Q&A with TEDxPasadenaWomen RISE Speaker Mei Fong

Tell us about who you are, where you’re from, what you do, and what makes you tick.

I’m a journalist-author and mother, based in Washington DC, and I’ve been on the road a lot lately promoting my first book on China’s one-child policy, which makes me miss my own kids back home.

What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

I was on the judo team at school. I’ve always been interested in being able to take care of myself, but on hindsight I really should have taken up something like taekwondo or karate, because I’m pretty tall for an Asian person, and judo involves you having to keep your center of gravity lower than your opponents. So I didn’t win a whole lot of bouts.

What inspired you to give a talk at TEDxPasadena Women RISE?

I like the idea of people sharing inspiring insights and giving each other a lift in life—there’s too much negativity in life.

Tell us about your talk for TEDxPasadena Women RISE.

I talked about how I came to terms with being a suburban mom after decades as a globe-trotting foreign correspondent, and how I grappled with the big question on why we have children.

What was your process like in preparing your speech for the big event? How did you choose what you wanted to share with the audience?

I’ve had a lot of practice public speaking in the past year, being on book tour, but it’s still nerve wracking to do a TedX talk—no notes, no lectern to hide behind—so I’m really glad for the coaching I got from trainer Lisa Schenk. And it was tremendously helpful and daunting to see some of the other speakers, how good they were. I really knew I had to bring my A game after watching them.

What did you want viewers/listeners to walk away with after hearing what you had to say?

Understanding that having children can be simultaneously one of the most boring and more exciting experiences life has to offer—more frightening and thrilling than working in earthquakes and war zones, even.

What is a TED/TEDx Talk everyone should listen to and why?

I really loved the talk given by Amanda Southworth on teen suicide. She’s only 15 but so poised and powerful, and her personal story on how she rose above depression and self-hate to positivity is very inspirational. I can’t imagine being so smart and self-aware as a teenager. She makes me want to be like her.

After having given a talk for TEDxPasadena Women, what project(s)/goal(s)/plan(s) do you have up next?

After basically building up an entire career writing non-fiction, I’m inspired to try my hand at my first piece of fiction, a book I’m working on that’s set in Asia.

Do you feel any differently now that you have given a talk? Do you see your life changing in any way?

Life always goes back to normal even after amazing achievements, but you can do your work strengthened by the knowledge at the back of your mind that you’ve done things, you’ve achieved, you’ve spoken to a roomful of people and hopefully inspired them. And that knowledge helps you go on and try other things that scare you. Because you’ve done it before, and you can do it again.

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