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A Woman I Admire Writing Competition Spring 2018

My Friend Hà
Katie Russell
Highly Commended

‘When are you going to find yourself a husband?’ were words that rang around her ears at family dinners, weddings and parties.

She's lived 27 joyful years with no partner but in her home country of Vietnam, the clock is ticking. Her clock is ticking. Friends, colleagues and relatives she knows only slightly ask the same question. ‘When are you going to find yourself a husband?’ ‘You should have a husband by 27, shouldn't you?’ Vietnam is a magical country, but cultural pressures on women can be high, as is the case for my dear friend Hà who has heard the same questions time and again. Many women cave under the pressure, succumbing to the voices around them, sometimes sacrificing their own happiness to abide by social norms and gain social acceptance.

But, this isn't the case for my friend Hà. She wholeheartedly throws herself into her career, friendships and her fiery individualism. Throughout my time living and working as a teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam, I was mesmerised by her ability to help everybody around her. I've never seen someone sacrifice their time for others to the same extent. And if something or somebody was out of her reach, she'd extend her limbs and stretch herself further. She continues to fight family pressures, cultural norms and surrounding daily judgements to live the life she was born to live. A life of freedom, independence, happiness.

As the clock ticks on, she may introduce the world to a partner that she wants to marry. Or as the clock ticks on, she may not. But importantly, she has found the courage to fight the ticking clock, when many others would surrender. She faces the pressure head on and finds the fire to challenge it. She has the courage to lead a life grounded in the knowledge that although she may be her parents' daughter, she is she, and they are them.

This is the woman I admire, my friend Hà. Recounting the steps she has taken to do good for others or the world around her would produce a near-endless list. But most importantly, she is standing up for herself in her everyday life, which deserves the utmost admiration. She faces cultural norms and challenges them daily. She realises that she is brilliant and she doesn't need someone to reassure her that she is so.

So, when is she going to find herself a husband, you ask? Whenever she bloody well wants.

Katie Russell © 2018