist can have a science brain and being asian isn’t easily defined.

We are in an increasingly more intricate and complex global world, and I realized I’m not alone in this one. People are raised by non-traditional families, have parents and roots of multiple races or have lived in 3 countries by the time they are 17. Maybe this notion of truly multi-faceted identities is becoming the new normal here and abroad.

Where did that leave me about the What ifs of my life?

Some of my internal questions were answered or at least I got some onsite on the direction of my life as a woman growing up as an orphan in Korea… What if I stayed? Where would I be, would people get me, would I fit in somewhere?  

I’d probably look much like the girls I saw everywhere in Seoul, working a respectable job, living a pretty standard life and dressed in cute outfits with a set of societal standards that was normal to me. 

Sounds kinda familiar- much like where I ended in America too.

This trip has helped me ask some hard questions and see some hard truths. I’m not part of one single entity. But i don’t actually think any of us are now, so I feel a little less alone in that.

I feel grateful now that I have multiple groups that think of me as family. The adopted asian network, through Seoul Searching, many Korean natives, my adoptive family in PA and the family of friends I’ve made in my life across the states and the globe are all my real family.

How lucky am I?

As James Pearson said on an Ember Arts profile of my story, “Our increasingly connected world gives us the opportunity to identify ourselves not only by our origin, but also by our destination, and perhaps most importantly by the journey we take to get there.” which i think wraps up the journey quite nicely.


Travel Advice for Gap Year

  • I was asked, “What advice can I give a high school, solo gap year taker” on Quora.

I did this when I was 19 when I extended a study abroad trip in Spain and now I’m recently completed the travel portion of my sabbatical so I have lots of tips fresh on my mind. Here are some quick pieces of advice, most of which can apply to anyone traveling for an extended period.


    1. Eat everything
    2. Be truly adventurous and open minded.
    3. Listen to your gut. If people seem like bad news, they just might be.
    4. Meet travelers and locals alike.
    5. Ask lots of questions and listen more than you talk, you never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn.
    6. Don’t just get wasted the whole time. The trip should be worth remembering.
    7. Get a student discount card. Holy 50% off!
    8. Do some grocery shopping from time to time to save money or eat street food.
    9. Buy large gallons of water and refill smaller bottles or collapsible bottle if you are sticking around a place for a couple days.
    10. Take your time, don’t rush from site to site. Take it in and enjoy the damn moment. It’s your life, not a list :)
    11. Stay in hostels with shared dorms and with Couchsurfing hosts to save money.
    12. Get out of the major cities and hit up tiny towns. They retain the culture, food and kindness of village life.
    13. Get an extra bank card and stash it somewhere separate from your wallet.
    14. Try to go off the standard path (try )for ideas.
    15. Pack lots of layers rather than big bulky stuff.
    16. Take loads of pictures, back up multiple times a day and on usb’s, facebook, the cloud. I’ve seen people lose their entire trip with one stolen camera.Megan-Youngmee_Travel-Advice-for-Gap-Year2
    17. Email yourself all pertinent info like passport numbers, credit cards, contact numbers etc. If stuff gets lost, you can go to any internet cafe or hostel lounge and find them. (keep it in the cloud!)
    18. Screenshot confirmations and directions to be able to reference the quickly. I made an album on my iphone that was just travel info so if you don’t have internet, you can still access information.
    19. Preload maps on google maps when you have internet, zoom in to see all the details and load the entire city. then when you are in the city, the GPS will work even if wifi isn’t accessible. Then you can see exactly where you are in any city and use the compass feature no navigate around.
    20. Keep in touch with fellow travelers on facebook. You never know if you’ll bump into them again and have a free place to stay or someone who wants to explore a city with you.
    21. Look into volunteer opportunities like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (working on an organic farm) reviewing hostels for discounts or volunteering at a hostel or school. Check out: 16 Ways To Get Paid To Travel.
    22. Keep a personal journal about thoughts that cross your mind and to help you remember people and funny happenings. (I usually separate my journals into 3 sections: language, finance and thoughts).
    23. Learn the basics of the language. “Where is the bathroom, Hi, Excuse me, Thank you, Do you speak English? May I please have a ____ How much, Numbers 1-10″ Write them down in the back of your journal and say them often and proud.
    24. Always say “Hi, excuse me” before you ask questions. American are known for just jumping in with questions and requests… it comes off as rude :) You’ll get a better response if you start with a hello and smile.
    25. Track your budget with a simple journal. Include where you are, what you bought, how much it costs in local currency and dollars. Add it up each day to see what you are spending, then you will know where you are with your finances, if you can splurge or need to pull back a bit.
    26. Download some apps that exchange currency like XE Currency Converter,
    27. Research and download Language apps and GoogleTranslate, Whatsapp for international calls and texts, and podcasts or books on tape to keep you busy on long bus rides and other travel applications that will make your life easier.
    28. Load time zones in clocks so you know when to contact people back home.
    29. Don’t be afraid to google image or look up a place on pinterest, trippy or instagram to see if its pretty before visiting it.
    30. Don’t judge a country by one location or one person. It’s easy to react to one bad experience… stay open to trying things multiple times for different perspectives. You will be honestly shocked when you think you hate a place, and then the next experience will give you some of the best memories from your trip.
    31. Bear with homesickness, stomach sickness and culture shock. They pass. I promise :D
    32. Have crap loads of fun.

MeganYoungmee Quote Wisdom in Books

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