The first time I listened to “Starman” by David Bowie was when I saw the play “My night with Reg”. (The play was sad but let’s not talk about it for now!) The lyric made me think: if I were the man in the song and ever saw miracles, who would be the first one I would call? Who would be the one and only I’d share this once in a lifetime moment with?
I almost forgot about this until a few weeks ago. My birthday this year also happened to be the Personal Development Review day with my bosses at the branding agency. We sat down having a casual chat about my personal objectives and how I saw myself, both personally and professionally, in the future. For some reason, I surprised them both with my career plan that I already outlined in very specific periods – 1 year, 3 years and 5 years –and how I set up detailed steps to achieve all of my aims. They found them very amusing and talked about their personal objectives which simply were wanting to have more holidays together and enjoying each other’s company.
I don’t deny it though. I like planning – a lot! I get extremely excited whenever I look at my calendar filled with tasks to do, people to meet and events to attend. It makes me genuinely happy, probably happier than when I’m high 🙂
It has become a bit of an obsession since I was a freshman at university and somehow I’ve lived with this habit since then. I talked about this very recently with a friend and she exclaimed: “If you keep planning your life like a robot and leave no room for creativity, what’s fun about life?” This of course bothers me a bit but it prompts a valid point: how could I work in the creative industry spending way too much time setting out aims and objectives?
I don’t know if I have ever revealed the very first death that marked a turning point of my life: when I was 18, my best friend committed suicide after coming out to his parents and was disowned. When you’re a teenager, you really don’t understand the whole religious thing and how it brainwashes people. Now that I’m older, I feel more sorry for the parents but ten years ago it was hell losing a friend who meant the world to me.
Up until then I was still a dreamer. I believed in “happily ever after” stories, I believed in miracles. I believed dreams do come true. That’s why when the reality of life hit me, I struggled, literally, to live feeling like I’m drifting apart having nothing to lean on. I thought about many things – Shall I run away? Shall I just disappear? Being different in a society where you’re expected to follow strict norms and forbidden to speak up was not easy.
It was a tough time. I wanted to change my life but how? I wanted to move abroad to break away from the predictable life of all youngsters in my country but how could I afford that dream? After all, I was still a small boy living in a tiny unknown town in a third world country. The biggest change I would ever make would probably be to manage to graduate, get a dump job, eventually get married (oh, and get fat!) and live my life in one place for the rest of my life. Then I would die in oblivion. It was when I started to realise no one would ever bring me happiness and if I didn’t move my ass making my dreams a reality, no one else would.
People often credit legendary musicians or writers as someone who has an impact on their success or their lives in general. I credit what I have achieved in life to “aims and objectives”, the generic terms I learned one day when I was reviewing my business textbooks. I started to see my life more clearly: If I want a thing to be done, I would need to set a clear timeline for it, specific steps to accomplish it and by what and with whom I should do it.
I started to see very early positive changes. I got my first proper job as a TV anchor due to getting to know the right people and obtaining the right skills in advance. I worked on my applications and was one of a few Vietnamese candidates to be awarded the Endeavour Awards to go and live in Australia. I got better with setting up clear aims and objectives. I’ve become more confident and believe in myself in what I can do and how I can do it.
Becoming one of 11 candidates to be awarded Chevening Scholarships by the UK Foreign Office is probably the biggest achievement in my life so far. I finally had the opportunity to study and eventually live and work in London. My 5-year plan was accomplished, a lot sooner than I expected. And I was so happy.
What I didn’t know was that you can’t have the best of both worlds. You can’t just follow your plan without appreciating the beauty of your everyday life and cherishing the moments with the ones you love. One morning in January, I woke up with a phone call from my sister, informing me that my dad just passed away. I was in shock and was in deep regret. I flew back home crying on the plane, regretting that I was too busy with my life and tortured myself with so many “what ifs”: what if I had phoned back home more often, what if our last conversation had not been me telling him off for smoking, what if I had said “I love you” more to him. My dad was the reason I wanted to move away from my hometown but was also the reason I was reminded there are more important things in my life than being successful.
I still plan my life, but now the plan doesn’t just include me anymore. It has expanded to my mother, my sister, my partner, my friends and people who mean so much to me. Every year I still have my resolutions but now it’s on what I would like to do and where I would like to go with the ones I love. And you know what? I find that my life has become so much more fulfilling and enjoyable since. I am happy now that I make them happy. I know when you’re reading this you would moan: how cliché is it? But think about it. After all isn’t it what everyone looks for in life?
Well, last but not least, however well planned I am in life, I still very much believe in miracles and I believe one day if I see my ‘starman’, I now know for sure who I would share this miracle with.