WEEK #9: JULIE SHUM
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I work as an IT project manager, owner of an adventure travel gear company, ice skating coach and yoga instructor. I love traveling, reading, the arts and of course, sports!
I grew up in a family that loved to travel, and have 3 older brothers that made sure their little sister played sports.
I’ve traveled to 45 countries. The number of countries wasn’t a particular goal I set out to achieve. I wanted to visit to as many places as possible. The wilder and more off the beaten track the better! I’ve been to various places across Canada, to the US, England, Spain, Japan, Thailand and some of my favourite, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Madagascar.
I bring this same adventurous side of me to sports. I’ve played many different sports. Name the sport, I’ve likely tried it or will in this lifetime. I spent most of my time playing competitive softball and figure skated. Sports give me a way to connect with people in my community and when I travel. It helps bring me closer to those that I’m traveling with and it’s a way to get to know the locals in places where I travel.
Some of my sporting adventures while traveling have been skiing in B.C., kayaking in Chile, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, trying my hand at kite surfing in Madagascar, and running ultramarathons on the trails of Hong Kong and Yunnan, China.
Please share a story about an internal or external barrier you have faced? How did you overcome that barrier?
As much as I had many privileges and opportunities it didn’t come without the struggles of being bullied because I was different. I was small, a minority and a girl. I also felt tremendous pressure to live up to my family, friends and society’s expectations of me. It didn’t make it any easier when it came to sports because I was never the best athlete, and most of the time I wasn’t on the winning team or the best figure skater. In many areas of my life I definitely didn’t feel as if I belonged, and I felt as though I was constantly disappointing people. I didn’t let this stop me from participating in sports and travel or pursuing a career in tech because those are the things that light me up! These are my passions that I choose to use to define my path and how I set my own footprints down on this path. Although this road started out very lonely, I eventually made great friendships with other crazy adventurers all over the world.
The bullying was definitely hard to deal with but the most difficult barrier to overcome was not to let other people define who I was going to be. Don’t let other’s expectations or opinions sway you from your passion or desires. Learn to be honest with yourself. If you’re true to yourself when pursuing your dreams, then the people that love you will always support you. I had a massive fear of disappointing my parents, brothers, teachers, coaches and friends if I didn’t follow their advice on how to approach life. The weight of bullies pointing out that I was different and the expectations took a tremendous toll on my mental health and I developed depression and anxiety. The only way I was able to overcome this period of extreme emotional swings was to listen to my own voice and have the courage and the confidence that I was making the right choices and give it my best shot. With huge support from friends and family I was able to get to a place where I could manage my depression and reduce the panic attacks. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by making even the slightest changes to what feels like a routine that has you in a constant rut will help steer you back in the direction of happiness.
By trying out different sports, hobbies and jobs I was able to figure out what my dream was versus what others were dreaming for me. I gained control over my mental health when I got to know myself better – what I liked and didn’t like and expressing myself openly and honestly. Even if there were a chance I was going to fail or make a fool of myself, I would at least try. You’ll be surprised how much support there is waiting for you when you fail ready to help pick you back up again. And I don’t just mean the people around you, but the awesome person you’ll discover inside of you along this journey. Remember you’ll always have your own back, but you won’t know this until you put it to the test, and trust. Over time, the more you try, the more amazing things you can look back on and be proud that you gained such great experiences and incredible friendships.