Speak Your Truth

Being Japanese American, I grew up with the expectations of not being a “burden” to other people, and living in the pandemic has sometimes felt like treading in deep waters without rest. 

Being Japanese American, I grew up with the expectations of not being a “burden” to other people, and living in the pandemic has sometimes felt like treading in deep waters without rest.


Early in the pandemic, I started taking the idea of applying to law school seriously. I was hesitant to tell people because I didn’t want to burden people with disappointment if I didn’t live up to the expectation of getting in. I also didn’t want to burden people with explaining my unconventional career change.

Folks know me as a nonprofit worker or a pastry cook; not a lawyer. I don’t fit any typical “lawyer” boxes with my fear of confrontation and people-pleasing tendencies. But despite the doubt and my silence, I began to plant the seeds of intention and being true to myself.

I took the LSAT and submitted my applications with the support of the folks I told selectively told. Three months later, I got accepted into my dream program at the University of San Diego. I was ecstatic. I felt like I could finally speak my truth, and my friends and family were thrilled for me. But then dread settled in. 

After all this work, I didn’t want to go.

Working through emotions, like dread, is a rough battle that I wish people spoke more about. It is so nuanced and requires a lot of emotional self evaluation and work that is probably best fit for a therapist. But I write this in hopes to share a little bit of my thoughts to help those grappling with staying true to yourself and finding empowerment in speaking your truth. 

A month before law school started, I reevaluated and sat with myself to work out what this “dread” was trying to tell me. Was it just self-doubt? Cold feet? What the heck is my gut trying to tell me? But I slowly was coming to the realization that this journey that I was able to embark on was something that didn’t aligned with what I wanted for myself.

Working through emotions, like dread, is a rough battle that I wish people spoke more about. It is so nuanced and requires a lot of emotional self evaluation and work that is probably best fit for a therapist. But I write this in hopes to share a little bit of my thoughts to help those grappling with staying true to yourself and finding empowerment in speaking your truth. 

Quickly though, the ego and guilt settled in: “You put in all this work, how could you not go?” “You’re going to disappoint all those who you already told.” “Everyone helped you get this far, how could you let them down?” “You know how many people work hard to get here and how could you not want it?”

Joining into the internal conversation was fear: “What will people say?” “How could I do this to the folks who supported me this far?” “I don’t want to face anyone and disappoint them.” “I don’t want to face their judgments about me.” 

I thought the hard part would be going to law school. But as my journey evolved, I realized speaking my truth would be the hardest part; going to law school and avoiding this problem would be the easiest. 

I broke down from the pressures of trying to make everyone happy while also trying to continue making myself happy. 

I watched Bo Burnham’s Make Happy special and he sings a song at the end about the pressures of being a comedian. I still think about this verse:

I can sit here and pretend like my biggest problems are Pringle cans, and burritos.
The truth is my biggest problem’s you, I want to please you
But I want to stay true to myself.
I want to give you the night that you deserve 
But I want to say what I think, and not care what you think about it.
A part of me loves you, part of me hates you
Part of me needs you, part of me fears you
And I don't think I can handle this right now
Handle this right now….

Although, I am not a comedian and do not understand the high stakes of being a professional performer. The weight of being the main performer in my own life and facing my own self-induced pressures can feel just as crippling as this verse.

I used to silently suffocate under the pressure of trying to be the peacekeeper and not step out of line. Through this breakdown, I realized that it is impossible and unrealistic to try to make everyone happy while trying to be happy as well. My Japanese values of not being a “burden” and not make people feel “uncomfortable” no longer entirely serve me.

I had to accept that my decision will make people uncomfortable, not happy, and will probably bring negative judgments upon me. But those are things that are out of my control and I had to be okay with that discomfort. These are still concepts that I am having a hard time grasping and still very revolutionary to me. 

The only thing that I can control is feeling grounded and speaking my truth, regardless if folks understand or accept it. Although excruciatingly uncomfortable, it is more freeing than silently suffocating from external pressures. 

I can handle this now. 

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