Last Tuesday marked my ninth year of having lived in America, and you are looking at a screenshot of my first personal website that I created with one of my favorite quotes by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after I arrived.
I didn’t know what ‘dream big’ meant. I had a pretty good life in Vietnam, except… well, when I had to take exams in high school, I guess. But that wasn’t a dream — I call it a high-school nightmare!
I always thought I would continue my education in Vietnam after that then suddenly changed my mind to study abroad at the last minute, because I was too scared of failing the college exam (you know, it was a make-or-break deal, so you either made it to a ‘good’ university or you would be seen as a ‘loser’ by the traditional social stigma). And when I said “at the last minute,” I really meant it — I still remember crushing my 'urgent' English classes to prepare for my school admission application in May for the Fall semester starting in September of the same year that even my friends and classmates back home were shocked to find out that I was leaving.
I had never been to America before, but America in my mind was always the land of freedom where I could picture myself not having to memorize my teacher’s personal take on a poem written by a deceased author just to pass a literature test.
As a girl growing up in a decent family and having a strong father figure, I was told by many people that my career would be easy and granted anyway so I shouldn’t need to worry. But I never felt comfortable when I heard it; in fact, I hated it. Though I did doubt myself on my capability in academics back then, I knew deep down inside that I could do better. I wanted to break free. I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to grow. I wanted to be myself. I wanted to go to America, and so I did in August 2011.
My birthday this year would mark exactly a third of my life spent in America to date, but America to me has always felt like my second home since the first day of my arrival, when I didn’t know anyone here and got confused about why New York (upstate) was so ‘spread-out’ and ‘quiet’ not like New York (city) at all.
Like many Americans, I also watched the Democratic National Convention that happened last week and I think they did a great job overall. There were so many good speeches, but there was one outstanding statement that Mrs. Obama said that I could relate to so much when she opened up by saying “You know I hate politics.” If you knew me before the pandemic, you knew I was never the one who participated in conversations on politics. In fact, I avoided talking about politics — not because I was afraid of it or because I was afraid of conflicts, but because I just had no interest in the political world or other people’s dramas and schemes at all. That was how I viewed politics, but when I started seeing how big of a cost we the people have to pay under the wrong political leaders — not only financially, but also physically and mentally, and hundreds of thousands of people have died from the pandemic in America alone — I’ve realized how important it is that we all need to do better in condemning the bad politics and advocating the good politics.
I was the girl who slept through all her classes in high school. I was the girl who was told many times that “your dad would get you a job so why do you have to worry”. I was the girl who questioned her own worth and also the girl who avoided conversations on politics. America doesn’t change me, but America shows me who I am and aspires me to become, to have dreams, to work hard towards my dreams, and to share my learnings with others.
I’ve grown so much in almost a decade of being here that even though I know I'm not perfect, I’m proud of who I am today. And that is why I want to remind you of how aspirational America used to be, and how it could be again if we have the right person to run the country. Like many people, I didn’t come to America because it was run by the Democrats or the Republicans, but because I was inspired by what America, as a whole, collectively represented.
So if there is anything that I want to leave you with from my blog post this week, it is this:
Don’t give up on America. Fight for America, fight with America, and continue having faith in America. Because this November, America will show to the world once again why people look up to America and what the American dream is by selecting the right person for President, the one who is capable of leading America — not Democrat or Republican but collectively as a whole — to come out of its four-year chapter of darkness to be the number one aspirational country in the world again. Because this November, America will have a new President, and the new President will be Joe Biden.