I just turned 25 a while ago and I realized I am already halfway through my 20s and halfway till my 30s. Looking back, the past 5 years have been rather eventful for me. Major incidents have happened and my life and I could never be the same.

Most recently, just 4 days after my 25th birthday, my dad passed away after over 2 years fighting lung cancer. I was there when his breathing got weaker and weaker till it stopped. Then I checked his heartbeat and watched his body go cold and pale.

I have never written publicly about my dad’s condition before, simply because it is something I could never gather enough words to write about or articulate my thoughts and feelings. Since his diagnosis, I have fallen into a limbo in a way, lost and confused in many ways. And now when he’s gone, again I struggle to process everything.

The concept of death is something I haven’t been able to grasp. It is not so simple as you stop breathing, and your heart stops beating. Where do your mind, spirit, and soul go now that the body no longer can shelter them? How are souls created? People say I am an old soul, so does that mean souls have ages too? I know these are all philosophical questions and every culture, every religion has their own explanation for death. But probably we will never know till we die, or we will never know at all. It is not that I am afraid of death, I just wonder why does it exist and what happens after death?

At times, I still feel like I haven’t been able to come to term with the permanence of my father’s death like I couldn’t accept that I won’t ever see him again. It feels like he is just somewhere still waiting for this stubborn, rebellious daughter to come home after every trip. I guess all the time you’ve lived in this world couldn’t prepare you for the passing of your loved ones.

My dad was a Buddhist and in Buddhism, the highest state of being is nirvana. I hope he’s reached nirvana and is resting in peace in enlightenment state. He was a kind, generous, knowledgeable man and I hope he’s now free from all pain and suffering as he deserves.

So I just lost a significant male figure in my life and it was a painful loss. But I am grateful that I found my significant other. He is a thoughtful and understanding partner who has always been there for me through highs and lows, encouraged me to be the best of me and loved me just for me. Meeting him and falling in love with him have been one of the life-changing events of my 20s.

We met by chance and we certainly didn’t expect to fall in love. But we did, and our love is the greatest thing that has transformed us both. He has taught me so much about love but in a way, I haven’t been able to learn anything because I still don’t understand anything about love. Love is just love I guess. We have a long journey ahead and I know we will make much more great memories and have lots of amazing adventures together.

Looking back at the first 5 years of my 20s, I have made radical decisions that shaped my life and who I am today. I missed a scholarship to Japan, dropped out of university at 20, then I left home and later on left the country to go on a soul-searching journey, despite my family’s disapproval and society’s judgments. And to be honest, most of the time I was full of doubts, fears, and insecurities. I just knew I had to do it.

But now thinking about it all, I don’t regret my decision one bit. If I had gone to Japan, I would probably have settled to a more conventional life with a stable job and everything; but now I am so happy that I haven’t followed the path that society sets out for me. And I think so far leaving university is the best decision of my life. Thanks to the journey I went on, I have made incredible friends, had amazing experiences, seen things that left me speechless and most of all, I have found love.

Now moving forward, I am grateful for everything that life has brought to me. Even life has taken my dad away, I am grateful for everyone that has come to and left my life. I thank life for all the amazing experiences, friendships, and life lessons.

I have been financially independent since I was 18 and I am grateful for that. I am not a millionaire but I earn enough to support myself, travel, buy camera gears, do charities, make major money-related decisions etc. Just be fully responsible and in charge of my personal finance and this is something I am very proud of. And I am working on cool projects that allow me to have the flexibility and freedom to travel and try new hobbies. I probably have the best boss in the world right now who not only respects and values my work and opinions but also has become a great friend of mine.

And I am lucky to have a great partner to share my life with, and all those who love, support and believe in me these past few years. I am also grateful that I was, and still am, very lost with everything. This might sound very strange but thanks to being so lost and clueless about so many things, I never stop learning and exploring and developing myself for the better.

And most of all, I am grateful for everything that is yet to come. I am about to start a new chapter of my life, a new beginning in every aspect, and I am excited and looking forward to everything life has in store for me. The best is yet to come and the next chapter of my life will be one hell of an adventure. Even, unfortunately, my dad couldn’t be part of it, I know he will always be watching over me.

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Posted by:Hanh Lam

I am a young Vietnamese woman with a passion for development work and social change, a desire to explore the world and a love for storytelling.

2 replies on “About life and death, love and gratitude, moving forward…

  1. Beautifully written, thank you for sharing such personal experiences. I too sat with my dad as he died, and often wonder what happens afterwards. I am reading this as we prepare to leave Cambodia after our fourth visit. One thing life has taught me is to be brave, to say yes to opportunities, and that we can embrace change and constantly reinvent ourselves. I think you have said “yes” to opportunities and will continue to do so. Much love dear friend wherever life’s journeys take you. Lyn

    Liked by 1 person

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