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“I think the AK community needs its own Snookie.”: My Conversation With Kari Ruth

With this post, I am now the first AK to feature the first Kari Ruth who first identified the AK community’s “I did it first” phenomenon. In the immortal words of a Scottish swordsman, “There can be only one…”  (What geek doesn’t love a Highlander reference?)

On a serious note, I’d like to once again point out to MN adoptive parents that we’re fortunate to have individuals like Kari in our state. Your children have some great role models here. Please seek them out.


Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You’ve run some interesting blogs in the past. Would you mind talking about them and highlighting one of your favorites?

Kari: I feel like the writing gods are trying to tell me something. You’re the fourth person to mention my now-defunct blogs in the past month. All this time I thought the two visits to my blogs about being adopted and Korean in Minnesota were from someone’s errant Google search for “Lutherans, hobbies.”

I was fond of “Stuff AKs Like” (an obvious riff on the popular, Stuff White People Like). For example, something AKs like is being #1. We’ve got this crazy jonesing to be the first in everything. Have you noticed how every AK organization or project claims some sort of “first” status? But I get it. If you’re not first, you’re the runner-up. And, if there’s anything we AKs don’t like, it’s being the consolation prize.

I also was a blogger for KoreAm but decided my AK/MN-centric pieces didn’t fit with Wonder Girl-mania, Korean BBQ trucks and hyper-achieving famous Korean Americans. I should have gone the TMZ route and dished AK gossip. I don’t know about you, but I think the AK community needs its own Snookie.

If I start a blog again, it will be a humorous one. Life is funny – especially being an AK growing up in MN – and even funnier when you can laugh at someone else. That always cheers me up.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You have one of those “super cool jobs.” Could you talk about where you work, what you do, and how you got there?

Kari: I think my super cool job would be staying in my pajamas all day, drinking rum and watching the O network. In the meantime, I have a pretty cool paying job so my husband can golf all summer.

I work at Minnesota Community Foundation and The Saint Paul Foundation. I get to run wild as a generalist, dabbling in all sorts of things, spend time surfing the Web and track a variety of trends. I’ve also had the fun of being a behind-the-scenes player on two start-ups for our Foundations – and I still manage the latter.

Minnesota has an amazing nonprofit and philanthropic community. I marvel every day at how many people come together to make good things happen for others. It’s also a sector with tons of incredibly talented and crazy-smart women leaders, and I am thankful they haven’t tired of me yet. Or maybe they have and I just can’t take a hint.

How did I get here? Isn’t it always some mix of luck, timing and a little skill? I have a lousy sense of direction so I definitely did not follow any map.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Any advice for younger adoptees who want to follow a similar career track?

Kari: Network. I’m always willing to corrupt a younger AK and start them down any random career path. Even if you aren’t interested in philanthropy, give me a ring. I can always use a coffee break.

My career track may not be a great model. It resembles something like having one foot on track and one foot in the ditch. (Right now I’m failing miserably at my writing career.)

I like to reinvent myself every so often and that means going off-road here and there. I love my job at the Foundations but I also know I won’t retire there. I never would have had the experience of working in Korea if I had stayed on a single track. Likewise, I never would have ended up in my current position. Life should be full of opportunities to learn new things about ourselves – and experience epic fails. That doesn’t happen if you only stick to the plan.

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