Maryann Samreth, 30’s
New York City, NY
Current Role: Mental Health Writer, Poet, Storyteller & Founder of Brand Voice Writing Business, Sincerely Miss Mary
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
My family fled the Khmer Rouge and came to Chicago. I was born in the suburbs of Chicago.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Cambodian American?
The strengths of being Asian is the perseverance and willingness to achieve anything. My mom is one of the strongest people I know, and she's taught me to build a life leading with courage, kindness, compassion, and hope.
The strengths of being American is using our voices and the freedom of self-expression. Being an Asian/Cambodian American has given me the power to speak up and advocate for myself to advocate for others.
One of the challenges of being a child of genocide survivors is the behavioral patterns passed down due to the genocide - silence and suppressing emotions. Before the genocide, Cambodia was a country thriving on creativity and self-expression. However, the artists, musicians, and thought leaders were the first to be murdered by the genocide. As a result, the fear of authenticity and self-expression has been passed down to our generation.
I had to recognize this behavioral pattern was a symptom of the genocide and not the Cambodian culture. Understanding this allowed me to accept and forgive my parents for not knowing about intergenerational trauma, so I could break this cycle and honor my ancestors, who were public figures, writers, and storytellers. They didn't die in vain, and I carry their gifts to continue their legacy of empowering and uplifting our surrounding communities.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My writing career and the creation of my pen name, Sincerely Miss Mary, has been my proudest accomplishment. I had worked in the fashion industry prior for 7 years as a designer for Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, and Tommy Hilfiger. My career was successful, but I always knew this wasn't where my true passion was. I never felt fulfilled as I began to climb the ladder of success.
I fell into a deep state of depression that started when I was 26 and lasted until I was 28. In this state of numbness and multiple breakdowns, I eventually sought help for my mental health and learned to journal my emotions. Eventually, I discovered my gift of writing as it naturally became a habit for me. It was the first time I felt like I was choosing myself.
Sincerely Miss Mary was an anonymous pen name I created an Instagram account for to live journal my feelings as I continued to wear my mask in the world. It wasn't until Spring of 2019 when I revealed my pen name to friends and family. I began writing more poetry, then personal essays on Medium, and began performing open mic poetry around NYC.
In August of 2020, I took a leap of faith and decided to leave my job at Tommy Hilfiger to pursue mental health writing and launch a brand voice storytelling business under my pen name. I have no regrets walking away from comfort to leap into a journey of uncertainty. In the space of uncertainty is when I discovered my greatest potential that comes with being an entrepreneur.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
Service is the most important value my family upholds. When we can empower ourselves and tap into our purpose, we have a responsibility to uplift and empower others. As a mental health advocate, I actively use my social media accounts like Instagram and TikTok to provide words of encouragement and healing.
I also had to learn the importance of filling my cup before we empty it. We're often taught to serve others before ourselves, yet what we don't realize is how important it is to fully take care of ourselves first to show up for others healthily.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
Yes, but I'd like to speak better Khmer.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Cambodian American community?
Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself, and don't be afraid to say no. In my personal experience, cultivating authenticity and developing a sense of agency was the most difficult practice to learn. Once you're able to have confidence in showing up to the world as you are, you inspire others to do the same, and it becomes easier to set boundaries from anyone holding you back from being your true self.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
I love connecting with like-minded people. As I am on my healing journey and have developed a strong relationship with myself, I have noticed how I can connect with others vibrating at the same frequency and on their journey. Having healthy relationship dynamics in your life can also deepen the healing journey within yourself. Connection allows for more gratitude, abundance, and love in your life.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
My Sincerely Miss Mary Free Digital Poetry Book and I am also working on my podcast releasing in January called Mental Breakthrough. It is a serial-storytelling memoir about my life's personal stories of multiple breakdowns to a breakthrough followed by my healing journey and exploring how my gift of writing was deeply rooted in the Cambodian culture.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
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