inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Michelle Kan


“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” –
Coco Chanel
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I came to the United States for college at the age of 17, never imagined that I would still be living in this country 20 years later. After finishing college at Washington University in St. Louis and graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, I worked in various mental health settings across the East Coast for over 13 years. I am now a mother of two boys, age 5 and 3. Shortly after my second son was born, I decided to return to school. My family and I relocated to the Bay Area in 2014 so that I could pursue my doctoral study in Clinical Psychology at  Alliant International University, California School of Professional Psychology.

Fun fact #1: I love to sing but only in the privacy of my car! I think I have a beautiful voice but I am just too shy to sing in public. Ever since my kids were born, I also enjoy singing to/with them.

Fun fact #2: I was a competitive swimmer when I was in high school. I was a breaststroker and had once broken a Hong Kong record for 100M Breaststrokes. Although my record was broken shortly after, I still take pride that I once reigned the swimming event.

What # would define your life journey?
The number 8 defines my life journey in many different levels.

First, in the Chinese culture, this number represents wealth, fortune or prosperity. I feel blessed for having many supportive families, including my birth family, family by marriage, and family of friends. I also feel privileged for having the resources and experiences that allowed me to get to where I am today. My philosophy of happiness is to be appreciative and grateful of what you have rather than to be resentful or invidious towards things that you do not have.

Secondly, “8” reminds me of the most basic figure-8 toy train track, where the train travels but always return to where it has started. My life is similar to that. I have travelled to many places and have met many wonderful people along the way. However, my heart always returns to where I started – my home, my family, in Hong Kong.
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Thirdly, the number 8 is a good representation of my professional role as a psychotherapist. Writing or drawing the figure 8 repeatedly in one stroke is very soothing, calming and therapeutic. It has helped many of my therapy clients to feel grounded while processing their darkest psychological trauma.
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Favorite website / app:
I do not have a favorite website/app per say. I like TED Talks because of the breadth of topics you can find.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
There are many people that have righteously earned their place here, including my dad, husband, kids and many friends that I have met at different point in time. However, my mom really tops the list. As a child, she was denied many opportunities due to the limited resources within her family. Her stories of perseverance have really stuck with me all these years. Her determination to strive for the best (a.k.a. perfectionistic characteristics) has definitely shaped my work ethics for the better. Most importantly, she went back to school in her 50s and successfully completed a degree in college. My mom has always been my role model. She taught me to chase my dream, rather than just sit around and dream about my dream. I believe if she could return to school in her 50s, I can survive graduate school in my 30s.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Linus and Lucy which is often associated with Peanuts.

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
My biggest challenge at the moment is to find a good three-way balance among family, school and clinical expectations. Many people have asked how I could manage graduate school while being a mother of two preschoolers. Advance planning and good time-management is key. I push all deadlines up by at least two weeks because unexpected circumstances, such as kids getting sick, almost always happen when the deadline is approaching. Also, self-determination and self-discipline play a big role in the overcoming of my challenge. I know my time to do readings and to complete assignments is very limited. So, when I work, I try to minimize, if not eliminate, any possible distractions. To many people, their cell phones are the biggest distraction. As a result, my habit is to put my cell phone away when I work.

Ideal Job:
My ideal job is to become a licensed psychologist so that I can provide much needed psychological services to children and families that are underserved, underprivileged and marginalized. Someday, I am hoping to join Doctors without Borders to provide mental health services, trainings and consultations to war-torn countries/regions.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?

  • Dream big and have the courage to pursue your dreams. Never too late!
  • Believe in yourself – you have more power and control over yourself than anyone else.
  • Focus on the positive experiences and toss out the negative self-talk.
  • Stay connected to your support system. You will need them. ‘
  • Love yourself. Be kind to yourself.
  • Don’t forget to have fun! It is okay to be silly every now and then!
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