That infamous 10 year challenge


I guess in my case this is the 13 year challenge.  The sad thing is that I have no pictures of myself from 2008 through most of 2010.  That period of my life was “not my brightest moment” and I was basically trapped in a very physically and mentally abusive relationship.  I am still kind of floored about the fact that back then (in 2008 when I first met my ex) he was still older than I am today.  I was 19 and he was 33.  Sometimes, young, dumb, and thought I was in love ends up in tragedy luckily, I was able to survive and get myself out of that situation a few days after I turned 22.  I was not expecting to go into that much detail about that time in my life, but it was a part of my life that I have healed from and it is a part of my story.


This story actually starts back in my Junior year of high school.  I was very involved in the arts.  I played violin, sang, painted, was in the Tacoma Youth symphony, and had my own chamber group, and also sang in the church choir.  I started singing with a local opera company when I was 16, but then somebody spread bronchitis and I tried to sing through it.  By the time, the performance came I could not even perform and I had to go on vocal rest.

My voice teacher had warned me and suggested that I stop swimming and over singing with the opera company because it would negatively impact my future as a singer.  I was hard-headed and did not listen.  Luckily, by the time college application time came around my vocal cords had healed and I was able to sing at my auditions.  I got accepted into every university I applied for and was offered lots of scholarships.

I chose to go to Gonzaga because it was where my parents wanted me to go and was the only school in state.  My grandpa passed away in August of 2005 and I quit orchestra after all those years because I was heartbroken and it reminded me of him.  I didn’t even really want to study music anymore, but it was nice to have the scholarships.

I started off fall quarter strongly and was deeply entrenched in the musical world with the highest level choir and taking lots of music courses.  I even had to prepare for juries, but the vocal damage caught up with me and I had to go on vocal rest.  I still managed to stay in school and was able to get a scholarship for joining the crew team, but other things happened that year and I ended up withdrawing near the end of spring quarter.

This is a picture of my Senior photo from 2006


One of my mentors from highschool encouraged me to apply for a brand new Catholic college that was opening up in Wyoming.  There were only 32 students and they had a strict technology policy (no personal cell phones at all, no ipods on campus, and no personal internet.) I was drawn to this college because back then I was still Catholic.  They also had us go through a month long NOLS backpacking course in the Wind River Mountains for our orientation.

Our curriculum was made up of studying the Great Books, writing, theology, Latin as a spoken language (this intrigued me since I took 4 years of Latin in High School), art History, Euclidean Geometry, and Horsemanship.  For horsemanship we had 2 classroom sessions and 3 riding sessions a week.  We learned about the anatomy and physiology of a horse and also the ailments and remedies.  I never thought I would learn so much about a horse.

I enjoyed my studies and made friends at this school, but always felt a little out of place.  I was the only Asian girl in a small, Western town.  In January of 2008 my horse got spooked and I got thrown off and landed on my neck.  I am blessed that I was not paralyzed, but I was very debilitated and sick for months after that.

Recovery was such a slow process and I even stayed in Wyoming during spring break to get all caught up.  The dean had told me that if I could accomplish the Herculean task of getting caught up and not miss anymore classes then they would allow me to stay.  I did accomplish that Herculean task, but I missed a few classes due to being so sick and they asked me to leave since they did not want anyone to have incompletes over the summer.

This was a major peak ascent during our 30 day Nols Backpacking course in 2007
We also had a winter backpacking course where we pulled sleds, melted snow for water, and built quinzes with the snow

I went home that spring sick and very brokenhearted, but my spirit was undaunted.  I was still determined to make something of myself so I worked full-time and enrolled in community college where I started taking my pre-requisites for nursing school.  I was doing very well in school, but my parents made me feel like I was an absolute failure who had run out of chances (I was only 19 with my whole future ahead of me.)


One Sunday morning I left my family a note in the rice cooker (classy I know, but I was scared) and I took a train down to Cali and landed in Oakland.  I was going to continue with my community college classes then go to San Francisco State.  I also had job interviews lined up for myself.

Then I met my ex and was completely trapped and beaten down mentally and physically for those two years.  It was such a sad and awful time, but somehow I was able to remain optimistic and hopeful.  I stuck around for so long because I thought that I was the one causing all the problems.  He had brainwashed me and convinced me that everything was my fault so if I could just “fix” myself then everything would be okay.  He wanted to marry me, but I told him that I couldn’t marry him until he met my Grandma.  That was a saving grace.

Then finally, I realized that this was a true predicament and I needed to get out if I wanted to survive.  I ran and escaped a Sunday morning a few days after my 22nd birthday.  I did not want to go home because I never wanted anyone to know that I had gone through that.  My plan was to find a shelter then a job then build myself back up after being so broken down.  But none of the open shelters were nearby and he was running after me.  So I called the police and called my mom and they helped me to come home.


I was heartbroken as I left that beautiful Bay Area City.  I felt like all of my hopes and dreams had been crushed.  I got my first job as a swim coach just 2 weeks after getting home and it helped to uplift me.  I absolutely loved swimming and coaching and it was a good fit.

I started practicing Aikido at the local dojo and made friends there.  It was empowering to move and learn a peaceful form of self-defense.  On Thanksgiving my ex drove up from California and showed up at my families house with an engagement ring.  He begged forgiveness and wanted to be with me.  Luckily, I already had a protection order in place and he spent that weekend in holding.  I had to move out of my house and thought that I might have to change my name.

My abuser continued to bother me and I had to defend myself against his defense attorney just to get my protection order renewed.  Thankfully, I won that first year.  I stayed busy with coaching swim team and was also volunteering on the board of an organization that was helping me.


I continued coaching and did my very first triathlon with my Auntie Tina.  We enjoyed it so much that we did it again in 2012.  This was a dream come true for me because I had wanted to do a triathlon since 2000 when I first discovered that it was an Olympic sport.  The triathlon was for all women and that made it even more empowering.  I wish I still had pictures from the event, but I cancelled my facebook from that time in my life, sadly.

I also managed a local swim shop in addition to my coaching job.  It was fun to get involved with the community this way.  At the end of 2011 I fell in love with my best friend and we dated for 4 months before mutually deciding to break up.  That June he moved to Taiwan to teach English and I felt like half of my heart had been ripped apart.

I felt broken hearted for the rest of 2012, but spent lots of time bonding with my sister.  Some of our favorite memories are from that year.  We went swimming at the lake each Friday morning that summer and we would go on frequent walks and adventures.  There was even a time when we went to each pizzeria until we found our favorite local pizza.   I took her to her very first Warped Tour for her 14th birthday and we celebrated my 24th birthday at Depoe Bay on the Oregon Coast.


Now I am going to switch to covering each year because the combo of two years blends too easily.

2013 was full of tragedy, but I accomplished a lot that year.  I moved out and started working 4 jobs.  I also created some distance from my family so that I could focus on moving myself forward.  It was a stressful year and I gained a lot of weight, but I also learned a lot too.

BeFunky Collage


This was the year that my life started to change for the best.  But it got worst before it got better.  My car broke down and I needed a job that would not require me to commute since I depended on the bus system.  After applying to 30 plus jobs and not getting a single one, the athletic club I worked for offered me a full time position.

I quickly realized that my landlord was way overcharging me and I moved to a place that was much more affordable and closer to my work.  I learned a lot during my time with Kai Ly.  Shortly after moving, I got a car and my life kept on improving.  They offered me the head swim coach position which I was honored to except.

That fall, I met the love of my life.  I just didn’t know it yet…

collage 2


After inviting me to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family, my boyfriend completely disappeared by the new year and I was devastated for awhile, but I kept on moving forward.  I worked hard at work and even started a little workout group with my coworkers.

I made new friends and continued pursuing my interests.  It was a wonderful time of growth.  My work started to mistreat me and I found myself wanting even more.  I was determined to finally go back to school and complete my degree.

BeFunky-collage (2).jpg
I decided to visit my friend Lauara in Bainbridge Island and it felt so good to be reunited after 8 years.  We were still the funloving playful girls we used to be just more stylish ❤

That year, I also hosted my very 1st swim meet.  Took my very 1st Dance Instructor training, and took another acro yoga class on Valentine’s Day except my partner was not my lover.  We hung out almost every weekend in January and February, but we decided to keep it simple and just be friends.

BeFunky Collage

My boyfriend came back to me in March of 2015 and we bought a house together that June just one week before he graduated with his undergraduate degree from Evergreen.  I got accepted to that same University and also applied for a full time position at a local Highschool.  They hired me on the spot and I was excited about all of the new changes about to take place in my life.

I quit that job at the athletic club and started working full time and being a full time student.  It was also the year that my boyfriend and I got our passports and we promptly headed to Canada the same day mine arrived in the mail.


I noticed that the landscape of my life had drastically changed.  From 2010-2015 I had grown accustomed to seeing the same faces at the pool even if it was just at swim meets on the weekends.  By this point I was almost completely out of the aquatic world and it was nice because that was my goal.

I continued working full-time and being a full time student.  It was my freshman year in college and I had done 2 independent study contracts with my computer science professional.  My bf got a job North of Seattle and we decided to get another apartment there to cut down on his commute.  I missed him so much because we often only saw each other on the weekends.

In the Spring time I finally decided to quit my job and be a full-time student.  My bf had been encouraging me to do it, but I was scared.  It ended up being the best decision because I got lots of grants and got to enjoy the luxury of being a student.

2016 was also the year that we moved to New Zealand.  We had plans to live there permanently, but we missed our cats so much that we came home.  I went right into the Computer Science program at school and during Thanksgiving break we started building our first iteration of the tiny home.  Back then it was a yurt.  We also bought a motorhome on Christmas Eve.


This was one of the most challenging years for me.  I was constantly sick or injured and by the end of this year I realized that I desperately needed to make some lifestyle changes.  I took a 2 quarter program called “Dancing Molecules Dancing Bodies” where I studied anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biology, and dance.  It was a wonderful experience and I made some of my best college friends in that program.

My boyfriend moved to New Zealand for work during spring quarter and I stayed back to watch our household (we were renting out rooms to tenants back then) and continue my college courses since it was still my Sophomore year.  He missed us so much that he came back in June.  It was the year that I  tore my hamstring and got super sick by the end of that year, but made it through.

The best part of 2017 was probably being reunited after an entire year.


After the stressful year I had in 2017 I knew that it was time to make some major changes.  I learned that I was awful at handling stress and it was interfering with my quality of life.

Both my partner and I wanted to make some big, bold changes because this was the year that we were turning 30 and we wanted to turn 30 in a new place.  We got a 3D printer and  built our first geodesic dome which sold within 1 hr of completion.

Even though this has some 2017 pics it describes the 1st half of 2018 so well.  I built a robotic cat toy with an app I could control from my phone using a stepper motor and a raspberry pi.   It was nice to get back into programming after taking a hiatus.

My friend Diana adopted our dog Ruby and that set off a positive chain reaction.  We put our house on the market and a few days later the first family to view it ended up being our buyers.  I was taking a music theory intensive program at school and started singing again.

On June 1st we set off on a grand adventure with 2 cars, 2 cats, and my sister.  We drove all the way to Jacksonville, Florida to meet with our biohacker friends.  From there we drove north until we reached Portland Maine.  We spent the summer in Maine where I worked as a Cryotherapy Technician and my boyfriend worked forMaine Lobster Nowas their web developer.

It was a wonderful place to turn 30.  I made friends at work, joined the local gym to face my gym phobia, and started getting healthy finally.

In September we bought a house in cash in Northern Maine and 1.5 days later I flew back to my hometown to take one more program on campus.  I was so glad that my former rommate Kai Ly agreed to let me rent the room I used to stay in.  I threw myself into my studies and getting fit and fell in love with the beautiful Zumba community at my gym.


My partner flew from Maine to join me back in our hometown for the holidays.  We both decided that we were not ready to go back to snowy Maine and we wanted to move some place warm that neither of us had been so we chose Scottsdale, Arizona.  It was a beautiful place especially in the winter time.

I have talked about this year fairly often so you are probably well-caught up.  It started to get hot in Arizona so we spent the spring time back in our home town in Washington State.  It was a wonderful time to catch up with friends and family before our next big move.

We have spent the summer, fall, and winter in our new home in Hawaii and I am loving every minute of it.  Oh yes, some other exciting things that happened…  I took over the businesses in April and our client base is rapidly continuing to expand.

We launched an app, built another geodesic dome, and have started building an A-frame.  I also finally graduated with my undergraduate degree which is a dream come true for me after all of these years.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through the past 13 years.  I have learned so much and am loving life.

I hope that 2020 will be a magically wonderful year for you!

❤ Alana

9 thoughts on “That infamous 10 year challenge

  1. I was 19 when I married my first husband. He was in his 30’s. After having my daughter, he became an alcoholic. I became anxious, depressed, panic attacks, and had anorexia. Was 90 lbs. He threatened to kill me, and had a knife at my throat. The next day I left him.

    1. I am so sorry that you went through that at such a young age, Susie, but am so glad that you left and had the chance to live your life rather than living under that extreme stress.

      You are an amazing woman and you inspire me everyday. Thank you for sharing that part of your story with me.

      ❤ Alana

    1. Thank you for sharing. I know that it can be difficult to talk about, but I also like the fact that with each year the person who I was becomes more of a stranger as I grow stronger. I bet that you have transformed since then too. ❤

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