The first time I saw my mother cry was when I was in tenth grade. At that time, my mother had just returned from high school’s parents’ meeting. My homeroom teacher met my mother in private to ask her about my family, whether there was any family crisis that made a girl who passed the entrance exam with a score of seven points higher than the requirement and achieved the third-highest score when taking the Specialized class exam, fall dramatically after the first semester of the school year.
My mother was shocked. My family before that time, right at that time, and even after that, was still a peaceful place, without any serious incidents. I am such a lucky child than many of my peers. At the end of the intimate conversation, in the hopelessness of finding the cause, my teacher finally concluded, my learning outcomes were worse because I had a boyfriend. My mother was sure that my teacher was right. My mother was not only shocked but also terribly sad. I could read it clearly in her teary eyes. My father heard that and became so sad.
At the age of 16, I was not good at analyzing to find the cause of the problem. I was sure that my academic performance was worse than it used to be not because of the reasons the adults had guessed. Ever since I was in tenth grade, except for Literature and English which I loved since I was a kid and Geography with a teacher who had a creative way of teaching that made me extremely excited, I was almost against other subjects.
Every time the teacher gave a lecture, I felt bored, did not want to listen, and did not pay attention. I tried to study for the scores but it seemed like this plan was too hopeless. During that time, I had only one close friend. I could not explain myself nor know who to confide in. An invisible gap appeared between me and my beloved ones.
When I was in 11th grade, my learning path was not much brighter. But besides studying, I was predestined to be a collaborator for a teen newspaper. It was the first job in my life. The royalties from the published articles were enough for me to have a petty allowance without having to ask from my parents Every time I brought a newspaper home, my parents were a little happier. But the gap between us was not narrowed down yet because my parents did not understand why their energetic and active daughter still took home such an unexpectedly bad scorecard.
During that exciting work experience, I had the opportunity to learn about the physiological psychology of my peers, and at the same time, to understand myself better. I gradually found the reason why I neglected my study.
I still remember I was once in charge of the topic of university admission, I knocked on the door of the Department of Education of a famous University in Saigon with the eagerness that I might be a part of this University in the future. This spacious school. I wanted to ask the consultants to choose suitable careers for senior students. The women (including one staff of the Department of Education and two teachers) looked at each other, then at me, saying, “The major doesn’t matter! Just pick one major, then graduate and choose a suitable job for you!”. I did not ask anything more, said goodbye to the women, and left with overwhelming disappointment. At that time, I realized the reason why I did not earnestly study.
16, 17 is the age when students begin to think about the future, dream, expectation, and to struggle with all their enthusiasm to move forward. But the 17-year-old-me at that time did not see my future anywhere. I was not oriented and felt completely confused. Does learning really bring about results? I do not want to become a person living without any ambition. Can anyone tell me what to do?
I wrote a very long letter to my mother and dad. My family had a habit of sending each other small pieces of note, sometimes notes of advice, sometimes a good night note. When I was a student, the most common piece of note I received was: “I’ve bought the breakfast and put on the table. When you eat, save some for your grandmother. She eats very little, so leave just a little for her!”. Since I had a job, the pieces of note were still filled with love, but the content was a little different: “Why do you always leave the motorbike run out of gas? I’ve filled the gas tank already. Remember to pay attention to the gas tank indicator, fill the tank when it is nearly empty”. In life, there are always gaps between people that need to be filled. For us, that gap could be completely replaced by a piece of paper. I didn’t know what to write before, but at that time I knew.
In the note, I told my parents that I had gone to that University, about how I had spent my days trying to figure out what I really liked, what kind of person I wanted to be in the future, what were my advantages and defects. In conclusion, I wanted to change the learning environment. I recalled the feeling I had while waiting for the Geography class. The way the teacher let us first learn the information online and go to class to present made me extremely excited. I thought I needed a more open learning environment, where I would discover my potentials, where dreams could be wings of freedom.
The note that day made a turning point in my life. My parents understood the problem, then they sat down with me to find a solution. I went online to find information about the schools I thought were appropriate. My father came there to understand the schools thoroughly. My mother always asked, cared, and told me, “You should choose to do what you want. We are here for you!”. At the end of that school year, I decided to skip 12th grade, and to take a scholarship to a Singapore College. The educational system of the beautiful island allowed students to take the college entrance exam after graduating from grade 10 and then transfer to the university. The note that day completely changed the life of a 17-year-old girl. It was a chain for me to become me in the present tense – an independent woman, free to do what she likes. A hand-written letter is not just a means of communication, but sometimes a remedy for a relationship.
How long has it been since you last wrote a handwritten letter?