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Dreams are like lovers

This is not about "Don't give up on your dreams"; but let me tell you a story first.

When I was five, maybe even younger, I dreamed of becoming a teacher. Honestly, I don't think I even knew what "dreams" really meant at the time. My parents told me that every day, I would arrange all my stuffed animals in rows as if we were in a classroom, stand in front of them with my ruler on one hand, and talk to them about life... at five (yes, I had lived). My grandpa called me "bà cụ khóm" (which basically means "the witty old lady"). I took so much pride in my classes with my stuffed animal students that I remember even checking on their homework the next day.

Then I started elementary school. Needless to say, my first-grade teacher turned out to be my biggest idol during that time. I wished one day I would be just like her, beautiful and intelligent, and her handwriting was even more flawless than all the script fonts in Word if you know what I mean. So that made me want to be a teacher even more. It inspired me to hold the "class monitor" position for the first nine years of school, which was actually a pretty cool "gig" because being a class monitor means you're automatically trusted by the teacher as you lead the class, which also means I got a lot of free passes for not studying the class materials!

Obviously, also because of that, I think I went from one of the top students in the class in elementary school to "doing OK" in middle school. Then I got into the best class in one of the best high schools in Vietnam, and everything changed. I didn't want any attention in high school so I tried to stay away from all positions of power, and I wasn't interested in studying at all so I slept through all classes to the point that all my teachers didn't even bother "waking me up" anymore. If I could have a dime for every time I was caught sleeping in class, I would have become a millionaire by now. Well... of course, my grades also showed a clear inverse correlation with my hours of sleep, and I was convinced that I was not meant to be either a teacher or a scholar.

Ask any of my high school friends and they'll tell you that there were only two things that could wake me up: food, or any sort of performing art extracurricular activities that I could take part in. My first dream must sound ridiculous (hello, anyone's hiring teachers who slept in every lecture and had zero interest in textbooks?) I hated going to class but I loved singing and acting. When I wasn't "studying", I played the piano and wrote songs. I then dreamed of becoming an artist.

My fear of having to take the university admission exam in Vietnam turned out to be my everyday nightmare, so I decided to study abroad at the super last minute. May was when I started to prepare and apply, to be precise.

Like most people, I didn't know what I should major in at that time so I could enjoy but also graduate and be able to find a job, which was exactly why I went with a very niche major: Business Management. I then went to take on Communications and Marketing to satisfy my thirst for creativity as my dream of becoming an artist also stopped right there. So I dreamed again. This time, it was quite a different kind of dream. All I wanted at that time was to get a job, any job, and be able to continue working in the US after my student visa expired.

I did end up getting a job, almost two months before I graduated. However, little did I know that my career path shared nothing in common with any of my dreams before, nor turned out to be the last thing I could ever imagine myself doing (I still remember that my Math grade ranking was the second-last in high school while I'm an analyst now, which I'm sure makes a lot of sense and is also very predictable). But had I not moved on from my previous dreams without considering all the other opportunities that I have, I would never have known that I could actually be pretty good at logic, have a job that I do actually enjoy, and also continue staying in the US after I graduated.

Dreams are like lovers. Our first dream is like our first love: pure and very hard to let go of. A few are like our long-term relationship limbo: we know it doesn't feel right, but exiting makes us feel defeated; we'd lose all of our accumulated 'investments'; plus, since we're always told "Don't give up", we turn to question ourselves: "Perhaps that's just what it takes to achieve our dreams?" There are also these farfetched dreams here and there that are like our crushes: our secret wishes that may not be practical IRL (yet) but they sure give us butterflies. And then there's another dream: a dream that we keep building up, day after day, regardless of all the obstacles thrown in our way and the people who tell us there's no way it's going to work; and we're humbled but empowered to keep building it, because, despite all the wrongs, it still feels right. That's the relationship you will want to end up being with. That's the dream you should never give up on.

So I won't tell you "Do not quit", but I hope you will listen to your feelings and allow your dreams to communicate with you so that you are clear for yourself what to quickly move on from and what to hold on to (remember just like relationships, two-way communication is vital). The dream that you decide to keep might or might not be your first dream or one that you've been invested in the most (just like you will get married to your spouse who might or might not be your first love or your long-term relationship limbo), but know this answer clearly to yourself: Is my goal to be married to my first dream? To prove that my investments make sense? Or to have a meaningful life?

Listen carefully and pay attention to the signs that the universe sends to you at every step of your journey. Don't blindly hold on to your existing dreams if it feels wrong. Open your mind and invite dreams into your life. Allow them to manifest. They will strengthen your existing dreams, or they will present to you in a new form of dreams that you might have never even thought of, or both! However it will be, keep nurturing them consistently and persistently. Give them your best shot and patiently wait for the right timing. One day, you will harvest, and you will be proud of yourself.

***Throwing back to me drawing my then dream on my lantern at The Lights Festival two years ago, which did come true a year later. I might not be a teacher or an artist per se, but I am optimistic. I will keep on dreaming, giving it my best, and enjoying the journey ahead. You should, too :)


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