I recently graduated from college in May of 2017. This summer is very rare occasion in which I have complete freedom to do whatever I want and feel like for 4 months before starting my full-time job. All I was hoping and looking forward to as I thought of this summer was new adventures, new places, new experiences, and learning new skills that I have never been exposed to.
1 month after graduation, after having traveled to 20+ small to big cities across multiple countries in 30 days, I was ecstatic to settle down in my small, peaceful hometown, Hue, where I also thought would be the most “boring” place out of all in terms of figuring out what to do on a daily basis. The most rewarding experience for me here was to spend time with family, updating my parents on how I have changed and about my life in college had been, while also learning about how my parents have changed since the last time I saw them. Beyond that, I had no further expectation of anything eventful that will take place here beyond some valuable alone time on my own reading and writing in peace.
As usual, one day I caught up with some friends from middle school that I would usually see whenever I come back to visit. The conversation was pretty expected in format – we talked about our personal lives, careers, places we have traveled to, and gossiped about our mutual friends. I openly shared with others about not having any plan yet for the summer beyond the 1 month of travelling and working on various service projects. I discussed my personal struggle with anxiety in face of uncertainty, boredom, and worries that I’m not maximizing my time in this one-in-a-lifetime summer. Others were trying to help by suggesting me to open classes on writing and speaking because it sounds like something I would have some experience in and enjoy doing. There was some magic in their suggestions that made me feel super excited and appreciative that perhaps I do have something to contribute that I didn’t think I would and helped me reconnect with a purpose that has excited me in the past – the ability to accompany and encourage people in their paths to transform themselves to become “better” by accomplishing more, thinking differently, or improving certain skills. After that conversation I brainstormed the content and format of what I would be teaching and prepared a presentation to be published on Facebook that night. Less than a day later, I was so excited to have enough students sign up so I could start teaching. It was quite an unexpected journey that would later influence how I spend my days, weeks, …and maybe months and years after.
Tutoring is not new to me. I have been tutoring and teaching here and there for 7 years now. Tutoring and teaching were the last things in my mind because I thought I have grown bored of it and originally thought of trying out new experiences this summer. I hesitated after I published the posting about opening online classes. But it was too late, I already committed myself to it and knowing myself, there was no way for me to back down anymore. I started teaching, while setting a personal goal for myself to make the most out of this by attempting to become most helpful to my students.
This quick decision proved to be so worthwhile. While my role of teaching and tutoring hasn’t changed, this experience has enabled me to unexpectedly gain new insights that I personally think are pretty influential to me and will continue to shape my way of thinking years from now. I realized my style of teaching has changed, my perspectives on life have changed, and my interactions with others have also changed since high school. I’m still a tutor and teacher but I’m different in the way I teach and tutor. These changes become most apparent when I see how the students I teach behave differently when my style of teaching and interaction has changed, in our brainstorming and debate sessions when I share my perspectives on various topics, and in especially in my personal realization that perhaps what I think I know about myself in my head is not always true and valid until I validate it with real actions and see how I feel. I found out that perhaps teaching does not sound like a new, exciting role to me but the process of seeing transformations and changes in people’s performance and ways of thinking is super rewarding and always exciting to me.
Upon reflecting and thinking about this experience, I discovered more precise words and phrases to describe what I’m interested in – transformation, behavioral science, psychology, and neuroscience. I looked back at the recorded list of 100+ books I have read and picked out from bookshelves randomly and found to be most engaging and interesting in the past 2 months and realized that they all revolve around these topics in some ways. Before, if someone were to ask me what I’m interested in, I would use a list of generic, professional industries such as – education, hospitality, travelling, fashion, social entrepreneurship and then have to explain how I’m not really entirely interested in class-room teaching, touristy travelling, aesthetically pleasing designs for clothes, and entrepreneurship projects that merely just provide platforms for transactions. However, at least for now, I think I’m a bit more clear on what really excites me and gives me a sense of purpose and surge of energy – transforming behaviors, performance, attitudes, ways of thinking, and everyday experience of other people, for the “better”, of course.
Something that I have personally believed in and reinforced my belief in is how we spend our days influences how we spend our lives. I think that minute details, small events, casual conversations, small tips, and quick encounters with people can be transformative and result in big changes in our lives depending on the quality of these events, how we perceive them, and how we decide to apply them to influence our everyday life.
This personal belief and the recent insight I have gained from unexpected, unplanned experiences have triggered me to think deeply about the topic of “transformation” and convinced me that small stories can have great impact. Through these small stories and insights, people can gain some useful suggestions that they can apply to their own lives and make their every day life experience even more rewarding and worthwhile. I believe that with intentional practices, purposeful thoughts, and meaningful actions, we can bring the best out of ourselves and others and enhance our day-to-day experiences to build great memories and happy experiences.