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Transforming Childhood Trauma to a Powerful Purpose

With Melissa Shretha and Deepak Sharma


Our childhood experiences shape who we become and how we see the world around us as we become adults. For Asian children growing up in Western communities, these experiences can easily become confusing and even traumatic. Today’s guests, Melissa Shrestha and Deepak Sharma, join Kimchi Chow to share their childhood experiences that ultimately influenced their present advocacies. Deepak is the Founder of Volition Academy, a breakthrough educational consulting company for teens and young adults. Melissa is set to launch her new podcast, Asian Girl Movement, which aims to create stronger bonds within the female community. Both Deepak and Melissa underwent what many other Asian children in Western countries do – rebelliousness, parenthood issues, internalized racism, and the struggle to find their identity in a world where they don’t seem to fit in. How did they turn their lives around from this? Open up your mind and join in.

Transforming Childhood Trauma to a Powerful Purpose With Melissa Shrestha And Deepak Sharma

Kimchi: Have you ever wonder why kids misbehave? Were they aware of the consequences of their actions? Do they ever want to stop those behaviors? Do they know how? In this episode, we will hear from two courageous guests who will share with us how they became reckless when they were young and how they turned their life around. I encourage you to read with open minds. I’m pleased to introduce Melissa Shrestha and Deepak Sharma. Welcome.

Deepak: Thank you.

Melissa: Thank you.

Kimchi: Let’s start with Deepak. From your experience growing up, what triggered the rebellious in you? 

Deepak: The rebellious side of me started when I was in my early teens, probably around 14 or 15. It was not necessarily going against what my parents didn’t want me to do. It wasn’t to go against them. It was more to try to comfort myself based on where I was in my head. I started drinking around the 14, 15-year space. At that moment, I was trying to figure myself out. I was trying to see where I fit in and not necessarily feeling like I fit in. Alcohol gave me a way to be around other people that were doing something similar and have friendships. At the same time, that was my goal but then I slipped further and further into drinking as I got further into my high school years. Melissa, when did you start your rebellious side?

Melissa: It depends on what rebellious consists of. For me, it’s when I was very young. I was around ten years old, I recall my family getting very upset at me with things that I would say and do. When I look at that question I go, “Is rebellious drinking getting involved in illicit substances or is it merely talking back to your parents?” In that case, when I was very young, I would talk back to my parents quite a lot. I was born and raised in the UK. I lived there until I was 15 or 14, and then I moved to Australia. My parents would always get very frustrated with me when I was younger. That came from a few things. It came from when I look different. I was very different from my peers. I started getting frustrated with my parents and I started to feel like I didn’t belong to them. I thought that I was adopted. I thought that my thinking was very different from this. In terms of rebellious, they would always get frustrated when I would talk back to them and be like, “Why are you hitting me? This is not okay,” or “Please don’t come to school and follow me around at school because it’s not what other parents do.”

Where I grew up, it was very Anglo-centric. Everyone around me, my peers are white. They were all British. My parents were the most stringent. They were the strictest and the ways that I rebelled were to follow what they did. My family was like, “This is not okay. Wherever you go out, I need to have their numbers. I need to have their address. What do their parents do?” I’m like, “Come on, I’m in primary school.” They’re students in primary school, so there’s not much to it. From that, it’s spiraled into me starting to lie about their numbers, me starting to lie about what their parents do, me starting to stay out at night and pretending that I was at another friend’s house that they trusted. That’s the beginning of that rebellious behavior where it then grew into other things like alcohol, staying out late at night, and jobs that are probably weren’t for someone my age, to put it in a nutshell.

Deepak: I can relate to that. Part of it was that my parents moved from India to the US a year before I was born. They didn’t understand what I was going through. They were trying to give me advice, but they had no idea. I believed that they didn’t. I was talking back to them. I wasn’t listening because I felt like I wasn’t getting good advice. It was the same thing where I was trying to maintain what the standard of cultural norms was here in the US, but then they were doing things that were consistent with what was going on in India. I was embarrassed to go out in public to do this and that. It put more distance between us.

Melissa: I agree, especially with immigrant families who have come from different countries into the Western world, it’s quite difficult for them to assimilate. That’s another question as well. Do our parents have to assimilate to Western cultures? Do they have to abide by these rules? At the same time, it’s important to understand that there are some cultural aspects when it comes to parenting from other countries like in Asia where people in the Western world might look at that and go, “This is not okay.” When I would come to school crying, my predominantly white friends would be like, “We’re going to go to the school teachers. You should not be doing this. You should not be crying. What are your parents doing to you at home?” When the school would call my parents, they would say, “This is okay. When I was young, I was put in a bin and I was rolled down the hills in the mountains of Nepal.” That’s what my dad says. It’s a challenging aspect to be in the middle of these two cultures, a Western world and then an Asian world as well.

Deepak: It’s interesting because, at that age, you’re doing so much to fit in and try to be like everyone else, and try to maintain who you are, but what that means around all the people that you’re surrounding yourself with. It’s funny because you get to the other side of where I’m at now and you want to differentiate yourself as much as possible and you enjoy your individuality. It’s so different when you’re at that younger age in the teen years.

Melissa: It’s different because when you’re young you’re exposed to many different things. You’ve got peers at school. You’ve got your work peers if you’re working at a young age. You’ve got the teachers that inflict these different types of cultural norms on you as well. When I grew up, it was very difficult because my parents did not allow anyone to sleep around our house. We need to sleep around theirs. Going back to the first question of, when my rebellious behavior started happening? It’s something simple as asking my parents, “Can I go stay around one of my girlfriend’s house? We’re going to have sleepover parties” and things like that. My parents would see that as being rebellious and talking back when in a Western world it’s completely normal. People have sleepover parties at a very young age.

Kimchi: How did your parents respond when you first did not listen or talk back to them? Do you ever get caught drinking, Deepak?

Deepak: I did numerous times. The one that jumped out to me the most is when I was home with some friends. My parents were at work and we had had some drinks at my house, and then we had left to go to a party or somewhere. When I got home, my parents were waiting up for me and they had smelled the cups. Within the cups, they could smell the liquor. My mom put me back in the car and she took me to the hospital to get a blood alcohol test because I refuse to agree to the fact that I’d been drinking. That’s how severe she thought it was. She couldn’t believe that I had done this. I remember that night because we got to the hospital, they asked me to sign a consent form to release my bodily fluids, which I refuse to do because I protested that, “I hadn’t had a drop.” We came back home. I remember how upset my parents would be for a couple of weeks after that.

There were instances after that too where they found things in the house. They found beer cans or they found something. It’s interesting because it never stopped me. When I look back at it, it wasn’t anything that I was trying to do to them, it was something that I was trying to figure out for myself. I’m not sure if they ever believe that it was something that I was doing because of something that they had done, but it was something that I was working through myself. I look back at it and I realized that I was trying to fill this void as far as trying to figure out how I fit in.

I remember even starting high school. I had run for class president, which I felt like I had no friends at the time and I won class president. Out of 1,000 kids in my class, I was the class president in my freshman year. At that moment, I still felt friendless. As Melissa was saying, my parents didn’t allow me to go out and do anything. Throughout my entire junior high, my seventh and eighth-grade years in school, I had not gone out one weekend over that period because my parents didn’t allow it. When I started high school, I didn’t even feel like I had friends, but yet I had enough people vote for me to become the class president. Even with that, it felt like I didn’t have a single friend and I was so lonely. Because of that, it pulled me into all these places where I was trying to search to fill that void. It’s interesting how when your parents find you in these situations and regardless of what they’re saying and some of those moments, it’s hard to keep their advice because you’re still so caught up in wherever you are in your head and what you’re trying to get out of it.

Melissa: For me, it was quite difficult to fathom as to what was going on. In my mind, I thought that I was standing up for myself. When I was younger, I felt like I was very distant from my family. In saying that, I believe I had a lot of internalized racism as well within me because a lot of my friends were white. That’s where I grew up. It was an Anglocentric school. The instances there was that me going out was seen as a bad thing. Certain things like when I was baby, 8 or 9 years old, my parents say things like, “Why are you dressed like that? Why are you wearing that skirt? You need to turn it back.” Those are the things seen as a normal kid. This is what normal children do. They like to dress up. They like to wear a little bit of heel. If they see someone at school wearing them, or they go into a magazine and they see a lot of people wearing high heels or wearing nice clothes and you want to emulate that. You want to look like that. Those are some instances where I felt that I was being okay. I was very confused as to why my parents were being frustrated in that sense.

Kimchi: Your parents noticed your misbehavior. Did you blame your parents at that time? Because they did not pay attention to you, they did not understand you, they didn’t see you or whatever happened to you and how you turn out at that time. Did you ever have a thought that says, “Because of my parents, I get into drinking and I feel so alone.” What were you thinking?

Deepak: I didn’t. My parents worked 6 to 7 days a week, 16 hours a day. I came from a pretty large family. I have a twin brother and three older sisters. With them coming from India and then starting from scratch over here and having five children and wanting all five children to get into college and financially support us through college, they worked a lot. They did so much for us. At the time as a child, I couldn’t see that. I thought that’s normally what parents did. Only later was I able to see that. They were able to buy us all five cars when we got to sixteen years of age. They paid for all of us to go to college. It was amazing because they made very little with the jobs that they did have. I don’t ever remember thinking about the fact that I was alone because they were always at work.

What I did was take advantage of the fact that they were at work by then doing the things that I did in their absence. There was never thought at that time that they were causing me to feel the way that I did. Later and in the last few years when I thought about it, I do think there was a gap in me feeling like that because they weren’t there as I was growing up. I’ve been able to realize that. I was trying to fill that gap with all these other people that I was bringing into my life. At this age, it’s a lot easier to understand that for what it is and what they had done for me. There was nothing about them not wanting to be there for me. It was just that they couldn’t. It’s interesting at that time, it wasn’t anything that I had considered. This time, I understand it but there’s some clarity around why.

Kimchi: You said that you have a lot of siblings. There are people around you. How did you feel alone with a lot of siblings?

Deepak: I have a twin brother and three older sisters. I think about that sometimes because we were all there in the house and it was a small house that we all grew up in. Somehow, I think I sat with my thoughts and I felt a certain way and it festered. I wasn’t able to process what was going on and as I processed it in any way I could, trying to make sense of it because we as human beings, we try to make meaning out of everything that happens. I gave meanings to things that were pretty inaccurate now that I can see. Even with siblings around, it’s interesting as far as how much you share because there are these thoughts that you have going on in your head.

We’ve never been accustomed as far as my family or any family that I’ve seen or any even friends to sit around and talk about your fears and these thoughts that are going on in your head. I sat with them at that time and throughout my entire upbringing. That was the biggest a-ha moment for me when I got older as I started to talk about those things and then be able to get clear. As you speak about things, you get a little more clarity to understand them for what they were. At that time, I sat with my thoughts and I let it fester for what I thought it was, which was by no means what the truth was.

Melissa: I resonate with that because when I was younger, my father was never around. He was busy doing business trips back and forth between London and South England. In terms of if I blamed my parents, I would say that there were two main things. The cause my rebellious behaviors were relating to one, my family used to argue a lot. My father is Nepalese. My mother is Middle Eastern. They would always argue with each other with things such as finances and relationships. That was one of the things that I would feel alone about. As well as with me, I couldn’t process my thoughts. If I went to my father, he would then start complaining to me about my mother. This is when I’m 6 or 7 years old where I can’t even fathom what’s going on when he tells me, “She can’t do this. She can’t do that.” When I’d go to my mother, she would then tell me about the things that my father would do.

Little did I know as I’ve only found out that the instances and the arguments they had were domestic violence. My father would be very abusive in terms of his wording. In terms of how he belittles my mother. Those are the things that stopped me from speaking to them. Now looking in hindsight, it was also a reason why I rebelled because I couldn’t speak to anyone. I couldn’t speak to my parents. They were always fighting with each other. I was an only child, so I couldn’t speak to anyone. It was just me and my own thoughts. That’s why I wanted to be like the other people in my school. I wanted to look like them. I wanted to be like them because when I went home, the life that I had at home was very turbulent. There were a lot of arguments. I had to shut the room. I had to shut the door. Sometimes I would hear things getting smashed around the home.

Childhood Experiences: It is important to understand that there are some cultural aspects of Asian parenting that may not look good for Westerners.

At a very young age seeing that, I’m like, “I don’t want to be here. This is not safe for me as a young child. I don’t feel safe in this environment. I don’t feel like I relate to my parents.” I then went out and did things that were rebellious. The other thing was the internalized racism that I had because I felt like when I was younger, everything that I would look at and everyone that I would see had beautiful porcelain skin, had blue eyes, had blonde straight hair. That was another reason as to why as a child, I rebelled. Sometimes I would look at my parents and I go, “Why do I look like this? I get it from you, guys. Why can’t I look like them? Why can’t I be beautiful like them? In hindsight, I did blame them for some of my rebellious attitudes. It’s probably an accumulation of my loneliness and the outside media perception of how I meant to look and how I meant to be.

Also, my environment at school with young people telling me, “You should straighten your hair. You’re very tall and dark.” A lot of people used to mistake me as being black. We had this school come in from Canada. There were a lot of African-American or African-Canadian people that would come in and do this beautiful dance for us. When we were in the bathroom, I was like 7 or 8, one of my friends was like, “Those are your people.” I was like, “Really?” I didn’t know. I was that separated from my family and my background that I didn’t even understand or fathom my heritage. I look back at my parents and I’d go, “I blame you for not telling me. I blame you for looking this way.” That was maybe one of the reasons as to why I rebelled and why I wore those things that a lot of white people in the Western world would wear. I hope that answers your question.

Kimchi: Unfortunately, it happens and that is the reason for our conversation. It’s miscommunication, violence at home, and the parents are too busy working. They did not pay attention to each of the kids. I grew up in a big family too. There are nine of us. I don’t think I ever felt lonely. I have friends in the neighborhood. I always go to my friends’ house and play with them. I have an older sister who is 5, 6 years older than me. I have an older brother who is two years older than me, and then another younger brother 3 years younger than me. We always fight with each other. I felt alone too in a big family. I always went to a neighbor’s house and play with friends my age. I understand where you’re coming from. As a parent, it’s not that easy to raise a child and to put them in an environment that is safe but allow them to grow at their own pace.

As Asians, sometimes we are so protective. We don’t want them to be exposed to anything just like Melissa’s parents. You cannot go to your friend’s house. You cannot sleep over there. When will you come back? What do their parents do? I can relate to that. When I first came here and have my children, before my children go to their friend’s house, I always investigate my children to find out what their friend’s parents do. I observe their friends. I allowed my children to go to their friend’s house to play, but then they have to come back. I don’t think I allowed them to sleep at a friend’s house. I did not, but I was a rebel.

I remember when I was young, I want to sleep at my friend’s house and my parents would not allow me to do that. It’s not a normal thing in Asia to allow our children to go to a friend’s house and sleepover. It’s not usual. I can relate to that, but now my philosophy is to find out who their parents are and check out the kids’ behavior. The kids reflect their parents. That’s what I believe. If the kids misbehave around you, most likely the family is not that great. That’s how I look at things. You are a parent now, Deepak. As parents, what can we do to prevent this from happening to our children?

Deepak: I saw a study a couple of years ago and it intrigued me because it showed that this feeling of loneliness or rejection is the same as when the neurotransmitters in your brain are signaled if you’re getting hit with a hammer. It is physically painful to be rejected or to not feel like you’re included or like you have friends. To a parent, you’re trying to put food on the table and you’re trying to keep your career going and take care of the family. A friend seems like such a small thing and not allowing a child to go see their friends seems like such a small thing. To that child, it means the world. When you look at our age, value is in currency. We talk in dollars. In a child’s age, the value is relationships and friendships. How many friends you have is what makes you feel good about your life at that age. It still rings true even at this age.

It’s making sure as far as checking the parents out. Let’s say the parents don’t match the same values and you’re not going to allow the child to spend time with them, and then helping the child find better friends. This idea that the child is going to find friends and if they don’t, you’re going to leave them to become who they are and not supporting them in that endeavor. There’s so much you could do to put them in groups, put them in athletics, or put them into spaces where they can find people that as a parent, you resonate with those same values where then they can feel supported. I think it’s something that needs to be consciously created and focused on from a parent’s perspective so that the child never feels that. They don’t have to go down these other paths to define that same support and friendship that they’re looking for.

Kimchi: Melissa, I know that you’re not a parent yet. What could your parent do to prevent this from happening again? Let’s say they have another young Melissa or another child, what could they do to prevent whatever happened to you from happening?

Melissa: It’s difficult to answer that because I’m not a mother yet, and I’m not a parent yet. I don’t know what it feels like to be a parent and have to have all of these intricacies and understanding your own childhood and then feeding that in your own children. Coming from my point of view as someone who has grown from my rebellious background, one of the main things especially for me and other people out there who might resonate to me is that I come from two completely different backgrounds, the third or fourth even because my mother is from the Middle East. She has a Middle Eastern background. She’s from Qatar and my father is from Nepal. One of the most important things that I would have appreciated more would have been understanding my actual backgrounds.

If my mother had told me, “You are from this background,” and help me fathom that may have helped me understood why I look this way, why I don’t look like my peers, why my hair might be a little bit curlier. It would have helped me understand and tell the other children at school who were calling me black or would say horrible things like, “You have ghetto features.” I don’t even understand what that is. It’s a horrible way of describing someone. It’s so stereotypical to say that and what exactly consists of that. If they were to educate me more and say, “You are from a different background,” I would have been able to tell those children, “I am not from this background. They are their own person. That is their own culture. This is my own culture.”

I wouldn’t have gone and been like, “I guess so, okay,” because I didn’t know much about myself. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what my background was. Having my parents tell me that, it would have helped me come to terms with their cultural norms and their cultural understandings as well. It would have helped me differentiate between the different backgrounds because we all know within South Asia and within Asia and within other communities and backgrounds, there are many differences. You can’t say Nepal is similar to India. You can’t say India is similar to China. You can’t say a different and indigenous background is similar to another indigenous background from Australia or indigenous Americans. They are completely different.

They all have their own problems and their own issues that need to be brought to light and educated on. If they had educated me around that, that would have been better for me to understand myself. Therefore I can tell people, “This is someone’s background. This is my background. I am different. They are different respectfully.” That would be one of the things that I would help my children understand because when I do have children, they are also going to be from different backgrounds. They are going to carry my family, my mom, my dad’s background, my background being brought up in Australia and England, and also my husband’s background as well. It’s going to be a whole blend of things.

That’s one of the main things to understand as a parent. I’m coming from a point of view, just thinking on the spot. Maybe having that understanding and the education around someone’s background can help fathom all of those instances that a child goes through as well. In terms of another thing would be speaking to your children. If my parents had spoken to me and had been there for me, instead of brushing me off and saying, “Mental health doesn’t exist” and what is that. Educating children around that would have helped me as a young girl, as a young woman how to fathom my thoughts and understand my thoughts, and feel okay as to why I’m feeling that certain way. I hope I didn’t come across offensive or anything when I said ghetto. If anything, it’s something that people associate with. They look at me and I feel like when I was younger, they would associate me being slightly tan skin and automatically, I was from that background. I’m still learning to this day as to why they would label me that way or even label anyone that way as well. I hope it doesn’t come across offensive in any way.

Kimchi: We are here to educate and to help people understand the differences in Asia and people in Asian countries. Racism, people who look different and speak differently are discriminated. I do agree with you that parents need to educate and share proudly with their children where they came from. I am Vietnamese and my husband is Taiwanese. On the surface, it’s very similar. It’s like Chinese because we have a lot of Chinese influence, but our family value is different. I spent the time to let my kid know the difference between Vietnamese and Taiwanese. My husband also shared with them his perspective about Taiwanese and American. They both were very proud to say we are Vietnamese, Taiwanese and American.

They understand that and they love the culture. They love the food especially. We expose them to that. Although I did not have my children attending Vietnamese school when they were young, I did have two of my kids taking some Mandarin Chinese lessons when they were young. Afterward, I was thinking, “We live in America. They better speak good English. That’s always important. When they grow up, if they want to learn the culture, if they want to learn the language, they can always take classes.” The culture is a day-to-day practice rather than just the language itself. The day-to-day practice and the food that we eat. They still have those things. They know the difference between Vietnamese and Chinese food. How long did this rebellious stage last? 

Deepak: It was quite a while. I started down that road 13, 14 years old and it lasted for me all the way until I was in my late twenties. It was for about fourteen years. I made my way through high school and started at college. You can imagine switching from high school to college and now having to find a whole new group of individuals to hang out with. I left high school with 10 to 15 close friends, but I never felt close because nothing was ever enough. There’s always this feeling like I didn’t have enough friends and I needed to put more people around me to give myself some feeling of completeness. I got to college and I ended up making a lot of friends as well, but I started drinking even more there because it was college. There was more opportunity for it. I got into some substances for a while as well and it got worse.

When I got into my third and fourth year in college, I ended up taking seven years to graduate from college. As I was getting through that, I was barely studying. I was having trouble with passing classes and this was my constant struggle. On the outside, when people look in at that, they see this kid and they say, “Look at this party animal. Look at this guy. He loves to run around and be crazy.” When you look back at it, you know they were coping mechanisms to manage everything that was going on within you. I had this fear that, was I going to get out of college? Was I going to find a job that I was going to be happy with? Was I going to be capable to do that job? All these what-ifs that you throw at yourself. It’s slowing you down even further and cause me to drink even more. Seven years later, which I thought was too many years to graduate, but now I know that 60% of individuals take six years on average to get through college so it wasn’t too terrible.

I did multiple internships but when I got to my job, it was horrible. It was not the job that I thought I would be in. Seven years in school and now I got to this job that was not what I envisioned it to be. I was super unhappy with what I had spent seven years getting myself ready for. I started thinking, “Is this it for me? Is this the rest of my life sitting in this cube doing this job? I started to drink even further. I remember, there was a night where I was out and I ended up crashing my car going 70 miles an hour down a pretty dark road in the pouring rain. I hydroplaned and my car went front over back three times and I ended upside down in an apple tree. I ended up in the hospital for two weeks after that. It had caused serious internal damage and had significant surgery.

It’s amazing because even that situation could not have gotten me out of my funk. Within two months after I had been fully recovered, I was back to doing everything the way I was doing it. It took another year. There’s this moment where I crumbled. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep fighting my way through it. I remember crumbling and thinking to myself, “There has to be another way.” I remember sitting down and making a list of everything that I wanted in my life and what I didn’t want in my life. A couple of days went by with me looking at this list. I then started going after it. When I look back at how simple that was, there were all these things that ran around in my head for so long that I never wanted to deal with it.

As I started to deal with them and as I started to make progress, the lights started to come at the end of the tunnel and this dark period that went for so long ended. I ended up meeting my wife because one of my items on my list was to find a great partner and a loving relationship. That spirited things even further. Until I got to that point and until I met her, it was fourteen years. It was a long dark night of the soul for me, which is why I’m so passionate about talking about this because it could have ended badly for me. I could have lost my life numerous times. That one in the car specifically, but many other times as well.

Childhood Experiences: A friend seems like such a small thing. To a child, however, it means the world.

Kimchi: It took you fourteen years from that time that you started to rebel and turn around. I thought that rebellious is most of the time coming from the teenage phase. It’s not that case for you.

Deepak: No, because if you’re looking at rebellious from the standpoint of trying to go against what your parents are wanting you to do because you’re trying to go against what they’re asking. That’s one way of looking at it. In my case, it wasn’t that. It was about me being lost in myself and not being able to find my path and not necessarily having the guidance to find my path or the willingness to even speak up to get the guidance. I was in my world and I was almost embarrassed to where I was because I felt like everybody else had it together. At that moment, if everybody else has got together and I don’t, I was going through it, pretending like I was fine and inside, I was fighting every single day. It took me until that moment after over a decade to finally crumble and realize I couldn’t anymore. I needed to move beyond that and start fixing whatever it is that I was running from.

Kimchi: Did you have any mentor growing up or did you have anybody that you respect who you talk to or give you guidance?

Deepak: I did not have anyone like that. My parents were working constantly and outside of that, my sisters went off to college before me because they were older. I didn’t share much with everybody. I kept things to myself. I didn’t have anyone else in my life after I got out of high school. In high school, I had a coach because I did ran track and cross country. I had a coach and he was always keeping an eye on me. He would tell me when he saw me running off with the wrong people. I was open to listening to it but I’m still going to do what I wanted to do. It wasn’t because I was rebelling. It was because it’s what I thought I had to do to fix what I needed. Melissa mentioned how she felt about herself. That was part of it too because I had some racist slurs thrown at me when I was younger too and bullying. Those were younger years. Those were probably 12 and 13.

That compounded my thought about me being different, not being wanted and not being able to have these friendships. That stayed with me for many years, because no matter what, if I even created relationships, I always believed that they didn’t really want to be there. They were there because of something else. It was those early years when I was getting bullied and being called names because I was different. Where I grew up, there was very few other than white people as well. There were a couple of African-Americans, and then there was me and my twin brother. We were the Indians in the school. Feeling that difference at that age and compounding on everything else is what amplified it even further.

Kimchi: What about you, Melissa? How long did the rebellious behavior last?

Melissa: It lasted for a very long time. From a very young age, at the age of six or something like that. It would start in terms of calling my parents out or talking back to them. It then fed through towards my primary school years, my high school years, up until maybe when I was 18, 19. That’s when it dissipated and I learned more about myself. I am still learning about myself. If anything, I might still be being rebellious towards my family because they say, “You need to go and do this now. Why don’t you have any friends anymore? Why don’t you hang around with people anymore?” I’m like, “The last time I did that, you told me to stay at home more.”

There’s always something that my parents will complain about for me. In that sense, I’m still being rebellious but I’m doing it in a way that doesn’t target them or disrespects them. It more so comes to the point of educating them about things that are going on. It comes to sitting down, talking to them and saying, “This is not okay. What you said to me before about how mental health doesn’t exist and what you’re doing to each other in terms of arguing is not okay. You need to figure yourselves out. You need to sort that out because it is impacting me. It’s impacting people around me and how I communicate with other people, as well as how I think about myself.” It’s still an ongoing process that I’m learning from.

Kimchi: That’s not what I call rebellious. Rebellious to me is misbehavior. Whatever you share is you start to speak up for yourself. It’s being independent. As what Deepak said, it took him fourteen years of drinking and hanging out with the wrong crowd, and aimlessly doing something which is not productive for him at that time. That’s rebellious. You already turn around. You already noticed. You already stop misbehaving like drinking or smoking or doing something that you know there will be bad consequences, but you’re still doing it. That’s what I call rebellious. When did you start to realize that it is better to stop those behaviors?

Melissa: In terms of drinking and smoking, it was around that same time as well. Around 18, 19 years old, that’s when I stopped those behaviors. It stopped for a little bit when I moved from the UK to Australia. It then started up again because I felt very alone and very distant from everyone. It did start to come up in that sense. It stopped around the same ages as well of 18 and 19.

Kimchi: Have you ever shared or talked to your parents about the tough time that you have in the past? Have you ever tried to share to let them know and say, “Mom, Dad, do you remember when one time I was like this or what happened? Do you know why I did that?” Did you ever share?

Deepak: I have but not with everything. There are some things that I figure are better left for them not to know, to not provide any added stress to something they would worry about. There have been moments where I’ve shared with them. There was this time where, “Remember I did this or I said this, and this is why I did this, or this is what was going on.” I can’t remember anything specifically right now, but I’ve shared those things. For the most part, the depths of darkness that I went to, I haven’t wanted to take them there and tell them how dark it got, where I was and why I was there. I’ve talked to them as I started this practice and this business. The reason for it is this time of my life where I am taking a stand as far as creating the world. They understand it there, but I’m trying to protect them somewhat to understand the full depth of what was going on with me.

Kimchi: Did you share that with your wife?

Deepak: Yes, I did share it with her by bits and pieces as we met and over the years. We’ve been married for many years. I can recall sharing some things that I had never shared with her about why I did this or why that happened in my life and she was surprised. I’ve come more to terms with it all. There was a while where I couldn’t talk about it because it was such a bad place for me to have gone. I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve made peace with it. I’ve understood it. I’ve been grateful that I experienced it to put me in the position where I am now. It gives me such clarity on this message and how to share it powerfully, and how I can help. I have come full circle but it’s been quite a journey.

Kimchi: What about you, Melissa? Did you share with your parents? Did you try to tell them to help them understand where you’re coming from or what you went through?

Melissa: I tried to speak and tell them about how I felt and how not understanding their backgrounds and them constantly arguing with each other, and the microaggressions that were thrown around. When I try to speak to them, their responses were, “You are misbehaved. You did this and that didn’t help you. That didn’t help with what you’re saying.” There was a lot of retaliation when I did speak to them about it and I tried to communicate as to how I felt. It is challenging and it continues to be challenging to try and fathom what I went through and speak to them about these instances. It’s something that I hope to speak to them more about. They are still trying to fathom and understand mental health and all of these issues that I went through, what it caused me, and how it made me feel.

Kimchi: Let’s share something exciting. Deepak, I know that you are working on a project. Share with us what it is about and how is it related to your experience growing up?

Deepak: I would love to. I created a personal development company for young adults called Volition Academy where we help young adults optimally transitioned to adulthood by getting them to operate at their peak performance so that they can create and live their dream life. This all came from this fourteen-year journey and the journey that I’ve had since, and what it took me to overcome all of these things that I experienced to get me to where I am. After I made it through those fourteen years, when I invested in myself and my education and started looking at things from, “Who I wanted to be,” I understood that’s what was missing.

What we do with these young adults is we get to the core of who they are. We then look at who they want to become, and then we guide them on their journey to where they want to go to that dream life. We do that through coaching and mentoring. We’ve seen phenomenal results in all aspects of their life, in academics, their career, their relationships and their health. I’m excited about this next stage of my life and moving in from that period. One of the things that that you asked earlier is one of the reasons I am passionate about this is because I want to make sure that nobody else experiences fourteen years as I did. It’s unnecessary and at the same time, with having a 2.5-year-old and a 5-year-old and trying to figure out what would I do differently. I realized that if I didn’t do this, then what would I do when they became teenagers? I have almost a decade until they get to that stage. By then, it should be a masterful approach. I’m sure we’d be able to provide them with the best support possible. I’m super excited about it. I appreciate you giving me a platform to talk about it. Thank you.

Kimchi: What would be the ideal ages and what would be your ideal client?

Deepak: My ideal age is around 17 to 22, but it depends on the maturity of the young adult. It depends on where they are in their head and how much they want to actively look into the future and understand how they want to build their life. As far as from an ideal client perspective, I’m trying to support parents because parents are the ones that are trying to understand what to give their child. There was this thought that came to me at one point where my parents came to the US to live the American dream. Their idea of the American dream was to come here and then watch us, their children, have the American dream. To their understanding, it was just bringing their children here and giving them the best education and then it happens. That’s not necessarily the truth because there’s my story and there are many other stories like that.

Understanding that it’s not about just giving a child an education. There’s a difference between education and there’s a difference between schooling. To educate the child on what’s necessary to create the successes in their life, to build their self-confidence, to give them the ability to be decisive, to give them the motivation to go after their dreams. That is an art. That I believe takes coaching and mentoring where we provide that service. What I want to do is make sure that people are educated to understand that this is needed along with an education. That provides the best foundation to ensure that your child is successful and lives that life that you envisioned for them. At the same time, as a parent who comes here from whatever country that is and they try to create this life, when they get to that stage in retirement in their life, the worst thing that could happen with them would be them watching their child struggle because ultimately, they brought them here to live that dream. I want to urge people to start looking at this area seriously. It needs to be a part of every child’s upbringing to get them to their full potential.

Kimchi: As you mentioned, you grow up with no mentorship. There’s nobody that you look up to that guide you to the right path. Imagine somebody like you, it could be an outsider, but who understand what they are going through and help the parent. There are multiple reasons why they could not guide their children to where they can live to their potential. Finding somebody like you who has gone through that path and experienced the challenges. You are like a big brother that they can relate to, that they can share with the challenge, and maybe you can guide them as a mentor and as a coach. That’s wonderful. What about you, Melissa? Share with us what you’re cooking. What are you up to? 

Melissa: I would be delighted to. I am running a passion project called Asian Girl Movement. It’s a podcast in the community that’s focused on highlighting and bringing to the forefront Asian female voices or anyone who identifies as being female or in that spectrum. It’s a space for people to come together and talk about things that maybe are taboo. Some of the main topics that we focus on in the podcast are taboo subjects. We talk a lot about what makes a person toxic. We talk about toxic relationships and friendships. We talk about how we can make friends in this area when we’re 20 or 30 years old. We talk about a lot of situations when it comes to relationships and how to have a safe relationship.

Childhood Experiences: There’s a difference between education and schooling.

There are around twenty or so of us who come together. We talk about these topics back and forth. We’re normal gals, normal people sitting down and chatting about these things. We do bring in some experts as well because we’re not experts to talk about these things. We bring in other people and raise their voices as well. That way it’s an educated point of view where people are giving actual advice where it’s not just we’re saying to do things. When the experts come along, they’re wonderful. We talk about their own stories and their backgrounds. We talk about a whole range of things. We’re hoping to make it a space where people can also come together and participate in online and offline communications. They can chat to one another, meet up and make friends. The big thing within people our age is trying to find friends and communicate with each other, and connect with their backgrounds and their identities.

We’re advocating for a lot of situations. We’re trying to inform people around politics because that’s taboo, especially within the Asian community. What we believe in and what we don’t, how to be more informed around those terms, and how to be more informed to make the right decision to go out and vote. Who do we vote for? What are we doing when we vote? It’s understanding the depth of everything and unpacking a whole range of topics. That’s something that I’m working on that I hope to grow. I hope that people can listen more to it. We have more guests on board. We’re raising a whole range of voices from Asian communities. It includes South Asian voices, East Asian voices, Southeast Asian voices and Central Asian voices. That’s something that people don’t talk about a lot. There’s a whole range of Central Asian countries that get left out of the spectrum as well.

Kimchi: What are the age group and the ideal listeners for your podcast?

Melissa: It’s open to everyone and anyone. I don’t want to cancel out any voices. A mature age voice is as important as someone younger as well. I want to be able to create a space where everyone can come and listen. This doesn’t even include people from the Asian diaspora. It includes people from different backgrounds. Another awesome thing is we want to introduce Ask Us where people can call in. It could be a guy who’s dating an Asian woman saying, “How do I deal with her parents? What can I do?” It’s a whole range of things. In essence, our main focus is 18-plus, between 18 and 35 or 18 and 48, 18 and 35 would be our main aspect. We are finding that a lot of people are interested who are young, who are in high school and also people who are of mature age.

Kimchi: That would be wonderful. That would be fun to have a session where people can call in and ask about those things. A lot of people out there see the value from the Asian community. They recognize those values. It’s just that to bypass the mother-in-law is very difficult. They want to learn how to bypass the parents or how to deal with them once they get into the family. That would be fun. Your podcast would serve many needs in the Asian community. Who do you wish to know now to support you or collaborate with you in the next five years?

Deepak: I am looking for anyone who is passionate about helping young adults and that can provide me platforms to be able to speak my message and be able to help and make sure that what happened to me doesn’t happen to someone else. Anyone out there that is doing something similar to what I’m doing. We can collaborate to make more of an impact, or anyone that has someone that needs help and they’d like to reach out and see how I can support and serve them. That would be great.

Kimchi: What about you, Melissa?

Melissa: I’m looking for a range of people with amazing stories to tell. This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who has had an amazing success story where they’ve started out in poverty and have grown to have these successful businesses and things like that. People who are still struggling, that’s important to me, so that they can resonate and share their struggles and let other people know that it’s okay. The struggle in life is okay. You’ll get there. Things will get better. I want to be able to highlight those voices. Anyone who is passionate talking about a range of topics around relationships, the Asian diaspora, advocacy, activism and politics, a whole range of things that we don’t talk about within the Asian community. That’s something important and who has a lot of passion around it. I’ve had someone come up and say, “I’m not an expert in sustainability.” I said, “If that’s your passion and if that’s what you want to talk about, that’s important to highlight sustainable actions and the secular economy.” They were like, “Okay, great.” That’s something that they may not be as educated in, but they have the passion to want to talk about it. That’s important to highlight and share their voices too. Those are the people that I would love to collaborate with.

Kimchi: How do people reach out to you?

Deepak: We have a website, it’s www.VolitionAcademy.com. They can also hit us through email at [email protected].

Kimchi: What about you, Melissa?

Melissa: For Asian Girl Movement, you can follow us or message us on @AsianGirlMovement on Instagram. We also have a Facebook page, which is Facebook.com/AsianGirlMovement. We also have our community. The community hasn’t launched yet, but we are growing some members. Hopefully, that will be launched soon where we all will be after the show, where people can talk about how they felt about an episode and connect with one another and create friendships and meetups. That’s also a little secret Facebook group, but it is the Asian Girl Movement community on Facebook. You can always search that up on the Facebook page. You can find that there as well. You can always reach us out via email at [email protected].


Kimchi: Thank you so much to both of you, Deepak and Melissa, for being here with us and sharing your experience growing up. I hope that our audience find it useful. For me, it is. For our audience, what is the number one thing that you will implement to help young people feel heard, seen and supported? If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and review. We will be grateful. Until next time, live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes

"It's challenging to be caught in the middle of two cultures – a Western world and an Asian world."
"When you start talking about things, you get a little more clarity to understand them for what they really are."
"To a child, relationships and having many friends is what makes them feel good about their life."
"Real education provides the best foundation to ensure that your child is successful and lives the life that you envisioned for them."


About Deepak Sharma

Deepak Sharma is the founder of Volition Academy, a breakthrough educational consulting company for teens and young adults to find themselves, their true power, and the path to their future.

Deepak graduated from The Ohio State University where he was lost for 7 years on campus as he worked to determine what he wanted. They (the college) tell you that “one day it’ll just come to you” and you’ll just know what career path to choose but that rarely is the case. After OSU, Deepak still found himself in a career and life he was unhappy with which took him on a journey to discover his true purpose and passion over the next decade. There he focused on driving continuous improvement to flip businesses which is where he realized that his true passion was “flipping” people to become the best versions of themselves through teaching fundamental concepts that were never taught in high school and college for success. Deepak now helps teens and young adults through this major transitional point by providing mentoring and coaching to compress time, realize their true potential and get to financial freedom decades sooner than most.


About Melissa Shrestha

Melissa Shrestha: a twenty-something year-old British-Australian, a mixed South-Asian woman with complex trauma, manifesting into multiple mental health issues. She spent a significant time avoiding her identity growing up. While continue working on her own healing, she focuses her energy on growing a community for other women like her.

Her new podcast “Asian Girl Movement” is launching sometime in 2020, that creates stronger bonds within the femxle community who are educated, enthusiastic, and amazingly awesome womxn from across the globe.


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