Susun Xiong is one of my closest friends. I love our deep conversations, travel adventures, and empowering exchanges! I was fortunate to forge the most amazing friendships while in college at Hamline University. Susun is part of that friend group for me! (Spoiler alert, about a third of women I’ve included in this project are connected to my Hamline experience.)  

Susun is ambitious, persistent, unapologetic, kind, caring, dependable, and an incredibly thoughtful friend.

We became close toward the end of our college years having spent time together working for the McVay Youth Partnership, being part of Hamline’s NCORE team, and sitting next to each other in our Biology of Women course. It is certainly our experiences educating ourselves about and advocating for racial justice with NCORE that solidified our friendship. Susun and I attended NCORE (the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education) twice together. First in 2009 as part of Hamline’s NCORE team and then in 2011 where we presented a Pre-Conference Institute. This experience, the May after I graduated, was the perfect endcap to my time at Hamline.

Susun and I both value travel and we subscribe to the notion that you make time for what and who is important to you. In 2012, I traveled to South Korea to visit Susun on JeJu Island where she was working as an English teacher. Since then, she’s visited me in Commerce, TX and here in New Orleans, LA. In April, I’m excited to be visiting her in Chicago! Those of you who have done a lot of traveling know that sometimes even the best of friends don’t make the best travel buddies. This is not the case with Susun! I would travel the world with this woman!

As you’ll see in her responses in the second half of this post, Susun is mindful, conscious and critical. Our conversations are always on another level. I admire her thoughtfulness and commitment to self-care. Susun is always checking in with quick notes, messages, or texts and also sends the most thoughtful gifts. I value her love and support in my life.

Susun currently lives in Chicago with her wonderful boyfriend and is pursuing her master’s and PhD in Disability Studies at UIC. She has a strong passion for community organizing and dismantling injustices. And, she says she is still learning.  I’m impressed by Susun’s dedication to her academic pursuits and know that her field is incredibly fortunate to have a scholar and practitioner like Susun.

Susun is inspired by moments in life – both big and small—and improving the world and lives around her. Read her thoughts on inspiration, empowering women, and words of wisdom below:

 What inspires you? What do you care about deeply?

"Life is inspiring. Moments of connection, deep/long/conscious conversations, learning and hearing about people’s passions, seeing people make positive changes, traveling, music, sunshine, self awareness, crafts, and the reality of injustice. There are so many things that I find inspiring and it is always a pleasant surprise to let moments be the inspiration. I feel that experiences (i.e., life) is contextual so what inspired me yesterday, may not be what inspires me tomorrow. Rather than seeking out inspiration, be open to it, try various things such as “Shots of Awe” youtube videos, TED Talks, journaling, dancing spontaneously at an art gallery, smiling and laughing more, taking a moment to be present, take time to appreciate those around you, etc…

 I care about connection, bettering the world and lives around me. I care about becoming the best version of myself and ensuring that I help create a space for others to do the same. Contributing to better lives is sometimes thought of as “too ambitious, too big of a task” however, I like to think about it in ways that are realistic and achievable for where I am at presently. An example would be a writing a thoughtful letter to a loved one to express what you admire about them or sharing resources such as wellness books, podcasts, etc."

Who are women in your life or throughout history who inspire you?

"I have so many women in my life and throughout history that I admire and am inspired by. My mother, sisters, friends, and mentors are women in my life that inspire me. My mother was a very serious woman when I was growing up but often showed her love through lectures on life, acts of kindness, and by expecting my siblings and me to be responsible/ respectful. It’s wonderful to now see her smiling and laughing more since she’s more trusting of us as adults. The conversations I’ve had with my sisters, friends and mentors inspire me because they are honest conversations. We talk about our struggles, we ask one another for help, there is often lack of judgment, we laugh, we teach, and celebrate one another’s successes."

If you had one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

"Practice radical self-love, self-care and self-awareness regularly (and sooner). Remember self-love (i.e., intentionally investing in yourself) is not a selfish act. It is necessary! In the past (and at times now), I’ve neglected my own needs for others’ or other things such as school, organizations and work. I worked myself so hard during undergrad that I nearly burnt out by my senior year and became bitter. Learning to listen to yourself and your needs is essential and allows you to fully love and invest in others and in passions. I find that when I practice self-care regularly, I am less stressed out and better able to respond proactively to frustrating experiences (i.e., I am happier!!!). Self-love and self-care can be as simple as taking ten minutes to meditate, or compiling a short list of highlights from the day or a bath with candles. Self-love and self-care are intentional acts and require self-awareness."

This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!