Let me know if you ever go out for serious businesses without bringing your paperwork: passport, driver’s license, student ID, ID card, etc. If you have kids, or if you are a kid, you probably need to have birth certificates either stored securely at home or brought along in trips to hospitals and airports and government agencies.
What happens if you don’t? Sometimes that’d mean going home for nothing after hours commuting and waiting in lines. Sometimes you’d end up with a ticket leading to penalty for a lifetime. Paperwork. Ah! How annoying they are? It’s almost that we are nothing, no such human-beings with lives and hopes. We have nothing to prove that we are ever alive.
Isn’t that so sad? Our years of living neglected because we just forget. Just never have it. I’m lucky enough to have almost everything I need to secure my eligibility in any country (so far): I have a Vietnamese Identity Card, student IDs at every school I attended, birth certificate kept safe, a Social Security Number, all sorts of insurance, a passport with US visas, a Canadian visa, an Australian visa, and other stamps from different countries. My study permit in America is going to expire, but I used to hold it for 3 years.
Admittedly, I never stop longing for a more powerful passport such as that of the Japanese, Americans, or Singaporeans. Admittedly, there are times and over when I felt shame to showcase my passport: that dark green hinted the wrongdoings of waves of people that left the countries, either as travelers or refugees. Times like now, during a pandemic when Vietnam is leading the world, one of the things people talk about is the value of our nationality, as though we were always looked down on, meaning the pressure of representing the good of our country never cease to chase us, Vietnamese international students.
I have the privilege to possess many kinds of identity proofs: there are many that were never granted such things. Countless times I recall the story of Tara Westover, about her life in her memoir Educated and how she grew up without any proof of her identity. Many times, I suppose, she doubted if her life was even real. Given the opportunity to go abroad, to the United Kingdom for the University of Cambridge, she had to endure the complication of getting the right name, the right birthday, the right citizen number for her passport, for no one in her family ever kept a record of those things for her. As though no one ever cared or dared to ask about her existence.
In the numbers bears usefulness. It is how people get their stimulus checks during a pandemic. It is how they establish trust to land-owners and bankers, but aren’t our characters also worth noting? Yet, very few people have the patience and wait for the good in others. We also spend our lives chasing the value of a degree, a certificate, a resume. Those don’t seem like proof of identity, but one way or another they sum up a life in so small a piece of paper. It shouldn’t be my turn to neglect my passport, my identity card, or my degree, because I’m a coward and I need to get around safely. But I advocate for more forbearance in others, to look for the valuable characters from the inside. Isn’t the world so harsh already?