Summary: Reflections from my unexpected visit of my parents due to a new health scare).

I’m writing this on the plane back to Thailand.

I had made an unexpected trip back to the US to visit and help out my mom with her new unexpected health scare.

(I had gone to Asia since May 2022 to be around other nomads & entrepreneurs, and vowed to not show my face to them until I had some external “result” they could understand, such as a partner or a thriving business. But her health was far more important than my pride).

It brought up a lot of fear, worry, and anxiety about how much time we would have left together, and whether it would be “responsible” to be living so far away. She’s not that old and in fairly good health, but this was a serious issue that came out of seemingly nowhere.

It was a brush with mortality and reminder that we only have one precious life, and how we choose to live every moment matters.

After a few months of making sure she’s stable, I’m finally able to turn my energy inwards, and re-focus on my life.

I didn’t realize how rattled I was when I came back, having fallen into old people-pleasing patterns serving a spiritual community over the summer.

They were lovely, but I discovered that the system of blindly adhering to their beliefs didn’t work for me. 

No system where my autonomy, viewpoints, opinions and boundaries aren’t respected, would work for me.

I had allowed myself to become so vulnerable because I had intentionally put some distance from my family in my attempt to heal.

I wanted to find more nourishing community, but it’s tough to do so when you operate from a void or deficit.

I’m learning to appreciate what I have, ALL that I do have, which is a LOT, from my current family and community.

Yes they’re not perfect, and yes there was and still is emotional and verbal abuse and all that pain is valid.

But I truly know now that it comes from a place of care, from their own fears and wounds, and wanting more safety and stability for me. It doesn’t condone the behavior, but it’s no longer so black and white.

They will always be a part of me, no matter how long we’ve been apart or how often we talk. Their voices have shaped my internal voice, my harsh critic and judge within me, which I’m making progress working through and softening.

inner critic health scare

I’ve read that even after death, our parents’ voices still affect us. And it’s ok if this is a lifelong process of individuating, taking what was helpful and learning to let go of the rest.

I’m proud of myself for getting better and better at differentiating from their opinions and my own approval of myself.

I no longer call myself a failure or see my business as either “working” or “not working.” 

I have been in periodic slumps because of dry spells and the helplessness of feeling that “nothing was happening” even though I was hustling and grinding so hard. Clients and opportunities seemed to come at random without me knowing how the system worked, and I felt totally out of control and as a result, couldn’t trust my business to be sustainable.

I no longer set strict metrics to decide that (which were usually about income, what my family was so fixated on, that it’s the only difference between a “legit” business and “just a hobby” or as I saw it, volunteer work that did good in the world, if nothing else).

I had let their metrics soak into me without even realizing it. And I’m so glad to be out of that space now.

I’m glad I could show my love and be there for them, AND also honor myself now too, and not get sucked into that place forever.

I had considered taking this full-time medical job at a clinic near them which I had reasonably enjoyed working at before as a travel doctor.

It was really tempting. I was burned out from traveling solo, starting all over again in each new place with no community at all, for the past 5 years. The thought of going back out there didn’t excite me anymore. I was shaky and unsure of what I really wanted, or if the nomad life fit me anymore.

It sounded great to hole up somewhere, where I had some support already, because I was finding that while traveling I didn’t allow myself to enjoy it fully because I was so stressed out about the business and not making enough to “deserve” treating myself to awesome travel experiences. I ended up depriving myself which undernourished my soul and my creativity, which made things even harder.

And the job’s stable pay of $300k sounded amazing too. I can still work on my business as a side hustle. I’ll never give up on it, though it also felt like low-key giving up on it.

But somewhere, the highest part of me knew that I did NOT want to be stuck in NYC full-time (part-time or seasonal weren’t options at this time). Yes there are worse places; at least there’s a lot to do there and a creative community.

But my business needs my attention. My soul work needs me to have adequate rest, spaciousness, and creative inspiration from travel experiences and cultural immersions, not be juggling a demanding 9-5 in a place I’ve lived for decades.

So as hard as it was to turn that offer down, I did. I’m not ready to throw in the towel. I thought I was in such a slump that it was the end of my nomading and creative dreams-chasing, but then those feelings and darkness passed, and now I feel more like my true self again.

My authentic self who is curious about everything and wants to experience as much as she can. Who would wither in a full-time in-person 9-5 in the US. Who loves to explore and nomad, despite its challenges.

It’s not glamorous, but it’s the path I’ve chosen. It’s ok to re-evaluate, for my values to change, but I want to make sure I’m making decisions from excitement, not comfort or fear or burnout.

While visiting fam has been paradoxically restful and not, rejuvenating and stressful, it overall helped me reach a new level of understanding of it all.

Yes I will continue to honor myself. But I can’t do it in isolation. I care about them and they me, so there MUST be some middle ground that can honor us both (I’m actually writing a book about this. Message me if you’re interested in being a beta reader or pre-ordering).

I’m thinking moving to a semi-nomad model, finding periodic part-time or seasonal work in the US, or ideally, a fully remote job that makes use of my MD and allows me to work from anywhere in the world. That is, if my business doesn’t work out to suit their metrics of “success,” which I’m still working towards and have faith that it can. There are a ton of possibilities.

I’m far from done.

I hope the new year is off to a good start for you too! 💖


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Who am I?
Hi! I'm Dr. Toni, a carTOONIst. I empower, educate and advocate for women and minorities through my art and coaching, while traveling nomadically. I help others also follow our hearts and live true to themselves, no matter what others say!
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Ep 20: What IS Success?! How to Detox from Achieveritis (i.e. After Tiger Parenting) - Accept THEN Achieve

My presentation I've given in 5+ countries on how to detox from over-achieving for the sake of your mental health. You'll learn: -a fresh perspective on success -how to feel better & finally good enough NOW without needing to change anything in your external world -tips for filtering out what YOU authentically want for your life -tips for honoring your family AND yourself too, finding middle ground & having more peaceful relations Video version of this webinar here: Tame the Tiger Program:
  1. Ep 20: What IS Success?! How to Detox from Achieveritis (i.e. After Tiger Parenting)
  2. Ep 19: The Myth of Productivity (for Mental Health Month!)
  3. Ep 18: Guest Dina Schmid on Overcoming Fear of Using Your Voice
  4. Ep 17: What Almost Drowning in Bali's Ocean Taught Me
  5. Ep 16: Guest Faye Lawand on Nervous System Regulation
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