I have a passion for learning. If I can keep going to school and not worry about student loans, I will keep attending school. As weird as it sounds school is fun for me. However, I didn’t always have a passion for learning. I hated school. I hated it so much that I never did my homework, but each night my dad would come back from work and he did my homework for me. Looking back at it now, I really appreciate all his hard work. I hated school because I didn’t understand my assignments. And though I was born in the US, my English was horrible. I didn’t really start to speak English until the second semester of first grade. Believe me when I say this I hated reading out loud so whenever my teacher called on me I never read, but that all changed in the spring because I started to volunteer for reading. I changed once I started to open up to my peers and teachers, but that still didn’t change me for not liking school.
In high school, I was just simply called smart because I got good grades I wasn’t really considering challenging my abilities. Then it all changed one night. My father, in his own way, is a great father figure in my life. Before the Vietnam War he went to university in Laos and worked for the government. His friends and my relatives all told my siblings and I that my father was a very intelligent man, in fact the smartest from his group of friends and that if the Vietnam War never happened he would still be working for the government. He was, they all said, someone that they all looked up, someone they trusted because he was hardworking, educated, kind hearted, and justifying.
Somewhere during my sophomore year in high school, my father attended an annual meeting. I can’t remember if it was a family or Hmong community meeting, but he was gone for a few days. He came back home late one night and I had just gone to bed after cramming my presentation in one night and I heard him crying. I didn’t think of it much so I went to sleep. That weekend my mom told me and older sister that we need to make sure we finished high school, go onto university and get a respectable job. We needed to pave the path for our younger siblings. Hearing those words are already a lot of burden for a fourteen and eighteen years old teenagers.
That same weekend night my dad called us for a family meeting and he told us that night that he would like for all six of us to attend university. He didn’t care about other people’s children, but he wanted us to start thinking about our future and start setting up goals. He continued to told us that, during the meeting he attended, he met an old friend. Back in Laos the old friend would always asked my dad to help him study, the friend wasn’t that bright. They both graduated but the friend wasn’t guaranteed a job because of his low grades so he returned home and helped his family with farming. Years later they met again, but things were different. His friend attended school in the US, obtained a PhD and was working at a university. My dad had nothing, he was working in a factory/company. He told us he came back home crying because of his regrets and of course he was envious of his friend.
That night though, for the first time, I saw all the regrets in my dad’s eyes. The regret of how he should have just attended school without the support of my grandparents and his siblings (my mom supported his decisions but things didn’t work out). The regret that his children doesn’t have parents who can help them with homework and project assignments. The regret that his education meant nothing in the US.
And so, my passion started out as an obligation. Graduate high school, go to university, and find a respectable job. I didn’t know that I was going to entrapped myself this sticky web. I started to take more challenging courses my junior and senior high school year and though I hated it those AP courses, I couldn’t get away from them. Suddenly it became a fight with myself, I wanted to prove to myself that “yes I am capable of doing this.” It no longer became an obligation that I wanted to fulfill for my parents, I wanted to become someone. Someone great and worthy. Someone that I’m proud of when I’m with my friends and family.
As I started exploring other subjects my freshmen and sophomore year in college I found all my arduous work in my high school AP classes to be rewarding. I’d sit in class and tell myself “I’m glad I sit through that AP class in high school.” There were so many subjects that I was interested in and sometimes I tell myself “darn I really wanted to take that class for fun.” That was when I discovered that along the way my passion for learning had grew a lot. On days when I feel like giving up or when the stress is just too high, I tell myself “if not for me then do it for my parents.” I’ll remind myself of my father and mother’s stories. And I’ll tell myself that at the end everything I’ve done so far has mainly been for my sake, no one else’s.