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So, this is what it’s like to live your dreams? Sweet!

Dear friends,

I am writing this from somewhere above the Pacific Ocean, in a 747 hurling towards midnight on the other side of the world. In several hours, I will be landing in Singapore before catching the next flight out to Bangkok. After that begins a 16 hour journey deep into the heart of Laos, a trek that will take me by cab, bus, tuk tuk, boat, and foot. I’m hoping to make it to the border before it closes at 5pm, or I’ll have to find some place to spend the night.

Over the next 10 days, a Lao guide will be taking me up and down this country of dirt roads and forests and rice fields, through quiet old villages and ever-growing cities and everything in between. Should my pictures make it with me safely back to the States, they will eventually be used by several organizations for their promotional and sponsorship material.

I’m excited. Nervous. A little tired from the flight (and from not getting any sleep the night before!). And absolutely amazed at how different my life was a mere two years ago. It seems like a whole other world, when I would be sitting in a biotech instrument lab, running tests with assay plates and DMSO solutions and acoustic technology while the hours slowly drag by. Back then, all these places I am now visiting were mere names on a map, or pictures of faraway lands that were taken by other photographers. For more than 10 years, dreams of traveling the world had been a slow fire burning in my heart. There was this unexplained desire to visit places foreign and exotic, to see how the rest of the world lives, to step off the beaten track when possible. And now … here I am, actually living my dreams. It feels at once both surreal and so very ordinary. Surreal, because who would have thought that this quiet skinny kid would one day become some guy (still skinny, sometimes still quiet) who goes around taking pictures for people on the happiest day of their lives, or fly to foreign countries doing photoshoots for clients? And ordinary, not because it’s mundane, but because there’s a knowing that, Why yes, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Why should I be doing anything else?

It was only a couple weeks ago when some new friends and I set off in the dark to hike up a nearby mountain in the Korean countryside. After tripping over rocks and crevices, getting lost along the way, scaring ourselves silly seeing flirting shadows and flickering lights in the dark forest, we finally made it to a pagoda, where we spent the next hour swapping stories and sharing a midnight picnic over candlelight.

That night, while lying in bed looking at the full moon through an open window, I thought back to the many years I spent stumbling through the college system, trying to find the right engineering major for me–because, well, I’m a guy, I’m Asian, I should be doing engineering (or lawyering, or doctoring), right? One year from graduating, it finally struck me that I don’t need to be an engineer, that I should be spending my life doing what makes me come alive. But what makes me come alive? It took several more years of searching before the answer found me. But once it did, it became like they say: “Life was never the same again.”  🙂

Your turn:

1) What are your deepest dreams? Do you want to start a business, lose 30 pounds, live in Paris, serve the poor, be part of a Broadway play? Do you want to become a millionaire, learn a new language, start a music studio, build an orphanage, backpack through South America? Does the thought of it excite you, inspire you, stir something deep within you? What makes you come alive?

2) Are you willing to do what it takes to live your dreams? Are you willing to sacrifice for it, make deliberate choices to attain it, work hard towards it? For the vast majority of people, their dreams will always remain that–dreams. But to change a dream into reality can require fighting through some of the toughest battles of your life, because in this world, there are no shortages of excuses and distractions and naysayers and competing priorities. It was not easy for me to end up where I am today, but I wanted it bad enough. Do you?  🙂

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below or on facebook.

So … here’s to those of us with dreams to chase and dreams to live. May we all one day look around at our lives and realize, Why yes, I am living my dreams. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. Why should I be doing anything else?

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  • Thank you Junshien for all the inspiration! You’re a hero to many of us =)
    My deepest deepest DEEPEST dream is…
    doing what I love most: photography, and have a good buisiness on that, and start a family with my current girlfriend =)
    and I’m willing to do anything to achieve my dream!!!!! Need to keep fighting!!!ReplyCancel

  • Man, I love your entries!!

    I’ll cut and paste from my blog response:

    My deepest dreams? A good question. I have and had many dream careers, dream plans and goals, and real plans and goals. When I was younger, I mean high school, I loved history so much that I just wanted to do anything in history. I guess that would have “set” me up to be a lawyer, which I enjoyed. Then I dreamt of being a video game programmer. Then it moved to be a Psychology Professor which I tried extensively for (and if you have followed me since Xanga, you could read my trials and stuff). Though I put that dream career on hold, I am now pursuing photography (wedding and travel!) So that is my new dream goal that I am actively pursuing. Though I will probably reapply for graduate school in psychology. How hot would it be to be a wedding/travel photographer with a Ph.D? 😀

    As for non – career dreams, I am pretty sure most know that I am an avid traveler. So while I have gone traveling internationally they have been 2 week journeys. And, hopefully, my next one will be a big one month back packing journey back into Ireland. But I would love to backpack for some time through Europe. The thought of traveling keeps me perked and giddy for a while and actually traveling keeps happy and in bliss for a very long time!

    And what I am doing to make it a reality …
    I believe that my choice to pursue graduate school for two to three years was a real sacrifice, though I believe was worth it, where I gave up “life” to try to get accepted into the programs. But, here I am pursuing photography now, with the goal of graduate school on hiatus. Now that I am not all about being accepted into graduate school, the other “realities” are so tangible I can smell them- bills, economy, global perils… I have happily invested a lot of time and money into photography, purchasing gear, portfolio building, running here and there to get my name out there, that while, in the short term is costing me, but I see the pluses in the long term for a recoup in investment, positive impact in my career, and passion.

    My biggest obstacles are all in the short term. While I am investing time and money into the photography business, I am also saving up for my future travels.ReplyCancel

  • Joanas

    Very inspiring. Thank you for that, I really appreciated it.ReplyCancel

  • Hi Jun, I came to your blog by a circuitous route (as one always does), through a heap of links to photography blogs. I found it an interesting coincidence that you were writing about inspiration, fighting and sacrificing for one’s dreams, etc, as I’ve been reading a lot on this topic lately and thinking about my own dreams and goals I’d like to accomplish.

    I am just finishing up one goal that started as a bit of a pipe dream, which is volunteering in a women’s government ministry overeas. I’m Australian and I’ve been doing just this for the past year in East Timor. Now I’m considering my goals and dreams again… Millionaire, making an effort to fight climate change and maybe some goals closer to home look like they are going to top the list for now! 🙂

    I really admire that you made such a change in what you spend your time doing every day. Hope this trip is fabulous, I’ll be keeping up!ReplyCancel

    • Junshien

      @Kate: Wow… big dreams, admirable dreams. You’re one of the few who have gone beyond dreaming and started doing. I’d tip my hat to you … if I had a hat. lol. We only have one life to live, so keep dreaming, keep pursuing your passions. All the best to you!

      @Joanas: Thanks!

      @Wing: You’re already walking down the path to achieving what you’ve set out to do. Keep it up!ReplyCancel

  • Yuffie

    Your story has always inspired me when I was met with discouragement from others when it came to education. I have a Bachelor of Science degree but I have no interest in pursuing a career with anything science related. Recently, I think I found my dream, actually no, somewhere deep inside I had always thought about it but it wasn’t until recently that it became real to me. It’s something very similar to what you do but not quite; my dream is to be a wedding planner – to help couples plan the most perfect, most memorable, most beautiful and happiest day of their lives. I hope one day I will be successful in my career as you are in yours. I know for sure I’d recommend you to be anyone’s wedding photographer, including mine!ReplyCancel

    • Junshien

      @Yuffie: Thanks so much for your comment. Glad that my story has been an encouragement to you. Whenever you’re feeling disheartened, remember that those who have made it doing what they love had to go through more failure and discouragement than the average person. But they persevered while others gave up, and soon found themselves living their dreams. So wherever your path takes you, keep pushing through, and I wish you all the best!ReplyCancel

  • Corrie

    What a terrific post! I love it! Thanks for sharing. I didn’t grow up Asian, but close enough, and I can deeply relate to your story. Just tonight I was asking my small group to pray, yet again, for opportunities in my field (I’m trying to make it in L.A. playing with a rock band–yes, seriously)! Sometimes it feels like it’s taking too long to get there, and then I am reminded of the little victories, like a job with Kanye West here or a trip to Nashville with my band there. There was a time when I told myself, “Play in a band?! Who does that?” And now I fully agree with you, “Of course! This is what I was made to do.”ReplyCancel

  • […] nowadays, my responses are not quite as enthusiastic. On one hand, I still want to say, You HAVE to pursue your dreams! On the other hand, I also want to say […]ReplyCancel

  • Laos is one of my favourite countries!

    Hava good time!ReplyCancel

  • […] the last several years, as I’ve started to see my dreams become reality, I’ve become more bold, and my dreams became bigger. Yet when it comes to relationships, a […]ReplyCancel

  • […] year, I was sponsored by a clean water company to fly to Laos for a documentary project. For ten days, I journeyed up and down this country of dirt roads and […]ReplyCancel

  • […] year, I was sponsored by a clean water company to fly to Laos for a documentary project. For ten days, I journeyed up and down this country of dirt roads and […]ReplyCancel

  • […] warned me against. That leap of faith into the unknown has since turned my life into this crazy adventure that has me scrambling to keep up. Who could have guessed that one day, clients would be flying me […]ReplyCancel

  • […] To those unsure if they should pursue their dream: Realize that your passion is going to extract from you a price far heavier than what you are expecting. It’s going to require all of you, and will push you to your limits — and even beyond. Through this fire, you will see what you are made of. This is not for everybody, but if you’re able to persevere through, if you’re able to break through to the other side … you will find that the whole world has opened up for you. […]ReplyCancel

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