Back for the second half of her interview, Khoa Ngo discusses her aspirations before deciding to become a therapist, her love for audiobooks and boba, and her shining optimism and positivity.

When you were twelve, what did you want to be when you grew up? How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a therapist?

It wasn’t until my senior year or junior year of college, so pretty late. I had actually wanted to be a pediatrician since I was five, I think, because I liked working with kids – which sounds funny at age five, but I thought the pediatrician’s office was really cool for a really long time. So, I was actually doing a lot of pre-med in undergrad, and that was going to be my other degree along with psychology. In my junior year, I had a really good psychology professor, and she said, “what happens if you just decide that you like psychology, and you don’t want to become a medical doctor?” I was like, “huh, I don’t know.” She said, “you’re killing yourself trying to do two degrees. Why don’t you just go for the one?” And I thought, “oh, I didn’t even think about that.” I had thought that I wanted to be a pediatrician for so long, it didn’t even occur to me that I might want to change my mind.

What are self-care or fun activities that you use to overcome stress, or like to do in your free time?

I like to watch movies, go on date nights with my husband, and play with my kids. Life is so busy, but doing things like playing with my kids or spending alone time with my husband is a good way to practice mindfulness and staying in the moment. Practicing self-care for me can also be something simple like being able to be alone in the house. Setting it up so that my husband takes the kids and I can be in my own house by myself – it sounds really boring, but it’s a self-care thing, especially with COVID. Otherwise, it could be a pedicure or something like that.

What are some of your favorite things?

I guess I like Tik Tok – I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve tried a lot, and a lot of the practical advice on cleaning or fixing things works really well! I like it because it’s funny, short, and you don’t need much of an attention span. I like books on tape because I drive a lot, so I like listening to things because it feels more productive than just driving and listening to the radio. I like music, and I also like cold beverages. I like boba – that’s one of my favorite things. I usually get a lychee green tea with some kind of popping boba. I like Vietnamese food for sure! One of my favorite things is definitely eating – my joke used to be, you can tell I’m not in a good mood if I’m not thinking about what I’m eating next. I’m one of those people who eats a meal, and as I’m eating my current meal, I’m thinking, “what am I going to have for the next one?” I’m not someone who’s picky; I like all kinds of foods, ethnic foods, and trying new things. That’s probably my number one favorite thing, definitely, is food and trying different cuisines.

What is the best book you’ve read relating to therapy? Also, a book that doesn’t relate to therapy?

There’s two relating to therapy that I really like and think about a lot. One is The Seven Principles to Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, and the other is The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel. I think a lot about those two while I’m doing therapy. For a non-related therapy book, I love the Harry Potter series. I was late to the game – I didn’t start it when it came out. I had a friend who was obsessed with it, and I’m one of those people who’s like, “if it’s too popular, I don’t want to try it.” But then something happened with the fourth movie, and I needed to know what happened next! So, I got the books and just read all the way through. I also like The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It’s a reality-fictional story, and there’s a lot of struggle and strife in it. I think that the book captured the story really well.

What is one of your favorite things about yourself?

That’s a hard one. Probably that I’m really friendly, and I think I’m easy to get along with – I’m not a difficult person at all. I like most people, and I’m pretty optimistic, so I think that’s a good quality that helps me in therapy, too. I can see the silver lining or put a positive spin on almost any situation. I guess if I had to pick one of those things, I would say I like that I tend to be optimistic.

How is/are your bonsai tree(s) doing?

We actually talked about this in the last group consultation! They’re doing okay, if they’re still growing – I have three different bonsai trees, and they’re still alive, but they’re growing incredibly slowly, to the point where they look the same as they did a month ago. I can’t see any changes in them, but they’re still green and still alive! They’re just three-inch sprouts. I handed over the care-taking to my husband at one point when I was gone because he was at home working, and by the time I came back, they had grown a lot in less than a week! So I was like, “wow, you’ve done a really good job and you should keep taking care of them! Maybe it’s my fault.” *laughs*