Ajumma Linsay: Not Your Average Cat Lady
Updated: Feb 12
Despite growing up in the freezing cold, Ajumma Linsay DeBates has the warmest heart, taking care of people in their final stages of life. A proud adoptee and cat lady, Linsay lives each day to its fullest and watch out - she will white-knuckle a karaoke mic when given the chance. Read on!
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I am a loud, proud Korean adoptee that grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Ocean Beach, San Diego has been my home since 2008 and I love living in my hippie beach community.
I work in hospice as a social worker, helping people and families through their final chapter. Working in hospice keeps me grounded and forever grateful for the limited, precious time we have here. I live three blocks from the beach with my boyfriend and our cat.
As a woman of "childbearing age" with no children and no plans on having children in the future, I've learned to appreciate and own the Crazy Cat Lady label. Anyone who is close to me knows my cat Vivian and has seen her array of cat tricks I've taught her in our high-tech cat training dojo (read: kitchen).
WHAT DOES BEING AN AJUMMA MEAN TO YOU?
For me, being an ajumma means owning my (middle) age, the wisdom that comes with that age, and being proud of who I am at 40. I never in a million years would have guessed that I'd be doing hip hop flashmobs at this age, but here we are. Being a part of Ajumma EXP has brought a sense of belonging and sisterhood that I'd always longed for, but never had. For me, Ajumma EXP means coming full circle in my lifelong search for identity and belonging in the Korean community.
AJUMMAS ARE KNOWN TO HAVE SUPER HUMAN STRENGTH. WHAT IS YOUR SUPERPOWER?
I've worked in hospice for 6 years now and have gained notoriety among my peers for having meaningful communication with typically nonverbal patients. I like to think I make them feel fully seen and heard, and I think that is my Ajumma Superpower... not just with patients, but with everyone I meet.
My other superpower is being able to train my cat Vivian to do tricks including high fives, ringing a bell, and developing our own "secret" handshake.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU’VE OVERCOME?
I struggled heavily with depression and cultural identity issues throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. By the time I was 17, I had made so many attempts on my own life that the state intervened and I spent my senior year of high school hospitalized for depression. With my family's unwavering support, I went back to school to get a bachelor's degree and even a master's degree.
Things had leveled out for me with my mental health and I had just moved to San Diego after finishing grad school when I got the dreaded 5 a.m. phone call. My adoptive father - my DAD - had passed away unexpectedly. In rebuilding myself and my new normal after his passing, I've cemented who I am and what kind of mark I want to make on this world. It took me YEARS to discover that the biggest nemesis to my success was myself.
ANY SAGE ADVICE TO LIVE BY?
Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." A high school friend made that quote into a magnet and gave it to me when I was struggling. I still have it on my fridge. Believe in yourself, even and especially when no one else does. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
FINALLY, ANY GUILTY PLEASURE YOU’RE WILLING TO SHARE?
I am a notorious microphone hog at noraebang and truly enjoy amplifying my singing voice - which actually has no business being amplified.
FAVORITE KOREAN FOOD