Nabee means "butterfly" in Korean and was the name of my father’s art gallery. I chose the name to honor my father’s superhuman dedication to creating an exceptional life, family, and business.
When I was a child my father would tell me cliché stories of his life growing up in Korea. “We had no running water. I brushed my teeth with salt on my finger!” I rolled my eyes at the time, but have grown to appreciate my father’s struggle and sometimes cannot believe how far he has come.
My father immigrated to America at 22 years of age with no money or knowledge of the English language. He promptly joined the U.S. Army in the midst of the Vietnam War in order to earn a college education. Racial tensions against Asians in the military were high at the time, but my father not only endured, he thrived. When reminiscing about his military service, he talks about touring Europe in his broken down VW Beetle, practicing photography, and teaching judo to his fellow soldiers. My father also learned English at that time and still casually cusses in his strong Korean accent—evidence of where he picked up the language.
After his service, my father got a bachelors degree in chemical engineering, met my mom, and brought me into the world. Life was good, but my father was not satisfied; he loved art, not chemistry. So, he quit his job and started an art gallery. Entrepreneurship is not an easy road. Despite some hardships, my dad pushed forward and reached his goal. He had not only succeeded, he had achieved the American dream. My family never became extremely wealthy, but we reached the middle class. We drove Hondas, watched cable TV, and ate name brand cereal. My dad worked hard to ensure that I never wanted; he set me up for success.
Some people talk about how lucky they are to have been born into privilege. I know luck had nothing to do with it. My dad’s diligence and determination are the reasons why I grew up surrounded by opportunity.
It’s been 43 years since my dad arrived in the U.S. and things are a bit different now. The economy is down and it doesn’t look like my parents will ever retire. However, as my father’s only child, I’ve inherited his entrepreneurial spirit and will push forward with my aspirations to carve out an exceptional life that I can look back on with pride. Not only for me, but in order to add another chapter to my father's legacy of fearless perseverance.