My biggest dream when I was young

Dream, what a beautiful word.  It gives me hope, purpose, and pushes me into actions.

Dream is changing over time, as I enter into the different stages of my life.  Today, I’d like to share my dreams when I was young.

My first dream – Going to college:

When I was in the middle school and high school, my dream was crystal clear: going to college.

Why college? That was the only way to leave this poor and backward village permanently, and get a decent and government-guaranteed job in a city at that time.

Talking about this village, I really can’t find out any positive things about it even today.  I must be biased.  Though it’s my hometown, and I lived here for almost 16 years when I was young, this place is simply not my type.

Having lived here for over 6 weeks now, and still 7+ weeks to go, I just feel living here is a struggle every day.

Was it a struggle 40 years ago?  Yes, but not to this extent.  At that young age, I didn’t want to stay in this village, and farm the land.  There is nothing wrong about doing farming.  I just didn’t like it.  I dreamed about a better place, where I wouldn’t have to work under the sun and with the dust.  What kind of place would be better than this village?  I didn’t know then.

I did what I could in the school, with the help of a lot of great teachers.  I can never thank enough for my teachers and their hard work.  Thank you all, you changed my life forever, and helped my dream to come true.

Unfortunately many of my childhood friends didn’t make it to college.  Some even didn’t go to the high school.  I met some of them during the last couple of weeks.  We marveled and sighed at how life rolled out differently for each of us, with a lot of laughter, and sadness …

In 1981, luckily I was admitted to a college in Beijing, one of the best cities in China.  Going to Beijing laid down the foundation for my next dream.

My 2nd and biggest dream – Going to America:

Beijing is such a vibrant city, a place full of imagination.

Going to Beijing was a big blessing to me.  Suddenly I realized the world was huge, and there were tons of possibilities ahead of me.  Beijing was nice, but there was much nicer places out there.

In our dorm building, there also lived a group of folks who were in their late 20s or early 30s.  Coming from different companies or government agencies, they were attending an English training class, to prepare for the coming training in western countries.

Wow, going overseas sounded very intriguing to me.

Day in and day out, I saw them practicing the rusty English with each other, and giggling about it.  I was telling myself:  I wanted to go to US or Canada to see the world, too.

One college classmate’s family immigrated to US, and she joined her family in US right after college.  I wished I had that opportunity.

In the graduate school in Beijing, I had two roommates.  One went to University of Manitoba in Canada during our 2nd year in the school.  The other went to Queen’s University in Canada right after graduation.  They sent me some pictures, and I knew I wanted to leave China, too.

The brutal reality was that, I didn’t have the money for the TOEFL and GRE tests, and of course no money for the international flight, and the living/tuition expenses overseas.

No money?  Don’t worry, as long as the dream is still on.  On January 1, 1996, I set up my New Year resolution:  going to America.  After working for 7+ years, I saved enough money, and my dream was re-ignited.

In the fall of 1996, I was admitted as an MBA student by the Ashland University.  I flew with the Northwest Airline, and got so excited.  At the end, I touched down on the soil of Ohio.

Yes, finally my dream came true.  My ride from the Cleveland airport to Ashland, Ohio was breathtaking.  Watching the endless trees and green fields passing by, I realized going to America was absolutely the right call.  This would be my home.

Since then, I have been embracing the fresh air, greenness, personal freedom / independence / identity in America, and never looked back.

Any regrets?  Yes.  I wish I didn’t wait for that long.  Getting some working experience in China was nice, but 7+ years seemed too long.  But, I’m glad I still made it, at the age of 30, by myself.

My point is that, it’s never too late to pursue your dream.  Start today, and take the actions.

Thinking back, if I didn’t go to Beijing for college, let’s say if I went to the capital city Tai Yuan of my province Shan Xi, most probably I wouldn’t dream about going to America.  The surroundings matter a lot.  In that sense, thank you, Beijing, you inspired me for sure.

What’s my dream right now?  The short-term dream for the next 2 months is:

  • I hope my mom gets adjusted to the new life smoothly;
  • The next 7+ weeks in this village are wrapped up quickly with less pain; (If you know any way to fast forward the time clock, please do let me know)
  • Have fun with my college buddies in Beijing in late Jan; and
  • Go back to my sweet home in central Ohio, to enjoy my life there.

That’s my dream.  A long one, isn’t it?

Dear readers, what’s your biggest dream when you were young?  Did it come true?  How did you make it?  Any regrets?

You may also like...

8 Responses

  1. We are similar Helen. Going to college became my big dream too. I wanted so badly to leave home and be independent from my parents at the time. And I had a similar experience with many great teachers that helped show me the way into a productive life and career. I had a lot of growing up to do and the whole experience really helped me. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, yeah, going to college was such a big deal to me. At the college, I not only learnt the technical stuff from the books and faculties, but the most important thing was, I got to know more about myself, and what I wanted to do the next. The college made me grow up quite a lot, too.

  2. Joe says:

    Thanks for sharing your dreams. It’s really nice that they came true. I didn’t really have big dreams as a kid. I wasn’t even sure I was going to college because it was so expensive. It worked out and I’m very grateful.
    Truthfully, my dream was just to have a stable happy family. Life was kind of tumultuous when I was young. My family is a lot more stable now, but it’s still a work in progress.
    Best wishes.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, thank you for sharing your story. When I was a kid, my family didn’t have any social connections to get me a job. The only way of leaving this dusty village was through schools. I was so lucky, when I applied for high school and college later, the Cultural Revolution was finally over, and all school admissions were solely based on exam scores, not social connections or family’s political background.

      The colleges in China in early 1980s were not that expensive. Tuition and room were free, I got decent stipend (because of my parents’ low income) to cover my food expenses. The only cost my parents had to pay for me was books, clothes and other small expenses.

  3. GYM says:

    I had a dream when I was in highschool, that I would go to Paris, France and enjoy coffee and a baguette at a coffee shop, by myself and be contemplative and smart, haha! And work abroad.
    That didnt’ happen but that’s okay.

    I don’t have any tips on how to pass the time faster, are there any day trips you could do in the Shan Xi province with your mom? Or go to Xi’an, or other places in China by flight? I think flights are pretty cheap domestically in China?

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, your dream really sounds cool. It reminds me of the movie Sabrina by Audrey Hepburn (and Humphrey Bogart, William Holden), her love for Paris, and walking in the rain. It’s so romantic, ha ha.

      Thank you for your suggestions, I appreciate it. My mom doesn’t like travel. Once a while, I go to the town and just wander around myself to have fun. I’ll get through it. Luckily I’m able to borrow the ebooks from my Ohio local library, and that helps me a lot. Xi’an is the capital city of another province Shan (the 3rd tone) Xi, my province is Shan (the first tone) Xi (means West of Mountain).

  4. Gabriela says:

    My dream as a young girl? To become a classical violinist. And I did go to a music conservatory and get my degree in violin with the dream of playing in a professional orchestra like the Cincinnati Symphony or Cleveland Orchestra. That didn’t end up happening as I’m not too competitive, and I became a music teacher. Now, I’m a stay at home mom and I STILL dream of playing in a professional orchestra but have now set my sights on more local ambitions; I would LOVE to someday play in the Columbus Symphony. Maybe when my kids are in school I can finally practice and get back in shape and pursue that lifelong dream of being an orchestral violinist…

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Gabriela, thanks a lot for sharing your dream. Being a music teacher is great. I’m sure you have inspired a lot of students. Playing in a orchestra is so cool. I’m always amazed at how the huge group of musicians coordinate with each other and present the masterpiece in a perfect way. The Columbus Symphony plays at the Franklin Park several times in the summer, and I like to see it soon. I hope your dream comes true some day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *