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.”

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“I guess I met you for a reason, only time can tell…” -J.Cole

I was always the type of person to believe that “everything happens for a reason.” What’s meant to be mine will always find its way to me, what was never meant for me would eventually find the next exit out of my life. I guess you can say I believe in fate.

You know those kind of stories girls tell of how they first met their partner? And it always seems like fate or that it was too good to be true? Chances are they’re adding a little spice to get you to envy their love story, or for all I know it could be 100% true… what I do know for sure is that my “how we met” story made me believe in fate a little more.

It was my 2nd semester at Skyline College. I found myself broke and bored. It was time to find a job. At the time, my major was Child Development. I have always been good with kids, you could call me the baby whisperer. I felt like all the jobs that were for child development needed prior experience or a least 12 units of ECE (Early Childhood Education) classes.

So then I started my search for work. I applied to maybe all the retail places at Serremonte Mall and Westlake Shopping Center. I got called in for interviews but never seemed to get the job. I would pass the first interview and was told that I would be meeting with someone higher up at a different set date. But I could never just get the job at the end of it all.

I was starting to feel really down in the dumps. What was wrong with me? People get first jobs all the time, why can’t I?! How can I have “experience” if you won’t hire me?!?! Frustrated is an understatement of how I felt. At that point I had gone through maybe 5 interviews. I thought finding a job would be easy… I started to give up.

I was maybe 2+ months deep in trying (not successfully) to find a job. I was sitting on the couch one school night when my friend, Cambria Cardona, called me. She said the gym was hiring for a daycare position and knew I was interested in a job working with kids.

I remember getting off the phone with her and thinking “It’s 7:30 pm… it’s dark, I’m tired, and me out of all people working at a gym? Yeah right!!!” Just the thought of me working at a gym made me want to laugh out loud. If retail places didn’t want to hire me, what more a gym where they’ll probably be looking for the most fit employees?

I was just about to act like Cam never called and continue to sit on the couch watching TV. But something in my head made me get up. I didn’t think I was going to get the job at all, but I went straight to the computer, printed out my resume, left in the same casual outfit I had went to school in, and found myself walking in the dark to go to the Daly City Bart station. “I’m not gonna get it, but I might as well try and say I didn’t get it,” was my train of thought.

I arrived at the gym. At the front desk a young man greeted me and took my resume. He made me fill out an application. I remembered that that afternoon in my ECE class I earned a certificate for knowing when to report child abuse because a guest speaker had spoken to my class. At the end of the class we had all received a certificate of completion. I took it out of my bag and said, “I don’t know if this will help…” He seemed to be impressed. He photocopied it, and I was on my way back home.

I didn’t expect to hear from them at all. Until a few days later on my way to school I had a missed call. When I called back, it was a personal trainer from the gym telling me that I got the job. “If you want it, it’s yours,” was her exact words to me. I was so surprised and excited, I got a job with no interview needed.

Fitting in at work wasn’t that hard. My co workers were as weird as me, and I couldn’t have asked for a chiller job. I took care of the kids while their parents worked out. It was a job I felt was fitting for me. I couldn’t picture myself in retail, or all the other jobs I was sad about not getting. This job was for me.

For a few months I would make small talk with this little girl’s mother, Jazzie Dela Cruz. Little by little we got closer and she asked if I could ask my manager if he needed another Kids Club employee. Long story short, I got her the job and she became my co worker. I thought nothing of it. Until everything else started to unfold.

When work was slow, me and my former co worker and good friend, Ulysses Pineda, would hang in the back office. It was one of those 2 sided mirrors, where we can see them but they can’t really see us. This guy and his friend walk up to the front desk and scanned themselves in, “that guy is cute in a weird way, that’s my MCM,” I told Ulysses. He made a witty joke and we continued with our conversation.

Winter Break was over. That marked almost 10 months of working at the gym. A co worker who I was very close to informed me that he was moving back to Idaho. I was so sad because we were like the night team crew. I was so salty to think of whoever was gonna replace him.

Until a few days later I walk into work and my “MCM” was wearing our gym’s uniform and filling out papers. I went to my co worker at the front desk, “Dude!!! That’s my MCM!!!!” My co worker laughed and said, “For real?! He’s gonna work here!”

Long story short, Jazzie played my fairy godmother and got me and my “MCM” together. It’s been over a year since all that has happened and I tell Christian, my MCE*, how it was fate that brought us together. He almost didn’t get the job because he was on a road trip when he was offered the job.

It’s trippy to think about. If I had gotten hired somewhere else, if Cam didn’t tell me about the job, if I didn’t make a sudden decision to turn in my resume that night, if I didn’t get hired, if I didn’t meet Jazzie, if Jazzie didn’t get hired, if Christian didn’t get hired, if one of these events were to not happen, I believe my life wouldn’t be the way it is now.

I believe that I was meant to meet Christian, and everyone I’ve met at the gym for that matter. I’m not saying that for sure 100% we’re gonna get married and ride off into the sunset on a white horse on the beach, but I really do believe we were meant to meet each other for a reason. It is up to us to find out that reason.