I always tell people my greatest works are produced when I’m experiencing one of the following: love, lust, victory, defeat, misery, and pain. Of all the things on this list, love is my favorite. Today, however, I’m not going to be writing about how I’ve fallen in love. Instead, I want to tell you a story. A story I’ve kept to myself for a very long time until now. I hope you enjoy.
About a year ago, following my college graduation, my mother decided to take me and my brother on a spontaneous trip back to the motherland. I’m not going to lie, I was seriously excited when she delivered the news to me. I’ve done a good amount of traveling over the course of 22 something years, seen a lot of beautiful places, had my fair share of good ol’ fun, but at the end of the day, Ho Chi Minh city still holds a very special place in my heart. During those three and a half weeks, I devoted my time to family, as well as to myself to reflect and be more introspective.
Once I got back from Asia, the stress and pressure began to build. I’ve written about this plenty of times in the past, but my mother gave me a one year deadline prior my vacation trip: “After all the fun and games are over, you have exactly nine months to find a stable job within the area of your interest. If not, you have to make a career change.” Although I’ve always been equally obedient as I am rebellious, I knew that the fun and games weren’t over. It was only the beginning.
While I was in school, I devoted most of my time towards my academics, internships, Greek life, and other extracurricular activities. I never once thought about dating and aside from having a few minor crushes here and there, commitment and relationships weren’t necessarily the things that were on my radar. My focus was completely on me and it felt extremely liberating. While a number of my friends always encouraged me to make more time for potential suitors, personally, I didn’t spare the energy to invest in something that was only temporary. If you want to look at it from my perspective, everything was from a business standpoint. If the relationship was not a high-risk, high-reward investment, then it was not worth my time--no questions asked. I stood strong on this belief and even until this day, I never pursue any career or goal if I can’t envision an end product for it.
Of course, life decided to throw some surprises at me because I spent the next couple of months meeting dozens of people a week via mixers, events, mutual friends, etc. Even then, no one managed to keep my interest and without me realizing it, everything felt like a numbers game. The quality in which I normally valued decreased and I’d only consider a person if that person met my superficial requirements (ie. fit, tall, dark, handsome). I’ll tell you from my own personal experience, that by going through this particular stage, I was left feeling very bored, hallow, and unfulfilled. What I’ve learned is that eventually, the physical chemistry will fade (for me, it disappeared within a matter of minutes of talking to a person) and I’ll always end up right where I started--alone. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being alone. People always have this misconception that being alone is mutually exclusive with loneliness. It’s not. Those are two completely different things. I was alone in a sense that I didn’t have a physical, emotional, intellectual connection established with said-person.
With that said, I enjoyed every minute of everyday that I get to spend time with my close friends, my family, my mentors, and of course, myself. Career-wise, I hit rock bottom about five months in. After landing several final interviews with big corporations and my having to decline several offers, I started to feel stagnant. I began to question my motivation, my goals, and whether I was doing everything right. It didn’t take me long to learn that there is no “right” way in achieving a dream. There will be plenty of paths along the way and all I needed to do was listen to that voice in my head.
While my quest to find a full-time job hit a plateau, my social life was soaring. I attended an event almost every single weekend, had dates planned out by the hour, and increased my network by the hundreds. During the time when all of this madness was happening, old flames would make reappearances, but I casually brushed them off. “Ain’t nobody got time of this,” was my go-to excuse and it has worked almost every single time I found myself almost crushing on someone.
Around October or so, I was semi-introduced to a friend of a friend who supposedly shared a love for fitness and EDM with me. I still remember that day like it was just yesterday and my very first impression of him was, “Wow, this guy has amazing abs.” Trust me, if you saw it in person, you’d say the same thing.
About a week later, he asked me on a first date. I chose one of my favorites: sushi. The first date – it couldn’t have been more awkward. I found myself at a loss for words (not in a good way) because I had run out of things to talk about (does that actually happen to Khanh? Apparently, yes). Thankfully the USC v Berkeley football game was on so I’d try to turn around and watch the plays now and then. It wasn’t because he was boring or because I had no interest in getting to know him, I just didn’t feel like we had thaaat much chemistry. So after we were done with dinner that night, I thanked him, and figured it was probably going to be our first and last.
Fast forward a couple of months since our first date to thousands of text messages, a couple of food outings, and events later, I watched our friendship evolve. We went from having an awkward meal together to talking to each other every single day. He would urge me when I felt like I had lost my motivation to persevere and make it to the industry (I never told him about my career or what I was pursuing, I wanted to keep what we had as organic as possible). He would check up on me to make sure I was taking care of myself, that I was eating the right kinds of food (he doesn’t believe that cauliflower, lettuce, and veggies are real food), and that I am focusing on the person who should be my number one priority –> me.
A good girl friend of mine once told me, “Khanh, you need a person who is going to think of you before you think of you.” For me, he was exactly that. When I talked to my best friend Emily about her and her long distance relationship with her boyfriend, she told me this:
“I knew Shaun [her bf] wanted to discover every nuance about me, and that he was accepting of every detail. Not only does he accept it, he appreciates it. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing that you can truly and wholly be yourself around someone, and not have to worry that that will ruin their image of you. They see you for you with no pretenses.”
I rarely ask for my friends’ encouragements or discouragements, but I could read in between the lines of what my best friend was saying. She, along with my other close friends, all ultimately want one thing for me and that is for me to be happy. After a lot of thinking, a lot of analyzing, researching, reading, and so forth, I decided to open up my heart just a bit more and exactly 8 months later since our sushi dinner, he asked me on our second date.
While personal and social life started to hit a passive margin, my career began to skyrocket. I accepted an offer to join a company with a vision I firmly believe in. During my first month of employment, I had coordinated an entire soft promo launch, continued my work for ABC7, planned a fundraising event for children of Nepal, and created an entire press packet for a film festival I’m working on for the following year. It has been a whirlwind for me and I am just so fortunate to have the love and support of so many people.
With that said, I wanted to dedicate this post to my Day 1. You’ve been my rock, my ear, my shoulder [to sleep on], and my friend, and I’m so lucky to have you in my life. Throughout this entire journey, you’ve shown me compassion, kindness, humor, consistency, and most importantly, your heart. (Insert cheese here because I know you’re all about that stuff) Personally, I’m not the most sentimental person out there, but today, I wanted to share with you my writing that is inspired by you–you who have constantly inspired me. I hope you like it.
As always, Fight On!