If the life of Hieu Minh Ngo (Hieupc) is made into a movie, it might become a “Hollywood blockbuster”. Born in Gia Lai, a mountainous province, Hieu started “working” as a hacker at the age of 15. After many illustrious “achievements”, Hieu was wanted by the FBI and got caught; he served seven years in prison in Guam.
“My passport information is all over the internet, there’s nothing else to hide,” said Hieu. This is also one of the reasons Hieu opened up to the media after returning to Vietnam.
Hieu openly and bravely faced everything that happened: his past doings, his arrogance and shame, the negative feeling of being called and seen as the bad guy, even his loathing for himself. But in an honest voice mixed with indifference, Hieu talked about the past like it happened a long time ago.
Hieu now works at the National Cyber Security Monitoring Center (NCSC), as well as on public projects on cyber security. “Getting out of prison, I felt like being reborn, like a child”.
How have you been?
Honestly, I’m very satisfied with life and appreciate it at the moment. Now I live with my parents, working 10 hours a day or maybe more, and I can do what I think is good for others.
I’m trying to do all the things that I’ve written down in my diary while serving in prison, faithfully and sincerely. I don’t really care about what others think of me, I want to just focus on doing things well and carefully.
It seems that after going through the unfortunate experience, you have grown up and wanted to spend more time with your family?
I think this is correct. I still learn and grow up every day, and never want to stop. Today must be better than yesterday — I’m living with that belief.
Now I live a more disciplined and orderly life. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is to carefully fold the blankets and organize my bed. If I can’t do the smallest thing such as making my bed, then how can I take care of other bigger matters?
And I eat with my parents all three meals a day. At noon, I can drive my mother to the supermarket. Sometimes, I go for a walk with my father or my mother in the evening. I made my parents suffer a lot before, so now that I can be around them, I feel very happy. I really appreciate how things turned out after everything that happened in the past.
As you grew more mature, were there things you’ve left behind?
I think the first thing I gave up was hatred. In the past, I used to be competitive, spoke and thought badly of others. I always thought that I have to own more assets, to be more successful than others. Now at the present time, I have left this mindset behind.
I want to continue talking about misapprehensions. We have a lot of misapprehensions about our own selves, but hardly stop to observe and realize. And, sometimes, even when we have free time to spend, it’s still hard for us to understand ourselves.
As human beings, we all look for meanings in life, the purpose of why we’re here in the first place. There’s this important thing but it will be very hard to do, which is spending time alone and being honest with ourselves. Being in prison for years, where there’s literally no freedom, helped me look deep into myself, my own thoughts.
When I decided to give up on all the things that weighed me down — the hatred, the desire to always be on top, the selfishness — I discovered that the most important thing is love. Yes, love.
How should “love” be understood here?
I think everything I’ve done in the past came from selfishness. It was a kind of “selfish love”, in which I only loved and cared for myself. But the meaning of love should be understood as “selfless love”, that we will leave aside our own ego and personal interests, and think about being of service to the people around us.
When I started to understand what love really means, I felt so much more positive about almost everything in life. I realized that there’s no need to worry too much or complain about the things I can’t control. I just live, and let life be.
Does letting go of your past self mean you gained a new perspective about yourself and life in general?
Yes, it’s true. After letting go of my ego, I realized the value of love, sincerity and empathy. I am now willing to share with everyone around me everything that I have experienced without fear of judgment.
When I am honest, people will empathize with me, and this will strengthen my relationship with those around me.
I also left behind the lifestyle of worshiping money and materialistic things. For me now, those things have no eternal value. I’m content with a good salary which is enough for me to live comfortably, no need to “burn” money on things that are too expensive or too luxurious.
Before, I did bad things but had money, wore beautiful clothes and drove a luxury car, but life was very tiring. I had more things than others but in the end, I was left with nothing. On the outside, I always looked happy, but inside I always thought about how to make more money, to keep myself safe. Sometimes, I had to be wary of others more than I should.
Now, materialistic wise, it seems like what I have is nothing compared to before, but I’m living a happier and more optimistic life.
How about writing diaries, do you still keep this habit like before when in prison?
I can leave many things behind, but I must keep the habit of writing a diary every night. I write about all the feelings, thoughts or ideas I have in a day, and save it on my computer. When I have time, I open and re-read what I have written to gain a deeper understanding about my own thoughts.
You talked about the things you’ve let go. What have you added — perspective or attitude — in your life?
I think we feel tired or sad when we have no direction, when we don’t know where to go. Talking about this, I suddenly remember the feeling of uncertainty when I first entered prison, though I don’t want to reminisce about it.
Facing something we don’t know about or having no direction, is miserable. No matter what you do or how you live, each person should have a clear purpose or direction, so that you can go through each day with relief.
Adapted by Thao Van