I’m a passionate writer – give me something I love and I’ll write you a novel. Ask me to write about anything else and it’ll be like pulling teeth for me to even compose a sentence. I can say without question that this article is the easiest one I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing.
I live and die by quotes, no matter how trivial they may seem. You’ll understand what I mean by trivial when I tell you the phrase that inspired this whole article comes from the movie “Hitch.”
“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”
Someone recently asked me, “Why OneVietnam, why now?” Let’s just say that I’m the kind of flustered person that — when asked these types of questions — fall into a state of awkwardness: I stutter, fidget, get slightly red in the face and on occasions, you might just see a drop of sweat stream down my face. Not this time. This time, the answer flowed out of me in a way that surprised even me.
Why now? It’s not something we think about often, but I truly believe that we stand at a pretty monumental time. In this moment, we have a combination of groups that won’t be together for long. There are our parents and grandparents who grew up in Vietnam, surrounded by the culture that people my age struggle to understand. There are people like me, who came here at a young age, grasping on to that part of us as we try to not forget. And then there were people who weren’t born in Vietnam, who never got to experience first hand the country that defines them.
I look at my grandparents, and as much as it hurts to think about, I know they won’t be around for much longer. They’re the people where the Vietnamese culture is prominent — the people I look at when I struggle to understand why certain things are the way they are. The first hand experience of their generation is something that can’t ever be replaced, when it’s gone – it’s gone. There have been more times than I can remember where I find myself wishing that there wasn’t a language barrier between us so that I could talk to them, so that they could explain to me the importance of things like a dam hoi or tell me about their lives in Vietnam while they still can.
I never thought it was important to know where I came from; the past is the past, right? Maybe not so much. While working on a project for OneVietnam a few months ago, I was faced with a shocking revelation. While looking through pictures of Vietnam, I was shocked when I realized that I couldn’t even recognize my own country. I know it seems inconsequential, but to not know where you’re from and not understand the culture that has a huge part in making you who you are – you feel a disconnect, a little bit like you don’t understand yourself.
So why OneVietnam? The knowledge is there, experiences abound, but barriers come in all form. I truly believe that each person on this network can act as a bridge for someone else and help connect them to whatever it is they’re looking for – whatever it is they’re trying to understand. We’re Vietnamese. We see that every day when we look in the mirror — and while your nationality doesn’t define you, your culture connects you.