My hard-working father believed in chasing opportunities — until it almost ruined us.
It was 1983, and my dad was working as a welder in a Washington shipyard. The job was grueling, and the physical demands and hazards were taking a toll on his health.
Then he heard of the sunnier skies in Texas from a few friends. “There’s a growing Korean community in Houston and big opportunities there,” they said.
So Dad packed us into the family station wagon and moved us halfway across the country. Almost immediately, we ran into trouble.
What we hadn’t realized was that the city was undergoing a huge demographic change. Wave after wave of refugees had settled there in recent years and that, combined with the collapse of the oil boom, meant jobs were extremely scarce. Asians were viewed as job stealers, and the flagrant animosity displayed against us was open and hurtful.
The breaking point happened two weeks later as we were walking along a busy street. My brothers, aged 5 and 7 at the time, were a few steps ahead when a man shouted, “Go back to where you came from!” and threw an empty glass beer bottle that shattered in front of us.
Shaken, my dad made a half dozen urgent phone calls that night, and the next day, he announced that we were leaving. He had come up with a plan to join his brother’s locksmith business in Hawaii and had just enough money left in our dwindling savings for plane fare.
In the years following, my father and uncle worked hard to grow their locksmith business into one that was able to support both of their families comfortably. Though it always remained a small, family-owned enterprise, what my father gained in peace of mind was priceless. Most importantly, it was something he would not have thought of had we not encountered such difficulty in Houston.
Sometimes the best opportunities come from the biggest setbacks. An event that may feel devastating in the moment often can be a blessing in disguise, paving the way for life-changing personal and professional growth.
All of this is my way of introducing the theme for this year’s upcoming Expo issue: “Comeback Stories.” We’re looking for people in the industry who have overcome significant adversity to get where they are today. Whether it’s personal, professional, health-related, financial or anything else, we want to hear your story! Please email me at email@example.com by Aug. 26 to be considered for inclusion in this special issue.