What I wanted to be when I grew up.

In 1993 I was 5 years old.

In 1993 I came to America as an immigrant.

In 1993 I was a refugee who did not speak any English.

That year I started Kindergarten. Not by choice of course. School was not what I wanted to do. Definitely not. I guess in America it is pretty standard for parents to enroll their kids in preschool. What was before a way to get a head start on the long road of academia was and is now still a given. It was something that has come to be expected.

Not me though. I never went to preschool. Well I did. For approximately one day.

So I don’t remember that day, my first day of preschool, but everybody else does. Oh how they love to tell the story… so I guess I will share it here.

I started preschool in Vietnam. In my home province of Binh Duong. I was I guess 3 years old? Maybe 4? (I’m not good with math.)

On my first day of preschool my father dropped me off. I guess I got mad at him. I got really mad. I yelled at him “Why are you leaving me here?!” And I suppose I was crying too. I was mad and sad at the same time.

I don’t know how it started, but that day another kid from preschool started picking on me. The word for that is “bullying” and “bullying” is something we now seek to eradicate in the sociopolitical realm for obvious reasons.

So a fight broke out. Me and this bully. I don’t remember the details, so I’ll leave it to your imagination as it was probably quite a spectacle when taking into account the context of incident.

I lost that fight. The kid bit me. He literally bit me. Like, he bit me with his teeth.

What happened next? I cried.

In my defense, I was in preschool at the time. I mean in my defense of crying. Although I guess that’s twice so maybe I’m a big baby. Or maybe a little baby, since that was when I was just a baby. Maybe just baby would be the word for it.

After that I was pulled out of preschool for obvious reasons.

I think Guinness World Records owes me a plaque for youngest age of a person’s first fight. Or a plaque for youngest age of a person’s first fight loss. Either one is fine with me!

So off to Kindergarten I went. Unprepared, unenthusiastic, and un-everything about the whole thing. Scared would also be an acceptable word to use.

So what did I want to be when I grew up? Well, when I was 5, we had 3 choices.

We did an educational activity at my Kindergarten. Everybody in class was instructed to pick one of three different occupations and make a cutout image of them as being in that role. So you were given the uniform as the body portion, already prepared, and you had to take a photograph of yourself, cut out the face, and glue it onto the figure.

I didn’t speak English at the time, so I didn’t really understand much other than pick one of these, put picture on, then glue. Got it? Good.

So the choices we were given were:

  1. Doctor
  2. Firefighter
  3. Police Officer

I did not hesitate. I picked “Police Officer”. I thought to myself “cooooool”.

So off I went and played with the arts and crafts. Kindergarten was pretty fun, overall. It wasn’t bad, other than the fact that I didn’t understand anything since I “no speak English”. A, B, C, blah blah. Got it.

Now, imagine my surprise when everybody’s cutouts were posted on the wall. So we had the whole class and you see all these doctors, firefighters, and police officers with our faces on it. It was pretty neat. I thought it was cool.

Sorry, grammatical error… Now, imagine my surprise when I saw so few police officers. There were a lot of kids that picked doctor and firefighter. I vividly remember police officers are being the least chosen occupation out of the 3 on the wall.

I was so confused.

I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with everybody? Why would you want to be a doctor or firefighter when.. look at how cool the police officer looks.”

So confused.

Years later, I learned that actually we had two police officers in my family.

One is my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was a police officer in Vietnam, now deceased, and his picture still hangs prominently on our home family shrine (a Asian tradition, a story for another day).

The other is my cousin-in-law, divorced but not estranged (they share custody of the kids, my little cousin who is adorable. A story for another day.), who is currently a police with the rank of “Officer” in Binh Duong, Vietnam. I’m not sure how the ranking system and job titles are over there, but he works at the station not on patrol.

I’ll end the story here because I don’t have time to sit around all day and write these boring stories.

In conclusion, what I wanted to be when I grew up was a police officer.

How the years have passed…

How the times have changed..

How paradigms have shifted..

I’m now 27 years old. I wish I were 5 again. Just like everybody else.


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