A conversation I don’t always have

On identity, chasing dreams and leading a life of fulfillment

They can take a boy away from the village, but can never take the village away from the boy.— said my beloved professor.

My lecturer-slash-friend said this sentence when we were having lunch together talking about my interest in the paradigm of identity and identity crisis under the impact of cultural conflict.

He is always like that, talking to me and emboldening me by his very own life stories. From the first time he gave a speech in our classroom back in 2010, he inspired a then little, quiet girl with how he and his siblings handled his newly passed grandfather, and that the only thing he inherited from him is a world map. Throughout his lectures two semesters later, and many suppers since, I have leanerned much more from him than any other people I’ve met in my life.

Two days ago, we had our lunch for two for the first time, after a myriad of failed arrangements. In that one hour and a half, we were talking about what I vigorously, passionately want to do with my life. The method used was the same as he always does: telling his personal stories and not asking many questions. What was great about our conversation is that, after that Monday, I can see myself in a way I never did before.

How many times can you find a student interested in identity? None. How many times can you find a student interested in Islamophobia? None. You are exceptional, do you know that? You are different from the other students that I’ve had, and that’s what makes you exceptional.

(Note: I’m native Vietnamese, and I’m an atheist.)

He, as a professional psychologist, looked me in the eye, saying he wondered what makes me keen on what we were talking. I just shook my head, saying I didn’t know. He insisted that he believed ‘there MUST be something special, going on in this woman’s mind’, something like a life experience, just that I didn’t want to tell him. I assured him that then I had not found it yet, and if I did I’d disclose it immediately (but that will only be for the next time we meet in two months).

We parted when tears filled my eyes hearing him say that my professor had a bias that I will succeed, and that if I need any support, mentally and even fianancially, he’s totally, one hundred percent, having my back. After all, how many times in life do you have a chance to meet someone like that?

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