Stavanger – Chasing A Lost Dream

A red wooden house in Norway

“Somewhere along the line, I forgot what my dream even was.”

Leaving your home country to seek a better life takes courage and effort. Some succeed, some don’t.

When I was in Norway a few years ago, purely due to chance, a Japanese restaurant owner immigrated from Hong Kong 30 years ago told me his story.

A young engineer with a big dream

Moving to Norway had been a dream of his since young. After graduating with an engineering degree, he actively looked for opportunities to move. Lucky for him, it didn’t take long for his dream to come true. Being an engineer in Norway was hard for him at the time as he didn’t have the experience nor did he speak the language. Determined to move to Norway, he decided to open up a Japanese restaurant to show his contribution to the country for his permit to get approved.

“I can get an engineering job after settling down there.” He believed.

Came here with his pregnant wife, the first few years were tough. Struggling between managing the restaurant and looking after the kid, he barely had time to sleep. Looking for an engineering job had to be put off until his daughter was a bit older.

Life happened

A few years later he welcomed another kid, this time a boy. Overjoyed by the new member, he worked even harder at the restaurant to give the best to his family. Business was going well. A proposal to open up a second chain was presented. He hesitated. Opening up a second restaurant would effectively end his engineering dream as it would take up too much of his time.

Discouraged by his wife, the rebel in him decided to decline the offer and search for an opportunity, to no avail unfortunately.

Maddened by his stubbornness in pursuing the impalpable dream when there’s a perfectly real opportunity in front, constant arguments widened the cracks in his marriage.

In 1997, exactly 10 years after they immigrated to Norway, she left with their daughter.

20 years later

Fast-forward to present day, he hadn’t become an engineer. Still running the same Japanese restaurant, didn’t open up a second chain either.

Holding onto the dream of being an engineer in your 50s seemed absurd. At that point, it was probably never going to happen for him. Life is cruel like that sometimes.

Being an engineer in Norway was his ultimate dream. He achieved 50% of that dream, but it seemed like the unachieved half outweighed the achieved half.

“I had a dream, but then life happened. Content with achieving the first half of my dream, I forgot how to put effort in making the second half happened. Somewhere along the line, I forgot what my dream even was.”

Constantly talking about searching for opportunities, did he actually do much over the years to make it happen? Maybe not. In his defence, it could just be the wrong place for his dream to come true. Being an inexperienced foreigner in a foreign country, he wasn’t off to a good start.

I wondered how much he regretted his decisions, or if there’s any regrets at all. Didn’t dare to ask such a seemingly personal question, I dropped the conversation there.

If he had stayed in Hong Kong, he probably would’ve been a successful engineer, or it would’ve been the same. Either way, he would’ve dreamt and wondered on all the “what ifs” if he had moved to Norway.

Regretting both the decisions you did and didn’t take is a funny thing. When life doesn’t go well, we always wonder the alternative. No one can give you a definite answer on the could-have-beens. His story was inspiring not because of its failure, but because even if he failed, he still seemed to be content with his regrets.

If you have to regret a choice, better regret the choice of your dream than to regret the choice of letting go your dream.

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