Amber Lee, On Being Uncool and Living Your Authentic Self
Interview w. Amber Lee
"On finding our authentic self through embracing our un-coolness."
Amber Lee is a healer. She works with womyn and men of all ages. Having lived rather nomadically all of her life (recently between New York and LA), she shares with me her readiness in finding roots back in the land of sun, desert, and ocean rather more permanently than before. She can be found in Ojai Valley, California providing healing sessions and continuing to plan her animal farm (mostly planning their hairstyles!).
On the eve of Summer, we met to chat about our 'uncool', the way our bodies curve, the way our voices carry, the magic that makes us unique - it is our authentic self. She reminds me that it is this self that is most honest and most powerful. A self we must cultivate and seek to share. She confides in me that it wasn't always easy, instead, it had been a life-long pilgrimage in finding herself back through her ancestors. And how, in this practice, she hopes to best serve her community while staying honest to her truth.
I was born to a very nomadic lineage.
Since I was a week old, I started moving and coming to understand different cultures and how they live, their traditions, their struggles; and what real judgment, prejudice, discrimination, poverty and justice looks like. They're very real and they're in all of us. And when I stepped into my decade of 30's (there was just this shift that occurred) where I began having these intense fears of not living in my [own] truth and not living authentically.
When I was 5 years old I moved from Scottsdale Arizona to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and eventually to Chile when I was nine. And when I was thirteen I moved back to Scottsdale, Arizona and I had arrived for the last month of American 6th grade.
I was just thinking, "I'm going back to the US, it's going to be great."
I had fond memories of growing up there, and I thought at the time that I would just jump right in. When I arrived, I went to meet my new classmates, and the customs from where I came from [is that] you greet by kissing on both cheeks, and I quickly realized that that was totally 'uncool' to do. Children started calling me 'gay'.
I was also going through a lot of physical changes at the time. My father is half Japanese and half Korean from Hawai'i, and my mother is Andean Sephardic. Her matrilineal ancestry descends from the Aymara and her patrilineal side roots back to a time of being gypsy shepherding people in Morocco. And so there's this whole mix, and up until I was around twelve my features were predominantly Asian. When I was turning thirteen my wild, fiery, South American native ancestry was coming through strong, and it made for a very awkward time.
During those years kids started pointing out to me the features of my body that seemed odd to them, or seemed noteworthy.
I guess I just retreated into my deep cave of 'uncool'.
Prepubescent times are awkward in general.
I moved to New York when I was in 8th grade and it was like stepping into my tribe, of multicultural and mixed kids. I was really grateful for that time in New York. I came into myself and said,
"Okay, I'll be my own type of cool."
Then I went to high school in LA and that was also a really positive experience where I could cultivate my own cool. I could wear the strangest things, always creating these experiments of what I looked like. I was embracing myself and embracing my features.
And I'm really grateful for who I am. There was a time where if given the choice to get out of it, I may have, but now I just appreciate and value all of the challenges and opportunities to embrace my own authentic self.
I support and provide therapy for womyn in their 60s. And to see what transition and living authentically looks like for womyn in their 70s, 80s, 90s and what transition for women in their teens, 20s, 30, 40s, looks like; they're all of these themes, and the themes of fear are so apparent. Working with my dear friends and clients helped me see where I was being untrue, keeping myself comfortable in not facing my fears.
I realized that I needed to stand up for myself, and make what's best for me a priority, it's a big shift for me. I'm letting go of the illusion of a certain kind of comfort, and walking towards what's calling me.
Processing is something that we don't value enough in our culture, allowing yourself to share what's true to you. The more you share the more you can access what's really there. The beauty of all things is that once you take a stand for yourself, it's not that you're alone, but rather you're in an environment where you can authentically interact with everyone in your life.
To me [my authentic self is the one] that I can walk with my ancestors, the lineage that brought me together, the me that I know as me. The authentic self is totally awkward and dorky, and figuring it out, and feeling humble and grateful most moments and other moments feeling curious to what is really going on. The authentic self takes care of herself, honors her body, her spirit, her heart ... . I'm on this pursuit to understand how my own authenticity can best serve others.
My authentic self is me embracing, honoring, and celebrating the cultures that have made my life possible. It is feeling gratitude and pride for the very nose my Japanese grandmother and my Andean grandmother both wore so boldly. I'm mix matched in many ways and my authentic self represents that with self-love. I love to wear authentic pieces that celebrate the colors, the struggles, the stories and the medicines of my ancestors. I feel most authentic when I have slept in, go about my day without washing my hair, create foods that are a mix alchemy of my heritage, and spend my time reading, learning, sharing, giving, loving, and embracing whatever is true for me in the moment.
Somethings that are anti-cool: I like to make animal noises and plan the animal farm I will have one day. I plan out their personalities and names and their marriages. When I don't have responsibilities and see an opportunity to do so, I go cave-mode: off the grid, out of phone service, no wifi. This can be really uncool for my friends and loved ones. But it is necessary for me to retreat to restore and refocus my energies.
The Return to Nature. The Return to Self.
INFINITE LOVE + GRATITUDE
Thank you Amber for your love, wisdom and open heart! It was a pleasure speaking with you and sharing your story ~
Find Amber Lee @ Plant As Compass