I was born in the summer of 1990, year of the Horse. My Vietnamese blood carries the Earth element of the five elements found in Asian culture. My destiny is to travel.
When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to prove myself. I was stubborn, hasty, and spontaneous. I believed success would come early if I focused 200 per cent on it. Now I realize that it might take a lifetime to achieve success. Reality is bitter, not sweet. The main reason that I was so anxious is because I wanted to give my mother and my family members a better life. But later I felt life passed me by. What had I achieved? For more than 20 years, I only cared for others. I realized that if I am not genuinely happy and satisfied, I will not be able to take care of another person wholeheartedly. Instead I will become a persistent burden to others.
It was then that I decided to go back to Vietnam, away from my family in the United States. Many people considered this impulsive. I wanted to gain more experience, to prove myself, and simply refresh. Although I have been living on my own for many years, this was the first time I was so far away from my family. Everyone asked why I had to do it, when I had a very stable job as an interior designer at an architecture firm. In addition, I also had side jobs as a speaker, reporter, program producer and studio designer at Saigon Network TV, a major television channel for overseas Vietnamese in Houston. I was famous and popular, but in my heart I knew this was fleeting, vain, and did not feel “real.”
Change takes sacrifice. I sacrificed a comfortable yet stagnant life. I did not want to become complacent with what I had. Self-satisfaction can deteriorate our determination to strive for better things in life. If I am true to myself, I know my sacrifices today will bear fruit later, especially financially. I want my mother to live more comfortably, no longer having to worry about monthly bills or working overtime so much that she neglects her well being.
To begin such a big journey, I prepared for half a year and learned about the local culture, neighbourhoods, places to live, and possible work. Thanks to an online job search and LinkedIn, I landed about five interviews via Skype with big Vietnamese design companies and tried to find a job that best suits my abilities. Although I was born in Vietnam, I was away from the country for more than 15 years, thus everything seemed completely new to me.
The apartment I rented at that time was completely empty, without air conditioning, bed, or mattress. My first two months there I had to pinch every penny to furnish it. Was it difficult? Yes. Sad? Of course. And lonely? That is inevitable.
My first job in Vietnam was not easy. It was a large design and construction company where everyone had to work overtime to meet the bidding deadlines. It was normal to eat and sleep at the company. During my six months there, I worked many nights until 2 or 3 a.m. Sometimes I worked throughout the night for 40 hours without stopping. When I got home, I cried because of the pressure and because the effort I spent was not appreciated or acknowledged. There is a saying about New York City, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” I wondered if New York was as difficult as Vietnam? In Vietnam, people can trample on each other to live. Trickery happens if you let down your guard, and walking down the street you must be afraid and alert. I could clearly see the nature of greed. I even blamed myself for making the wrong decision. I should have listened to everyone and stayed in America. But, I’m stubborn. After completing the final project, I decided not to extend my contract. I reminded myself that I went to Vietnam to live and find myself. Since that job didn’t give me the feeling I was looking for, I just let it go.
Luck comes to those who dare to challenge themselves. I currently work at RED Design Group, an international architecture and design company from Australia. I come up with ideas, design architectural details and the interiors of many different areas such as shops, large supermarkets, shopping centers, restaurants and entertainment venues. This work gives me many opportunities to interact with foreign partners who invest in Vietnam, where I can express and foster my communication and negotiating skills. Working in such a professional and demanding environment is not easy. But, most of the clients I work with are interested in my open and innovative way of working. I dare to speak my mind, to act and clearly prove my ideas in a professional manner – what most young Vietnamese people are still afraid to do.
I am currently facing difficulties in my work to survive in this society. Fortunately, I have met a few friends and professionals who are willing to share their experiences and guide me whenever necessary. They are not wealthy or lavish. They are people from difficult circumstances and from poor areas, who have made it on their own. They do not help me financially, but they help with life experience, which is invaluable to me. Upon writing this, I remembered a famous phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m a woman who likes challenge.
After more than a year, I have to admit that I have learned many things. I have changed a lot, both in my way of life and way of thinking. I am a completely different person – deeper and more mature. I appreciate the authentic values of human beings rather than the soulless ones found on the facade. Currently I am satisfied and do not regret my choices. To me, true happiness is not found in the comfort zone, but it lies in surviving the struggle, experiencing ebbs and flows, and living without fear of anything.
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This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt