Thursday, November 24, 2011

You are worth it


Dear brother,

Happy Thanks Giving day. I know you are having exams and life seems pretty tough, but you'll make it.

Today I'll tell you about how much you are worth it. You worth everything in life. You deserve only the best.

Life is short. Someone wise once told me "Never put your life on hold for work, or for anything. Because when work doesn't work out or your effort doesn't get rewarded, when you turn around, there will be nothing left. Choose wisely. I may not have the latest promotions and the best bonuses, but I get to see my little daughter growing up".

It is important, brother, as you grow up, to have your own self esteem and self worth. No matter how they treat you, no matter what they tell you, you are worth it. And as long as you know the person that you are and stick to your integrity, your guts, and your openmindedness to learn, you are worth it.

Today was a bizarre day. I ran across town attend a last minute meeting because someone went back on their words of the agreement. And then during the meeting got called back for another change. I was then informed of people not "liking" my presence and I need to watch my back. So much for the day I try to be thankful for.

The nice lady at the office advised me, this is the way things go, you need to go with it and go with the politics and do a good job; if not you are gonna forever be stuck here. Well, that's only 2 options. I have option 3. How about doing a good job, get things done, and if they fail to see that because of some personal bias, you can leave without regret.

Because I am worth it. I am worth the adoration and appreciation, because I learn hard and I work hard. And I know you will, too. Don't let others trick you into believing you have to play their games to win. Don't try to make friends with the bullies. Sometimes, walking away after trying all your best is already winning.

Whatever it takes, brother, know that we all are worth it. Once we learn, we grow, and we do our best, that's already enough.

Whether they "like" it or not, and whether that will translate to money or not, trust me, eventually it will no longer matter.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

About Friendship

Thursday, 20th Oct 2011

Dear brother,

"You expect too much." is what I got from my close friend yesterday. We were talking about not lying to our friends, and she said there are something that we must lie about to our friends.

James has been back in Singapore for 2-3 weeks. Not even a single email to say thank or even just to say hi after the time here.

Maybe I do expect too much.

I expect ingenuity, kindness, and "trying" to keep in touch among friends. I have always offered that in any friendship. I would drop everything for anyone in need to help them.

Maybe I was just being dumb.

That's the thing that I have always struggled with my whole life. Friendship.

There's no definition and there's no clear line. Maybe I do expect too much. Maybe I should care less.

So, brother, do you have someone you can call your true friends by now?

With love

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Life in Vietnam

Dear brother,

It has been 2 months since I got home. I guess being around you everyday, I didn't really see the need to write you letters. Many things have happened.

It has been crazy time trying to adapt back into the lifestyle here. I had a pretty busy (and healthy) lifestyle. I wake up early, bring you to school. On even days I go to the gym, on odd days I go to French lessons. I work 8-9 hours day. I (try) teach you at night. Then movie/TV/porn or any of the combinations. Life has been kind.

And yet I feel small, and helpless, the feeling I had 8 years ago when I left home. As if life here stands still. No progress is made. I feel (and sometimes I am) bigger than the boy I used to be 8 years ago, and yet I feel incredibly small.

I feel distant to you. And it is understandable. You are a teenager and you have so much to figure out. I just hope you know (as I keep reminding you every 2 days or so) that I am on your side, and I'll support you, whatever choices you make.

I feel distant to the part of me that I'm used to, to my god dad, to my friends in Singapore, to my US friends. It's like I'm in a little island, far more little than Singapore. I know I moved on, and I chose this, but sometimes I miss them.

I feel distant to my old Vietnamese friends. 8 years. It's hard to get back to what we once were. We all moved on so much from there. Different things. Different life view. And as much as I wanted to be there for them, sometimes I do think they don't really need it.

It's a bit of a catch 22. I chose life of a nomad, and yet here I am whining about being disconnected to people I care about.

Anyhow, it's been a strange and surreal 6 months. I'm still adjusting. It's like a long jetlag after 8 years of travelling. I guess it will take time.

But as Elise said, I am a lot wiser now. I have a plan. I have a focus. And I'll get there, somehow.

Let's hope it's sooner, rather than later, as I'm a little bit frustrated with standing still (and mom's nagging).

With love

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

3 months and back

Tuesday, Aug 9th 2011

Dear brother,

I'm coming back home. After 3 months. I know you are looking forward to me being home, mostly because of the video games I bought for you, but also to have your brother around. You know, doing brotherly things.

I cant believe it has been 3 months since I am here. Time just seems to pass us by so quickly. I cant believe I have left Singapore for more than 3 months now. It does seem like a strange dream. All things end. A new chapter begins. Just like that.

The past 3 months it does seem like life has been put on hold. I'm sheltered with a lot of rest, TV, sleep, gym, and arts. Of course it is good for health, but it's also driving me nuts. I'm someone that constantly move forward. But it was a good break. Plus I got to see a lot of friends from the US. Plus I got a lot of shopping. Haha. All is well!

I'm reflecting a little bit. I guess I'm going home this time for real, doing things I want to accomplish in Vietnam. Being a better brother. Being a good uncle to be. Being an entrepreneur. Being someone who guide and help Vietnamese. Being the guy I didn't have the chance to become when I was in Singapore because of the financial worries and and the stress of life. Being an artist. Being a Buddhist. Being me.

So I'm looking forward to it with lots of excitement. Things will change and plans change all the time. But I'm ready to embrace change.

It's gonna be a good fun time!

With love

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Letting go and Moving on

Thursday, 28th July, 2011

Dear brother,

July almost comes to an end. I'm coming home :) I hope i can be a better brother for you this time around. Sorry about my absence.

Today, I want to share with you about Love, hurt, and letting go.

I just realized someone from my past (more than 8 years, I tell you), who used to be in love with me, are still in love with me. As flattering as it may sound, and as good it makes me feel, I just wish the other party could move on. Life's too short to dwell on an impossible love.

I should know. Many times I was at the other end of the spectrum. Wondering what they were doing. Dreaming of one day they would change their mind. Hating them. And then hating yourself for letting them go.

Love does crazy things to people.

As I grow, the recovery time from such hurt shorten. These days it takes me about 2 bottles of wine and a week to be back on my feet (It took me about 5 years to get over TR, 3 years to get over Q). But 8 years. 8 years someone spent thinking that one day I would change my mind, without me even knowing it. I have moved on so fast. They still act as if it was high school.

So brother, be careful. You are starting high school in a month. And high school is a time of all craziness, puppy love, and lots and lots of struggles. Just remember to be kind to others, and yet be kind to yourself. Let go and learn from mistakes, and move ahead. Sometimes giving up is the best option.

 Remember, life is short. A minute dwell on the past or spending on impossible love is a minute wasted from living the present, and meeting new people. They could be the one. It's easy to be obsessed with someone, and attach to them and cling on to them all the love and hate that you have. But be brave. Challenge yourself to the whole new world.

Love is out there. Even though right now I'm in a bit of an emotional mess (all my fault, mind you), I do believe that one day I'd be happy. Loved happy. Not settled happy, pretend happy. Happy

So brother. Love. Love all you can. Hurt all you must. But once you learn to let go and move on, there's true happiness somewhere at the end of the rainbow.

With love

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Live life without regrets

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011,

Dear bro,

It's been a while.

I'm sorry you didn't get to the high school you wanted. It must be hard. I'm sorry. I wish I could be there with you in this time. I know the feeling of being disappointed in yourself. I know you are a brave mature kid who puts up a straight face, but it is not easy, nonetheless.

I can tell you, though, that it would all be ok. It may look like a step back right now, but it will somehow unfold itself in the future. Just be brave and hang in there, it will be fine eventually. Some day when you look back, maybe when you see this, it would have all been resolved for the better. I'll be back home soon, I promise.

I turned down one job offer from the US itself. I know. It is kinda strange when you wanted to go, and nothing was there. And once you reach a new place, they started coming in. I just know, that I'm not regretting it. I love what I am doing right now. I do miss home, but I guess I'm doing great preparation steps for my careers. It maybe much slower pace than what I am used to, but I shall take this as an opportunity to rest my weary soul and better myself for the next chapters in life.

I made my decisions generally base on one question, "If I die tomorrow, will this be something I would quote as part of my life?". Morbid, I know, but in life when you make decisions knowing that time is short, and you can't afford to hesitate, you'd make one that you won't regret. It might be a mistake, but that's a mistake you need to make.

So brother, hang in there. I know it looks pretty bleak right now the way mom and dad portrait it. But I am with you 100% and we will be ok. I just want you to enjoy your childhood as the amazing kid that you are, and the rest will come in time. I had the luck and the chance to choose my own paths without regrets when I was younger, and I'll do everything within my power for you to have that, too.

With love.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Keep Learning

Tuesday 14th June 2011,

Dear brother,

Congratulations on surviving the exams! I am so proud of you. I don't know the result yet, but it doesn't matter. I am just very proud of you for being the amazing kid that you are.

I just wanted to share with you about Learning.

Today, my boss handed me a box. Turns out it's a Mac computer (and I made a fool out of myself on Facebook cos I didn't even know the "box" is a Max. LOL). Now I have 2 weeks to master how to make an iPad/iPhone app on a Mac so I can lead the company's future project. I know, right. Somehow I was always handed mission impossible during the course of my work life so far, but I definitely will rise to the challenge and deliver it. (On the other hand getting a free "box" from the company might not be that bad.

And I thought of this. As mediocre as I am (refer to last letter), the thing that sets me apart in my career was my ability to learn and to adapt. And I know you have that too. We might not be smart guys, but we are ultra adaptive, like that flexible dude on Fantastic 4. I am glad and grateful for that.

Got my pay slip (Already got my pay end of last month, but now is the official paper), and felt even better. LOL. I am an incredibly lucky guy. It's not that much in Singapore standard, but hey, it's a shitload in Vietnam. The thing that still amazes me is how lucky I am. I came to the interview not really caring how much salary to negotiate (I just wanted to go back home to Vietnam), gave a random number (like, thought about it for 30 secs), got it, and much more. Didn't realize my company is paying for my personal tax (~33%), my government insurance (~5%) and other crap (didn't know until head of Accounting enlightened me). So in the end it's like a 15% increase from my last (slave) work (which already paid more than Singapore's average). That, and an additional 18% interest from the bank (my company owns the bank, so staff rate for me).

Why am I telling you this? Well, to tell you the benefit of learning. And that because I feel good I just wanted to share. Oh and whatever I save goes to your college fund (mom made that quite clear), so yes, you need to know this. Point is, as long as you are good, even if you cost a lot, people will pay it to get you. And learning (note, it's not studying, it's learning) makes all the differences.

I feel very humble (as I am still an idiot, an idiot who called a Max a box) when I am faced with new things But I feel empowered by my ability to learn, to accept what I do not know and try my best to acquire that knowledge.

So brother, keep learning. Even your grades are shit, it's the things you know that matter.

Now, enough ranting. I need to get back to my "box" and learn how to use it so that I can suppress the desire to smash it. "Once you go Mac, you never go back". Let's see about that

With love

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm just ok

Oklahoma, June 06th 2011

Dear brother,

I realized I have been absent. Not just from you physically cos I am in the US, but also as your mentor, your friend. I apologize. I guess the past month I was so busy adjusting to here, and also, to be... happy. I know. It is stranger coming out of my mouth than for you to hear it. But I am happy. Maybe for the first time in the past 2-4 years.

But this is not about me (Ha, that's news!). It's about you. I spoke with mom and I can understand the tremendous pressure you are in. I mean we were all born in the society and the culture that places so much focus on excellency that it's impossible just to breathe being mediocre.

The shocking truth (maybe to mom) is, my brother, I am a mediocre. I am just ok. It's funny how people gave me those title "At the top of peer group", etc. because I am not. I am just ok.

I like to do things and I am all over the place. I take photographs. I paint. I do programming. I do project management. I do business. And the fact is, I'm not the best at any of those.

The thing is, when I do something, I put my whole heart to it (and then move on to other things). As long as you live in the moment, unapologetic, doing your best, with a little bit of luck, you'll get it.

So yeah, unless you aim to be Mark the Facebook dude, or Steve Jobs, there's no need to be the best. Mediocrity is the best :) Just do what you love, and love what you do. Life is too short to come out on top doing what you hate :p

So brother, this weekend is your big entrance exam, and I wish you luck. However, I wish even more that you get to study and do what you love

I'll be here, every step of the way, distracting you with my PS3, Xbox Kinect, Nintendo 3D, iPad 2 and Android phone (On the side note, you are the luckiest 15-year-old ever :p You have all these toys and still you have love from people around. ;) Ha!)


Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh Happy Day

Monday, 16th May 2011. Oklahoma City, USA

Dear brother

Today has been a very wonderful day. No Monday blue. Just rainbow and little humming birds sing.

The weather is great in Oklahoma City. It's sunny and 12 degree out. The sky is blue, pure blue.

Work has been going great. I'm picking things up quickly, but I'm not killing myself like when I was in Singapore. They work here strictly 8am to 5pm, so I have a lot of personal time for myself. The sun rises at 6:30am and sets at 8:30pm, so I have a long fulfilling day. The air is fresh and the people is pretty friendly. I got home from work and the room is cleaned, the bed is made, and the towels are new.

I just completed the first draft for a business plan/proposal to my boss. It gets me charged up. This is what I do well, to plan, to suggest, to innovate. I hope he will review, feedback, and then ultimately help me execute the plan. I guess this is what it feels like to be a manager. Just as when I was an engineer, I suggest and come up with ideas. Now, the difference is I have the ability and flexibility to take charge, to lead, and to implement them.

I just came back from the gym. I felt refresh and energetic :) I have never been so healthy in my life before.

I also received my new lens. Hooray!!! I'll go to the Botanical garden this weekend to test it out. They have a pretty nice (and big) botanical garden here that costs like $6 to enter, and it's only 5 miles away from where I stay (which I get a free shuttle to go there).

And I got my Kinect. Haha. I'll start with Dance Central tonight. Just hope the machine will not give up on me and say "Your hands and legs cannot and will never sync".

So yeah. It is a happy day. For once it is me that is not emo or dramatic. It's just simply happy. And I just want to note down how grateful I am for days like these.

With love

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A new journey for us both

Tuesday 10 May 2011
(report due to Blogger error)

Dear brother,

I have to admit, it is scary. A new chapter in life awaits us both.

For you, it's high school. Secondary exams can be intimidating, and scary. Mom's freaked as soon as she heard your literature result. I know you are facing a lot of pressure too. And no matter how much I'm telling you it's all gonna be ok, I know you don't feel that way. 

I was sitting there listening to mom and other mothers discussing the other day about how to squeeze every hour you have to extra classes and jam school to speed up for exams. I understand the insane expectations dad has for you (to be like me, or even better than me). I know I am just being useless by working all the time, and always telling you it will be ok without teaching you (I honestly have forgot all these knowledge). I can only tell you, again, that it's all gonna be ok.

As for me, well, I'm flying tomorrow. For 3 months. I consider it to be like an extended Manager training. I have to start from the ground. I'll start from Coding/Programming (honestly I have forgot most of it, as well). Then I'll need to work with the team to gain their rapport and respect. Then I need to come up with new processes and project plans. And then finally, I can go home to Vietnam and do what I have set out to do: Make a difference!

It is indeed exciting, and scary. And as usual no one is really helping. Here being Vietnam. the processes and the bureaucracy is even slower. But I KNOW I can do it. I know it's all gonna be ok.

Brother, it's important for that in life. Sometimes you feel you are all alone. Sometimes uncertainties and self doubt will creep up to you. Just know, that it's all gonna be ok. Know, that you are more capable than you will ever think you are. It will always be tough, but I trust that you are tougher. That's how achievements are made. 

I am sorry I wasn't be able to be with you as I promised. I wish I could be here for you in this challenging time for you. But know, that I have always been proud of you.

And so, it's a new exciting journey for us all. Let's both be strong and face forward.

With love

Monday, May 2, 2011

Leap of Faith?

Dear brother,

I am typing this for you from home.

It has been a roller coaster 2 months. I'm sorry for the lack of notes to you. I was summarizing my time in Singapore as a farewell note. I will store that somewhere for you. Life in Singapore and the lessons that I've learned.

It is amazing to be home. It's a good feeling to be with you, to be your brother, your guide, your young and hip bro who takes u to movies and teach u PS3 games. It was really nice.

And then they asked me to go OKC (USA) for a year, immediately this weekend.

On one hand I am excited to start with real actions with the job. On the other hand, I'm a little scared. I guess it was now at all I have envisioned, being in Vietnam. I am so unprepared for it. Shall I take this leap of faith?

I will have to. What choice do I have?

I guess I had this vision of coming back here, making a difference to people's life, friends and family.

Somehow, I began to realize, no one needs that (i.e. I am not needed here. Even my firm sent me to OKC). It is nice to want to make a difference, but then it is kinda scary to realize there's no difference needed to be made. And I have no right to just keep hopping all over the place, and then come back and ask people to involve me in their lives. In the end, I'm still a lone wanderer.

I am just so sorry I couldn't be here for you more, to guide you through this incredibly difficult years of finishing secondary.

I guess I am not good at being around for the people I love after all...

Maybe I am meant to be on my own.

It's a tough choice, and I hope you would understand when you read this note.

I love you tremendously.

Your bro

Monday, April 4, 2011


Monday, Apr, 4th 2011
It is getting really scary, the more real it gets.
I'm starting the new job next month. I'll be home. I have plans to start some investments/business on my own. I still have MBA somewhere at the back of my mind. I want change. I want to lead. There are limitless opportunities. There are limitless things I can do. It is scary
Will I be able to rise up to the challenge of the new job? Will I have time to spend with you guys or I will just fall back in the workaholic patterns I used to have? Will I be able to adjust back to a now foreign and changed Vietnam? Will I be ok?
I’m not sure. But I know I wanted this, and now I got this. Be careful what you wished for, because you might get it all.
So yeah, I’ll just need to take appropriate rest, and brace myself for the next chapter of my life to come.
With love

The unpublished Farewell note

Saturday, 2nd Apr 2011,

Dear brother.

I wrote this note way back in December 2010 when I had my mid life crisis and wanted to drop everything and go back to Vietnam. Of course it didn't happen then because it did not come from the right place. But it's happening now, so I thought I'd share it with you. I had a lot of farewell lately and I feel so honored, and grateful for each and every friend I have in Singapore. This is an excerpt

These are the 3 most important things I've learned in the past 8 years here.

Lesson 1: No matter where you are, it's the people around you that matters. The people I've met in NUS KE Hall gave me the confidence to step up and prove myself, even as a Vietnamese small town boy. The people from NOC taught me so much about entrepreneurial attitude and aptitude in work and in life. Wavelink colleagues who accompanied me through frustrations and hardship as a young professional kick starting his career. And Accenture folks who are so brilliant, smart, and dedicated. My 8 years here have not been an easy road (and the learning curves are killer tidal waves), but the people make it meaningful.

Lesson 2: No matter what you do, put in your hundred 100%. This, particularly goes to Accenture Billing BSCS guys. I mean many times we are doing what we don't like (or we think we don't like), and many times we make tough choices. But whether it's working 14 hours day, or patching 2000 records in 2 hours, everyone is there, everyone put in 100%. And I'd like to say, as hard as it seems at time, it does pay back. Someone does see it and recognizes it. 

Lesson 3: Life is short. You have to do what you want. You have to do what you're sure. Yes you can excel and work hard and do something so well, maybe make a fortune out of it, but eventually, at the end of the day, it's the "What do I want in life?" that matters. A lot of time I feel we do know the answer to that questions, we are just too afraid of change and uncertainties. I'm taking that leap of faith.

And so, the positive impacts that have been made are not lost. It will transpire to more young (Vietnamese) professionals whom I will work with and (try to) inspire.

With love

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Live like we are dying

Friday 25th March 2011

Dear brother,

In 40 days I’ll be home.

To be frank, I’m a little scared. I am extremely excited, so much so that I am scared that I over expect things. So I’m trying to stay in that space where it is calm and re-assuring.

I have been doing a lot of reflection lately. Small town boy from seaside town, wishing to become an architect. An Idealistic, hopeless romantic teenager. A stranger in a foreign land, foreign school, adjusting foreign language. A bright young man who came to Philadelphia to learn about starting ventures. A fresh grad who is eager to fly and got trapped in a governmental mechanism of a Union. A team lead of a super large scale project where he works 75 hours week. A loving boyfriend. And now, a coming home son to his mother land Vietnam, as the next young Project Manager aspiring to change the world. And 5 years later, hopefully, a calm and tranquil monk in Tibet. I have come a long way… Can’t believe at one point of time in life I considered killing myself. I just want to quietly give myself a pat on my shoulder. “Good job, little Pace!”

So there is this rhetorical question that people always ask “If your life flashed before you, what do you wish you would have done?”. I would say, exactly everything I have done in my life. To love. To hurt. To aspire. To fail. To risk. To change. Because it is not easy, it is life.

Of course there would be so much more I could have done if we were rich and I have more allowances (and didn’t have to pay my own tuition fee loan). But hey, there will be a lot that I would have never done if life was comfortable. Hardship forced me to strive. Loneliness sometimes forced me to survive.
I am trying very hard to spend the remaining days here to meet up with all my friends here, all the people that have made positive impact in my life in the past 8 years. “Gotta tell them that you love them when you still have the chance to say”. Life is precious because of the people around you.

I know I am 26, but it feels like I’ve been living much longer than that :p Life, to me, is not a gradual process of duration, but a punctuated series of moments. And therefore, my life has been full, and wonderful (in a sort of twisted and damaged way, like un Film Noir Francaise).

So brother, I know you are a much more innocent boy than I was (and I am so very glad you are and I intend to do everything I can to let you stay that way); but life is a challenge, and growing up is not easy. I just hope you will live and enjoy every moment of life as they are. Don’t be afraid, because every failure, every challenge leads to something wonderful later on. I’d like to quote another song “Maybe the reason why all the doors are close is so you can open one that would lead you to the perfect road”.

And so brother, see you in Saigon J

Thursday, March 10, 2011


March 10th 2011,

Dear brother

And so it happened. In a month's time, I'll be home. I'll be home to watch over you take your O level. I'll be home to see you on your first day of High school. I'll be home.

It's like fate. I didn't look for it. It looked for me. An opportunity in Vietnam.

Yes, my brother, meet the new Project Manager of an IT Outsourcing in Healthcare domain, which belongs to the 6th largest IPO firm in Vietnam.

Today was the first day the news got out. I resigned from Accenture, my beloved wife of the troubled married. And if anyone ever asks I would still always say it is a great firm. It has little politics on the ground. People are smart and professional. And it gives people opportunity to learn, to grow, to outdo themselves.

But then, it has to be in Singapore, away from home and from love, and I have to be 'just' a programmer...

And so I chose greatness, or a small chance at greatness, to risk it all for that I really want, a leader of a group, a visionary guy,  the problem solving guy, and the entrepreneurial guy.

Mom is scared I will be earning too little (in fact, given it's Vietnam, it's like 3 people my age's salary. Although the tax is insane. Funny to see where all that tax dollars go). My boss suggested that I'm making a career mistake. My friends will miss me. I am scared shitless this maybe a big mistake. But even if it is, I need to make it. At 26, time to be brave and be passionate about something.

And that's all I have to tell you. Be brave. It's your life. People can feel what they feel and tell you what they want. It's your life, and your choices to make. It maybe a mistake, but it's yours, and you learn and become better human from it.

So brother, I will finally be home, to watch over you. To become a man.

I'm coming home...


Monday, February 28, 2011

The Cheat

Monday 28th February, 2011

Dear brother,

Today, I’ll talk with you about cheating.

Cheating is when you having the thoughts/plans of attachment with another party, and then lie about it to your partner. Therefore, cheating is not merely an act of infidelity, but the state of emotional disassociation and loss of honesty, which is the core of any lasting relationship.

I know this guy (OK, in adult terms, it means myself) who has been married for a while now. 3 years almost, to be exact. His wife is a kind and wise woman. He learned a lot from her, about life, about love, integrity, and what’s important in life. However, the marriage has been stalling, for a while now. The thing is, he feels stuck, in a foreign place that is her home, not his. She has this huge family, and everyone else is more important than he is. She knows what he can do and how much he wants to live the life he envisioned, but she can never give that to him.

Entered the second girl, named M. She’s a young, soft spoken girl, whose family is hugely rich and successful, worldwide. She offers him a chance to return home. She offers him something he knows and desires that he can do so well. Only catch? He has to prove himself to her family, to start from scratch. He is weary of that (proving), but in his heart, he desires home, and a chance to break free…

And then there was N. She’s a successful business woman, young, and attractive. She offers him home, and offers him a chance to break all definition of age and limits, the sky he always wanted to reach. All she asks is for his time and his commitment. He has to leave his wife.

Now, I know none of this makes sense to you right now (In due time it will, I promise). But let’s consider this guy for a minute.

He’s probably not gonna leave his wife and run away to reach for the sky (with N), or even try that (with M). He is just pondering the thought. But then he lied to his wife about it…

You see I have never approved of cheating. Honesty means a lot to me. But, it then makes me wonder, in life, when the choice between previously promised commitment and lifetime aspiration comes down to one, gun point to the head, what would one choose?

I would choose the latter. I know I might be signing myself up as the “Asshole of the year” here, but at the end of the day, I’m just a very very young guy trying to live my life without regrets.
Just one advice though, once you choose, someone will always get hurt. At least, have the decency to be honest about it. That’s what I would tell this guy to do.

So now, what is his name? He’s “L” for death note. (See, it’s L, M and N :p) OK, just kidding.

With love

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Photographer

Friday 18th Feb 2011

Dear brother,

I would officially stop calling myself a Photographer. From today on, I am an aspiring Light writer.

I met an extremely cynical and jaded Photographer today (coming from me, you know how extreme he is). He was asking for assistant part-time, so I thought it’s good to learn. He wrote a long email explaining his expectation. No pay for 5 shoots. Need to check quality. Need to learn 1 year before you can shoot wedding. Cannot complain even when the pay is $100 for 10 hours shoot. Need to be humble and learn. All of which, I thought, for someone so experienced, I am willing to commit, give and learn. And then he went on about how other Photographers (he named names from famous people in the industry) betrayed him. He requests me to give up my brand (Pacevolution). All of which I was about to accept. Except for one thing, my copyright. Whatever I took will be branded under his group. For $100 bucks a day, I guess I’m not willing to give that up. My stories. My view. He maybe amazing, but he won’t take my voice. I know to him I’m just a young inexperienced apprentice trying to suck skills out from someone else, even when I was saying repeatedly I do this out of my love for Photography, and my genuine interest for people and humanity.

It is sad to see how cynical someone becomes.  Photography is supposed to be about story telling, about life. And since he is not a studio and wanting to do this out of passion, I was thinking being so condescending and demanding is oddly unsuitable. But I guess when passion becomes a business, it’s hard to say. He asks and request for it to not be a studio business, and for his apprentice not to expect that, and yet when it comes to copyright, he said since money is exchanged, the copyright is owned by the studio/company/group.

I’m not sure if it is fair, since everywhere it would be the same for business, the fact is this is Singapore, which wedding is a crazy expensive extravaganza, it has driven people to be cynical, competitive, and losing that of what most important: The people and the most precious moments in their lives.
In the end, I’m not a pro. I am starting out, with passion to learn. I guess I’m just too idealist to learn this from a business man. I need an artist to teach me…

And I know, in my heart, I will never use photography or painting as a business. It destroys the will to tell stories that matter… So yes, I am not a photographer. I’m a writer. I write stories through my lens. And I know my skill is junior (as he called it) and there are a lot more to learn, as long as there are still stories to tell, I will continue to learn it as my passion, and my life aspiration.

I just want to leave this place more every day. It’s so hard to just even work for your passion here.

Brother, it’s too, is my conviction for you NOT to become cynical. I need to protect you from that, too. Life is hard, but we don’t need to be harsh and condescending to each other to make it even harder.

With love

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Plan

Tuesday 15th Feb 2011

Dear brother,

I was happy you called me yesterday just to say hi and Happy Valentine’s Day. It was a highlight of my otherwise totally shitty day (Bad day at work + racist jokes about Vietnamese repeated on the radio + hostile things said about foreigner PR in Singapore + fight with my ex). It was as if the universe is giving me a sign to fuck off.

Anyhow, I made up my mind. A lot of time in my life it seems I do things out of the blue and totally impulsive (going to Singapore, going to US for NOC, left home for 4 days to scare mom, quit my job without a job and going to US for 6 weeks), but a lot of time they are the result of a long pondering and questioning for a quest of life. This time is no different. I’ve decided it’s time to carry out the next phase of my life. I have thought about it for a long time. And now, I sat down and planned a timeline action for it, step by step. It shall be called, the Plan.

It all made sense to me, somehow. And I know in life nothing will go as planned, but having the big picture in mind of what have to be done and how many tasks are there ahead helped. It at least calms me down with all the manic crazy desperation lately. I just need to stick with it, with patience, grace, and hope, to move on.

And that’s what I can tell you, brother. Life is short. I know at 15 it seems life is so much ahead and so unclear. The bad news is it’s still like that when you are 26. The good news, however, is that you learn to deal with them, the uncertainties of life. You learn to plan, to weigh your options, and to go ahead. Be brave, and do what’s right for you. Because, again, life is short.

It’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be tiring. It’s gonna be at times heart breaking and exhausting. It’s life. And I think I am ready for it. Because I know at the end, it’ll all be better (I know, for a cynic, I have a lot of faith).

Time to move on, with “The Plan”.

When the time is right, I’ll share it with you and mom, and dad, and my friends. For now, it remains mine. J

With love
Your brother

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The beginning of the end

Sunday, 13th February 2011, 1:07am


I'm moving house today, again. I can only pray the new landlord is better. I don't ask for much. I'm not asking them to treat me like their son. I just needed a quiet place to lay my head down and rest, a place to do laundry without the landlord banging on the door every 5 mins while I was talking to mom because she wants me to remove my clothes from the machine. A place where people don't enter my room and looked through my stuffs when I'm not home. I just needed a small cozy quiet space to be home.

The truth is, for the past week, I feel like Singapore is rejecting me, in every corner, as if I am a virus. Work has been kinda frustrating. There will be no training and I'm just doing a programming role, which I had communicated with the senior executive is not my career's goal. Living, well, as you know, my landlord is crazy and I just have to keep packing.

It's Valentines' Day again. And I'm all alone, again, for the 7th time. I guess I'm so used to being alone it should not mean that much anymore. Somehow it does. I was that romantic teenage guy who recorded my voice, called my girlfriend, standing outside her door with a rose. I was.

I feel all alone. So much so I become hyper sensitive to things around me. I'm so terrified every time I receive a new email from the new landlord. I feel rejected every time my friend doesn't turn up for some events I'm trying to organize. I feel left alone when my god Dad told me to call back and he needs to settle his things before he can help me (which absolutely makes sense). I feel insulted when my senior manager was joking "Are you doing any work or not? I see you keep reading documents?". I am in constant battle mode.

My friend advised me wisely: "Focus on what you have, rather that what you are missing". I have a loving family in Vietnam. I have a brother who needs me there in Vietnam. I have an understanding and kind god dad half way around the world. I have someone who loved me and is still waiting for me, to be with them, from a very far distance.

I have nothing left here. I realized. So well, time to plan for the end, a responsible, sensible, end. It won't be immediate, because I have grown enough to not just leave. But it will happen.

Sometimes, brother, it is just so hard to be all alone on your own on some city that is packed with people (who just don't care). I wish for you to not go through the same. I will ensure if you study overseas you will stay with me, and if you study in Vietnam, you'd have a decent life.

I promise. :)


Time to prepare to go. This year, I'm heading out of this space.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Thursday 10th Feb 2011, 5am

Dear brother,

It's almost a week since I got back here, and I already almost wanting to burn the place down.

A few rejections. Some lot of isolation. I made some efforts to do the impossible. For the change I wanted. No response from the universe. It is just rejection after rejection.

Well, I guess there were a time I wanted to give up.

But then again, brother, change doesn't happen over night. It takes effort, and commitment, and discouraged hearts. And hope.

I was thinking I should stop giving in to false hope and put in so much efforts and time where it doesn't yield anything. Except, there is nothing false about hope.

So here I go again. The uncertain times and hard times as life has always been. But I guess I grew to know life is not easy for anyone. We just have to stay with the struggles, stay with the frustration, and move on forward.

For now, I just hope sleep comes easy

With love

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A conversation with an long time friend

Tuesday, 8th February 2011

Dear brother,

I wanted to share with you a conversation I had with my long term ex-girlfriend (yeah, it's complicated). She's the first girlfriend I had and we had it on and off for 5 years, so sometimes it just feel so natural for us to talk and be with each other (she occasionally holds my hands and I occasionally thought of her as someone near. We still call each other dear). It was on the afternoon of my birthday, in a crowded Vietnam cafe, and the 2 of us speaking English, as if we are in a world of our own. What's the point of this? Well, to share with you what seemingly 2 healthy, successful 26-year-old struggle with, and how someone you met and fell in love at 15 can be in your life 10 years later. I shall call her She.

He: So what's the deal with the engagement ring?
She: What ring? This? It's from the guy I'm dating.
He: So when is the problem?
She: The problem is he has a girlfriend.
He: Well, I'm not judging. But is there a future to this?
She: You know, you can always be with someone, someone who is there for you, to listen to you, to care for you, even when you know fully well that you two have no future together
He: Like an emotional prostitute?
She: Yeah, like that. We rape each other off the emotions
He: That's why I broke up with my girlfriend last year.
She: You had a girlfriend?
He: Yeah, for a while. But then she wanted something more, something I was not ready to give. She wanted to settle down, get married, have a happy ending. I thought I was ready for that. But then I realized, I love myself too much to settle down. And I still need to go soul searching. So I let her go...
She: You are selfish, you know. Good selfish.
He: Yeah, I know.
She: I wonder why we ended up such broken people. You, me and her. We grew up together and we had careers and all that. Somehow when it comes to love it's always screwed up
He: Not broken. Maybe damaged. I blame it on my mom.
She: The woman of your life?
He: Yeah. Sometimes I feel I was so busy being the person she wanted me to be I have no time to be me.
She: That is your problem. You work hard at many things and you become good at them, but you never know who you are.
He: Agreed. Maybe that's why I never grew up. That's why I'm forever soul searching.
She: You are a 16 year-old-boy trapped in an ugly 26 year-old-man. Only with more spending power on travelling.
He: Yah, still. For what it's worth, I'm sorry for hurting you when I was younger. I was such a kid.
She: It's still not too late now
He: (laugh) I thought of that sometimes and how nice it is. But I care for you too much to be your boyfriend. I will only break your heart
She: (laughs) Maybe it's not the right time yet.
He: One day. Maybe. But listen. Sometimes in life we are so used to having our heart broken that we go out, working like crazy, searching for people that will only break our hearts, or worse, being with someone and hurt them. We tell ourselves we are so broken we do not deserve to be happy. And that's not true. I have never known anyone that is more deserving of happiness like you.
She: You are gonna make me cry.
He: Oh well, if you ever need an emotional prostitute...

And there you go, brother. I don't know if any of it makes sense to you, because we are sort of in our own world. But one day, I'll tell you about this...

With love.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Monday, 7th February 2011

Dear brother,

It is funny to write you a letter to the future, when I was just seeing you yesterday, when we were just celebrating birthday together on Saturday. You have grown. You are almost as tall and big as me now. And you have the worries that is very mature about the future, and yet the innocence of a kid who loves Transformer video games more than emotional talk with your brother. I am glad.

As the matter of fact, I wish things would not change. I wish you will forever be my little brother. But I guess change is the only constant thing, and no matter how hard I wish, I just cant get that. Things are changing so fast in Vietnam. Expensive cafe. High buildings. Cold and rushing people passing by. It's no longer the kind and loving Vietnam I used to love.

I am changing. I wish I could say I am not. But I am. I wish I wasn't snobbish and annoyed by how noisy and impolite the people were. I wish I wasn't judgmental when I looked at youth these days in their fancy clothes and loud mouth arrogance. I wish I wasn't scared of pickpocketers when I was in the crowd. I wish I could feel like I still belong. I don't.

The fact is, brother. I, more than anyone else, wish for change. I want to be next to the people that I care about. I want to be next to the person I love. I want to be somewhere I can breathe. I want to be somewhere I can be myself. I want to be with the mountains, the ocean, the air so cool and the whispers of "It will be alright, I promise".

I'm exhausted. Desperation, almost. Rejections after rejections. I feel like giving up and just go home. Only to realize I don't belong anymore. It's all changed. Even mom and dad advised me not to come back.

So brother, here I am, 26, trapped in the 16 year old. Difference is, at 16, I didn't know who I am and what I should do. Now, I know that, I just cant be that. Not here, in this tiny space where it is even hard to breathe at times.

Change. I wish for change... My birthday wish. I wish for change...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Marriage-the Ultimate friendship

Rainy Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Dear brother,

I realized, all these while, I had a really wrong perspective on friendship and love. And so, the question I used to asked "Can love and friendship co-exist?" I have the answer for it...

I heard Mom complaining about her friends, and your friends, and how I am so lucky to always make good friends (yeah I sugar coat it too much). And while I was eating dinner alone on a Saturday night, one that was supposed to be CNY steamboat and my be-early bday party, I realized, the answer, all these while, stay with me.

I saw a note Jon wrote about CJ's wedding (I'll fill you in in all these people later), and the first, initial reaction I had was "WTF? I am supposed to be CJ's best man. He didn't even ask". I remembered preparing a toast about night cycling, twisted ankle and how she fixed him after he fixed her.

But then I realized, that was 6 years ago. I know nothing newer about them to tell. And while I was so busy whining about how he is no longer there for me, I forgot, that I choose not to be there for them... A lot of time I decided to just pick up and leave, for my soul searching craps. I decided to be that sad angry victim that lost his friends to "the relationship" party.

The truth is, I am, myself, a terrible friend that is self-absorbed and self-centered. The only person that I maybe always there for is Kelly, and she never got married, because I consumed too much of her by "being there".

Being in a relationship last year made me realize, no matter how great friends are, they are not with you in the middle of the night when you are scared, having fever, or when you have to pretend to the world that you are so fucking ok (pardon the language, but I'm re-considering your age limit when you read this). And that is, why, people get married.

Even Liu Ting, that girl that used to say she will be single forever asked me "Can you introduce your engineers to me?". Or James, who is struggling with his relationship because of mom and his religion, made a comment about how much pain it is.

And I realized, I'm nothing better than his mom... It is scary, to let people you love go, to let them grow out of the place you thought you were, "for them". I remembered how freaked out our mom was when sis got married, and why I never told her about any relationships I had. It got lonely. I guess the notion of me leaving her for another woman freak her out. Just like the way I did with my friends.

But the fact is, brother, life goes on. The friends that get you at 15 is no longer the same at 25. At 25 Thu has a husband and is opening her own business. And I chose to be there for her by designing her company logo. At 25 Trinh has her first baby, and I offered to be the god-father. At 25 Van Anh decided to dedicate her time to charity, and I help with the money. At 25 Q has decided to fall in love...

Me, at 25, I'm terrified of turning 26...

And so, the answer. Love itself is a friendship. A friendship that lasts. Don't let mom terrify you into choosing to be alone, the way I did. Don't let yourself fool yourself with the notion you don't need love as long as you have a bunch of friends. Don't let yourself be the victim of your own hallucination that others "steal" your friends from you.

Because brother, at one point in your life, you want more companionship, intimacy, and care than friends can provide.

And that, brother, was what I have been told the day we broke up, when I chose my soul-searching, my friends, my so-called career over the relationship I had last year...

Don't make the same mistakes.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


January 25th 2011

Dear brother,

It's our birthday in 10 days.

Normally by this time I would completely freaked out. Either about career, or relationship, or anything. Birthdays are generally the worst time of the year for me, as I am faced with the fact that I have not moved from where I was.

This year was different. I got what I wanted last year. A career improvement. Someone who stayed (at least for a while). And a direction.

26, in fact, is uneventful. It's not like 15 when there was y2k. It's not sweet 16. It's not 18 when you can start smoking. It's not 20 when 40 people from my hall surprised me at the door. It's not 21 when I was in New York, marking my adulthood. It's not 25, when I have mid life crisis. It's just a year. A number.

Which made me wonder. Am I just getting old? Like most other people. Have I lost that burning drive to move forward, to be?

I am not sure.

I just know it will be an uneventful birthday (as it collide with Tet - Chinese New Year). No candle, no cake, no present, no problem with me. I guess...

I miss having a life with purpose. I miss living, and not existing. I miss loving someone. I miss being free. I miss breathing, almost. That fresh clean air of the mountains...

I need to get out of here. Let that be my birthday wish this year.

With love

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

Tuesday 25th Jan 2011,

Dear brother,

I had a rough night. First of all I was feverish. Then my landlord banged at my door at 3am "Wake up! Wake up!" and then she said "Sorry I thought you were awake!". Of course I ran out of patient and screamed at her. And I had nightmares after nightmares... I woke up and saw a bunch of rejection emails...

The fact is, being 26 with 5 years of experience, a lot more years of struggles, you thought I have achieved something. I can not be more wrong... I just feel a sense of helplessness taking over... Men cannot leave off sweet dreams alone.

So I guess I'm considering giving up on all that. All that I want. To be free.

And maybe just go home and be wounded. For once...

Maybe it's the fever talking. Maybe it's the constant rejections for the past 3 months. I'm just exhausted and demoralized altogether.

Dreams seem so far. Nightmares remain...

I cant wait to see you next week

With love,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thank you for the Memory

Saturday 22nd Jan 2011

Dear brother,

It is a peaceful quiet Saturday morning here in the sunny island of Singapore. It's one of the first Saturday off I have in a long time while working in Singapore, so I get to relax and reflect a little.

The last week were incredibly difficult for me, as I came back from the wild wide US, back to the controlled space of Singapore. I started a new project, of which now I'm starting from scratch, at the beginning of the food chain. I looked for houses, which are not incredibly expensive. I eat food that not cost at least 50 cents-a dollar more than 6 weeks ago. I tried to reconnect to my friends. And then it hit me, Singapore is rejecting me, like cancer.

I know it is an exaggeration (What's new, considering it's me), but it is true. There is nothing here for me anymore (even my new pay rise hardly cover for the inflation and the new house rent). My friends have all moved on. My family is in Vietnam. The one thing I thought i had here is a promising career where people recognize and reward me. I'm beginning to doubt that.

So I guess I made up my mind. I decided to leave Singapore, for good. And not just talking about it. I'm already checking website to cancel my PR, and my CPF, etc. and all that crap. It is in motion.

Of course I cant just pack up and leave (even if I want to, that is not the responsible person that I am). I will stay until this project go live (end Dec) to finish my obligation with my firm (a good firm, just not suitable for my career goals). I know it is a year, but at least now I have a direction, and I am not at lost anymore.

I will always remember 18th July 2003, the day I first step here, full of ideals and aspirations, and that feeling back then. I will always remember 20th birthday when I was so depressed and my friends had a surprise birthday for me. I will always remember the day I left for NOC. My first job. The day I got into Accenture. All those memories...

And yet, they are the past. I am struggling as much as I can to make new memories, and it is hard. So, instead of staying there and investing in what seems to have been lost, I've decided to keep a low profile, enjoy my tranquility, and let go.

This, brother, will be the year I move. Where? I don't know yet. But far away from here...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The first day

Monday, 17th January 2011

Today was the first day I'm back at work.

Everything was .. different. People are more relaxed. They are less panicky and quieter. The work hour is insanely...good. 930 to 1830, that was it. No long nights. No weekends. Nothing of that sort.

I am supposed I was to be happy.

But there's this increasingly nagging feeling inside of me. This is still not what I want to do with my life. It just feels like i'm going to the same path, starting all over again in a technology, a career dictated by my company's needs rather than my aspirations. I know. I know. One cant ask for too much. But I'm wondering, if I can ever get what I want being here...

I miss you.

I talked to you on the phone and I heard you are having troubles with school. I tried my best to counsel but you sounded distant, sad, and a little shy away from me. I guess I understand. I haven't been there for you in a long time, so I cant just ask to jump back and be the cool, understanding brother I used to be...

I wish so much for you to know I still care the same. I still want to care for you the same.

So well, that was my first day. I am supposed I was to be happy. I found a place with (non)insane landlord to settle down. My new project is human. My waistline is now back to 30. I guess I should be happy.

But I cant shake the feeling I don't belong here. On the phone, my friends turned down an invite... My old project friends are everywhere. I finished my bonds. I miss you guys. I don't have the career I'd thought I'd have here.

Elsewhere, someone else might need me. I just feel so stuck here.


2 more weeks till I'm home. Hang in there brother


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Panic attack

Friday, 14th Jan, 8:15am, Singapore,

Dear brother,

I'm a mess. I'm crying uncontrollably. I can barely breathe. I got to my room. I sat down. I lied down and tried to rest. And then I started crying. Like a tidal wave. So much pain. It wouldn't stop.

The fact is, I have tried to suppress it so hard, but I feel all alone. I am all alone.

Well, maybe it is not easy, to get from 6 weeks surrounded by love, family, and care, (not to mention the extremely nice weather below 10 degree) back to the loneliness of Singapore, a rented place with crazy landlord, the heat, the mad rush of work (emails already flooding in for new project) and the lack of friends/family here

Well, I just need to hang in there and recover and get myself together I guess. It's just hard at times.

3 more weeks to home, that is if I get my half day leave. Right now I just feel like getting any stupid excuse to quit it all and go home to Vietnam and cry.

Sorry, your brother is such a cry baby :)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Soul searching - Lost and Found

January 12th 2011, 7:45pm Los Angeles time

Dear brother,

A new year just came by and I was too caught up with my travel plans and my own dramas I didn't write to you. I heard from Mom about you (mostly complaints) and I bought you a new awesome watch for your birthday gift. I just hope you get to enjoy your time as a kid before you grow up.

I'll give you the links to all these letters when you enter high school, which is in 6 months...

I ran out of the country screaming (like I did 2006, when I go for NUS Overseas Colleges), and somehow lucky enough I found my calm and reasons, and some great traveling journeys along the way. I found my soul mate. I discovered a possibility of meaning of life. I haven't got it figured out, but at least I have a hint and some directions.

I realized, loving someone can mean that you are walking away from them, in solitude, in a quiet beach and wishing them happiness. I just wish there would be a day, when I walk down the road with the person I love, oblivious about people or things around, not caring about when the next Starhub bills are gonna be run, when my promotions are due, and when my rent will be paid.

I found out that it is ok to be me, for a while. It's ok to be 25 and young and stupid, and carefree. It's ok to be loved and taken care of and screw up once in a while.

And I have resolutions for the new year. Not a long list like last year. Just 3 things:

1. Find a place to start again. Singapore is getting too comfortable, too sheltered, and too restrictive. I remembered the stories of the bonsai. You can bend it any how you want to make it look perfect, but when you outgrow the pot you are in, you either break free or you die. But first, starting with moving house to a non-crazy person.

2. Spend more time with the people that mattered. I'll take non-paid leave to be with you during your Sec (O level) graduation exams. I'll try to meet and spend some time with God-Dad. And spend some time with the person that matters that most. ME. LOL

3. Do the things that I love. Paint, Swim/jog, Photography, (a little bit, not too much) of work.

Hang in there brother. You'd have a great great year.

See you soon!