Spin Your Story : Being a Collector of Dreams

Spin Your Story guest post by Marthe Hagen of The Freedom Experiment.

I have a story to share. I tend to carry a story until I know in my heart it is time to tell it. Well, technically, this is not my story. It’s the story of a young woman I met briefly while traveling in Vietnam.

My travel (and life) partner was getting a suit tail made in Hoi An, a small and beautiful city on the east coast. The UNESCO world heritage old town of Hoi An is famous for its tailors and we walked by many of the small shops before we chose one at random. As we walked in, a girl about 15 years old approached us wist a cheerful smile.

Would you like something, Madam? Suit for you, Sir? How can I help?

She greeted us warmly, effectively using every opportunity she could to make a sale. She turned out to be the tailor’s niece.

After a brief initial session where patterns and prices were negotiated, the deal was closed and we returned the day after for a fitting. As my partner was in the other room with the tailor, I started talking with the girl.

I have to interrupt the story to let you know how incredibly clumsy I feel in every situation requiring small-talk. But the girl was both talkative and curious about me. So we chatted about nothing and everything, until I asked a clumsy question. (This, my dear reader, was inevitable. I always ask a clumsy question, no matter how much I try to avoid it.)

“So – uhm – do you like working at a tailor shop?” I asked.

Because, you know – that’s what I always ask people back home when I don’t know what to say. And usually they answer that yes, they do indeed enjoy their work. And then there’s normally five minutes of dreadful silence when no one says anything. An instant conversation starter that works every time. (ahem.)

The answer from the girl was short and to the point. “No.”

She looked at me with large brown eyes, eagerly waiting for my reaction. And then it hit me that I had grossly underestimated and judged this girl, which was in fact spending her teenage years laboring at her uncle’s tailor shack. Full days.

Of course she didn’t like working there. What teenage girl would? Vietnamese, Norwegian or American?

So I tried to rescue myself by asking what she wanted to do instead. She answered that she wanted to go to school. (Duh.) Which again at the time seemed as a total surprise to me. No fifteen year old I knew wanted to go to school, if they could avoid it.

At this point, I felt that the conversation was getting a little tight. I looked at my watch, looked at the door, looked at the suits. I could hear my partner chatting with the tailor in the other room. No one was gonna rescue me out of the uncomfortable situation of learning about my own prejudice and the unfair distribution of money and power in the world. I shifted my attention to the girl again.

“So, what do you want to study if you could go to school?” I asked. Honestly expecting her answer to be medicine, law or engineering. (It usually takes a while before I can take a hint and take a lesson.) Most people I know from back home who want to study something they can’t, dream of something they believe will give them an instant pass to fame and money.

“I want to become a tour guide,” she said, almost with tears in her eyes. There was no doubt that this was her mission – her life purpose – and she knew it.

And so it happened that a Vietnamese girl of 15 gave me the gift of perspective.

And for a moment I felt like I was carrying the world’s sorrows on my shoulders. Who was I to judge this girl? Not everyone dreams about fame, fortune or status. In a ten minute conversation she had managed to make my law-student worries seem totally insignificant.

All people, including this beautiful girl, have dreams that mean the world to them. And each dream is equally valuable and unique. So I carry her dream as a pearl around my neck. Among others, this girl inspired me to become a collector of dreams. I thread them on a wire and keep them close to my heart.

This summer, I’m going traveling again in South East Asia. I’m on the lookout for more stories. More insight. And more dreams.

Marthe Hagen is a soulful, adventurous writer and imagemaker. She writes, shares, helps, searches, inspires, crashes and burns (like a phoenix). She shares her wisdom, musings and philosophy along with her images and inspiration over at The Freedom Experiment. She is a collecter of dreams and would love it if you would share yours. You can follow her at @Marthehhagen.

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