Saigon’s sky in a summer afternoon is always covered with grey clouds and thunder and lightning that forewarn the upcoming pouring rain. Saigon’s streets in the afternoon are always filled with many different types of people coming home from work, going to work, with students rushing home or to their next cram school. I was standing outside the shopping center waiting for my sister to make a quick grocery run, sipping milk tea with bobba, watching needles and needles of rain falling and listening to Single by New kids on the block. For me, time suddenly stood still. For one second, I remembered all the times when I myself was in secondary school, when I was just like any of these students in front of me, in the familiar white and blue uniform that I totally disliked, laughing and teasing each other while enjoying the sweet and fresh taste of the all time favorite milk tea. I surely was enjoying the moment. For the brief moment, I was living the life of a fourteen year old all over again.
Rochester’s sky is also covered with grey clouds and occasional rain. Yet the feeling is different. Sitting at the desk typing these words, remembering of all the good time I had with friends and family at home, remembering the comfortable feelings of being home and having someone to take care of you, remembering the feeling of having nothing to worry about and knowing that I would be safe no matter what, I can’t help but wonder: What if I had never left?
At that moment, I realized that so many years had passed, and I certainly have grown up. I got to think about days gone by, that carefree time when I was still a child indulging in luxury and was spoiled to the core, that time when I had not much to worry about except for passing tests and keeping that GPA of mine over the acceptable level. I remembered middle school, and high school, the period of time that I hated so much because of various reasons (people, drama, pressure, stressful work …) now seems so dear to me that how much I wish I could be able to go back and … hate it all over again. I remembered the first years of coming to America with all the excitement of a curious kid who thought that she finally had her dream come true and who, really, at that time, did not anticipate all the difficulties that she would have to face.
When you're young, your whole life is about the pursuit of fun. Then, you grow up and learn to be cautious. You look before you leap and sometimes you don't leap at all because there's not someone to catch you. And in life, there's no safety net. When does it stop being fun and start being scary? I think about the fact that I’m no longer the curious and excited teenager. Decisions are mine to make. It freaks me out and I’m confused, and feeling insecure because of the pressure. Any action that I take now would has a certain effect on my life, whether it’s the courses that I am going to take in college, or whether I should move in to an apartment to save money, or what am I going to do after undergraduate school. Maybe I have thought to far, and I can use that excuse to brush off my anxiety, but it dawns on me that, I will have to make these decisions sooner or later. Even though my parents are always there to support me when I need them, I can no longer toss all the responsibility on their shoulders. The weight is on mine now and I even want to make it easier for them. I wish I could take care of everything so that they don’t have to worry about me. I want the confidence that I will need in order to go through this. I want to do this right and do it well.
Now that all the excitement and curiosity of a young and inexperienced teenager has gone and are now replaced by fear and insecurity, all the “what ifs” questions pop up. What if I had stayed at home, what if I had listened to my parents and stayed with my relatives, what if I had chosen a more affordable but has less academic reputation college, …
We often look at our pasts with a handful of “what ifs” and “coulda, shoulda, woulda”. What if I did this, what if I did that or I could have done this then maybe I would have been that … blah blah blah. All that past and past participle tense can build up tension and turn any nineteen year olds into an elderly after a few minutes. As we speed along this endless road to the destination called "who we hope to be" we can't help but whine "Are we there yet?"
Yet sometimes I wonder, do I really miss the past that much? And exactly how much excited I need to be looking forward to the future to keep myself from wandering back to all the good old memories? And every time I look back, will I be better or bitter?