In Heather’s shoes: Learning to Love Myself.

Photo Credit: Jack Chou of Miles Photography

Name: Heather Schultz

Hometown:  Born in Seoul, South Korea

Grew Up: Farmingdale, NY

Current Residence: Rockville Centre, NY

What does it mean to have a voice? Being fearless and vulnerable; embracing your personal power

How did you find your voice? By practicing self-love and forgiveness, leaning into my discomfort and approaching life wholeheartedly.

What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?

As a self-loathing 16-year-old student obsessed with J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in 2001, I began my quest to discover my writing voice.

I was invisible in my own house. I hid in my room and filled my ears with the inspiring struggles behind the hip-hop beats of Nas, Lauryn Hill, Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Eminem in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My academic record of straight A’s and innate talent for the clarinet was overshadowed by my younger siblings.

Unable to provide unconditional love to myself, I hastily started my first relationship shortly after I graduated high school in 2002. On my 19th birthday, he began his abusive path. Every time I tried to convince myself to leave him, I fell victim to his canon of apologies and fictitious love for me. I continued to give him extra chances to restart – only to end up in a two-year vicious cycle of broken promises, verbal and physical assaults, and black-and-blue bruises.

With the encouragement of my family, I started my healing journey through intensive psychotherapy following a break-up from my abusive ex-boyfriend in 2005. After years of avoidance, I delved into the central theme of abandonment in my own narrative (the relinquishment from my birth mother in 1984 and death of my adoptive mother in 1995). Following my rebirth in a one-semester break, I transferred to Baruch College in Manhattan in 2006. Committed to honing my craft of storytelling, I declared my major in journalism and accepted editorial positions on the student-run newspaper The Ticker and Dollars & Sense (an award-winning online magazine reported and edited by students).

Heather recites a poem at the The Inspired Word’s PinkSpeak breast cancer fundraiser in Brooklyn in October 2017.

Tell me about when you finally found your voice.

As a part-time assistant in the Division of Student Affairs in my senior year of Baruch College, I was assigned to interview the journalism faculty members for development of a journalism program brochure. I found my first mentor through this project. Professor Michel Marriott joined Baruch’s journalism department after nearly 20 years as a reporter at The New York Times. Although he encouraged me to join his memoir writing workshop, I was hesitant to revisit trauma from my past with strangers. After remembering a promise to my 16-year-old self about writing my memoir, I joined Professor Marriott’s workshop in  2010.

Heather poses with a social worker from her adoption agency, the obstetrician who delivered her, and a friend in Seoul in October 2014.

Through my spiritual awakening around the same time of my foray into the New York City open mic scene, I was able to unearth my true voice and unravel grief from the loss of my Korean culture, birth mother and adoptive mother. This content was clearly missing from my memoir chapters. I wasn’t ready to fully dive into that pain when I started writing my memoir in 2010.

With the help of my spiritual dream team – incorporating Feng Shui principles bestowed upon me from my best friend, Laura Cerrano, and learning about the importance of healing my inner child from my spiritual life coach, Lily Rubinstein – I prepared myself on all four levels (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) to visit my place of birth, Seoul, in October 2014.  Since then, I have become a Reiki practitioner, surrounded myself with like-minded positive Earth angels, dived into self-help books (including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown and The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Luis) and used essential oils and acupuncture to help me reconcile my past, practice forgiveness to myself and others, and become grounded.

Define “voice” and why it is important?

Voice is the essence of your soul’s purpose. We all possess a certain path in this current lifetime. It is our own responsibility to carve that path by embracing our personal power and removing all fears blocking the authentic collective consciousness of our higher selves. During a one-day spiritual celebration, Wesak 2017 (hosted by another spiritual teacher of mine – Pierre Dubois), I was transformed by one quote from Pierre: “Don’t shrink to make others comfortable. BE YOURSELF!!” This quote reminds me of conversations I have with some friends where we feel we can’t share our success with others.

By overlooking our achievements and dimming our light to appease others, we block our authentic voices. When we are able to claim our voices, we achieve liberation from the false egos we have created to assimilate into our environments.

Heather reads a chapter from her upcoming memoir at The Korea Society in New York City in September 2015. Photo Credit: KoreanAmericanStory.org

What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?

As you can see, my decades-long journey to find my voice was attributed to my own faith, trust and resilience. I didn’t place pressure on myself to find my voice. Rather, it was a series of organic steps toward healing my heart space and removing a default negative programming in my subconscious mind. Although I’m now exercising my voice, I must remain vigilant of continuing my spiritual path towards enlightenment and ascension. When entering this quest for your true self, remember to be fearless, lean into your discomfort, approach life wholeheartedly, and shower yourself with daily positive affirmations.

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