This is going to be the longest post I make on this blog, so you’ve been warned. To make a very long story short, I continued to write as I promised myself I would. However, I stopped publishing since I realized I had no clue what I was doing or what I had gotten myself into. I knew I was going to need some time to figure out how I wanted to complete this project, and I was going to need to ask for help from people way more experienced than I am.
SO WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
I was having more than one idea per week, which meant I had the most disorganized pile of notes and post-its which amounted to nothing more than overwhelming nonsense. As Marie Kondo would definitely say, “It did not spark joy”.
For me, ideas are as unruly as small children: they simply come and go, run around all day, and usually leave a huge mess for me to clean up. I decided to spend a little time organizing them into something resembling a story arc because I felt it would make way more sense, and be much more powerful. After today’s post, I won’t always be telling you when something happened chronologically since it isn’t always relevant.
JUMP BACK TO TET 2016
I did actually share this post the day it happened and published it on my website, and three people read it. Me, my mom, and some guy in Nepal according to the website statistics.
Today’s post however, really did happen today. It was simply too wonderful a moment not to share with all of you immediately.
The first time I ever came across the quotation in the title by the Danish comedian and musician, Victor Borge, was nearly nine years ago. An old friend of mine, whom we shall simply refer to as, “one of the Captains” shared it with me. I’d always thought it a lovely sentiment, but today it really hit home.
This week is the anniversary of my wonderful sister’s day of birth. For many years now, I have come to associate her with the dragonfly. For the longest time, she has had a glass dragonfly hanging in her car. Historically, dragonflies have always been associated with change, but not necessarily on the outside. Dragonflies have come to represent an awareness of a change in the self. Self-realization of changes in one’s personality, perspective, opinions, abilities, preferences- all things I find easier to identify the older I get.
As I opened the gate to my house this morning to wheel my bike out, I noticed a Dragonfly (I named him Victor- I name everything. Even the cockroaches I unceremoniously hurl off the balcony towards their street freedom). He was perched perfectly at eye level as I walked out. Seeing him made me smile since it made me think of my sister, and how much she makes me laugh. I always feel closest to her when we are being silly and giggling over the most ridiculous things. I didn’t dwell on the thought for long though since I had things to do. I figured it simply was a sign from the universe it was going to be a wonderful day.
LUNAR NEW YEAR IS THE GREATEST HOLIDAY I NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD
Now is a great time to mention I’ve been off from work for Lunar New Year We all know it is a universal truth that a person in possession of a lot of free time must be in want of something to do, but the space-time continuum, for some unknown reason, makes people with a lot of free time excessively unmotivated to do, like, anything. A dear friend of mine, “the hug monitor”, had told me just that morning, “Listen up Conner, it’s time to get some shit done. I believe in you.”
Therefore, I begrudgingly hauled my cookies out of bed to go run the world like Beyoncé says I’m genetically capable of doing. “Who run the world? GIRLS!”
IF YOU THOUGHT VEGAS WAS WILD, JUST FOR THE THINGS YOU WILL SEE TET IN HCMC
I saw a myriad of unusual things on this outing including, but not limited to: a bus driver reading a newspaper WHILE he was driving down the road next to me- we’re talking blocking his entire view people. A guy driving his motorcycle while he was standing up on it with no hands, except occasionally to give it more gas. I can only assume he was a trick rider, or had been watching episodes of that show MANswers. And finally, a guy with no less than 30 chickens on the back of his bike. Actually, that last one really isn’t that uncommon here to be honest, but still…that takes some planning.
“ADULT” BECAUSE SOMETIMES IT’S HILARIOUS
I ran my errands, and since I was feeling lazy, I wrestled with myself about whether or not I should be a responsible adult and go get petrol since I was nearly down to half a tank. My parents have instilled in me that it’s the sensible thing to do refilling at half a tank since you just never know when you’re going to get stranded or lost or murdered….or any other type of scenario which might call for a full tank of petrol…
I am SO incredibly thankful they did, because this trip to the petrol station made my Year of the Monkey.
I rolled in to the same petrol station I always go to, and they recognized me right away. Okay, let’s be real, they recognized my bike since it’s a bright color, but it still feels like the opening theme song to Cheers is playing when I show up and they all give me that knowing glance and high fives.
In uncertain Vietnamese, I asked the gentleman to please fill up the tank. I usually leave my helmet on because it’s such a quick stop. Since I have a helmet that covers my full face, it can make it difficult to hear and be heard. However, I heard a profuse amount of giggling, so I did a more comprehensive assessment of my environment since I oh so rarely hear a group of adult men “giggle”.
GIGGLING YOU SAY?
It had been extremely quiet in the city due to the Tet holiday, and although every other business in town had been closed or running on a skeleton crew, the gas station had just as many attendants as it usually does (8-10).
Since there was hardly enough work for two men, let alone ten, they had decided to get completely and utterly, drunk. We’re talking fraternity, tailgating, bachelor party, smoking at the gas station drunk. Their eyes were bloodshot, their faces flushed, and their hand-eye coordination highly suspect given how many tries it took the guy to line the pump handle up with the tank.
I laughed out loud, mostly from shock and incredulity, not realizing I was about to shorten the distance between myself and my good-timing petrol peeps. Many of their heads swiveled my way upon hearing my laughter, so to break the uncomfortable staring contest, I asked if they were drinking beer no?
They all immediately burst out laughing, and one man walked to me to place his glass of beer in my hand. I wasn’t really sure what to do. I signaled that my hands were full of beer and wallet, and that I couldn’t drink with my helmet on.
In my mind, this communicated, “Okay haha this has been really awesome but also a little weird, and I obviously can’t drink like this, plus, you know, haha I’m driving. Hahah wow this is really awkward because I’m not really sure what’s happening so someone please take this beer back okay now hahahaha some more.”
I speak in run-on sentences when I’m taken aback.
For the record, this was apparently super lost in translation. I know this because a different gentleman walked over to me, gently removed my sunglasses, placed them in the v of my shirt’s neckline (oh yes, he definitely went for it…) unclipped my helmet, gently tugged it off my head, and beamed with the same gloriously, triumphant glow Superman has when he rescues Lois Lane.
I couldn’t help it; I laughed, and this time it wasn’t because I felt uncomfortable. I felt only genuine gratitude and happiness. Victor, the dragonfly, popped into my head at this moment. There was a time I would have done something different in this situation, but things had changed. I had changed. This time, I reveled in the fact that we were complete strangers entirely divided by a language, but with absolutely no distance between us whatsoever in that moment. I felt that same flush of happiness, comfort, and marvel that I do when I laugh with my sister, when I laugh with my friends, and when I laugh with family. I took a few sips of beer (because I still had to drive) and offered to pay for it. They all laughed in response as one man explained, “No, no, is only because is funny.” Then, another gentleman placed my helmet on my head, gently clicked the chin-strap in place, carefully put my glasses back on my face, and gave me a hearty thumbs up. I handed him back the glass and the 30,000 VND for my petrol.
I don’t know if those men felt the same way or not, or if they even gave it a second thought later. What I know for sure is that we are all connected by our human emotions. I knew nothing about them, and they nothing of me, yet we still shared a genuine connection in the moment. It didn’t matter what language we spoke, what color our skin was, or even what our names were. We laughed, and in doing so, we let down all the walls and let the other in to the part of our souls where we experience happiness. How often do we really let someone we don’t (or even do) know in that far?
So here comes lesson #3: We have a light in our hearts that burns that much brighter when we recognize someone who harbors that same love for life and laughter. Sometimes, these connections are friendships, sometimes they are struggles we share, and sometimes it’s simply laughter shared with an intoxicated group of strangers working at a petrol station who remove your helmet for you so you can share a beer when you are supposed to be driving. The truth is, they let me, as an outsider, inside a moment of pure joy and happiness they were sharing amongst themselves during their cultural holiday, and that is a gift I could never repay.
I think when we’re younger, we’re taught to be wary of strangers, and in some cases for good reason, but it’s been my opinion for quite some time now that humanity truly is innately good at heart. My opinion of people, the state of the world, and my own ability to create happiness has changed. We must always welcome change and the possibility of being happily surprised by complete strangers. No matter who you encounter in this world, never forget that laughter is the most direct route between your heart and theirs. We can conquer almost any cultural distance with shared laughter, and in the end, I think our ability to bridge this gap just might be one of the only things that is going to save the world.