Bernice Choa : Interview 12
What’s one thing you don't know now, but feel compelled to know?
Oh my gosh! If I could count the different things I don’t know. [Laughter] I feel like there’s so much I don’t know versus I know. Like, oh my gosh, I can’t even begin. I don’t know how to manage my money for instance…well enough. I don’t understand stock—I hide money under my mattress, pretty much. At this point I’m just… I don’t know. I don’t know what I don’t know. I think that’s kind of my answer. I think maybe finding out what my question would be at this point. Just cuz I feel like you should be constantly learning. There’s so much stuff that, ya know—I’m always reading or listening to podcasts, even, I listen to “Stuff You Should Know”. There’s so much stuff I don’t know. But I feel like… There’s not one thing, that’s for sure. I feel like there’s a multitude of things that I would love to know and constantly know and there’s stuff that I don’t even know I need to know. But I feel like there’s so many people out there that think they know all the answers and that there’s nothing they need to know. And I’m the exact opposite person. I believe there’s so much in this universe and so many people have so many answers to so many things that you didn’t even think to ask. And I think if you’re that person who’s always into evolving and learning and seeing what’s around you, you’ll constantly be learning and absorbing everything around you. And it’s hard to know what I don’t know because there’s so much stuff out there! I think for me to say that there’s something I know to not know is almost naive, I think. Right? Just because there’s so much stuff out there.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do?
Most difficult thing I had to do. OK. So I know I cannot sing. I am not like you, I’m not musically talented. I think I’m somewhere between rhythm and tone deaf. And I really wanted to face that fear head on. So one summer when I was in high school, I was like, “OK I’m gonna figure this out! The stage fright thing, the voice thing, I don’t know, I’m gonna figure this out.” And I took a class with adults at the community center by myself, which is already kind of daunting. And it was an operatic singing class. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t even know why I thought that was a good idea. We had to stand on a stage with a pianist accompaniment and you just had to jump in there singing Latin or Italian on a stage with everybody in your class in the audience. And I think that’s one of the scariest things I had to do. It was so daunting because I remember you had to listen for the cue of when to sing because there’s no person to cue you, there’s no lyrics, there’s nothing, you just have repeated bars. But it was, I think it was a really great experience because it’s something I faced head on and I kind of just like—you learn that you can kind of go out of body and kind of just feel for it. And you kind of just trust the instinct of what you put in. And I feel like with all things in life if you just trust what you’ve already put into the effort to make it make sense.
How do you deal with loneliness?
Not well? [Laughs] I try, you know, like you were saying, you make an effort to go find people. You can’t just dwell in loneliness. You have to make an effort to not be lonely. So, ya know, some days, if I have nothing planned and I thought I was going to work all day and I end up home alone on a Saturday night and I feel like, “Oh, everyone in the world is having fun except for me” I try to make an effort to go be somewhere. Call someone up or, ya know, read a book, right? To combat that feeling like—you try not to go on Facebook or social media to be like, “Look at all the world! They’re having so much fun and I’m not!” [Laughs] But yeah, I think loneliness is something that we kind of do to ourselves. Ya know? Like if you keep yourself out there then you won’t—ya know.
What is the most memorable pain you've ever felt?
That could be interpreted a lot of different ways. Well, I told you recently I completed an Ironman. It was in 2015, November. That was something I kind of set up for myself four years prior when I couldn’t ride a bicycle. And I still can’t ride a bicycle well. I signed up for a sprint triathlon going, “OK. I’m gonna figure out how to ride a bike before this. I should buy a bike now.” So I bought a bike and then I figured it out. Kind of. I scraped everything. I fell so many times off my bicycle. But during the Ironman itself, there’s a point when you’re about four miles from the end and your body is destroyed. Like my legs hurt—I could feel every fiber just giving out. But there was still like—it was so memorable in the sense of…you were so elated. That you’re finishing it or that you’re doing it or just that you’re in the race. There’s something where at that point you realize—well, I guess the whole time you realize—your mind is so much stronger than your body. Your will, your determination, and you just kind of will your body to listen to your head. And I feel like that made it really memorable. Cuz you’re just trying to drag yourself over the line. And you’re just like, “I’m gonna run through the finish line! I’m not gonna, like…What am I gonna do? Am I gonna run? Am I gonna have to crawl?” And you’re just like, “Come on, body! We’re gonna figure it out!” That was just memorable cuz at that moment you’re just like, “Body! If you pass out now, I’m still gonna make this happen!” Like, “Don’t do this to me!” You’re kind of talking to the rest of yourself to try to muster all that will power. So I think that was pretty memorable. Just cuz I think that was the most self-inflicted physical pain I’ve ever done to myself. You know? Most times something happens and you feel pain. But this was completely self-inflicted. “This is my idea and we’re gonna figure this out.”
What will you miss the most when you’re gone?
I had a really bad car accident. One of those moments where I was driving back from college. I think this was ’03. And I was driving back to the Bay and I fell off a cliff. I went eight stories down into a ditch. I tumbled—I saw grass hit my front windshield and I like flipped. And I actually thought that I was gone. I had that moment where I was like, “Ah crap, I’m gone.” Because I flew so far over. I hydroplaned straight off and there was no guardrail. And I remember, like, the seatbelt lacerated my neck. And I had like—I was bleeding here [points to throat] and I looked in the mirror that was hanging and I had cuts on my forehead. And I was so tangled in the car. I looked out of my car and I could see [points to a tall building nearby] that was the road I fell off of, ya know, and in that moment I was like, “OK. I’m trapped in this car. I see blood everywhere. I can’t move, really.” And I saw my phone had separated from the battery and it was like over there and I was like, “Ahhhh, crap.” It was like that moment. Of all things that crossed my mind at that point. I would say I’m particularly close with my parents, but at that moment, that’s all I wanted. I was like, “I wish I could tell my parents I love them right now.” I felt like—that’s a realization I had at that moment. Of all things I would want in my life…I thought that was really interesting. So I think that would be—my parents. My family. It was pretty traumatic. But I was OK! It was actually just lacerations. Everything was like superficial. The crazy thing is after I fell off that cliff…I thought I was done for. And I saw a guy up there and he was like, “Are you OK?! Are you OK?!” And I was like, “Oh, dude, I’m here. I’m OK. I’m fine.” I didn’t think he was gonna save me, I thought that was just the last person I was gonna see. And I was like, “What is your name?” I don’t know why I cared at that moment, I just was like, “If I’m gonna go, I might as well ask this guy his name.” And he told me his name was Jesus. He was like, “My name is Jesús.” And I was like, “Oh my god!” [Long pause] And that’s totally true. So then like…he was gone by the time—he called help, and they had people that went down the cliff, got me, pulled me up on a stretcher, they mounted me to a board and pulled me all the way up, but he was gone already. And that’s part of the whole Ironman thing…I could barely move my neck, I was on painkillers for a couple years. I was kind of sudo-functional and then I rehabilitated myself to an Ironman.