Linh Do’s story is such an inspiring story of how constant effort makes her creative dream come true. In this interview, let’s look back on her journey and explore the production process of her highlighted projects.
Q: What motivated you to choose your current career path?
It’s a long story. I’ve shared this story a few times about how I loved K-pop. Childish as it may sound, I just found that market to be genuinely inspiring. They have done tons of creative things that went viral globally. Nowadays, K-pop is such a big phenomenon in the creative scene, not only because of the music but also because of things like promotional campaigns coming along with it. Even the technology they use there, such as AI and CGI, is quite spectacular.
Growing up listening to K-pop and knowing how many things they can do within just one music video or promotional campaign, from social media and websites to other interactive forms like reality shows and such, I feel so inspired. Thus, I was motivated to immerse myself in the creative industry, which has endless possibilities with those mediums and how people convey messages. That brought me further to learn about what they have done, like their overall communication and marketing strategies, focusing on visual communication because that might be the fastest way to reach the audience. That’s how everything started.
Q: How did you overcome all the difficulties to land a job in the Creative industry in the US?
On the way to finding out the strategy of how I could overcome difficulties, I believe it’s essential to focus on self-reflection and prioritization. To me, 70% is about mentality, and 30% is about determination and execution.
Actually, it was not until recently that I kind of settled on that “mind battle” of like: “Do I want a glamorous life or an easy life per se?” “Should I return to Vietnam, enter the industry or have a stable job?” I feel like, ultimately, for a person like me who has experienced a lot, written many reflections on all that stuff, learned to understand myself and come up with my own prioritization, it’s okay to have a good or easy life if I end up with a STEM-based job, which is quite trendy in the US, or even doing something I like in Vietnam or other Asian markets, but that won’t keep me moving or excited to wake up every day.
There were three things that motivated me to move forward. Firstly, I found the creative world instilled a sense of curiosity. It has been a constant journey of me reaching out to that world, talking about it, internalizing it, and reflecting on it. So, I feel like it’s a place for me.
Secondly, I had a good understanding of myself and a determination to move forward. I know that I have several skills that can contribute to the creative world. I’m good at writing, which can be used to make strategies or concept directions in that world. I know that many people in this field come from an artistic background, who were born with such talents and grew up with art as a hobby, which I might not have, but I can contribute to the creative world with my project management, organizational and stakeholder-coordinating skills.
So, by understanding myself and going back to why I started this journey – not only because of my passion but also because the world might need my talent, I know that I’m on the right track. It might indeed be easier for me to return to Vietnam or any Asian country to work because I’m more familiar with the culture. Still, given that I have some work experience here in the US, two years of studying in India for high school and many other opportunities to travel around the world, I feel like staying in the US is the best option for me. Emerging in a diverse environment would help me learn about organizational structure and work methodology, adding to my creative expertise.
Finally, it’s all about the execution, which usually leads back to what successful people have done, like creating a habit or discipline to manage their lives. I’ve always been a determined person who puts 100% to whatever I do because I don’t want to regret not trying my best. On the one hand, I may feel shameless if I have to reach out to people to ask for help or learn something from them. On the other hand, when I’m desperate enough, I will find all possible ways to do what I want.
Q: Can you share more about the production of some highlighted projects you have participated in? What do you find the most meaningful about those projects, and how do you feel about being a part of those projects?
The best part of all my projects is that I can contribute my creative vision and convey my original messages to the audience through those productions.
I have played many roles in those projects, such as Creative Project Manager, Creative Director, etc. Looking back, I’m still very proud of myself when I was still doing “underpaid” or “free” projects. My first project was a music video production in 2020 for a young Vietnamese artist – Hannah Hoang, who used to study in the UK and has known me since high school. She started her career as a YouTuber and content creator with many song covers, including one with more than 12 million views – a cover of a Korean hit titled “Way Back Home.”
One day, when she wanted to debut as a singer and knew that I had been working in the creative field with some experience, she asked me to help her make a music video. I had dreamed about doing something similar in 5 or 10 years when I would have more experience, but at that time, upon realizing that my dream job literally came from someone just around me, I knew that Hannah’s request was like a “once in a lifetime” chance for me, so I grabbed the opportunity. I did some research and came along to tell Hannah that we would work together and figure out how to do the branding, strategies, sponsorship, etc. She didn’t have money to pay me then, and I didn’t let her do so because I was just as new as her in making music videos. So, as no monetary value was involved, I had the creative freedom to do and say what I wanted in that production. That’s how everything started, but the highlight was really about the demo song I got from Hannah back then.
Hannah Hoang – ĂN (TAKE YOUR TIME) ft. KrisD (Official Music Video)
The song is a story of a person who is recovering from a break-up. With not too much of love experience, I found another meaning of the song: encouraging people to care for themselves during tough times through small things like eating, going home, and chilling. That’s why the English name of the song is “Take Your Time,” but the Vietnamese name is “Ăn,” meaning “Eat,” which is so symbolic. It’s like a reminder for people to keep up with that habit and move on. Listening to the song during COVID-19 time, when I also had a lot of things going on in my life, I immediately knew that it could heal many people. So, I came up with a creative vision of talking about mentality and symbolizing it by a “splitted personality” of one being really sad, seemingly unable to overcome difficulties, and the other being responsible and consistently trying to protect oneself. That’s how we made the storyline with two opposite characters you can see in the music video.
I also participated in the project as an art director and created a lot of symbolic scenes in the music video, such as flowers on the dishes, which symbolize overcoming sadness. Hannah’s name is a flower’s name as well. We did a lot of research to develop those ideas to convey positive and meaningful messages in every scene, so I was very happy.
Recently, there was another production that made me incredibly proud. It’s my Winning Award of ASIANetwork’s Student Video Challenge 2022, hosted for the first time by ASIANetwork, a prestigious organization in the US that focuses on promoting Asian studies and other cultural knowledge. I’m the Director-Producer of this project, in which I own everything from the creative concept and scripting to the production and post-production. This project is such a big step for me, starting from only helping to deliver creative assets at the beginning of my journey to having more experience and being able to own my assets. With this award, I feel more confident that I actually have a talent in this creative world.
In this challenge, we were trying to respond to a prompt: “Drawing on the challenges and successes of your countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, prepare a video presentation to the World Health Organization (WHO) with a recommendation for future pandemic preparedness.” I remember it was such a busy time for me because I had to prepare for my internship and grad school applications. Still, my advisor reached out and encouraged me to participate, and eventually, he also became the advisor for my team in this challenge. At that time, I took it “lightly” because I thought the challenge was just an extra thing to do with no pressure, like a hobby, so indeed, when writing a proposal for the challenge, I felt like my creative vision expanded, and things came easy.
The Flashback of Covid-19: A Story from a Vietnamese Mother to Her COVID Baby
I planned to spend about an hour a week gathering my teammates, making a proposal, etc. I worked internationally with my team because people were in different time zones – one in the US and two others from Vietnam whom I used to work with. We did some research independently, and it took us only 30 minutes to brainstorm ideas for the challenge together. From a producer standpoint, if you can create a comfortable environment for people to thrive, the working process will be 100% efficient. That’s what I’ve done for the team so they can raise their voice and contribute effectively to the challenge.
At first, we wanted to interview people because that was the easiest way to make the video. But when we did some research, something came up from all the statistics and materials. We found a documentary from the Vietnamese National Television channel (VTV), which told a story of mothers giving birth to their children during Covid time. I thought maybe we could choose a more particular perspective to tell our story just like that. Then we ended up with a storyline of a mother giving birth during COVID-19 and giving suggestions on how we could brace ourselves for the future by sending wishes to her child. That’s perfect! We have a concept, a storyline, and a great team in which everyone works well together. I couldn’t be more grateful, and we totally deserve the prize. Although the video was created for a competition, which is quite academic, my hope for the future is to create productions that resonate with the mass audience.
Interview with Winners of the 2022 Student Video Challenge: Luther College & Vietnamese Team Members
Q: Do you have any advice for young creatives struggling to follow their dreams? What should they do to be courageous, determined, and resilient enough to “survive” and “thrive” in the Creative industry?
Everyone has their own priority in life. I agree that a person must do manual jobs to make ends meet at some point, but they can still take a small step to follow their dream every day. For example, they can develop the habit of watching music videos (just like me) and sharing their appreciation or criticism on Facebook. That could be a way to nurture creativity.
I used to be in a place where I didn’t know which would be the right direction for me. It seemed like it took me forever to get to my dream destination. However, I started the journey as a digital marketing intern, then switched to a media production intern, and later worked on music videos and eventually earned an award. Currently, I work on web production and brand management. So, you can see that it took all those small steps to get me to where I am now. My mentor told me that if I didn’t come from an artistic background or wasn’t surrounded by a creative environment that could push me to go fast, I could go the “detour” way – going round and round but still making progress. Today, you may learn one thing, but one day, you will realize you have learned so many things along the way.
I usually don’t advise anything because I’m not in someone else’s shoes, but what I would like to share from my experience is to return to the “mind battle” of prioritization. Use your resources to move forward on this track. Ask people around. And at the same time, protect yourself, love yourself, and motivate yourself by celebrating even just a small achievement. And reflect more often.
Follow Linh Do here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blinhblinh/
Writer, and creative.
Starting from 2013, March 20 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Happiness, with the aim of encouraging people of all ages, as well as businesses, classrooms, and governments, to recognise the significance of happiness in human existence. This day also serves as a reminder to strive for an economic growth strategy that is more inclusive, fair, and well-balanced, and prioritises the well-being and happiness of all individuals .
Today, at the 10-year mark of the celebration, I suggest we carefully review our lives and be honest: Are we truly happy right now, or at least, on the right path to sustainable happiness?
Recently, I had a long conversation with a friend in Vietnam. We talked about many topics that couldn’t be solved by individuals. At first, I did not realise that such a discussion correlated to his anxiety and just shared my general view of everything he wanted us to discuss. After a few days (yes, we texted back and forth for days), however, I came to know that he was under pressure and couldn’t sleep for 2 days. That was when I decided to share my in-depth thoughts about his concerns.
I guess he couldn’t find anyone else with whom he could talk about these topics, which prevented him from sleeping and urging him to hit the gym at 1 a.m., saying something like “I don’t think I’m productive enough today, so I must do something”. I shared this story with another friend here in the UK, and he said: “That’s how men usually do. Your friend keeps getting busy to self-isolate because he doesn’t want to get attached to anyone”, which means he’s trying to cope with difficulties alone.
I was shocked. And I was angry. I couldn’t imagine what modern society has done to shape our minds into a little box in which we are persuaded to believe that life is all about earning money and stepping up the social ladder to feel safe and build mutual trust in our social circles. No one can deny the importance of financial stability, however, being obsessed with productivity, avoiding social connection, and ignoring our well-being isn’t a good way to get there. It’s time we measured the quality of our lives with a multi-dimensional approach such as Bourdieu’s theory of capital  instead of a single-dimensional approach such as Marx’s theory of capital .
Why is this important?
Bear in mind that life is not a marathon, and we humans are not robots. By visualising a life we would like to live in and setting a clear goal to achieve that life, we will be motivated without being burned out. We will learn how to control our expectations and stop worrying too much about the future. We will work smarter, not harder, and feel okay asking for help whenever we need it.
We will also realise that life is abundant and there are enough rewards for everyone, so there’s no need to rush or to compete with others to get what we want as soon as possible. We will trust the flow of life and only focus on what we can do, not the outcomes. We will be more relaxed and enjoy every moment of life with the faith that our effort pays off one day.
Our time is limited, so don’t waste it just for surviving. Start living, now!
Keep calm, and be happy!
 Read more about the International Day of Happiness here: https://www.un.org/en/observances/happiness-day
 According to Bourdieu (1984), individuals belonging to diverse social positions have varying levels of three types of capital (not just one type): economic, social, and cultural. This means we should consider building up all these forms of capital to raise our social rank and increase the quality of our lives. In order words, “making money” isn’t enough since we also have to manage our time to “extend our social network” and “acquire new knowledge and skills”.
Follow this link for further explanation: https://www.sociologygroup.com/pierre-bourdieu-capital-explained/
 Marx’s idea of capital (1867) is only limited to the materialistic perspective, which refers to commodities or money. In other words, our social status is determined by the number of products and the amount of money we make. The essential element of labour, human resources, is completely ignored, leading to unsustainable economic development when not considering the life quality of humans.
Unfortunately, we (probably more often, those in developing countries) are more familiar with this theory and therefore, can easily get caught up in the paradox of choice: work to live or live to work?
Follow this link for further explanation:
Writer, and creative.
Having been on the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2021, Huy Duc Pham is the co-founder of Classavo – a US-based company providing an affordable all-in-one platform to optimise the teaching and learning experience. In a recent interview with WARO, Huy shared his personal learning experience in Vietnam and the US, his motivation to start a career in Educational Technology from his Film and Media background, and the importance of mental health awareness in Education and the ability to re-design life.
Q: Why did you choose the US to study abroad?
Initially, the idea didn’t come from me. Back at the time, precisely ten years ago, I wasn’t that decisive and most of my important decisions in life weren’t done from my judgment. I didn’t do it by myself. My parents wanted me to go to the US, especially my father. He dreamed of going abroad and studying, but he never could make it into reality. So, I was supposed to be the one who made that dream come true (for him). There was a lot of trouble later with me myself. I was so unprepared that everything seemed a lot harder.
But looking back, I would say I partly made the decision as well. I was a high school student who wasn’t very good in class. I only studied what I wanted to study. When my parents presented me with an opportunity to go to (probably) the most powerful country on Earth, I felt inappropriate because I wasn’t as brilliant as my other friends. I didn’t know if I had the ability or if I was qualified to even do that. So, to me, it was pretty much like a decision between taking a leap of faith and trying to capitalise and hold on to that out-of-no-where opportunity to win it or just letting it go and making nothing out of it.
That was one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I chose to take it. I did not know what I could do with it. I had no idea, and I still had no progress even a few years after making that decision. But I talked to myself: If I hadn’t taken the opportunity, nothing would have come; if I had taken it, I might have made some changes.
Q: Was it like a “bet” that you chose at that time?
Yes, it was a bet for me. In Vietnam, there is a straight-up and well-defined path for students (and even for an average Vietnamese person) regarding what they should study and what role they may play in life after that. So for me, back at that time, I always wanted to know if there were any other alternative paths. I just happened to love Music Production and Filmmaking a lot, so I took a chance to see if the opportunity to study in the US could open any new doors for me or not.
Q: What are the difficulties you encountered in your student life in the US? How did you overcome them?
I had to adapt to many changes at the same time. The first one was about lifestyle. In Vietnam, I lived with my parents, who provided me with food and shelter, but then I had to manage to live alone in the US. Renting an apartment or getting food wasn’t that hard because I got it done in the first few weeks after arriving there. But there’s so much more about living in a completely new place besides food and survival ability.
Many people talked about culture shock before my trip. I listened to their advice, but I didn’t take any. I went to the US with a super high spirit and high hope that my life finally turned into a happy chapter, but then I experienced a culture shock which lasted for three years and a half. So it was a minimal amount of culture shock that dragged me down.
I also realised an ugly truth throughout my upbringing that universities have been created centuries ago to accommodate research and especially the workforce. Going to a university has been a well-defined path in which promising job opportunities and networking advances are undeniable parts of it. So I went to the university, but the idea of getting into the workforce someday was still foreign to me. I wasn’t mentally prepared to even get to the university. I went to the US and hoped to find something different, but the story was the same. Although the coursework was really good, it still felt like a pre-made path.
I’ve never vocalised it before, but I secretly felt disappointed. Later, I learned that I should be the one who has to open a new door for myself instead of waiting for any random doors to be opened for me.
Q: What motivated you to choose your current career path in Educational Technology?
It wasn’t an obvious path because it took me a long time to get there. But looking back, it was almost obvious and very natural.
Despite my limited exposure to the industry, Hollywood films influenced my choice. And I wanted to be successful like the people I admired. I was so into the influential “Inception” (2010) by Christopher Nolan because I learned that he controlled many things in the film-making process, and he especially could pay attention to details. So I started dreaming of making cool movies like that – the ones that are commercially successful and have profound values thanks to the author’s effort.
However, when I attended a career fair, I found that I didn’t fit into any roles in the industry. They couldn’t support me to make quality products that I valued so much. Besides, there was a Professor in my school who admitted that he was still paying his student loan from our school. And I was like: “Oh, sh*t! This isn’t fun!” I felt like most people in the school experienced a sense of insecurity or were just in denial about their future. So, eventually, I realised that I didn’t belong on this path anymore.
I thought I must have taken the wrong path. Maybe I should have listened to my friends and chosen something among Business, Computer Science, or Statistics and then got a regular job. I was in denial for a long time which led me to a sort of depression. I didn’t let anybody know about it, and I gave up. It was not until a friend told me about taking a gap year that I decided to take a break.
I went back to Vietnam for a gap year. I started to accept that no matter how much I love making films (and music), it wasn’t something I needed to do to survive in the world. There could have been so many paths to proceed, but I likely missed all of those opportunities because I thought I couldn’t choose any. So I tried a random path: door-to-door sales, which differs from the indoor nature of film-making and music production. I pushed myself to walk outside, talk to strangers, give them flyers, et cetera. After that time, I learned many helpful skills and realised there are so many paths a person can follow to survive. I taught myself to be more open to failure in the way I constructed and tested how to achieve my dream as well.
Then, I discovered that a part of me has always wanted to contribute to humanity. When I was so much younger, I was exposed to and inspired by biographies of famous scientists worldwide. Throughout my school years, I was not an obedient student. I got bad grades in science-related courses and slowly got convinced that my dream of becoming a scientist was no longer viable. Choosing Film and learning how to make sci-fi films was the closest thing to satisfying my unmet yearnings.
When I returned to the US, I had a new mentality and new experiences, which motivated me to finish the course with flying colours (I had never performed that well from the start). At the same time, I decided to do something with my dream. I wanted to try something harder. So I went to a networking event in Business and Technology and met Rohan – my co-founder. We started building Classavo since then.
I realised that making a good film and running a good startup are way more similar. Both paths require perseverance and creativity at the same time. I experienced the same kind of joy when people listened to my music or watched my films and when people used my product. That’s how I found the right way to fulfil my dream. Now I am creatively satisfied and have a chance to pay attention to details, which is amazing.
Q: In your opinion, do parents’ expectations result in stress? How to cope with stress in Education?
There are many challenges in which students can involve themselves to grow, and each may contain a lot of stress. However, with the right kind of education and upbringing, I don’t think any challenges will be hard. Students can get advice from their parents and still fail to achieve something, but they still attempt to do it without feeling pressured. I’ve seen some cases like that, so I think the amount of stress students may have depends on family culture and the relationship between the students and their parents.
Expectations are something else outside of the challenges but are still considered a cause of stress. The students may internalise their parents’ expectations and feel the pressure to study to pay back the investment to their parents. If they fail to do that, they will be disappointed with themselves. I experienced this kind of pressure before, and although I’ve learned many things from it, I will not recommend it.
I think we need to do more research on how to raise a child carefully and effectively. That’s also one of the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing today. Besides, the things that rescued me from disappointment were re-education and self-education. As long as there’s education after any failure, failure means something. Companionship is also necessary. I had to surround myself with less judgemental people so that they didn’t put any further disappointment in me.
Q: What has Classavo been doing to improve the teaching and learning process in a competitive and distracting world?
We interact with students and talk to them about not only our product but also their personal lives. This helps Classavo design a product to foster a good classroom learning environment.
When we are designing Classavo, there are many paths that we can take to tackle this issue and others. However, our main focus is to create a product to which students feel they belong so that they can study easily and get information effectively. We also want our product to help both teachers and students communicate in class more efficiently, make sure that the students understand the content, and let the teachers know if any students lag behind. These needs have never been met before since Rohan, and I struggled for years with many different classroom tools that weren’t helpful when we studied in university.
Personally, my advice to current students is to be proactive and try to design their own life. Keep re-designing life when needed. It’s more important than ever to learn how to do that nowadays because it’s the key to knowing exactly why they enjoy what they are doing in the first place.
Follow Huy Duc Pham here: https://huy.today/
Follow Huy on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/huydpham/
Writer, and creative.
If asked “Who are you”, how would you answer?
The 14-year-old me tried to define herself by name, age, and occupation. It was good enough then, but the updated version I made in the past two years was richer.
I have started seeing my self-worth through different dimensions, not just limited to those criteria or my achievements, which is far from the mindset of the majority. Like a fish swimming against the stream, I struggled with self-doubt and insecurity yet found a sense of freedom and relaxation.
Despite being employed and able to earn a good salary, my working motivation disappeared every time I had to immerse myself in a huge workload. At the end of 2020, I was simultaneously coordinating two advertising projects for the Lunar New Year (so-called ‘Tet Holiday’ in Vietnam), which constantly required me to stay up late to complete tasks and reply to clients’ emails. I tried not to ask for my manager’s support because she was pregnant, and about to be on maternity leave.
Soon after that period, I got burned out. My body was against me due to the lack of sleep and the ambiguity regarding my career. It was not the first time I experienced such things but the fourth time within my three initial working years, which is not a good sign. Once again, I faced a difficult choice: to continue, or to stop.
I contacted a sister who I met several years ago to ask for advice. She comforted me and invited me to a women’s circle on January 2021, just before Tet Holiday. I had never been to a similar event previously, so I was excited and nervous at the same time. The event was organised in a small room full of relaxing scents and music, which calmed my mind and soothed my soul immediately from the moment I stepped in. At the centre of the room, I saw a vase of sunflowers and cookies well-prepared on a mat. About ten women were in the circle that day. We shared our stories and did some activities together.
I felt safe and loved among these strangers. They attentively listened to me and made me believe in myself again. In their eyes, I was not an immature girl facing uncertainty in her career path, but a girl with wisdom and compassion. I was accepted even though I was not perfect. From that day, I decided to redefine myself.
I finally quit my job in April 2021. After that, I enrolled in three courses, coordinated three mental health projects, and applied for my postgraduate program in the UK. It was not easy to stay at home for a year and five months straight with no earnings. Although I was fortunate enough to get financial support from my family, I still struggled with negative thoughts. I wondered if I was off track but motivated myself to keep going. In the end, I realised it was times when I was financially unproductive that I truly dedicated myself to personal growth. And I am happy that I have found a better version of myself in such a long break. I do not know how to give a precise answer if someone asks “Who are you”, but I am sure that the answer will not be fixed and will keep changing alongside my development.
We are more than what we think about ourselves. Do not limit yourself to any dimension. Look at yourself honestly to see your potential. Unleash it. And you will be amazed at yourself.
Writer, and creative.
I have dreamed of studying abroad since I was 15, but it took me 11 years to make it come true.
I arrived in the UK in September 2022 – a week before my postgraduate program started and 18 days before my 26th birthday. Despite having never been to this country, I found it quite familiar. It may be because I have been immersed in English and exposed to images and stories about the UK long enough to consider this my second home.
Or it may be because I found the UK has a sense of cultural tolerance, which could support me to redefine myself not based on any stereotypes such as race, nationality, or gender but based on my mentality, my capacity, and my personality. I enjoy the lifestyle in Leeds with a perfect balance of vibrancy and serenity from which I can have fun and forget about homesickness. At the same time, I start cherishing my Vietnamese roots more than ever before.
I was born and raised in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. It is also the cradle of the country’s history and culture. I am lucky enough not to witness firsthand the devastation and pain that the two wars have left on this land. However, I can feel how cruel wars have been when listening to previous generations, living with them, and observing their lifestyle. The wartime is over, but people are still not relaxed. Their loss, their fear, their insecurity, their resentment, their endurance, and their tenacity remain. They have been passing on these characteristics to the next generations. Little did I know that I also inherited them all.
I used to hate my family so much because of the indescribable wound they gave me. I could not understand why my grandfather tied my uncle to a pillar and hit him as a punishment when he was small. I could not understand why my grandmother had to spend hours in the kitchen cooking 10 different dishes for the Tet holiday. I could not understand why my dad was always busy with his work and never had enough spare time for me during my childhood. And I could not understand why my mum always set high expectations for me in my studies and life. In my eyes, everything was unreasonable. Unfortunately, I could do nothing but continue to try to fulfill all duties of a child in the family to make my parents proud. I thought that they would leave me alone once I achieved what they wanted me to do, but I was wrong. More is good, always good, and even a must to have a secure life.
It is also true in a bigger picture of the economy in Vietnam in the context of post-colonialism, post-imperialism, and globalisation. Despite remarkable progress, the country is still in the economic race to prove itself on the international platform. There is still a lot of work to do so maybe that is why the hustle and bustle keep haunting people. In the past, they fought for the country’s independence. Today, they fight for the stature of the nation. It is an ongoing journey that never truly lets the people here live a day in peace. How could one escape from this truth? How could one dare to have a worry-free life in such a complicated social context? I basically could not find another way to go. As a result, I have gone a long way to accept the intergenerational wound as a part of my identity with love, understanding, and respect.
I have realised that without difficulties and sacrifices, there would be no happiness. My beloved ones are just ordinary people with unprocessed wounds, and their lives are also not easy. Yet, they have sacrificed their lives so I could have a better life. As the only person in my extended family to have a Bachelor’s degree in Vietnam and be able to study a Master’s programme abroad, I feel grateful for their sacrifices. I no longer find their expectations too high or senseless because it is my responsibility to turn all the advantages they gave me into more outstanding values. What I once thought was absurd now makes sense.
Thanks to the opportunity of studying abroad, I have had some time for self-reflection and saw my struggle from a different perspective at which I am not a victim anymore. I can build an identity for myself, and undoubtedly, the good qualities of the Vietnamese people will be my firm foundation, which is pride instead of shame. I will try my best to reach my full potential and be more mature so that my family knows their sacrifices are worthy. I want to dedicate myself to life so that one day, I can be confident to say: “I am Vietnamese!” I hope that one day my small contributions and those of the young generation of Vietnam will help the country be more powerful in all aspects so that each Vietnamese can live a more calming and happy life.
Writer, and creative.
People tend to sit down and make a list of resolutions each new year, but I prefer looking back to see how much I have grown. 2022 has been one of the most eventful years of my life and marked an important milestone in my self-love journey. I have learned many valuable lessons from which I started treating myself differently. In other words, I am kinder and more patient with myself, and more willing to make changes.
I am Vietnamese. Although I have a genuine love and respect for my family and my roots, I must admit that my life has been so stressful that I have to keep calm every time I look back. I usually felt like a loser. I could not stop comparing myself with other friends. While I was struggling to find myself the right career path, most of my friends started to accomplish everything one is supposed to do: stepping up the ladders at work from junior positions to senior or managing positions, having stable sources of income generation, travelling everywhere across the country or even abroad, getting decent accommodation and private vehicles, getting married, becoming parents, and the list goes on.
To me, they 100% fit in the general lifestyle in Vietnam, while I do not. I found myself lost in an invisible race in which I would never succeed – a race to become a typical Vietnamese of whom my parents would be proud and from whom society would praise. If I had tried harder, I might have succeeded like my friends and other people. Unfortunately, I got exhausted and gave up.
I still remember how hard I tried to live up to family and social expectations, since I was just a primary school student. At home, I was asked to listen to what my parents said without arguing back, adjust my stubbornness or boyish behaviours, and focus on my studies. At school, I was asked to arrive on time, wear a uniform, use the right compulsory ink colour in class, use the right required type of pen, write carefully, finish all my homework, and so on. There was no sign of freedom. All were obligations. However, at that time, I still enjoyed going to school because at least I had friends to study and play with me, while I only had myself as I was an only child at home. My parents were busy with their work and other problems arising in their marriage, so they could not spend quality time with me. I had very few bright memories of my childhood, especially after witnessing my parents’ big argument in our living room one day and finding a piece of paper with the word “divorce” they put on the table.
As a little girl, I could not understand what happened but since then, I have always felt insecure. I lived with my mum and rarely saw my dad. She kept telling me that my dad was away on a business trip, so I grew up with an ongoing yearning for his presence. I could not even remember when I started to tell myself that maybe I was the reason for my parents’ separation, but it haunted me for so long that I tried to compensate for their loss by making them proud in many ways. I started to fully dedicate my time and energy to being a top student in middle school and high school, taking care of myself, learning how to cook, and doing the housework so my mum could focus on her work. I even quit playing basketball and other hobbies because she did not support me. I did everything I could and achieved my goals. Nevertheless, I was not satisfied. It took me two long periods of anxiety disorder, a new pair of glasses for short-sighted eyes, and a diagnosis of arrhythmia to realise that I needed to change.
Soon after getting to university, besides my studies, I participated in as many extra-curriculum activities as possible to make new friends and acquire new skills. I founded a music club and led a team of about twenty members to organise several music shows in my second and third years. I coordinated a career orientation program for high school students in Hanoi in my senior year. Everything seemed great but in fact, I struggled with my career choice. Despite my passion for English, I was not motivated enough to become an English teacher or an interpreter. As a result, I graduated and started working in Marketing – a different field from what I was educated at university. I could catch up with the job pretty well thanks to some transferable skills I gained from my on-campus activities, making good impressions on my managers and completing all the tasks. However, something was still missing. That is why I had to switch jobs four times in three years, making my parents worried.
After all those years, these questions popped up in my mind:
I spent so much time answering each of them and decided to leap. I realised I had enough of living my life as if it was for someone else. I had enough of seeking my parents’ attention and recognition by achieving titles such as “good daughter”, “top student” or “diligent employee” yet were all meaningless to me. And I also had enough of a silly competitive life in which I had to look around and try to do the same as other people did, even at the same pace as theirs. Thus, I no longer identified myself with those titles or identified my values only with superficial things. I took a gap year in 2021 to redirect my future. I applied to a postgraduate programme in the UK and fortunately, I started coming back to student life last year at Leeds Beckett University with my new favourite major: Media and Culture.
Indeed, my life has not been easy, but I am grateful for not giving up on myself. I am grateful for my courage to step back and give myself the necessary time to relax and listen to my inner voice. And I am grateful for having followed that voice to get out of my comfort zone and make the seemingly impossible possible.
I do not buy the idea that the youth are supposed to be full of passion and energy like a steady flame. Since any flame could be in danger of being extinguished if it is not refuelled and sheltered from winds or rainstorms, any passion could be in danger of being vanished if the body and the mind do not get enough rest. Everyone has gone through their battles, and it is understandable to move on at one’s suitable pace. It is okay to slow down, take a deep breath, and give ourselves some more time to prepare for the next steps. Head up for the future, but do not forget to live in the present.
Writer, and creative.