March 23, 2012 * by Ly Harriet Bui

One beautiful morning, I was staring at the bulletin board searching for something new when I saw a piece of wrinkled paper attached to a soft surface wall. There were names written carelessly on it. The paper looked quite damaged that I assumed it was not important at all. After I found out it was actually the sign-up sheet for senior chapel talk; my morning became less beautiful. I did not expect it to come that quickly. Adding to my surprise, names occupied all the bottom rows of the sign-up sheet with later dates. I had no room left to squeeze in. So as you can see, I am among one of the earliest seniors standing here in front all of you, but I was only a victim of lateness.

Repeating junior year twice, meaning being late for college does not seem to be an interesting idea. According to Vietnamese traditional belief, a girl who studies for too long will not get a husband. Despite the warning, I decided to take risk and most importantly take time to fully grow into a person I want to be. Thus with my parents’ support, I left home, turning a new page of my life.

Coming to VVS, I started my second junior year.

At 11pm on 23rd of August 2009, a 17 year old girl managed to pull her two heavy suitcases on the red rock dirt. I was tired, nervous like a fish out of water because my two feet were standing by themselves on a land half a globe away from home for the first time. As an only child used to the warmth of family, I clung to the thought that I could never trust anybody but my parents. I did not expect to develop any new bonding relationships in a country of individualism. In my opinion, relationships born within individualism were connected only by hydrogen bonds, easily formed, hence, easily broken. I never knew that there would be a friendship I was going to pack with me wherever I went later on.

“Ly, the flight should have been very tiring, eat some ice cream. It is very delicious”. A sweet Vietnamese voice with a Southern accent came to my ears when I reached Sears. A girl ran out to welcome me, holding a paper bowl of ice cream, my most favorite. I was surprised how a stranger might have such a friendly manner. That bowl of ice cream relieved my nerves. I will never forget its taste, a mixture of vanilla and chocolate, cool and sweet. It was how I met Eveline. Her sweet, caring manner has kept me company from that moment on. It also changed my view about relationships with people. Whenever I was lost among the seas of indifferent glances, she pulled me out of sadness. Whenever my feet could not carry themselves due to the heavy weight of homework, quizzes and exams; she spent time keeping me caught up with classes as much as she could. Her compliments about little things I could do such as my help for her terrible drawings in Spanish homework contributed to my self-confidence. Together, we went through thick and thin. She was the only one that did not express any surprise when I decided to repeat my junior year the third time. She was very supportive indeed.  People call her “a beast” because of 3.97 GPA. To me she is simply an Eveline, a coffee addict, a cake lover who got caught taking showers during study hour. Gradually through Eveline, I learnt to open myself up and reached out for people around me.

As a result, not only did I find a true friend, I also fell in love. He was 15 and I was 17. He did not bring me ice cream. Instead he came to me with three magical words “I love you”. After one minute of awkward silence, my reaction was “Are you sure?” From that moment on, each day felt less heavy even though my heart carried one more person rather than myself. Eating a delicious cupcake, I remembered saving another one for him. When the weather turned cold, I wondered if he was warm enough. This happiness I treasured was hidden away from my parents. The love for their daughter told them to prevent me from being in relationships with boys because boys were like bombs. We never knew when they were going to explode. The same situation happens to most of my Vietnamese friends who conceal love letters in a little corner of a drawer locked tight. The fact that I fell in love with a younger boy would have been a shock not only to my parents but also to most of my Vietnamese friends. I understand parents only want to ensure good futures for their children. However, there are things that can only be learnt in real life not through textbooks. Among them are relationships.

Falling in love was hard; falling out of love was even harder. The ends of beautiful memories are always painful. Until now, I still have a habit of keeping everything coming my ways: books from kindergarten, a broken doll from grandma and even a candy-wrapper from someone I liked 10 years ago.  I ate the candy, of course. I appreciate every single thing and person entering my little world so I have a tendency to hold on to them. This has turned out to be my weakness. The break up forced me to realize that I was too stubborn to let go. Thus it hurt even more. When tears have gone, a scar has been left behind. The scar does not make me regret. It is there to remind me about what I have been through. Sadly each of us learns to build better relationships from previous broken ones. Only by being vulnerable, was I able to grow stronger.

Lateness turns out not to be a bad thing. Now as I look back, I do not see it as lateness but opportunities to learn and grow. If I have rushed to move on to college, I would have missed such a precious friendship with Eveline. I would not have had a chance to develop and understand such a complex and delicate emotion as love. In the end, life is more about journeys taken rather than destinations. None of us really certain about what will come tomorrow. Why don’t just be present?

Next time, if I happen to come across the sign-up sheet for senior chapel talk again, I will give the wrinkled paper full of names on the bottom rows such a big smile. The smile would make two corners of the lips touch the eyes. I will be very happy to be among the latest ones that signed up for it because by that moment, my speech will have been done.