50 OVER 50 PROJECT FOR 2021
#33
Susan Quan

Age: 52

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"Trust the people that have more experience than you. Don’t be defensive about criticism.  It is a gift, and there is growth opportunity in it…even when it doesn’t seem like it."

age: 52 profession: Clinical Dental Hygienist, Author and Entrepreneur, Professional Dog Mom

What is the best thing about being your age?

When my father turned 50, he told me that “his life was over” and that all his living was done because he was through raising a family and paying off his debts.  Those words struck me with a bolt of sadness.  I vowed that I would never let myself be like that, and went dog sledding in the frozen tundra of Alberta, Canada on my 50th birthday instead.  While I definitely feel that time is no longer on my side, I hardly believe that I am on the downslope of life.  It just means I better hurry up and do all the things I want to do while I still can.  I have my sights set on climbing Mount Whitney in the next couple of years.


I love my life at this stage!  I get to embrace all the experiences, good and bad, that have brought me to this point and transition into a more peaceful, wise and mellow self.  This is the most confident I have ever been.  The early 50’s seems to be a pivot point in which I now get to pass my life lessons to a younger generation.  I get to look backwards and forwards at the same time.

What hardships have you endured that you feel have made you stronger?  

There has never been a time in my life that I have been so “aware” of being Chinese than the last 18 months.  The Pandemic of 2020 has brought about humanity’s ugliest against Asian Americans.  In this time period, I was called Miss Hong Kong by a random stranger.  An established client told me that I, of all people, should be glad that China was sending out fake viruses to take over the world.  A plumber who agreed to make a house call during the shutdown rescinded his offer as soon as I gave him my name and address.  He was at least sensitive enough to first confirm that my last name was indeed Chinese.

 
I can’t exactly say that these episodes have made me stronger.  I am not even convinced that being stronger is the solution to such hateful behavior because I fear that it can cause people to dig their heels in and further polarize.  These episodes have made me cry at night, made me fearful of being in my community, and at times created a very unhealthy sense of self. 

 
I am still waiting to see what life lessons I am supposed to learn from my personal experiences of racism and hate.  I am sure my African American colleagues are waiting just the same.  As are my Jewish, Indian and Hispanic friends, and any other group that has felt the burden of hate.  And yet, there is no option but to be strong.  While being Chinese has never been a self-conscious thought to me, I have decided that the best way I can take a stance on racism and hate is to celebrate who I am by capturing my heritage through photographic expression.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I was more flirty.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

1.    Not allowing my inner peace to be broken.
2.    Knowing that I have made a difference in my world.
3.    Being free of anxiety, anger, debt, guilt, jealousy.
4.    Being in a state of acceptance of the world around me.
5.    Not being captive to the pains of my past.
6.    Being surrounded by the people that matter to me the most.
7.    Finding joy in all things that I do.
8.    Knowing that I am the source of my own happiness, not others.
9.    Being around animals, especially my dog.
(*not necessarily in this order)

what is your greatest extravagance?

Having a wide variety of experiences.  I will try anything once.  So probably the extravagance is that I afford myself the ability to see, do and experience a lot of things.

What is your most treasured possession?
My dog, my friendships (*not necessarily in this order)

what do you consider your greatest achievement?

Overcoming the pain and anger of a really rough childhood and being able to put that into perspective.

What is a trait you are most proud of?

My level-headedness.  It is very difficult to get me shaken up over anything.  I perform well under pressure.

What do you most value in your friends?

Positivity
Level-headedness
Reliability
Non-judgmental
Unafraid to be honest at all times
Their memory!

What is your motto or favorite quote?

“If not now, when?”

What advice would you give your younger self?

To my childhood self, I would say, “You feel so broken and hopeless now, but please know that all this pain will lead you to a stronger self, and that love comes from the most unexpected places so please don’t shut people out.”

 
To my young adult self, I would say, “Don’t hold on to anger and hate.  It can destroy parts of your soul that you are not even aware of.  And by the time you realize it, you would have missed out on A LOT.  Celebrate all that you have and all the gifts that you have been given.  Always be thankful for what you have because there is always someone who would give anything to just even have that. Carpe diem…because if not now, then when?? And lastly, ALWAYS guard your peace because it’s all too easy to give it away and crazy hard to get back!”

Words of wisdom for younger women

It is easy to think we have all the time in the world when we are young.  That just is simply not the case.  Always dream about all that you want to do and go get it…even if it’s small things, even if it’s huge.

 
Each decade in life has its own set of challenges and rewards.  Live and love it all.

 

Don’t be defensive about criticism.  Criticism is a gift, and there is growth opportunity in it…even when it doesn’t seem like it.


You don’t need a partner to be happy.  Be happy first and then be a partner when the time is right.


Experience everything…even when you don’t think your going to like it.  It will at least make for an interesting story later.


Drinking and drugs are crazy expensive habits!


It’s OK to not want kids.  


It’s OK to fail.


You cannot get enough education.  Even trivial learning will make you a better-informed conversationalist.


The health problems in older age start with unhealthy habits in youth.


Trust the people that have more experience than you.
Prioritize laughter in your life.  Gravitate towards fun and funny people.

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