Vignettes from My 2017— Part I

Before diving into this exciting, free-writing “exercise,” I’d like to shout out to Vy Vu, a dear friend of mine whom I just gotten to know this past year, and whom I admire so much for her passion and artistic endeavors. Vy came up with the reflection prompts below and encouraged her friends to spend time thinking back on this past year. I’m grateful to be one of them.

I tend to think of reflection as a kind of meditation. Once in a while, it’s soothing to write just for myself without a specific goal in mind, like completing an assignment or fulfilling a duty of some sort. I invite you all to join me in this journey and perhaps, learn something about yourselves along the way.

Did you have any goals coming into 2017? Or did you have goals you set for yourself as 2017 went by? Did you achieve all of them/any of them? What did you do to achieve them? Who helped you achieve them?

This one is a classic, some people call it a cliché. I have never been the kind of person who really set a goal at the beginning of the year or know right away what I need to achieve in particular. I tend to realize along the way that I want something rather than saying to myself, “oh yes, I’d like that to happen, please.”

I’m more of a wanderer who doesn’t know where I’m going but firmly believe that I’m going somewhere.

Coming into 2017, I knew I was going into a year full of adventures. France, Europe, and more Europe. Then D.C. took me by surprise and all of a sudden, I felt like this would be the place I want to be after graduation. I wanna go to journalism school. I wanna both be in a newsroom and out in the streets reporting and talking to folks. That said, I could have never come close to any of that if there hadn’t been so many warm, kind and generous people I’ve met and/or gotten to know better, my Montpellier people, Tram, Gail, Vy, Leo, my peers at The Wilson Center. At the same time, the people I’ve been lucky enough to call my people were always there for me. I can’t imagine going through all the personal turmoil this year without Mai, Lan, Hannah and Zan.

Point is, no matter what I do, what gets me out of bed in the morning remains the same — I want to be happy and help other people; I want to be able to eventually give back, to my family and the community that embraces and encourages me to follow my path. Not exactly a goal to be achieved but it is a process that renews itself and very likely, just keeps going.

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Name your three biggest achievements in 2017 (could be professional, personal, artistic, spiritual…). Who/what helped you achieve these? And did you learn anything from these achievements?

Let’s get a bit casual here cause I can never act sentimental or serious for too long. Any achievement is worth appreciating, big or small. I’m not good at memorizing stuff so here are three (most random) things that cross my mind right now.

Travelling the hell out of Western Europe was the topic I ranted about most frequently this year some might find it annoying… I’ve said it too many times but travelling is as much of a learning experience as enjoyable. Feel free to ask me to arrange a three-week trip around Western Europe in February (one of the coldest/worse times to be travelling), I promise not to disappoint you. Talk to me in French and you’ll see at least for now, five months living in southern France hasn’t gone to waste. Ask me all about making the best out of hostels that require you to go outside the building, through a yard, into a bar, down to the basement — in the low 30s weather — to find the bathroom, which by the way, only has two modes of water, freezing ass cold or boiling — and I can assure you, you’ll be fine. Challenge me to make the creamiest red wine risotto with minimal tools in my 15m2 studio; and dear, you might be surprised :P.

Aix-en-Provence, April 2017.

These must have sounded so mundane and superficial until they happened to me. I constantly crave those moments when I figure out how to resolve the tiny problems in life. While it’s important to keep ourselves intact with what’s going on in this crazy world, and to openly discuss the burning issues that impact millions of lives, at the end of the day, we all come home to deal with our own problems. One lesson I learned in 2017 is that we are indeed the biggest critics of ourselves and so I try to give myself credit for even the littlest accomplishments. We don’t have to be so harsh and critical all the time, do we? Next time you nail that baby step leading up to that bigger goal of yours, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back!

The second greatest moment this year happened to me right in front of Prospect, the famous hall with the our notorious Jorge goose of MHC. I was putting my dishes away after dinner with Tram when Mir, whom then I’d only met at the callback earlier that day, came to drag me outside near the open cabin by Lower Lake. I was totally captivated *insert being-shocked meme* when they started singing Ella Fitzgerald’s How High The Moon so beautifully and joyfully at me. They then gave me a rose, a “note” and a mini V8 tomato juice can, for which I was dead for a good 10 seconds because it was too cute and hilarious and surreal. That’s when I knew, Mount Holyoke Victory Eights, one of the most prestigious a capella groups in the nation, just sang me into their family.

I’ve loved performing since 8th grade and although throughout high school I was in Glee Ams, I never had the chance to truly pursue music, not to mention something as incredible as a capella. I have admired the group for a long tine and I doubt that I’ve missed any V8s performance except for my semester abroad. Whenever I was in the audience, I had secretly wished that someday I’d be on stage as a V8, too. Hell yes, better late than never, I finally dragged my butt to audition and for some magical reason, got in and had the best time singing my heart out with them kindest and weirdest peeps ❤. I’m also grateful to join the group at a time when they intentionally strive toward inclusion and diversity so that we continue to better serve as a representative of the Mount Holyoke community.

The past 2017 marks another personal milestone for me in my relationship with my little sis. Growing up, we were never close or talked to each other so much until she went to high school. I used to feel like I was the outsider looking at my sis and that she was the totally opposite of me. I was wrong.

I remember her reaching to me about applying to one of VietAbroader’s summer projects in March. Needless to say I was overjoyed. My VA friends didn’t know she was my sister till after she got in and only then, they started raving about how amazing and sharp and witty she was during her hour-long interview. I was a proud sister, haha. Watching her grow more closely this summer throughout this entire year, I now see that we have so much in common than I ever expected. She has a knack for the arts too. She loves singing/rapping with her deep voice comme moi, dances pretty damn well, likes to choreograph, likes freaking event planning and PR, and have also recruited people for extracurricular projects. Dang it, I am a proud sister, again. She is even interested in similar if not the exact same colleges as I was 5 years ago. Now she even considers going to Mount Holyoke if she gets accepted. The legacy is real. :D

Anyhow, my baby, keep working hard and having fun like you always do and I can’t wait to welcome you to the States in no time!

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What do you think was your biggest struggle in 2017? In what ways did this struggle impact you positively and negatively? Did you overcome that struggle? If you haven’t overcome this struggle, do you have any plans to move forward? What are those plans?

Adaptation. Re-entry. Adjustment. Acceptance.

Going places is great but undeniably it is also a double-edged knife. I was living with such a lower pace in Europe that when I got back to school, I had one of the worst mental breakdowns ever. I questioned every decision I made. Joining more orgs. Not spending as much time as I’d like to with my friends. Taking up a new job at school. Maxing out my work study hours. Not letting anything go. Wearing the senior hat, I felt like I was too distracted to focus on the so-called real goal post-graduation. Going back or staying here doesn’t depend solely on what I want or can do. I did work so hard all the time yet I was perplexed because I could not devote my best to each of my commitments —and most importantly, to be present in the moment. I wanted to stay inside that bubble but also needed to get out.

Finding equilibrium is an ongoing struggle for many among us now that we arrive at this era where multitasking, productivity, pressure, stress, ambition, all these invisible forces within our complex minds do not cease to affect the way we live our lives. We want one thing, the other thing, also this one right here and that one right there too. We don’t seem to happily settle with what we have so we’re afraid to go against the current. We fear of slowing down and getting left behind.

This vicious cycle comes in different shapes and forms for different people, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to it. My biggest struggle in 2017 was finding my balance and it still is for this new year but I’m glad I’m moving forward with so much positivity and support from my circle.

That’s all for now…Let me know if you’d like to hear my perspectives on something else that happened in 2017 and I can include them in the second part of this series. :) Happy New Year’s Day!