My story involves an intricate intermix between people, health and aspirations. Birth, toddler years, teenage, and then… adulthood. At age eighteen I began college at Bellevue Community College. Fresh from Interlake High School’s International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs, I was a typical high school graduate trained only to see success with fire for exploration, fully fueled self-belief and a teaspoon of reckless arrogance. This was the amusing starting point for where I would come to meet along the way, a couple of essential life lessons.
Immediately after BCC’s new student orientation, I was introduced, interviewed and hired on The Jibsheet, the Bellevue Community College newspaper. As an Assistant Section Editor, I was given a whole new perspective on the world. Lesson #1: There is a world greater than ourselves. My true realization of the environment and community around me, and its people allowed me to greater my scope of perspectives, ideas, and knowledge which was the first step to maturity, self-improvement and professionalism.
When Fall Quarter of 2006 began, I initially thought with a great fervor that I was to become a medical doctor. It was as my parents have said, as my siblings have said, as my family friends have said, and as my peers have said. There was no other career opportunity as prestigious, as admired, as highly paid, and as stable than to be a medical doctor. What kind of doctor? Who knows, just get there. But as I took my first pre-medicine prerequisite, Chemistry 140, Lesson #2 pulled all my stone-carved plans to a halting screech. Lesson #2: Life is life, not a plan. Daily Chemistry class, though a very praiseworthy and remarkable subject, was a daily clash with my personal interests. I knew then, it was time to draft a new career path and go soul-searching to explore my self and vocation.
Following the Fall Quarter, I was promoted to the position of News Editor, the feared and respected title in the paper for its infamous load of responsibilities. By now, I have climbed, or rather hurdled ranks in the reporter food chain and began covering high-profile stories such as the appearance of Illinois Senator, Barack Obama at the 2006 Maria Cantwell Rally. With reporting comes extensive networking, community involvement and the great race to stay in the “know”. This was my gig. I wanted to become a journalist. This time, my aspirations were being grown from roots up not branches down.
From the hard-structured culture of my family, “Journalism” was not in the Vietnamese Parent’s Career Handbook. Actually, I lied. It can be found in the back reference pages, “Journalism: SEE Garbage man.” That’s the kind of environment I lived in under the roof of my parents. Mockery of ideals and high praise reserved only for practicality was the custom. Hard Lesson #3: Parents love you lots but not necessarily well. I found at that point, that it was time I make my own decisions and risk the fracturing of relationships than bear a skin, face and life of someone else. And so, my work with The Jibsheet became a taboo in the house and like with all taboos, we sons and daughters find ways to do it even more. It became my escape from glaring eyes and disapproving faces as I began going to the newsroom at 5:00 am and coming home the latest time possible for dinner. I pressed harder and harder as the days went by. I, being 5 foot and 7 inches, weighing a remarkable 105 pounds with lanky features, I was not built for that kind of self-abuse. My health, which was in poor state from the very beginning, was decreasing as the days went by. Around the month of February, I was driving with my friend to go eat when coming out of the I-90 tunnel, my vision blurred out from the light transitions. I planned on not doing anything about it and simply continue my current lifestyle. But then my friend’s comment, “You’re risking other people’s lives,” hit me like a brick to