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Unmarried and Childless - The Future Is Wide Open

With Christina Vo

All of us strive to make things better, have goals, and have acceptance and appreciation in life. Christina Vo, an event curator, floral designer, and blogger based in San Francisco, California, teaches us how to appreciate being unmarried and childless despite the pressures of societal norms. She narrates her life as Vietnamese immigrant and walks us through those early days of adapting the American way of life. As a single woman turning 40, she shares her desire to reconnect with other people and herself and to reflect on what it means to be another decade older. Know more about Christina’s wonderful insights of seeking new relationships, being unmarried and childless, and being happy with who she is.

Unmarried & Childless – The Future Is Wide Open with Christina Vo

Before I introduce my guest, I like to read a review. This one is from Lani K, “Asian Women of Power is a catalyst for healing and getting rid of stereotypes which Asian women continue to endure. Kimchi and her guests candidly discuss thought-provoking challenges which Asian women and their families face which affect our self-esteem, dreams, aspirations, careers, family life and more. Bravo Kimchi for teaching us how to live life loud. You are inspiring.” Thank you, Lani K., for your kind words. What I and other coaching found is that by speaking up and sharing what we experienced in life would help us heal our wounds. Please keep reading and sharing this podcast. We appreciate your support and review. I have a tool that I want to share with you. Using your cellphone, text AWOP to 64600. You will get a link to my virtual business card brought to you by eZCard. With that link, you will have access to all podcast episodes. You can search by the guest name, by their ethnicity or by the keyword from the episode’s title. Check it out.


Christina Vo is an event curator, floral designer and blogger based in San Francisco, California. She regularly hosts salons for women in her home that focus on addressing and bringing to light issues that women face. She has worked for UNICEFSolidaridad in Hanoi, Vietnam and The World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. She holds a Master degree in Social and Public Communication from the London School of Economics. She is about to embark on a journey which she calls Tour de 40. Please join me to welcome Christina Vo. 

Thank you. 

Christina, before you share with us about Tour de 40, we want to know a little bit about you. What was your childhood like? 

I moved around quite a bit. My parents came to the states from Vietnam in 1975. In 1976, my mother arrived. They met in Saigon Medical School. They were both doctors in Vietnam. When they came to the states, only my father practiced and we moved around a lot. I was born in Connecticut and we moved to Utah for a year, Tennessee for about six years, Illinois for a year and Indiana where I spent junior high and high school. My father in retrospect was longing for the search for peace. After the trauma of leaving Vietnam, he gravitated towards small places and was trying to create for us a peaceful upbringing. He had a very deep longing for peace. I see that and I recognize that. I also appreciate it. At the same time, moving around gave me some resilience and this ability to be in different environments, in places where there weren’t that many Asian people around. In my graduating class, I don’t think there were any other Asian people except for myself in a class of 430. It was still small. It was a nomadic upbringing, not very diverse, but also still quite beautiful in a way. 

You mentioned your father. What about your mom? Your father wants inner peace, but what about your mom? 

It was interesting because when she arrived in the States, she definitely suffered a lot of trauma. When she arrived in the States, she was fearful in a way. She didn’t practice medicine. She even didn’t want to take English classes, but there were people in a local church that encouraged her. She never learned to drive. She was dependent on my father and also friends, but she was also incredibly creative and talented. She cooked a lot. She briefly opened a restaurant when we were in Connecticut. She taught me a lot just by observation about community. Because she didn’t drive and my father was a surgeon, she had to make connections, make friends with neighbors, build this network around her to help her get the things that she needed and also help her get my sister and me around. 

She nurtured life a lot. I learned a great deal by watching her. We had a sunroom that probably had 50 plants in it. She was also good at decorating. She was multitalented, but never used those talents in the world, which is one of the reasons I’ve created the life that I have for myself as a contrast to how my mother lived, very creatively but creatively in the sense of only for family unit and friends around her. She passed away when I was a teenager. A lot of my post-teenage years and my twenties, there was a lot of reflection for me about women and this traditional and nontraditional, consciously and subconsciously. I’ve always been thinking about how I wanted to be in the world as a Vietnamese–American woman. 

Do you want to be like her or you want to be a little bit opposite than what your mom show up? 

I think I aspire to be like her in the ways that she treated people and the ways that she built community, which is something that I’m doing. Also, I think I have been good at in my life, but I think differently in the sense that I had a strong desire for my creative pursuits to be expressed. My passions to be expressed in the world and visibly expressed through a business and everything that I do. Whereas, for her, it was more about using those skills to nurture a family. That’s why I’ve been more focused on doing that outwardly. 

Being Unmarried And Childless: Being exposed to different perspectives makes us realize we don’t have to live a very traditional life.

I had the same aspiration as you from my mom. She’s my role model. There are things that she did perfectly. She’s a nurturer. She‘s very good with people. She cares for people. She’s very generous. On the other hand, she was not very vocalized. She’s not staying up. You have to understand that all of us came from Vietnam. That tradition is still carried on. Inside the householdas a woman, you don’t speak up. Most of the time you let the husband decide what’s going on but I didn’t like that. I have tried for many decades when I did not like itI created this show to help other women vocalize about what they want, what they are passionate about, who they are and how they want to live life. Who were your role models growing up? 

Growing up, it was my parents. I didn’t realize that until in the last five years. I’ve been very fortunate that I’m a mix between my mom and my dad. My father is also inspiring to me. He‘s a very quiet man. For a long time, it was difficult for me to understand that, especially losing a mom as a teenager and being left with my father who wasn’t a very expressive man. At the same time, he was somebody who’s had this longing and desire to search. He was the first person who asked me if I’d ever meditated because he was aware of the way that I have a lot of ideas and my mind can be very scattered. One day we went for a walk and he said, “Have you ever tried meditating?” I said, “No.” He said, “Try to start and look at something simple like rose and see if you can focus on it for a little bit.” I’ve seen him go through so many transitions and continue to reinvent himself in his life. He started writing around the time that my mom passed away, around 1994 with his own personal story. 

He writes a lot about the history of Vietnam. He loves Vietnam deeply. He’s written at least ten books and he does a lot with his classmates from Saigon Medical School. He’s so committed to the projects that he loves and he’s so intellectually curious. Even when I was a kid, even though he didn’t speak very much, I remember he was difficult to reach and to emotionally connect with. He had this little box of note cards in his office and it had all these inspirational quotes and also medical terminology that he was studying. Still above his desk, he has ten different quotes about living life. He’s always read self-help books and given us self-help books. My father taught me the value of searching for that deeper meaning for life. I think this combination between my mom and my dad, my mom being very community–oriented, creative and social with the contrast of my father being very intellectual, curious, deep, reflective and spiritual, they provided me together this wonderful foundation of what it means to be human. 

That’s a wonderful combination. You got the best from both worlds. 

It took me a long time to realize that, but I did. They were a wonderful match in terms of two opposites coming together. 

Why did you decide to study and work abroad when you were in your twenties? 

When I graduated from college, I took a job. My first job near where I went to school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina was at a pharmaceutical company because I studied public health. I remember being in that little cubicle. I knew even then that I didn’t fit into this corporate culture in the states. I didn’t study abroad as a college student, so I still had that desire to go abroad. I started contacting organizations in Hanoi, international development organizations and that started my journey, doing an internship with UNDP in Hanoi and then going back to Vietnam to work for different nonprofits. Something opened to me in my twenties where I was learning so much by being in a different country, being in Vietnam, number one, learning more deeply about Vietnamese culture and also being surrounded by ex-pats. It opened my mind. I was addicted to going back, that’s why I continued to go back throughout my twenties. 

In my 30s, I have mainly been in San Francisco for the last eight years. As I’m approaching 40, I’m coming back to having that desire to travel again but combining both the twenties and 30s. It’s a little bit of stability but also exploration still. In my twenties, I was very curious and very interested in learning from the world. I think it served me well. Being exposed to different perspectives has helped me realize I don’t have to live in this very traditional life. Although in my 30s I flipped a little bit and there was a lot of should. I should stay in one place. I should stay with one organization. I think it was a good time, but I think my spirit is more nomadic. I want to integrate that again in a smarter way as I go into my 40s. 

Do you still consider Vietnam as your root? 

Yes, I do. 

Asian Hustlers: Don’t take anything personally, have fun, enjoy the journey. Everything’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to.

What about your father? I know that they both escaped from Vietnam. Your mom has already passed, but has your dad completely forgivethe Communist Party? 

We actually don’t have this discussion. I would venture to say no. He has not been back to Vietnam. I wish that he would go before he passes away, but I don’t think that he has. It’s unfortunate, at the same time I know from what he’s written, I don’t know from experience of what that is like to see so much suffering because of war and to lose a country that he deeply loved. I don’t think he could have written so many books about anything else because that to me shows the depth of his love for Vietnam as he knew it. It’s something that he hasn’t forgiven. I can’t tell him what to do. For me, I would want that for him. I would want that for anyone to reconcile that part of your life and to try to forgive. At the same time, I can’t also speak for the tragedy, for the pain, uncertainty and everything that he observed and all the Vietnamese people of his generation growing up around war and having to leave behind your country.  

I also had a brother who died. My father left first because he was part of the South Vietnamese Army stationed in Phu Quoc by chance. He could easily leave. My mom was still based in Saigon and I had a brother who got sick. When my mom arrived in the States without my brother, my father lost a country. He lost friends, colleagues and when my mom arrived, he lost a son. In some ways, I believe something happened to my mom’s spirit. It was hard for her both to lose a son. I don’t exactly know because she passed away, but it’s what I feel and what I’ve surmised from conversations and knowing a bit more about her, how spirited she was when she was in Vietnam. She was born and raised in Cambodia and they went to Vietnam in the late ‘60s. She had to leave too. She’s still a Vietnamese descent, but they were in Cambodia. For her, it was leaving Cambodia then leaving Vietnam and losing his son. To get out of Vietnam, it was very challenging for her as it was for many people and traumatic. Going back to the original question, I would love for him to forgive but at the same time, I don’t have the depth of knowledge or understanding of the pain. 

It’s hard. If you don’t experience ityou don’t understand the impact, the trauma that it caused you. If somehow, someway your dad sees that it’s a part of life. When you look at history, one country at one time will evade the other country. There will be some killing. There will be some taking over the countries. It happened in Vietnam. I’m one of the boat people and my family’s properties were taken away. Most of my siblings, my family, my mom and dad did not forgive the communist Vietnamese for a long time, but I feel that I was the first person to forgive and let go. I have learned through coaching that if you hang on to that resentment and that hatred, it does not help you. 

If you look into the world, everywhere there’s power who will take over the weak. It’s life. When I look at the past, I have a lot of relatives because my father’s family came from comes from the north. He had some relationship with North Vietnam. Some of them, they served the Northern Vietnam government. How do we deal with that? It’s hard. I came to the conclusion that it’s part of life and it’s my relative. They didn’t do it because they wanted to. They just follow a vision, something that they have to do that they need to do just like our American soldier. Sometimes they come to some country because they want to serve America, but it doesn’t mean that they want to kill other citizens. 

Another thing is the trauma and the pain do pass to generations. In some ways, when things aren’t healed or forgiven, it carries on. I would look forward to having more intergenerational dialogue about the war and about trauma. I also hope people of my father’s generation to keep their stories alive and keep that history to have more of a dialogue between us. Because I always have this vision of my dad and I writing something about my Vietnam, your Vietnam. The Vietnam that he knew and the Vietnam that I fell in love with, they’re very different countries, but there’s still spirit. There’s still a heart and soul of whether you want to call it for my dad, he would go to South Vietnam. For me, I also fell in love with Hanoi and with North Vietnam. I know that that’s also something that’s difficult for my father to fully understand. I often think about that too. When I decided to first go to Vietnam, I wanted to go to Hanoi because I’m very much about aesthetics and I was so charmed when I saw these pictures of tree-lined streets and lakes throughout the city. I think it probably hurt my father a lot when I said, “I’m going to go to Vietnam, but I’m going to Hanoi.” 

It’s important for you to learn and to find out about the intergeneration trauma that’s passed on. A lot of Japanese have that in them. If you read some of my episodes, I interviewed several Japanese American and they shared that. The episode I had with Kirk talks about intergenerational trauma from his grandfather. What is an event curator? 

For me at least what I love to do is it’s not just thinking about the content of an event, but also the space and looking at events more like an experience. For me, what I’ve done is primarily building on this idea of salons, cultivating and experience at home. The reason why I’ve chosen to do things at home is that I think it drops into a deeper level of intimacy when you arrived. For example, if you have twenty women who are coming here for an event, most of them, if given enough time, they’ll at least talk to probably half of them. If you go to an event space, for example, a yoga studio or something else, you would probably only talk to five or even two or three. I’ve always been doing the visual side of events, mainly through floral design. I also like the content. I like to find speakers. I naturally connect with different people and can see what their skillsets are.  

If I meet an interesting person, I often want to shape and experience around what they particularly bring to the world. It has happened organically for me. I think the curation also involves who’s invited. I started with these women’s groups and then I realized there needed to be a way to continue the dialogue. I created a Facebook group. It doesn’t have many people, a couple hundred, not on the Bay Area. I write regularly in that Facebook group as a way to maintain the connection. It’s still one way. I do share and I want other people to share. I think people might feel that it’s my platform, but also the curation of the event is also about the people who are coming. Because most of the people who come to events at my place, they’re already interested in another layer of depth of conversation. They’re not interested in just going and mingling. They want to connect and want to share deeply. For me, curation is the whole experience from the people who are invited, to the speaker and to the way things are set up. 

I did a men’s group and I had some food catered but then I made some of it. It ended up being twenty people, eighteen men and two women. They were impressed that I had home-cooked food for them. I think that is also an added layer of making something special, making people feel they are going to something that is unique and even the food allows a layer of conversation. I don’t act like it takes a lot of work. If I have an event at home or if I’m planning for a wedding and it’s usually for the week before, I don’t socialize at all. I’m not working on the event the whole time, but I’m thinking about it. There’s a lot of thought, even for the smaller events especially that goes into making these events unique and special and about connection. 

Being Unmarried And Childless: In life, we are always tested to see if we really want what we say we want.

What were the most memorable salons that you have? 

It was still an event at home, but it was the death anniversary of mom. I have a lot of Vietnamese–American friends. I have one friend, I met him in Saigon the first time that I went there in 2003. He’s become almost like a brother to me. He said to me, “We’ve never honored your mom.” Also, with my dad, we never did the traditional ceremony. He said, “Let’s do this.” In the 25th anniversary of her death, we hosted a small event. We wanted to adjust it a bit. We don’t know the traditional way to do this and we’re just like, “We’re just going to modify.” I hired a sound healer. There was music at the beginning of it. I didn’t cook the food, but I did go to San Jose and buy a lot of delicious Vietnamese food. It’s an entire spread. I sent the invite as if it was both my mom and me hosting. It was an invitation from me, but also from her acknowledging and inviting deceased loved ones of the people who were attending. 

We had them bring images as well to put on the altar. It was beautiful. With the combination with the sound healer, it was magical. I felt the energy and the presence of my mother, of these other spirits. The event took place on a Saturday night. The following Sunday, I didn’t leave this room. I could still feel that there was this presence of ancestors and people who had passed on. I didn’t want to leave the room. It felt like the safe, beautiful cocoon. We kept offering our ancestors food. Even as we were eating, the following day we kept bringing food to the altar. That was very special to me. I’ve always felt my mom’s presence, but this, in particular, I felt it more, especially with some things that have happened with my family, I felt that she’s been with me. 

That was a great idea to have a sound healer to heal the spirit as well as the people who are coming. 

We had children there too because we thought about that. We didn’t know and people asked if they could bring their kids and then we decided yes. We wanted them to witness this tradition and still be a part of it. There was a prayer involved. There was a song that reminded me of my mom. I sang it with the music and it was such a special event for me. It’s something that I would love to also in my work, help other people do. That goes to what I want to do, is help people make events more meaningful. That’s going to be very specific for each person, but for any kind of event, that can be done. When I think about reframing weddings and traditional ceremonies, it’s making them fit with the people who were celebrating. For example, for my 40th birthday, it’s also to do ceremonies for yourself because as someone who is single at 40. If I had unlimited financial constraints, I would throw a ceremony for myself. It’s not as elaborate as a wedding, but something as beautiful. It’s like a recommitment to myself as I moved to this mid-life period. I think we need to reshape how we honor, how we celebrate and how we look at life and important moments and also how we look at death in a way. 

I think that’s a very unique idea. You have something there that is very special, very unique and a different twist about memorial dayYou are heading to the gold mine there. Let’s talk about the Tour de 40. 

A few things happened to me. I didn’t think much about turning 40. Sometimes I would be in conversation with friends who have either just turned 40 or it’s coming up and there was such dread that came with it like, “We’re entering midlife.” All these things are like, “This is midlife.” There was a negative feeling around it. Everybody’s in a different place when they turn 40 and have worked for different things. Some people had been much more traditional and they’d been on a very traditional career path and some people are starting to raise families. For me, I am single. I don’t have a family. I started to realize, my social life is changing a lot because a lot of my friends are in relationships or married and have small children. They don’t have as much time. I started actively asking friends like, “Can you introduce me in particular, specifically other women who are around my age and maybe in a similar situation?” That was one of the reasons why these women’s groups started. It wasn’t just for women my age, but I started to see this need for women to convene.  

I think that there’s always that need and desire for that for both men and women. Selfishly, I started doing this for myself because I realize, “Everyone’s lives are going to continue to change.” Because I’m not moving along with this more traditional path, it’s a little bit more difficult to socialize when there are lots of little kids involved. Maybe I don’t want to be around lots of little kids on the weekends. I need to find more female friends around my age. I wanted to do this whole sharing more, writing around, turning 40 and reflecting on where I am. I started to realize that based on all the decisions we’ve made, we’ve created some life for ourselves. It might not be the same as what that looks like for other people. Whenever that is, I realized you just have to learn always to try to improve your situation, always try to make things better or have goals that you’re trying to achieve, but also to have acceptance and appreciation of the life that you do have. 

I think for my particular case, it means I’m blessed with freedom. You can look at these things as a good or bad thing. I don’t own a piece of property in the bay area. I rent. It’s a lovely apartment. I’m sharing it with people, but I’m not stuck to San Francisco. I can still travel. I can still move. I have that flexibility in my life and also because I don’t have a family and I don’t have a partner. My idea was I need to embrace what was always the true essence that I little bit moved away from in my 30s because I tried to go down this should path. It was never meant for me. Anytime I was deeply entrenched in that, it didn’t feel right. I wanted to take these few months to explore that and to reconnect with people from different parts of my life, to reconnect with myself and to reflect on what it means to turn 40. 

There have already been some bumps, but I see that it’s going to be a beautiful process. Ultimately, I’d love to help people claim not playing somebody else’s life but claim your life. Whatever you’ve been given, whatever you’ve created, to take ownership of that and to adjust where things need to be adjusted but to not feel bad about anything that you’ve done in your twenties or 30s that lead you to where you are in your 40s. Don’t regret moving forward into mid-life. I have always appreciated every year of getting older. I’m fortunate to be an Asian woman because I don’t necessarily think I might not look like I’m 40. In terms of wisdom and awareness of oneself, it’s a blessing. 

Being Unmarried And Childless: Use every relationship as an opportunity to learn and become better.

You mentioned that you are facing some bumps before you headeading the Tour. What are the bumps? 

The other way that I look at life is that there are always tests. We’re always tested to see if we want what we say we want. Continue to test your strength and determination. For me, my sister was hospitalized and she was put in a medically–induced coma. It was very traumatic for her, but also for me. I had claimed independence and as a result, a lot of times I’ve been away from my dad and my sister. I don’t keep great contact with them. Some of my friends always say like, “It sometimes feels you don’t have a family.” It‘s just you and your friends. I spend most of my holidays with friends in the bay area. My mom had a role in doing with that. It was a bump in the sense of reflecting on the family that I was born into. Not that I didn’t want to accept, but I felt guilt for leaving. Number one, leaving right after I graduated from high school and going to college in North Carolina and then never coming back.  

I was never playing an active role in the lives of my dad, my sister in my twenties because I was abroad because they were struggling with things. Independence can also be perceived as selfish and there is a selfish component to that. I was only able in some ways to take care of myself. I don’t think I had that full strength to deal with what I needed to deal with but then also be there for them. I think this experience with my sister tested that because I’m writing an essay about this. It made me see myself. It felt oddly familiar to when my mom was in the hospital. I was fourteen, my sister was sixteen except my sister was in the hospital, but yet I was still a daughter or a sister. An added component was I was out of town and my niece and my nephew are fifteen and seventeen, so just a year off from how old my sister and to see them.  

A wise friend said to me that it was like a life review. Typically, it probably happens at the end of your life when you’re reflecting on your relationships. I’m very lucky. In a similar way, my sister is very lucky and that she got a second chance, but of us as a family unit got the second chance of understanding each other and seeing how we deal with pain and suffering. I saw my dad, even myself, my own responses and then my sister. It was a beautiful healing moment, but it was also a little bit jarring. I was off trying to settle back into San Francisco. That was the big bump because I wasn’t expecting to deeply look at that family dynamic. 

I liked the phrase that your friends say, it’s a live review for you and it’s fortunate that you have a chance to experience it rather than much later when it’s too late to connect the relationship with your sister. 

I think we’re born into a family for a certain reason. That’s my belief. We’re born into this unit because we have specific lessons for each other and you can learn them or you cannot learn them. I think I’ve been avoiding them for a long time and dealing with that. It’s foundational and a reflection of how you interact with the broader world. I’m grateful as well and I already feel closer to my sister and a deeper understanding also of my father. I feel quite blessed. 

Is Tour de 40 still on? 

Yes, I’m modifying a bit. I’m planning to leave San Francisco. I wanted to have everything set up, but I’m more fluid about it because I also decided to build the event component of my business. I’m also open to trying to get projects and also exploring short-term projects abroad to help curate more meaningful events. It‘s an open period. I’m looking at it like still an exploration of these months before 40. Also, it has a bigger scope. I still plan to start at my dad’s and go to North Carolina where I went to college and visit some cities in the south and also doing an essay series that’s going be posted on diaCRITICS, which is Vietnamese law for artists of the diaspora. It’s going to be a series of six essays reflecting on 40. It’s shifted a little bit. It’s still happening. I am very much somebody that’s back in the mode of how I used to operate in my twenties, which is like, I’m going to go with the flow and create things along the way. As I go to these different cities, hopefully, I’m able to view some event with women.  

It’s not going to be as organized as I thought it would be, but more impromptu. Maybe it’s just like, “I’m in town. Let’s have a party and let’s talk.” What happened with my sister brought me back to Indiana, a place that I don’t go back to often. I didn’t connect with many people from my childhood, but a few. That was also beautiful and something that I did want to share because being from Indiana is not something that I necessarily advertise. It’s a town of 13,000 people in Southern Indiana. I had some wonderful people around me and it was beautiful to be able to reconnect with them. All of this as part of the foundational work of going into 40 reconciling childhood, the twenties, 30s and this next phase of my life is going to be the best phase. It already feels like that’s happening, but I’m building the foundation for that. 

There are also little tests and even in terms of relationships and interactions with men. Sometimes I think I’ve overcome certain dynamics and then they show up again. I do believe that until you learn that lesson, you’re going to get the same lesson. It comes in a different form. It looks like a different person, but it’s the same dynamic. That has also happened to me where I’m trying to ingrain this understanding of myself, self–worth, self-love and stay true to the framework of what I’d want to seek in a partnership. I do want to have that. I don’t want to professionally be single. It’s not necessarily a goal of mine, but where I am, but those tests have also been apparent. 

Being Unmarried And Childless: We’re all meant to shine and to share whatever it is that we’re particularly passionate about or knowledgeable about.

Just to be honest, sometimes it does come up. It’s like, “What if I met somebody in the Bay Area two weeks before I was supposed to leave and fall in love, then I don’t want to go?” There’s always, “I don’t want to travel because I’ll miss opportunities being with this person,” or something’s just started. That has also come up for me. That’s always been a struggle for me as a woman. I’m not going to say that that hasn’t. This desire to be with a man and the way that pulls for a shift and adjust plans, even at 39, I’m still grappling with that and I’m okay with it. 

You’re almost 40, unmarried and childless. Is this is your choice to be single with no attachment? 

I have a very wonderful, spiritual friend who has a deep understanding and he sees people very clearly and he says to me that he thinks my portal to reflecting on life and reflecting on myself is through relationships, particularly relationships with men. These dynamics that I have and these challenges that I try to overcome, send me back to my primary relationship with my father because I love to talk about love. I love to talk about relationships. I love to think about them. I started being in serious relationships in high school. I had one in college as well, but I would go in and out of a serious relationship for a few years to periods of being single. My last long-term relationship ended years ago. For two of those three years, I did not want to be in a relationship. I was somewhat involved with people but not people who were available. That shows that I didn’t want to be in a relationship.  

I wanted to be loosely connected and on some level intimate with people, but I was not fully emotionally available. They were awfully emotionally available. Some of them weren’t even based in the Bay Area. If I’m honest with myself, the truth is I didn’t want to be in a partnership. That’s one thing that we have to be honest with ourselves about. I’m moving into a phase where that’s different. I’ve dated a lot more than I have in the past. That’s been a wonderful learning and growing opportunity as I think it always is. I definitely foresee a deeper partnership. The words that come to me are expansive and spacious. It’s something that is about two independent people merging, seeing, recognizing each other and giving one another space or continued growth as individuals but also a sense of shared intimacy. 

Oftentimes people my age who are single and who haven’t been married and divorced, I think people who are divorced get a little bit more credit because at least they’re committed enough to get married. Whereas people in my situation are often judged as if we’re not capable of being in a relationship. I think that is a huge misconception because you can find a single person who’s older, who has done a lot of the reflection, who has taken the time to go to therapy and do the self-work and understand your own obstacles. There’s a beautiful Rumi quote about that. It’s something along the lines of your task is not to seek love but to uncover all the barriers within yourself to receiving that love. For me, that’s what my journey has been about. I do believe I’m fully capable of being in a good relationship. I do believe that I want to and I think I’d be a great partner.  

I still think I want to do somethings on my own. Single people in their late 30s, early 40s or even beyond shouldn’t be overlooked. All people should do this continued work on how to be a good partner. You learn how to be a good partner, not just in relation to a romantic relationship. I think we as a society undervalue how much growth you can do from all kinds of relationships. One of my best friends who I mentioned, we’ve been friends since 2003 and we’ve so many obstacles and times when we haven’t connected and we’ve learned so much about one another, both about what we need in a relationship and how we communicate. We’re just friends, but we can learn so much from every relationship. It doesn’t have to be a marriage or a monogamous partnership. I hope people use every relationship as an opportunity to learn and become better. 

What is a good partnership for you? 

For me, it would be a balance of independence, intimacy, closeness and distance. First of all, I fundamentally believe that there’s nothing you cannot get all your needs met by one person. I don’t think that you should want to. I’m not talking about not going into the physical intimacy component because that’s a whole negotiation that a couple should do on their own. I prefer monogamous relationships, but for me emotional connections and different things I need from relationships, I don’t expect my partner to satisfy all those needs. 

I have so many friends that stimulate me in different ways that I would never seek a partner that is going to be all of that. I know that he couldn’t be. For me, I would want somebody who is kind and respectful. Fundamentally, he wants to still grow as an individual and as a couple. Whatever that means to us as a couple, that would be something shared. I do believe there also needs to be some shared to keep a couple together, whether that’s the creation of your family unit or something shared in terms of vision. That to me is what will hold me in a partnership that I would love to be working towards something with somebody. 

What’s your next step after Tour de 40? 

Part of me longs to be outside of the Bay Area. I don’t actually know what’s going to happen. I feel like when I travel, when I visit with people, I might get captivated by a smaller space and want to move there. I might want to continue to be somewhat nomadic. I’m going to continue to build the events side of the business. I would love those projects to be not just in the bay area but throughout the country and even internationally. I’d love to work on some international projects and then in the future, I’d love to write more about these topics. Hopefully, a book about unconventional 40 or stories of women turning 40. I would love to work on that project. 

I’m doing an online coaching program. That’s something that I feel like will add value or will help other women who are at a similar turning point. The writing about the 40s and this coaching will take shape in addition to events that I’m doing. I see that more as a two-year window. The next two years will still be about meaningful events and slowly building this coaching and slowly writing on the side because writing takes a lot of time. That’s the business trajectory, but in terms of place, I’m open. I would like to add love to this picture. We didn’t touch on it much, but it wasn’t related to having children. There was a moment in my late twenties that I thought, “I should freeze my eggs.” That moment passed. 

In my 30s, I was in a relationship and the person who was in a relationship with, he didn’t want to have kids. I was on the fence. I didn’t want to be this person that started at 35 desperately seeking a partner because I needed to have kids within this last window of time. I didn’t want to do that to myself and I didn’t want to go into a relationship with that in mind. It’s between 35 and 40, I put it on a back burner. It hasn’t re-emerged and as I enter 40, I don’t want to care for small children. I love the idea of having kids in my life. I’m so open to the idea of dating someone who already has kids and is divorced. I think that I would be a great step-mom. I love kids and I think I’m good with them. There are so many ways to have children in your life. Also my niece and my nephews, I would like to develop a closer relationship with them. 

Another theme that I’d love to write about is that there are so many ways that we can be maternal. For example, the community of women that I am curating, I feel very maternal there. People often comment to me that I am very maternal and I do feel very maternal. Sometimes it’s a negative connotation. Sometimes men who I date say, “You have this maternal vibe that I don’t know if I can understand.” I’m very proud that people still consider me maternal and I don’t have my own children. I also want people to reflect on that. Being maternal is not about bearing a child. I’m sure it’s a beautiful, wonderful experience. I know from friends who have had children that yes, I can imagine that it’s not much can compare to that love that you would feel for your own child. At the same time, there are many ways to be loving in the world, to feel that love and connection. Opting to not do that by having your own children is a valid and a worthy choice. It doesn’t make us second class citizens because we’re women who don’t have children. 

That’s a wonderful insight that you share. Thank you for saying that. I think a lot of women at your age, mid-30s to 40sthat is one of their concerns about being single. They feel that their obligation is to produce the next generation. They rush into a relationship so that they can bear a child to make them feel complete as a woman. I don’t think that is the right reason. What are the top three major insights that you have learned from 40 years of your life? 

For me, it revolves around voice. I am very much a storyteller. I tell stories I like to share. If I concisely thought about the three points, it would all be around both for women to find your unique voice, know it, understand it, learn how to express it and then use it. It’s all around one topic. It’s about knowing yourself and being able to share that person with the world, whatever that looks like. When I was younger and I still remember these stories of people telling me like, “Your personality is too strong.” I remember a teacher in high school told me like, “This guy was joking that he didn’t want to go out with you because he thought you would talk about something academic and was scared to go out with you.” I remember being in former jobs. Also, one time in San Francisco, men saying to me like, “You should be a little bit less opinionated,” or “Your personality is too strong and men don’t like that.” I’m not saying you should be incredibly vocal and rude to people. There’s a level of consideration we need to have and understanding of context, environment and what’s appropriate.  

I think race is important for women, but that that doesn’t mean you can’t speak your voice and I only have started to learn this in all situations. You can say what you mean in a very kind way. I don’t believe in blaming people. I do think that you should always take it from where you’re coming from and what you want to express and not make it about the other person’s fault if you need space, if you can’t do X, Y and Z for all the people that are pulling at you. Because as a woman, we tend to get pulled and we want to do everything and we want to multitask. It’s to own your voice, to know your voice, to know what that means in different circumstances and to stay true to that. Also, it’s to invest time and find what your true passions are and your true passions don’t have to necessarily support you financially, but to know what you’re offering in the world. 

That could be your children. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with your life’s mission and vision to be raising a beautiful family. I still think that that’s a worthwhile endeavor, but for some people that’s not going to be the case. If it’s not, find what that is. We‘re all meant to shine. We’re all meant to share whatever it is that we’re particularly passionate about or knowledgeable about. I would want both men and women to find that and to offer that. At least in my case, that’s when you find true satisfaction. That’s what happened for me. I know what I love to do and when I’m doing that, I feel totally aligned with myself and connected to the world around me. I hope for people to try that at least. 

Thank you for those insights. How do you want people to reach out to you? 

The group is called Conscioustyle. There’s a public Facebook group and then there’s a private Facebook group for women. That’s the best way that I want to connect with women. I share a lot of personal stories in my private group. 

Thank you so much for being hereWe wish you all of the best in your next journey. For you, if you want to get the latest update from my podcast or about my events, text AWOP to 64000. Until next time, live life loud.  

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Episode Quotes

"During a life review, we got the second chance to understand each other."
"During a life review, we got the second chance to understand each other."
"Being maternal does not mean bearing a child."
"A good relationship is a balance of independence and intimacy."
"We need to reshape how we honor, celebrate, and look at life."
"We are born into a family because we have specific lessons for each other."

About Christina Vo

Christina Vo is an event curator, floral designer, and blogger based in San Francisco, California. Christina regularly hosts “salons” for women in her home that focus on addressing and bringing to light, issues that women face today.

Christina has worked for UNICEF and Soli-daridad in Hanoi, Vietnam, and the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. She holds a Master degree in Social and Public Communication from the London School of Economics.

She is about to embark on a journey, which she calls “Tour de Forty”.

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