Overall, I’m a happy and positive self.
No, I don’t feel that way about myself all the time. I have self-doubts. I envy people. I cry over past pains. I fear that the future will go wrong. Indeed, I do these a lot.
My life is not just about joys and happy moments (I wouldn’t define living such a life as “happy” either). I had experienced some hardships in my childhood. They were really painful. Though I had stopped questioning “why did this happen to me” and accepted the fact, their impacts are still visible in my thoughts and emotions. I also encountered personal failures which made me think that I’m useless.
The morning I woke up and heard my auntie telling me in her broken voice that: “Your dad’s gone”, my mind went blank. Everything became blurred in front of my eyes, yet I didn’t cry. I went upstairs to tell my sister and she replied: “You’re kidding me, right?” Lying next to her on the bed was a photo of my dad and I on the beach. I was hugging it to sleep the night before and prayed that my dad, who was in the hospital, would be well soon and come home to us. We had to go to my dad’s hometown on that day, to my grandfather’s funeral actually. I was ten years old and the second semester of the fifth grade was coming. I lost my grandfather and my dad in just three days. My house was in construction and my mom couldn’t stop crying. I don’t know whether you have experienced something similar to this or not. I hope you don’t have to. Seeing your mom couldn’t stop crying was truly an agonizing experience.
The days after were days of sorrow, of grievances, of resentment. My mom woke up in the middle of her sleep, hugged my dad’s coat and cried every night. I was lying next to her, pretended to sleep and tried not to let my mom know that I was crying too. Sometimes, I misthought that my dad went into a long business trip and he’s about to come home, to us; then I painfully realized that he would never come home again. He would never pick us at school again. He would never treat us to the ice-cream shop near his office again. I would never see him in person again.
My family was full of laughs and joys. Now, it’s a house without the roof (Vietnamese idiom).
Three years later, when the “bad luck”** of my family just ended, my uncle (my mom’s younger brother) passed away because of a serious illness. My family was tortured once again. The sorrow of losing my dad was still there and now it was doubled.
When I was eighteen, I failed my university entrance exam. It was completely my mistake as I didn’t focus on studying and revising for the test during my years in high school. After receiving the result, I saw no future for myself. I thought to me that it was the end. My life was screwed and I wouldn’t be able to learn anything, to graduate, to land a job and take care of my life; that I would ended up at the market selling stuff to live. Sitting here typing these words down, I can see how innocent and overreacted I was, but at that time those emotions were really overwhelming to me. I was so disappointed with myself that I hide in my house and refused to meet my best friend thinking we’re not at the same standards (she passed the test) anymore.
So, what did I do to say that I’m a happy and positive person now?
At first, I changed my thinking and then, my actions.
Let’s come back to when I was a 10 year-old girl. I don’t remember the exact starting date or duration but I remember what happened. Seeing my mom cried a lot had unconsciously built up a protective mindset inside my brain. Even I was small, I was aware that I need to be strong, to protect my mom and my sister just like my dad would do if he’s still here (I later learned that this is exactly what my sister and my mom thought – we’re really a strong team). I also promised my dad that I will go to new places that he didn’t have chance to visit and will eat food that he didn’t have chance to try. I will live twice happy and enjoy life twice deeply as my dad always wants this for me. I knew that he wouldn’t want me to lose my smile, to lose my faith, or to stop trying. I knew that he would want to see us living happily and strongly, with or without him. Of course this knowing didn’t come to me so clearly all at once, but it became stronger and clearer gradually as I grew up. And I’m still living with the promise in mind.
My mom also bought some books, which I believed had contributed significantly as guidelines in changing my thoughts and shaping a positive mindset, titled “Being Happy”, “Happiness in a Nutshell” and “Follow your heart”. I remember reading the books, laughing at the simple yet amusing illustrations (the laugh that I didn’t have in a long time because I misthought that if I laugh or feeling happy, it would mean that I didn’t love my dad enough. Of course I was wrong) and thinking that maybe it’s not over yet. I can be happy and deserve to be happy again. I want to make my dad proud.
As time went by, things seemed to fall into their places. It didn’t mean that we had overcome the loss or we didn’t feel the absence of my dad in our lives at that point. It means that we continued to live with that sorrow and tried to accept the truth little by little, day by day as we all know that my dad would definitely want that for us. My sister and I went back to school and my mom went back to her job. It took many years later and a great deal of efforts for us to overcome this trauma. No one can come over this kind of pain without conscious efforts, I believe. And thirteen years later, today, I can look up the sky and tell my dad that he can stop worry about us and that we’re living happily and healthily, like we promised him.
Failing the entrance test was an alarming call for me. I learned that last minute efforts are not enough and it’s awful and terrified feeling disappointed about oneself. I can be disappointed by things or people but shouldn’t be disappointed about myself! That’s when I got the second chance. My parents (oh, I forgot to mention that my mom met a man, who loves her and truly cares about us, and got married to him after eight years and now I have a daring step-father :). People say “Happy goes Lucky” 🙂 ) discussed and agreed that they would trust me once more time and paid for my university tuition fee.*** I felt like I was re-born when I got the news. I’m so grateful for the chance and I promised that I wouldn’t disappoint my family and myself this time. I kept my promise and graduated with Distinction in the year 2012.
The point I want to make here is that I had a purpose in mind and I fought to achieve it. It all started with a thought and by repeating it again and again, the thought transformed into actions and actions led to results. Thus, in order to have the expected results, a positive starting thought or purpose is pre-requisite. Personally, if I get my expected results, I’m happy. If I don’t get them, I’m happy because I know it would be better-than-expected ones (Hmhm, I’m just trying to sound cool here). If I don’t get my expected results, I’m happy because at least I had tried.
So overall, I’m a happy and positive self 🙂
**: in Vietnamese culture, a family that has a member passed away is considered having “bad luck” or “grey-shirt fate” (word-by-word translation) for three years after the person’s death. During these years, family members won’t come to other people’s houses in special occasions (says Tet holiday) to avoid spreading the “bad luck”. Weddings of family members are also prohibited from happening.
***: the one that I took the entrance test was a public local university, therefore a lot cheaper than the one I’m later going which is a private international university.