“Every struggle led me to dream to become the best me,” wrote Oxnard chiropractor Danny Lai, a Chinese refugee, about his journey to the U.S. and becoming a health professional. But Lai didn’t stop with his academic and business pursuits; he recently became a published author of Live Your Life, which he will be discussing at the Ventura County Writers Club at the Pleasant Valley Recreation Center on Feb. 12, starting at 7 p.m.
As many Americans are overcome with worry, doubt and anxiety, Lai touts a different perspective, coming from serious personal struggles to stability and progress in achieving goals: “Don’t settle for happenstance. Seek out your own desires and become the master of your life.”
Tell us about your journey to the United States.
I am Chinese but lived in Saigon, Vietnam. My family fled from the Communist regime of North Vietnam in 1979. My mother took her five children (3 to 8 years old) and my two cousins (13 and 17 years old) on a book trip to escape. There were 250 passengers on a wooden fish boat. We were in the ocean for seven days. We even encounter pirate ship on the open sea. We finally landed on the beach of Malaysia. It was a refugee camp. We lived on the beach for three months until the United States sponsor us. I was 7 years old, second oldest sibling.
Explain the differences between your home in China and then life in the U.S.
The fall of South Vietnam was in 1975. The communist dictatorship of North Vietnam ruled the whole country. You were force to declared personal belongings and at any given moment they can cease your possession or money as they wished. Freedom stripped by the communist, the future was uncertain.
Through the eyes of a 7 year old, I can tell you free meals or reduced breakfast and lunch at school was a blessing. As a fresh immigrant of the United States, government program and assistance help provide food, water and shelter. My family has been helped through medical and food stamps.
Government assistance is not existence in Vietnam. Many children are not able to go to school and they need to work to help the family.
I love the fact the United States provides an environment for an individual to be educated. From public grade school to community college are available at no to low cost. This is one thing I love the U.S. dearly. You can be whatever you want to be (via schooling) and the government will help you through grants or loans.
Tell us about a few of your harder times here that led you into the mindset you were in when you wrote your book.
My experience (the boat trip) escaping from Vietnam left an unconscious impression in my mind that life is hard. If you can dream, be willing to take actions, eventually it will manifest in reality.
In my high school years, mom would work at a Chinese restaurant as a waitress. The hour she worked was 10 a.m.-10 p.m. After coming home at night, she along with my older brother and I would sew from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. These were garments pre-cut and we had to tailor them to a finish products usually a dress or blouse.
I hated having to stay up late at night. This went on for days, weeks, months and years. It was a means of making more money for our family survival. From this experience I vowed that I would never have to do this again. I knew I was smart in school. But more than anything else, I am never going to work so hard for so little. I am going to make something of myself. At the age of 16 years old, my junior year in high school, I decided that I was going to be a chiropractor.
As a chiropractor, you deal with an array of physical issues, but many may stem from emotional stress. What do you tell your clients about how to reorganize their thinking to feel less pain and suffering in the life journey?
If the source of pain and suffering is from emotional stress, I remind my patient that your body will keep reminding you (through symptoms or pain) until you resolved whatever is ailing you emotionally or mentally.
If you have challenges in life instead of having a “why me” or “poor me” attitude, a better perspective is to ask what am I suppose to learn from this event. With this attitude we go from a victim of circumstances to victor of our destiny.
Being authentic to yourself is the path to living an inspire life.
Which common physical ailments are linked to our outlook on life and how we handle unpredictable news?
Anger and depression can be a result from emotional stress. Unresolved emotional stress can lead to skin outbreaks, tingling sensation, and even migraine headaches. Indecisive and emotional stress can be a result of insomnia.
What compelled you to write the book?
The universe will constantly remind you to be true to yourself. My daughter and patient routinely would tell me I need to write a book.
Being a first generation immigrant in America I realized now that I have a message to share. I am grateful that I am alive. Having gone through the boat journey, struggle with starting a new life in a new world, the long process of becoming a doctor of chiropractic. Now, 23 years after graduating chiropractic school, I realize all these events have served me in becoming the best of me. Every struggle led me to dream to become the best me. I hope I can inspire the readers of my book to live their life. The American dream is alive. I am proof of it.
What do you think most people are missing when they choose to do anything but simply their life?
If you make your life easy now, you will live a lifetime of hardship. If you make your life hard now, life will be easier later. An example of this principle can be applied in getting an education, or saving for retirement.
What are your thoughts on living with regret? Regret seems to be anything other than Live Your Life.
Living with regret is usually a result of surrendering to our fears. The fears of failure, the fear of not smart enough, the fear of being rejected by our parents, the fear of not being socially acceptable are the source of disempowerment.
The Pleasant Valley Recreation Center is at 1605 Burnley Street in Camarillo. For more information, contact Sheli Ellsworth at 805-300-1365 with questions or go to venturacountywriters.com.
For a video on what Danny Lai’s journey to the U.S. was like, see https://bit.ly/2OmUe9s. Excerpt from the video: This is dedicated to an estimated half million Vietnamese boat people who vanished in the high seas to escape communism in the 1975-1990 period. Death came in different stages of the trip. Many boats sank after they had been seen but ignored by passing-by ships. Many boats had already reached the shores of Thailand or Malaysia, but were forced to leave again at gun point, then sank after that. Aside from death, gang rape by Thai and Malaysian pirates was another suffering.