Belief and Philosophy Blog Divorce Educators Reading & Writing Self-help

Write Your Divorce Story and Stand Up Now


This is me three years ago. I had boarded a plane from Hong Kong utterly shattered. In fact, I had missed my layover flight from Seoul to the US despite being right at the gate — they were calling my name over and over on the loudspeaker (I found out later) and I was on the phone completely thrashed and talking to a friend and didn’t hear anything. I had to spend the night in the airport. Everything was shut. I finally found the overnite hotel there and checked in for about 5 hours. I took this picture when I got on the plane and sent it to my mom saying, “Mom, I deserve more out of life.”

I landed in Hawai’i, called around and talked to a few lawyers and my ex was served papers when he stepped off the plane about a month later.


This is me a few weeks ago. I just got out of the water near Waikiki. Three years is a lifetime.

If you would have told me I would feel this good back then, I would never have believed you. I am not the same person. I went through a massive transition. One of my old friends said that obviously, my entire system got rewired when I divorced and she was right. I really do like my life so very much.

Life is not problem free, but the big problem (the ex) is GONE. And I came to see that he was, in fact, the physical real-life manifestation of my doubt, fear, insecurity, and anxiety. I had married my nemesis. Yep.

Worries do come up. Like about 3 months ago I was worried. OH no, the Kid XYZ. My business XYZ. My family XYZ. Will I…Should I…Will I…

You know once you start that train of doubt it gets really crazy.


Then I thought about it very deeply and said this: STEPH SNAP OUT OF IT.

And weirdly, I did within a day or two. Why?

Because the person who would keep Steph in that old zone of bad vibes and fear is no longer around!


So I said to myself: STEPH, YOU GOT THIS. No need to feel that doubt because why should you? The person who exemplified doubt and made you feel it every second of the day is no longer around.

I stopped doubting.


This kind of bossing myself around worked really well when I went out surfing because I was just trying to stand up and hesitated and then I yelled out to myself: STAND UP NOW!

And then I stood up!

There are days when I am just thinking WOW. I feel awesome. Because for the most part, I do. I am not going back to that old picture ever again. EVER. I realized over the past year that what started this change was not simply the divorce itself legally, but it was rewriting my narrative and writing down the story of what I believed. When you write your truth to power you change your life.

Inserting my story in my legal file affected all aspects of my divorce process, most importantly, my emotional well-being.

#writeyourdivorce #drstephaniehan #womanwarriorwriter

Look out for announcements for the SPRING 2023 class. Sign up for my newsletter to find out further info.


~empowering women through narrative~

Share this post with women you know who are divorcing.

Blog Passing in the Middle Kingdom Poetry Reading Reading & Writing Teachers

API Month 2021

This image in Tai Tei Tong, Mui Wo, Lantau, Hong Kong was taken in 2014 and made the Smithsonian Asian Pacific Island American Heritage Month Day-in-the-Life event that year! I had submitted it, but didn’t realize it was chosen until 2019. I thought I’d share it as it is May and APIA month!

If you were a kid, the village square in Mui Wo was where it all went down. Kids chased by grandpa with a stick. Light saber battles. Biking with your mates. Throwing stuff. Kicking balls. Dumpster diving. Food sharing. Dodging bikes and glass and barbed wire. Incense. Rotten oranges. Fresh dirt. Garbage. The heat of green grass. The scent of smog, always, thickening in your nose. Worms. Snakes. Concrete. Shouting. Crying. A feral childhood. Kids running around.

To be sure, it wasn’t like that for all kids. Many of the local or Chinese kids were inside with the TV upon their parents orders. Many of the expat kids tacitly encouraged not to socialize with Chinese kids. But if you were so lucky to have a situation where you could wander out, you would have had a lot of fun or at least some mischief before dusk.

Educators Reading & Writing Teachers

Taos Writers Conference sponsored by SOMOS July 25

I’ll be teaching at the Taos Writers’ Conference a workshop on Identity and Voice: The Narrative of Group and Self on July 25, 2021.

This workshop will cover both the process and craft of writing fiction. How does an individual’s voice determine how stories are shaped, which stories are told. How do we write ourselves into being? What are the limits and possibilities of the stories of the group and the stories of the individual—how do fiction writers wrestle with the paradox of belonging and emotional truth telling? Why does authorship of life affect story?
This workshop stresses voice and participants will be asked to both write and share as we engage with approaches to solving issues that arise when writing fictional narratives. Exploration about how voice shapes story will enable students to approach their work with a new lens and confidently author the stories that only they can write. Writers will leave with a different idea about their writing process as they engage with the craft of fiction.

Register now! I look forward to seeing you in class!

Blog Reading & Writing

1982. Phillips Academy Andover. Barnard College. Vincent Chin. Asian America.

Aloha…Ye Olde Blog will begin again…

When I saw this #stopasianhate video I am reminded of where we are now, socially and politically as a society, but also, who I was at the time when I first became aware of how racism is systemic (Vincent Chin lived in the auto making industry area, people were anti-Asian and mired in Yellow Peril ideology about the auto industry, and so they killed him for being Japanese—he was Chinese).

1982 was the year I graduated from PA and headed to Barnard College was the year that Vincent Chin was killed. I took a semester off from Barnard and was interning at the Asian arts and lit magazine BRIDGE. It was in some ways, the beginning of an awareness of an AA identity, but it would take many years of struggle to understand the concept and what it meant.

As a cross between a 1st and 4th generation AA my narrative was never a neat one.

Most AA at college then, the two schools were both separate (Columbia/Barnard) back then, were 1st and 2nd generation. The vibe is very different generationally. I was introduced to AA as “this person who does not speak Korean” and was given circus freak show status. I half expected people to yell at me for betraying my ancestors. My mother, however, doesn’t speak, and what most young people then did not understand is the complexities of immigration patterns.

In retrospect, I should have gone West to university (where I ended up living) where there were entire Asian American Studies programs. But Andover was and probably still is East Coast centric and the idea of being in a student body of Asian Americans didn’t occur to college counseling. Even now, the first thing I tell most Asian Americans when I meet them who feel at a loss and are mired in private institution blues is this: go West. Numbers matter. If you’re in an environment where the Asian community has been entrenched for awhile, at the very rock bottom least, you are not a complete freak show. (Obviously, I was really scarred by it. I haven’t been in a non Asian majority environment in 15 years… I lived in HK and now in Hawai’i–hard choices for some, but for me it was a good decision).

Years later, I would meet up with a PA friend in HK, Chinese descent, who was naming all the racist girls in her dorm–as I recall the most popular and elite white pedigreed girls of our class, and I realized she had deep trauma from that time period she had carried with her. She unloaded. While we are not in touch too much, I realized that it was this weird time and space moment… she needed to tell someone. We compared notes and concluded the college counselor we both had was racist. She was a racist for sure! We both could see this as adults! It felt weird to hear that after decades and confirm my teenage self wasn’t wrong to feel so at odds and discouraged by this authority figure.

As I prepare a history lesson for the Council of Korean Americans, I am reminded how the collective idea of Asian America is what makes me who I am. It is the global as manifested within an American identity. And what is it that we share, truly across these groups? Not language, not food, not religion, not history.

What we share as Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Hmong, Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Japanese – people who are American but who can claim ancestry from Asia, is an awareness and experience of racism, discrimination, the yearning for a dream of self and the cruel understanding of Empire, Nation and Myth.

That’s what makes us, that common thread, in the end…Asian American.

Belief and Philosophy Blog Reading Self-help Teachers

Problems When Interpreting Asian Philosophy: In Group and Out Group

Like many people, particularly during this COVID situation, I’ve been diving into reading and listening to podcasts that are labeled self-help.
For example, I can tell you how to declutter, although my own closet is a mess, because I have listened to 30 hours of decluttering podcasts while walking or doing chores. I can tell you the reasons you accumulate clutter. I could probably give a brief lecture on it myself! I am now purging and getting rid of stuff. Last PM I threw out the hospital bill receipts from my son’s birth. I had eaten some kind of shrimp salad. He’s 13. That kind of got me worn out and then ADD kicked in and I started reading a poetry book and then you know, the decluttering project got sidelined because I got bored. The goal remains!
This morning I was listening to Spiritual Thought Leader X (seems pretty cool, but sometimes, you know, a little out there, but nice and smart enough) give an interpretation of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tze and applying this wisdom to ideas of governance and leadership. Spiritual Leader X’s expertise is that he studied this work for a year. I found myself getting really annoyed about his absurd elitist, Western centric interpretation of this book! I am not an expert in Eastern philosophy, he’s studied it longer, but it was easy to see he lacked any basic knowledge of Asian culture because of his out of context interpretation. I also felt that it was highly dangerous for his audience (whom I am guessing, well, there are probably a fair number of Trump types self-actualizing and evolving and getting spiritual en masse).
He was speaking about the ideas of governance. The fewer laws created, the fewer lawbreakers there will be. True. So in his mind fewer laws is the answer to how people should govern. Uhm…well….
All I could think about was some whacked out people using this idea to vote against health care, gun control, Affirmative Action, citing this so-called spiritual leader and his interpretation of the Tao Te Ching and/or I Ching.
What NY Times bestselling Spiritual Leader X author failed to mention while gabbing carelessly about the benefits of fewer laws is the foundational structure of FAMILY and how this functions within Asian society.
Nuclear and extended family structures mean that a strong infrastructure of support is in place in these societies–in negative and positive ways. It breeds a sense of obligation and conformity to the group (STUDY AND GET GOOD GRADES OR WE WILL KICK YOU OUT OF THE FAMILY. DATE ANYONE NOT ASIAN (name specific ethnicity) AND YOU BETRAY FAMILY, YOU LOSER). You have to put up with a lot of (GRANDPA IS A PATRIARCHAL INTOLERANT ______–fill in the blank) etc.. this extended network may include cousins of cousins and close friendships cultivated over many years.
You must be obedient to this network.
This is what psychologists may call the In-Group. The In-Group obligation means that if you have an incompetent cousin twice removed through marriage who is unemployed, but was once nice to your great aunt you are related to through a second or third marriage, and you have a business and you have a job opening and this fellow who you know is a total loser needs a job, guess what. You have to give that guy a job. Because he is related to you.
Your Out-Group behavior (nation, community you are not directly related to) and dynamics are quite different. You are probably less loyal, don’t care as much, bend the law even, because you are overextended, often, with your In-Group.
When I lived in Korea I was once standing on a subway station platform during rush hour, my back to where the train door would open, not paying attention, and the train stopped, and the swarm of bodies when the train door opened nearly carried me into the train when it stopped. After the tide of people slightly ebbed (I could neither go forward nor backward, nor sideways, I was floating) I dropped down to my hips between the train platform and the train. My feet were dangling above the tracks. Luckily I was wearing a huge down coat, but basically, I could have almost dropped down to the tracks, but my body was torqued in a way that saved me, and I was slightly bigger, my hips at a slight angle, so I didn’t fall all the way down. I was in shock. No one tried to help me up. In fact, people started jumping around me and nearly over my head in a rush to get on the train. I hoisted myself up and then got on the train.
The subway doors closed. I was traumatized. I then proceeded to shout and say OMFG I could have died YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU etc… and then I realized…uhm…yeah, I’m screaming in shock in English and looking like a freak show and everyone speaks Korean and they probably think I am insane.
Then I hear a young woman’s voice in a heavy French accent saying: Are you American?
I say: Uh, yeah (now feeling completely stupid, after all I was shouting like an Ugly American expatriate)
She says: You are very lucky. My friend fell onto the tracks a few weeks ago!
I was really upset by this and immediately dashed off an email to my close friend Dr. Andreas Bruech, about what a bunch of terrible people Koreans were. HOW could they do this to me? WHAT WAS WRONG? Why didn’t anyone help me? I could have DIED. I’m Korean. What is wrong with my ethnic group? SUBWAY KILLERS. Andi is a Korean speaking German, an expert in cross cultural studies between Korea, US, Canada, Germany and Japan within the context of corporate relations. And he kindly explained the idea of In Group and Out Groups. That if a society is formed on an In Group level, they are so overextended, that often, someone from the Out Group barely exists. It was nothing personal. It was a question of how society is structured and of course Koreans are perfectly normal but function a lot on the In Group construction.
Ideas of nation are formed in many ways within the context of an Out Group. We care for the larger public good. Our family structures are strong, but we also rely on community support and exist within different constructions of a nuclear family. This is in contrast to many countries in the world. The US is an Out Group type of nation.
So when spiritual expert X posits that the fewer laws are better and is citing the I Ching/Tao Te Ching as evidence of a great text on leadership he is failing to look at the formation of society and family structure. You can have fewer laws if there are a lot of informal family laws or rules in place to makes sure people stay in line.
Many years ago, my uncle told me a story about a young Samoan man accused of a serious crime. There was some discussion about admitting this crime. But what led the man to finally admit it was that he consulted with his elders and the extended network agreed to support him wholly during his time in prison and to be there for him. He then went into the “system” knowing that a large group of people fully were there for him and his own family. He was loyal to his In Group. The Out Group was not as important to him.
This is just to say that groups function differently. And when we interpret ideas, remember that our lens is this if we are in the US and have grown up wholly in this system:
And there are many ways we can be and are. While we must surely borrow ideas and texts from different cultures, exchange and share, prioritizing the nature of exchange, but honoring origin, the random and often haphazard, although well intended method of applying ideas across cultures must always be accompanied by a knowledge of the society from which it came.
So when you listen to these Spiritual Leaders–please remember this.
All belief systems are constructed.
WHO writes them?
WHO speaks them?
HOW do you interpret them?
Aloha. Have a great Sunday!