“If you were an animal what would you be?”
Recently when I looked at my blog’s draft posts, I saw this one which was drafted 7 years ago and never published, along with other dozens of unfinished pieces. It’s amazing how one could have so many ideas to write about and then end up finishing only one of them annually, or at least it’s my case. However, it’s also great to observe how one has changed throughout the years. Below is what I wrote in 2012 vs. 2019.
That is a question that I often ask my students at the beginning of any English courses so that I may learn a bit of their personalities from their answers. For example, when a girl says she would want to be a hamster I may assume that she is cute, gentle and “harmless”; or if a boy says he would want to be an eagle, he might be smart, strong-willed, brave, and I can rely on him to carry out class activities.
Basically, my students are quite excited about figuring out an animal to represent themselves and giving supporting opinions based on their own interests and personalities. Sometimes the ideas are very intelligent and creative. However, since I only give them 10 minutes to prepare for this task together with a few other questions they might not have a clear idea what they really want to be.
As for me, I have also been thinking a lot about it. What would I want to be if I were an animal? Well, I won’t doubt my answer for a second: “I would be a bird!”
It reflects every child’s dream: being able to fly. I remember dreaming about flying in the sky so many times when I was a kid, and even up to now I still think that if I had wings like Icarus probably I would fly up to the sun and die just like him.
Being a bird also means freedom, free from space and borders, free from sorrows, free from troubles in relationships with family, relatives, friends, lovers, and free from the human capability of feeling the “inner pain”.
I am currently an English teacher in a public secondary school in a small village in Tay Ninh province under Teach For Vietnam’s fellowship program. It’s very much different from the English centers I used to teach in Hanoi, and just different as much is myself in 2019 compared with 2012. Seven years is a heck of a long time, which may turn one’s ideology, and even personality, completely around.
Thinking about an animal that I might want to be nowadays.. A bird? It still sounds appealing. Who wouldn’t want to be able to fly freely and worry-free in the sky? But running away from pain is not the ultimate goal of my life anymore.
Recently I got to read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, a novel set in a future society where pain and suffering are eradicated and all the sorrows of the history of mankind are entrusted to the one Receiver of Memory. The current popular manga series “Attack on titan” partly shares the same theme of “protecting” people’s safety and happiness by erasing their memories of the past. Sometimes I have the feeling that “happiness” has been way overrated, and so has “pain”. I used to be afraid of pain, and I still am. But looking all back, it is pain that has shaped the person who I am today. Each road I have chosen and each decision I have made have led me to one kind of pain. I used to be afraid, but nowadays I have learnt to accept and embrace it. Everyday I’m still learning to live with it, and I don’t regret the roads I have taken any single bit.
And if I were an animal, I probably would want to be a pig, the one animal that is always taken for granted. People consider it filthy and forget that it has to die in one of the most painful ways to serve their little joyful meal. I want to know how it feels.