Dad gave me my first second chance on 30 April 1975.
That was the day we escaped Vietnam as refugees after the war ended. Six weeks later, we arrived in Sydney, Australia. We were lucky to be one of the first few hundred refugee families to arrive in Australia.
I didn’t realize at the time that it was a second chance as I was four years old. Dad also got a second chance in coming to Australia. He had a very difficult life in Vietnam. Dad was a persecuted journalist during the many long years of war for independence against the French and the Americans.
Upon reflection, my second chance has lead to other second chances in my life. Which has lead me to writing this blog.
I couldn’t have written anything of late, anything of real importance that centred me, until Dad died.
On 2nd February 2006, he peacefully passed away at home. It was, according to Vietnamese custom, a “good” death. My grandma had said so. He was 91 years old.
“When I die, I want to die like he did.”
She was not my real biological Grandma. She was someone in my extended family who we adopted as our Grandma. (That story is for another post. It, too, is a story of second chances. She passed away in September 2013 at age 95).
Had Dad died on the street, that wouldn’t have been a good death. According to custom, dying in an unfamiliar surrounding is not preferred, if one can plan for such uncertainties.
My life has had many uncertainties.
I was born in 1971 during the Vietnam War and I think somehow the uncertainty of that war caused many uncertainties in my life.
Chief among them is the number of hats I have worn in my working life. I’ve never been entirely certain how long I was required to wear each hat for. Over the years, I have done freelance reporting, proofreading, editing and litigation.
But life has given me many opportunities as well, despite the adversities. I was born in the Year of the Pig, 1971 – a very lucky year according to Vietnamese culture.
I guess that’s why I’m an optimist. I feel that the hat I’m wearing at the moment, my writer’s hat, is going to be on for a very long time. And with that, a journey. One that has caught up with me.
There is an irony.
For a substantial part of Dad’s life, he was a journalist and writer. Back in early 1991, when I told him that I was going to switch courses from architecture (Syd Uni) to journalism (UTS), he had a meltdown. (That story is for another post, too). Lucky for me, UTS thankfully gave me a second chance.
There I was, a future journalist and writer, saying to Dad that I was going to follow in his footsteps even though I had been adamantly telling him during my HSC years and, the first two years of uni, that I was going to be an architect.
I realised early on that I had no aptitude for drawing. I should’ve listened to my Year 12 English teacher who said that she could imagine me doing something creative one day. Upon reflection, she meant it in a “writer” sense, rather than an “architect” sense, even though she knew at the time that I was planning to study architecture. The irony was, I came first in her English class, and stupidly disregarded her encouragement.
I believe that I did the architecture profession a wonderful favour by giving up, and failing to realise, my schoolboy dream. I’m happy to say I wasn’t much of an architecture student. But I still loved all the things that I learnt about design and the history of buildings. (That story is definitely for another post – suffice it to say, I was inspired by The Brady Bunch; that’s right, Mike Brady was an architect).
In my early twenties, I had done a fair amount of freelance journalism at uni and in the media. It was the early 1990s, and the “recession we had to have” was still churning through.
In 1995, as I was beginning to find my feet in journalism, I opted to study law full time at UNSW. I was admitted as a solicitor in 2000. I’m 42 now, and work as a lawyer.
Just over two months ago I graduated from my Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at UTS. In 2008, I began the course two years after Dad died. If only Dad could’ve seen me. During the Masters, I started writing a novel inspired by him. That is a work in progress.
In 1994, Dad did, however, see me graduate from the BA in Communication at UTS. He was absolutely delighted.
As I say, I couldn’t have written anything until he died, until the dam of tears had burst. The dam broke on 2nd February 2006. There were many things that lead to that dam breaking. And many of those things are beginning to splash their way onto the page.
Since Dad’s death, I have been a bit possessed and worn two hats at the same time. During the day, I’m a lawyer. At night, I’m a writer.
Many things are in the pipeline for publication, whether it is through this blog or through my independent, publishing entity, Flying Pig Media or perhaps, one day through another publisher.
This blog, Flying Pig, is founded upon the many second chances which have underpinned my life.
That’s why I believe that pigs can fly…