At a Crossroads with Hillary Clinton and Brené Brown

17 May 2020

I believe we happen upon books we are meant to; and when the stars align, these books can change the course of our lives forever. It's magical, really. Or maybe, more likely, we project onto them our narratives and walk away with what we need or want. That's fine too. Either way, I'm glad I came across these two books this month: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

 

Both were fantastic stories of creation versus criticism. It was a reminder that "the courage to show up" is tremendously more noble than never stepping up to the plate, and certainly more so than a man's rush to judgement. These were tales of bravery and hardship, kindness and hope. As Ms. Clinton recounted her faith in law and passion for policies, I was reminded that these optimisms made our future better -- and it was inspiring. It was something I identified with as a student of politics and international relations. 

 

That aspiration and hope, however, was something I lost sight of during my adulthood. Maybe because pessimism won in 2016. Or maybe, I had one too many professors who taught realism with a tad too much passion. After a number of reasons, I decided that I was too late. Hence I chose a career in education. If not me, then them. I hoped to give voice and power to the next generation. But these career-women chuckled at me and said, you still are a part of the next generation! I laughed. They called me out on my assumption that I was too old to dare greatly.

 

Reading about Ms. Clinton's past brought me back to the day I received my post-graduate work permit (PGWP) three years ago, a moment in my life that was filled with hope and encouragement.  

 

It was a sunny day in June. My boyfriend and I drove to the border and back to start my permit application in person. I was ready for something different than Plato and Derrida; I was certainly done with derivatives that disproved my hypotheses. I was also itching to explore a field other than law, though I hadn't quite put my finger on what that meant at the time. There was no time (nor need) to mention these fleeting thoughts to the Border Service Agent; I just handed in my documents and left with my golden ticket an hour later. Yes, it was that quick. 

 

Though to clarify, I didn't just walk up to the glass window, smile, and receive my permission slip. It was months of reviewing paperwork, researching best channels, and confiding in others with similar stories. It was also years of studying for an undergraduate degree. All to be assessed in one hour. My stomach turned as I approached closer to the border -- even though, of course, nothing in my record would raise suspicion of my character. I had someone sitting next to me, but in a moment filled with hope and encouragement, I felt extremely lonely and scared. 

 

My work revolves around international students so I see these fears in people's eyes every day. And I thought about how I could "dare greatly" and stand up for those in need of guidance, as Ms. Clinton did for decades. So I registered for an education program that covers immigration policies and practices. It prepares advisors like me for the entry-to-practice exam to become regulated international student immigration advisors. I start the program next month! With a sense of nervousness and hope, I revert back to the last pages of these two books. They read, "right on, dude," and "keep going." And so I will. 

 

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Nao

Dreamer, 26

Vancouver, BC, Canada

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