Do you have a hero? Whenever someone asks me if I have a hero, immediately, I say my hero is my dad. If it wasn’t for him, my life would look very differently today.
There isn’t one day I forget the many sacrifices my parents made to provide their 6 children not just basic needs like food and clothing, but the opportunity of a college education. The title of attaining a degree was like holding the value of gold in our family. Had we lived in Vietnam, we never would have been able to go to college or even get a job that could pay more than a few dollars a day – that is if we were lucky.
I was raised, like many of you, to seek the traditional opportunities like go to college and get a 9-5, get married, have kids, save for a beautiful home, put money into savings and retire at 65. My entire life, I always felt like this is what I should do, but it never felt right. In my heart, I knew that there was more to life than working for someone else and giving them control over when I could work, when I could spend time with my children, when I could go on vacation. I wanted to manage my own time do what I wanted, when I wanted. My parents showed me that this was possible. That while having a college education was mandatory in our home, the possibilities and opportunities to build your life were endless – and owning your own business was one of them.
After settling in the United States and seeing first hand the freedoms and possibilities that were available, my parents wanted to have and dreamed about having their own business. At one point they owned two restaurants. They worked so hard. My parents both worked their full-time jobs while running the restaurants. Their hours were insane. My mom would be at the restaurant at 9:30 am to prep after working 10 hour night shifts, would come home at 5:00 am and only sleep 4 hours before getting up to work at the restaurant. She would cook in the back until 2:00 pm, then take a nap in the storage room that was the size of a closet, wake up at 3:30 pm and get ready for her next 10 hour night shift. My dad would stop by during his lunch break and help my mom for an hour, then come by in the evening around 5 after he finished his day job. Us kids would come by every afternoon after we got out of high school classes to work at the restaurant and relieve my mom. As I write this, I can’t believe we were able to make this work. It was my parent’s pure determination and dream of giving us, their children, everything we could ever want. We were never wealthy or even well-off. We lived in a very modest 3 bedroom home that housed 8 people. But for my parents, this was their dream – a home, a job, a business and enough to provide for the family and send most of us to private elementary and high school. All of their money was invested in our education.
No matter how hard it was for both my parents, and the fact that growing up, we never saw my mom until the weekend approached, they knew that their sacrifices would make a huge impact in our lives too. As children we learned that if you want something bad enough, that anything is possible. My mom would tell us years later that they never had more than $50 in the bank after all the bills were paid. Yet we were fine and we survived. I remember eating a whole lot of Cream of Wheat and Spam, but I loved it. I didn’t know that we struggled and I had a wonderful childhood with many happy memories.
My dad is my hero for not just changing our entire family’s future but because he showed me that you never have to stay stuck in your life. He has shown me that dreams can come true with courage, determination, persistence and belief that it can happen. I hope that I will never have to experience the pain and struggles he has gone through and leaving almost everyone he loved to create a new life for his family. This one sacrifice alone makes him a hero in my heart forever.