Chapter 47:

Jason Li: Introduction Part 2

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He gave up on his dream… That’s what he said, right?Bookmark here

Dreams… Aspirations… Wishes… They are things that people work towards for themselves, right? And they don’t necessarily have to concern others, right? And… dreams are essential for people to have, right!? They’re essential because they keep people going, right!? They are essential because they motivate and keep people going, right!? I… I don’t know. Bookmark here

I was looking down — I was disturbed, but my anger was hesitant.Bookmark here

“You see Camryn, I always wanted to be an astronaut. So, after high school, I studied astronomy for a couple of years. Sure, it was tough, but I learned a lot of things about space. I also have a vast amount of scientific and math-related knowledge.”Bookmark here

Why was I agitated?Bookmark here

“After, I actually worked a couple of engineering jobs. It was kind of hard finding a space-related job, but I still kept looking.”Bookmark here

Why was I getting worked up?Bookmark here

“During that time, I got married to my girlfriend who was my underclassman in university. A couple of years later, we had a child.”Bookmark here

What?Bookmark here

“When our child was old enough to enter preschool, I got a job at a space program! Now, I just had a simple job on Earth, but I wanted more — my ultimate goal was to be launched into outer space. So, I worked hard. I tried my hardest to get the attention of the higher-ups so that they would promote me. And then…”Bookmark here

“A-And then what!?”Bookmark here

I put my hands on the table and leaned towards Mr Li. I showed my anticipation for what happened next. I awaited his answer, but why was I awaiting it?..Bookmark here

“And then I had a shot at becoming an astronaut… My superior asked me one day, but something changed in me at that moment. And, well… I didn’t take it… Simply put, I gave up on my dream right there…”Bookmark here

That wasn’t what I wanted!Bookmark here

“M-Mr Li… Why!?”Bookmark here

I got up and put my hands on his shoulders. I was definitely acting tense, but I wasn’t mad. It was more like… I was feeling a bit disappointed and sad… Bookmark here

“No, Mr Li… That wasn’t supposed to happen! You were supposed to take that job! You were supposed to become an astronaut!.. You were supposed to fulfill your dream… But you didn’t!.. Why not!? Your dream was right there! You just had to simply agree to become an astronaut, but you didn’t! It… It’s too sad… It’s just too sad… Mr Li, you- huh?”Bookmark here

I was stopped when Mr Li put his finger on the bridge of my nose. He smiled warmly at me.Bookmark here

“M-Mr Li?”Bookmark here

“Sorry. I have a grandkid and I do this to calm him down whenever he gets too intense…”Bookmark here

I see… But why did he stop me? Am I wrong about my feelings?Bookmark here

“I get what you’re saying, Camryn… The one chance that all of my hard work was for was right there but I didn’t take it… I was so excited to achieve my goal, but I didn’t… Camryn, you’re feeling sad about the situation, right? You’re sad that I gave up on my dreams, right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah…”Bookmark here

I calmed down and was speaking normally. Mr Li also removed his finger from my nose.Bookmark here

“Why did you give up? All your hard work — going to school and learning tough and complicated things — all your work has gone to waste. Or maybe… Did someone put an end to your dream? I-I…”Bookmark here

I don’t like the thought… For someone to give up on their dream — it’s terrible. Everyone has dreams and goals they strive to accomplish, and even if they don’t think they are doing anything to further their progress, they probably are. But what happens if someone ends their dream? The thought terrified me… It just means they are giving up, right? Yeah, they don’t feel like they can squeeze any amount of gratification from their life no matter what they do, so they just give up — submit — surrender… Bookmark here

I remember I was on the verge of it… Since I thought that my life couldn’t possibly get better, I thought ‘what’s the point in doing anything?’, and ‘what purpose do I have?’. And it was so hard physically and mentally to keep going, and that added to the appeal in just giving up… But all that changed when I met Ren — when he decided to take care of me — when I figured that he truly cared for me — when he warmed the coldness that surrounded me… I thought ‘maybe I do have something in the future awaiting me. With Ren’s help, I decided to once again fight for that light at the end of the tunnel…Bookmark here

“Camryn… I think there are two types of giving up on a dream.”Bookmark here

“What? Giving up is giving up, right?”Bookmark here

“There’s the bad version — when someone gives up because of another factor, and there’s the good version — when someone gives up on their own… I gave up on my dream on my own.”Bookmark here

I removed my hands from his shoulder.Bookmark here

“The bad version is most common because it’s hard to identify if someone is giving up because of the good reason. I gave up because I decided to focus on my family — I knew that I would be in space for long periods of time, and I just didn’t want to put my family through my absence.”Bookmark here

“So it’s your family’s fault, right?”Bookmark here

“Oh, no. They were supportive of me going to space, so their influence was null. I decided for myself that it was better to stay with them.”Bookmark here

Mr Li put a reassuring hand on my shoulder.Bookmark here

“It’s sad when someone gives up on their dream, but I had a different dream I was working towards — raising my family. I mentioned that I have a grandchild, right? That’s proof that I was working hard at achieving that dream… It’s true that my dream is less ambitious than my previous one, but it’s still a dream.”Bookmark here

I see… Indeed, it’s always sad when someone willingly or unwillingly gives up on their dream, but I guess one reason is happier than the other. It always makes someone feel better when they decide on something on their own without exterior influences.Bookmark here

However…Bookmark here

“I see… Yeah, that makes sense — and I’m also happy for you and your family. But, um, how does that relate to why you stayed at Alente.”Bookmark here

“Oh, I got caught up in preaching that I forgot about your original question, eh? You know, I probably could’ve just told you the reason without my long-winded story. Sorry.”Bookmark here

“Huh? On, no, no. I liked your story! In fact, your story provided some good insight!”Bookmark here

“I see…”Bookmark here

Mr Li’s smile was comfortable. It was as if he was feeling a sense of nostalgia.Bookmark here

“You know Camryn, you remind me of my daughter… She’s always curious and she loves learning new things. Anyways, I stayed at Alente because I was old.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“You see, even though I had a simple office job, I retired really early to look after my family. I’m also old.”Bookmark here

Mr Li smiled reminiscently.Bookmark here

“In a couple of years, I’ll soon pass away… And since I’m retired and my family is doing well, there wasn’t much I could do to aid them. And even though I was nearing the end of my goal of raising my family, I think I still wanted a goal. Since I’m old and retired, there wasn’t much that I could do… Nothing much except see through someone else’s goal.”Bookmark here

Oh, I think I can see where this is going.Bookmark here

“One day, I decided to apply to this new restaurant called Alente Bistro. There I met the owner, and I was intrigued by her. She told me that she never attended business school and that she only graduated high school two years ago — I thought she was inexperienced, but she wasn’t. She also had big dreams. I became interested, so I stayed to see the growth. And it was lovely to see that she managed to churn success out of a failing restaurant.”Bookmark here

“But didn’t you help?”Bookmark here

“Sure, I interfered, but I think it was very minimal. Overall, it was mainly Valerie’s efforts.”Bookmark here

Mr Li smiled at me.Bookmark here

“And I’m so proud of her growth!”Bookmark here

Mr Li then stuck his thumb up proudly.Bookmark here

“So yeah, that’s the story. I gave up on my dream of becoming an astronaut to instead raise my family. When I was retired, I decided to oversee Valerie’s growth because my ambitions were no longer big.”Bookmark here

I see so that’s why… I wanted to comment on his story, but the door slammed open.Bookmark here

“Oi! Camryn, Gramps! Valerie, Alan, and I are going on break — get out there!”Bookmark here

“Oh, yes, of course, Elyssa…”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

As I was walking towards the front counter, I came across Valerie.Bookmark here

“Um, Valerie.”Bookmark here

“Oh? What’s up, Camryn?”Bookmark here

“Um…”Bookmark here

I softly smiled at Valerie’s face full of questions. Bookmark here

“Mr Li… Um, he’s a great employee… and friend!”Bookmark here

Valerie returned my smile.Bookmark here

“Yeah… He is, isn’t he?”Bookmark here

Taylor Victoria
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