For most of my life, I've had it extremely easy.
My parents - Taiwanese immigrants - worked incredibly hard and sacrificed to make sure my brother and I had every privilege and every opportunity to succeed and not have to struggle and toil as they did.
And when I graduated from Rutgers pharmacy school in 2013, I knew I "had it made." I never had to, as my dad did, work 3 or 4 almost-minimum-wage jobs at the same time to make ends meet.
Right out of school, one of my rotation preceptors (Millie) helped me secure a cushy $60/hour position as a staff pharmacist straight out of grad school, working for an extremely generous, kind-hearted boss (Snehal Patel) who made it a point to go above and beyond to show his appreciation for my work.
But then - almost overnight - everything changed.
My dad died.
He was only 58 years old. He had a massive heart attack on his way to an interview. The paramedics rushed him to the hospital, they tried a couple emergent procedures, but they couldn't save him.
I was devastated. Life as I knew it had changed forever.
And, even if I wanted it to, things would never be the same.
From that day forward, I realized - in a visceral way - that life was short. I, too, would die one day.
And, I started asking myself a question - a question many may feel is odd - especially for someone in his 20s. I started asking myself every day:
"If I died tomorrow, would I be happy with the way I lived today?"
And, with every passing day, I started living a life more aligned to my passions and more true to myself.
Which brings us to Expressions Glamour Club.
I had always dreamed of living a life of privilege and decadence, surrounded by beautiful models, having a garage filled with Lamborghinis, Ferraris, maybe a Bugati, and being paid an exorbitant salary to travel the world, dine the the best restaurants, surrounded by luxury everywhere I went.
But, beyond the day to day trappings of luxury, I wanted freedom. Freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and with whomever I wanted.
But, there is no freedom without sacrifice.
That was something I learned - in a very real way - when I started what would eventually become Expressions Glamour Club.
Almost immediately, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
Since I wanted to work with the best models and in the best venues, and I made a firm commitment to never compromise on those two things, my debts started mounting high.
Honestly, I was much better at spending money then I was selling to people.
The thing was, I never had to sell anything in my life before. Ever.
I was used to getting a nice, hefty paycheck every other week without ever having to convince people to give me money.
Now, having spent my entire pharmacist salary on beautiful models and beautiful venues, I had to figure out how I was going to pay my rent, and have enough left over to be able to eat.
So what ensued mix a mix of total chaos, incredible beauty, a stockpile of 97-cent packages of Michelina's Wheels and Cheese (my diet for almost 9 months), and a delicate balancing act of being broke as hell and acting like I was a total baller.
I learned first-hand the real-world sacrifice that we as artists and entrepreneurs experience every single day.
Our family members think we're nuts:
Why struggle so much?
Just get a real job.
Logically, what they say makes sense.
But, a life without freedom is not worth living.
And, 200 shoots later, I'm so thankful that God gave me the fortitude to press on despite struggles of every sort.
Because I've worked with and become friends with so many like-minded, passionate creatives - world-class models, the very best makeup artists / stylists the world has to offer, we've shot in some of the most lavish suites and venues on the East Coast.
I've witnessed first-hand the magic that happens when artists put everything aside to put all their energy into making work that we're all proud of.
Eventually, we'll get that VOGUE spread. A page in Glamour magazine or ELLE. It's just a matter of time.
Thank you so much for supporting what we do.
I mean this truly: none of what we do would be possible without your support.