Hi, I'm Gwen Yi!
∴ If you’re looking for a professional bio, click here ∴
In my 29 years of life, I’ve held many identities:
Youth leader. Crazed overachiever. Tech startup CEO wannabe. College dropout. Community builder. Founder of Tribeless.
And most recently, budding Astrologer. 🪐
You might know me as one, some, or none of those. Personally, I’m still trying to reconcile with a few.
But I know they’ll always be a part of my story.
So here it is, in three parts…
First written on August 20, 2019. Last updated: March 23, 2023.
PART I: OVERACHIEVER
Growing up, I had everything a little girl could want – Barbie Dreamhouses, Faber-Castell stationery, an endless roster of activities.
I just didn’t have a happy family.
My parents split up when I was 10. When my mom moved my sister and I into our grandmother’s house, she only had RM27 (~US$7) in her pocket.
I took it upon myself to be strong for my little sister, acting like none of these big changes affected me.
That decision led to a life of perfectionism, suppression and self-isolation. I strove for excellence in and out of the classroom, often staying up to 3AM – partly to swot for exams, but mostly to exhaust myself to a point where I could finally sleep.
When friends (and boyfriends) eventually drifted out of my life, I made no attempt to keep them, convincing myself that everything comes to an end anyway – much like my parents’ marriage.
I was miserable, lonely and afraid. But I thought it was normal; like this is how life was meant to be.
To fill the void of meaningful relationships, I buried myself in my work. That was how I found myself #hustling as a young entrepreneur, trying to prove my worth in Malaysia’s then-nascent entrepreneurship scene.
By the time I turned 21, I was attending townhalls with President Obama, winning global tech competitions, and living the dream in Silicon Valley – where I was determined to live out my destiny as the next Mark Zuckerberg.
On the outside, everything looked perfect, like the glossy photos I would publish on Facebook.
But inside, I was crumbling.
It was just a matter of when I would collapse.
PART II: COLLAPSE
You’ve probably heard some version of this story somewhere, but I’ll sum it up for you here:
I burnt out, got depressed, and dropped out of college. (For the astrologically inclined –– this was also the time of my Saturn square.)
In the aftermath of that, I lost everything –– my passion. My ambition. My network. My identity.
I moved back home to Malaysia to figure things out. I thought I’d have the space to heal, but it felt like I was taking 10 steps back.
The year was 2016. Mental health was still taboo. There were no safe spaces for people to talk about what they were going through. It was the loneliest time of my entire life.
Things started to look up when I hosted my first Tribeless Conversation. 10 people gathered in a pizza parlor, with one simple rule –– No small talk.
It was the most cathartic, compassionate conversation I’d had all year.
"There's something here," I remember whispering to myself as I headed home after dinner. Little did I know how true that would turn out to be.
Fast forward six years, and TRIBELESS® is a global empathy training company that works with organizations and leaders in over 30 countries.
Those dinner parties we hosted? They became the basis for The Empathy Box, a conversational facilitation tool that creates safe, brave spaces for people to open up and practice empathy in a conversation.
Together with Shawn (my partner in work and life), we bootstrapped and grew the company. Over the years, we went from facilitating "empathy sessions" at student conferences, to charging $20,000 a day for corporate trainings.
It was my first business, and my first love.
I learned so much. I fought so much –– with Shawn, as well as my sister and my best friend (who both worked with us in the company). It was exciting, in the beginning... until, it wasn't.
I couldn't pinpoint exactly when I fell out of love with Tribeless. All I knew is that one day, I was working 20 hour days out of excitement and passion...
... And the next, I could barely bring myself out of bed.
We kept going, of course. How could we not? Saturn on my Sun meant that I'd always carried the weight of the world on my shoulders; I had to soldier on.
It was my company, after all. And who really enjoys their work, anyway...?
Eventually, it all came to a head in 2022, when first Sim, then Gwen Lyne left the team (both for totally separate reasons). Suddenly, in that space, I could breathe. I wasn't responsible for their livelihoods anymore.
I could give myself grace. I could give myself the space...
To discover who I really am.
PART III: REBIRTH
2022 was the year I got to know who Wong Gwen Yi really was.
Not the overachiever of my early 20's. Nor the Tribeless founder with a chip on her shoulder. Sister, daughter, friend... All of these identities fell to the wayside.
In that silence & space, I could begin again.
I embarked on a 100-day creative project –– making art every day, for a hundred days. Redefining what creativity means to me.
I took walks everyday. Listened to podcasts. Sat in silence, and watched in awe as Mother Nature did her thing.
I dabbled in photography, Procreate, fashion. I fell in love with Astrology. I took a solo road trip to a different state –– something I never thought I could do –– and proved myself wrong. I did Jami Attenberg's #1000wordsofsummer...
... And found, to my eternal surprise, that I had a knack for video storytelling.
(I can now make a mean Reel in less than 30 minutes. 🤣)
In developing a relationship with my Creative Spirit, the hustle and bustle of my professional life –– one I'd painstakingly nurtured for the past few years –– quietened to a pleasant drone.
I realized, with a start, that I didn't miss it.
My skin and body, always so quick to flare up with acne and migraines before, calmed down overnight. I slept better. Ate healthier. Took up a running habit.
I deepened my spirituality –– through crystals, meditation, being in Nature. Funnily enough, this was an area of life that came almost laughably easy to me. When a scholarship opportunity came up for Debra Silverman's Applied Astrology School, I jumped at it. I couldn't explain why I was so drawn to this ancient art... An interest I'd been quietly nurturing since 2021.
Astrology was something I slipped on like a second skin. After feeling like a try-hard all my life, this was a strange –– but welcome –– surprise. I found a community, a mentor, a group of kindred spirits to journey with. I graduated from Level 2 in November, and have been doing paid readings since. Life feels full, and flush with possibility.
I genuinely can't believe how different my life looks now, compared to the start of this year. From dragging my feet to work at my own company, daydreaming about the day I would leave this all behind...
To waking up each day bursting with joy, excited about the future and everything it holds. ❤️🔥
I'd love to do more readings. I'd love to work towards my certification. I can't wait to build up my Astrology practice, and touch more lives. I've never felt more connected to my purpose, or excited to serve.
"When you find the thing that's right for you, nothing can hold you back," Shawn said.
I'm so glad I've found it. I'm so grateful for every step that's led me here.
To every detour, and diversion, I see you.
To each breakdown, and breakthrough, I thank you.
To everyone who has cheered me on over the years –– I love you.
Thanks for being here, friend. I can't wait to see where we'll go, together.
Thank you for reading!
If my story resonated with you, I’d love to hear from you. Write to me [at] gwenyi.com, or book a reading with me here. Sending you all my love