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2nd July

A sign of progress

There were two important events I had to keep in mind when packing for our trip to Japan several months ago. One was the opening of the exhibition of our Vietnamese video artist at the renowned Mori Art Museum. The other was the celebration of my seventieth birthday the following day. Friends and family would travel to Tokyo to join me, and I had bought an Italian olive-green cotton suit for that special occasion. It was casually elegant, fit me like a glove, and I couldn’t wait to wear it.


But I was in doubt about whether I should also take a dark blue suit for the opening ceremony. These affairs tend to be rather formal in Japan, and as I was there to represent my foundation it might be discourteous not to respect the dress code, albeit an unwritten one. But I also very much wanted to wear the new olive-green suit because I knew it would make me feel festive. I decided to play it safe and pack the blue suit along with the olive-green one, as having both options would give me peace of mind.


However, on the morning of departure, as I was about to close my suitcase, I grabbed the blue suit and hung it back in the closet. I did it involuntarily, as if someone else had made that decision and I was just a bystander.


The days before the opening I became more and more apprehensive. I just couldn’t visualize myself on the stage during the opening ceremony wearing that green suit, however much I liked it. I wondered why I left behind the prop that would have made me feel confident at home. Was this some kind of self-sabotage?


But to my surprise, on the day of the event, when I looked at the sea of men uniformly dressed in black and dark blue suits, I was glad I wore something that differentiated me. Unlike what I had feared during those moments of doubt, I felt completely at ease in my olive-green suit and I was delighted to be part of the event and meet so many new people.


I now realize that this seemingly insignificant event was indicative of a deeper struggle within myself. I want to conform in order to be accepted, but I also have this strong urge to express myself, even if it makes me stand out. That my subconscious took over so I had no other choice than to wear the outfit that made me feel joyful is a sign of progress.


I celebrated the last day of my sixty-nine years by being true to myself. That olive-green suit holds great promise for the future!

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