The Runaway

*This story was originally written and submitted for my Reporting class. I thought to share this story on my blog because Lynn was the first person to freely open up to me about all aspects of her life. As a journalism student, I appreciate people who go out of their way to help someone out, in this case, me. There are people out there that will share their story with you, just keep interviewing :)*

Lynn Chayatanan takes her break at Stonestown Mall to visit old co-workers, and gets ready to drive to her next client’s house, where she will set goals with a child with Autism.

Lynn Chayatanan, 27, works for Class ABA, a company that provides behavioral therapy for children with Autism. She is a behavioral therapist and spends at least two hours each visit with the child, where she tries to get them to complete a goal, such as making eye contact without prompting with a toy or food. Chayatanan believes this is not a job for everyone because of how stressful it can be, but loves how rewarding the job is when she gets a child to say their name for the first time.

“You have these little victories that create a whole human being,” Chayatanan said proudly.

Chayatanan was born and raised in Pleasanton where her parents opened a restaurant, “Lux Thai Cuisine,” six months after she was born. By the age of seven, she worked side by side her parents and older brother at the restaurant. Despite looking like the picture perfect family that works together, there were problems at home, she always seemed to butt heads with her mother, her father was an alcoholic, and she said she also experienced physical abuse.

 

Chayatanan was always into fashion and cosplay, so she would make her own costumes and clothing, she really thought that was going to be what she went to college for. Her parents were always on her case about school because her brother was such a great student. She didn’t take school seriously, her parents feared she wouldn’t succeed.

In high school, Chayatanan’s mother encouraged her to take an AP course. Chayatanan took AP psychology because she thought it would be easy, but in the end fell in love with the subject. It was then she realized that she wanted to go to school for psychology.

In the summer of 2007, Chayatanan ran away from home with just $600 in her bank account. She had enough of the physical abuse that was going on at home, and was fed up with living there. She informed her family that she ran away by calling them on a “pay as you go” phone, and moved in with her boyfriend.

“This may sound cruel, but I had no fear of her not making it,” said her brother, Charlee Chayatanan. “There weren’t any doubts that she could make it.”

She decided to continue her education at Las Positas Community College in Livermore. Chayatanan couch surfed at different friends’ houses because the people she would live with couldn’t “grow up.” She said that they were stuck in the cosplay life and couldn’t take on responsibilities, and this caused her to lose interest in the cosplay scene.

Once Chayatanan was done with community college, she decided to commute to San Francisco State University and moved back in with her mother in Pleasanton. Chayatanan also picked up a barista job at Nordstrom in Stonestown Mall. By this time, her mother kicked her father out of the house, and not long after that, her father died in Thailand, and the family restaurant of 23 years closed down. All these factors made the already rocky relationship between mother and daughter a little harder.

“It was like walking on glass, not even eggshells,” Chayatanan said about moving back in with her mother.

After she graduated from San Francisco State in 2014, Chayatanan continued to work at Nordstrom where she was promised that if she stayed, she would be promoted to manager. She worked harder to get the manager position to the point where she felt overqualified, but it always seemed like she would get passed up for someone else. She thought she hit a dead end until her boss’s girlfriend asked her if she wanted to join the Class ABA Company, since she knew Chayatanan had a degree in psychology.

Now Chayatanan works as a behavioral therapist and has three Autistic children that she meets with every week. She sets up goals at each visit, and feels really accomplished when a child meets those goals.

One of Chayatanan’s greatest accomplishments was when she was at the mall waiting in line for the public restroom with a child she works with. The child looked Chayatanan in the eye and voiced that they had to use the bathroom, and even though they ended up having an accident, Chayatanan was proud that the child verbally communicated, step by step, what was going on.

Even though Chayatanan never expected to go to school for psychology, people that know her aren’t surprised.

“She’s extremely patient and expects a lot from people,” former coworker, Marie Obuhoff said. “She’s able to keep a cool head under pressure.”

It was Chayatanan’s journey that helped her realize what she wanted to do in her life. She remembers the days when she was a runaway and really needed help, and she’s happy that she can extended her help and services to children with Autism. It is bittersweet because she knows that the goal is for her not to be needed anymore once the child fulfills all the requirements.

“I’m basically a tool,” Chayatanan said. “I’ll help anyone who needs my help.”

Back To School- At My Own Pace

It’s getting so close to the first day of school for me at San Francisco State, so I’m starting to overthink everything from the past, the present, and what I want in the future.

If you would’ve told me 3 years ago when it was my first semester at Skyline College, fresh out of high school, that I would be transferring to SF State for Journalism 3 years later, I probably wouldn’t believe you. Back then my goal was to get out of community college in 2 years, and anything beyond 2 years would be embarrassing. Of course it didn’t happen that way. I went to Skyline College with literally no idea of what I wanted to major in. I went in  clueless on what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that I really enjoy being around little babies, so I started taking Early Childhood Education (ECE) classes. The classes were so interesting to me and it was a pleasure being in them. Learning about how children’s minds develop overtime and how different stages in their life and what happens then could impact them drastically was totally up my alley, I loved learning about children. So I got my first job as a baby sitter at a gym….. that’s open to all ages……. from 6 months to 11 years old…… AAAANNNNNNDDDD long story short, Early Childhood Education is no longer my major. Haha, I’m actually really happy that I realized earlier than later. I love my job but it made me realize that I CAN’T do this for a career because it takes a lot of patience, a characteristic I lack. I would hate to have graduated with a degree I loved, then go out and get a job and  realize “this is not for me…”

So I was grateful. I only spent my first year at community college studying child development, so I still had some time to get it together. But I also remember panicking.

“Half of my goal time is over,” I thought to myself, “I have 1 more year to get it together.”

I was back to square one and as clueless as ever. I thought I had it all planned out, and then I was lost again. I watch a lot of TV, and shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) and Forensic Files had me stuck on the idea of being a detective in solving murders or other crimes. After all, I’m basically the Queen at finding information (stalking people on social media). So the start of my second year I took the intro class to Criminal Justice. The class really opened my eyes. The teacher was a retired police officer for the district my high school was in. He was a great teacher and explained concepts really well. I learned so much about the system and our rights. He also made me realize that the system is very black or white. There is no gray area in the criminal justice system, it’s either one way or the other. And that means sometimes justice is not served under certain circumstances under the law. The teacher would give different scenarios on how the law can be flawed, and then again I came to the conclusion, “this is not for me…” I have too much heart and sympathize with people too much, not to mention a weak stomach, this was definitely not the field for me.

Here I was again… UNDECIDED. How can I transfer if it’s necessary to declare a major? I thought back to when I was a kid. Usually people say make a career out of what you loved to do when you were younger. Ever since I was about 5 years old my dream was to fall in love, get married, and have babies. Yeah, no. Love ain’t gon’ pay the bills, and a baby at this age would do the exact opposite to my wallet. I thought harder. My sisters and I were always those kids during summer break to be cooped up in the house on weekdays because both my parents had work. So I would write my own books. Each summer I would start writing different books, but never seemed to finish them. I would think of different story plots and kind of just write until the story didn’t even make sense anymore. But that was me. That’s what I enjoyed to do. Writing stories.

I met up with a counselor and changed my major for the 3rd time to Cinema. After some great thought I decided to switch to Journalism just because I feel like it will give me more opportunities. So finally after 3 years and many major changes later, I’ve finally transferred to San Francisco State University. It took me a while, and I honestly felt stuck for a long time, like the wheels were never gonna start turning for me. But I’m happy I finally got to this point.

My last semester at Skyline I kept saying that I was “so done,” that I’ve lost all motivation to go to school. Not that I was actually going to drop out or anything, but I was so drained and just wanted the semester to be over. But now that summer is almost to an end, I’ve tried to gain my motivation back. And it’s not easy. I’m not gonna sit here and act like I’m so determined and motivated for this fall semester. I’m stressed, scared, and I already know these next 2-3 years are going to be challenging. Yes, 2-3 years, I honestly doubt I’m going to graduate in 2 years because then I would have to take 15 units each semester, and I don’t want to completely drain myself. I’m a firm believer of “treat yo self,” and I need a social life, a job so I can actually have money to do stuff, and I need to trust myself when I know what I can handle and know what is too much.

My older sister is smart without even trying, always basically got straight A’s in everything, my little sister is smart and works for it, and then there’s me. Don’t get me wrong, I transferred from Skyline to SF State with a 3.15 GPA, but that was by me not reading any of the books and “YOLO-ing” almost every final and test. So I barely tried and got A’s and B’s with the occasional C. My point is not to sound cocky, but that I can only imagine how my grades would be if I actually did try, if I put effort in reading the material, and not waiting until 3 am to write my papers. It’s ironic, I’m always on the Dean’s List, but I’m probably the laziest student you will ever meet. I will do all the assignments, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll wait until it’s 1-3 am to write papers that are worth so much of my grade, to the point where I’m basically begging myself for sleep. It’s a habit I’m going to try to stop starting this fall at SFSU. This is my last push, and I wanna go out with a bang.

My little sister is 2 years younger than me, and it seems she already has her school goals on track. She knows what she wants to do and she’s on top of her classes. It made me really bitter to realize that there is a pretty big chance we will graduate the same year. “How embarrassing,” I would think to myself, “I’m 2 years older and I don’t have it together.”

But I realized that I shouldn’t be bitter or low key jealous that she is on track. I’m actually proud that she is, because I was all over the place at her age with school. All that matters to me now is that I get a degree. Time doesn’t really phase me anymore. I was embarrassed that I took 3 years at community college, and was starting to feel down when I realistically realized that 2 years at SFSU would wreck me, but I’m so focused on finishing that I don’t realize how far I’ve come. At the end of it all, as long as I graduate, I’m happy.  I’m going at my own pace and should be proud of the accomplishments that I’ve already made. I don’t care how long it’ll take me, it’ll just make graduation day so much more sweeter.

With that being said, I’m low key ready for the many meltdowns that will be coming my way.