Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called Unusual Cries, a moment of an encounter called This Way Out of Hell, and a moment of a perspective called Being Young Being Old.
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Hello and welcome to Episode #10 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. These are real life stories that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan.
In this episode, you will hear about Unusual Cries, This Way Out of Hell, and Being Young, Being Old.
A moment of adversity called: Unusual Cries
Watching a sad movie could make me cry. Something could be so moving that I would weep. I could be hurt from pain or injury and cry. Attending a funeral could make me sob too. Those are typical places where people cry, but I have a few unique cries.
I once joined Toastmasters International, a place to practice speeches in a very organized and structured way. I shared that I dreamed of becoming a professional speaker in my first meeting. The leader or facilitator of the group said, "That is very difficult. If you want to, you will need to enter contests to have any chance. You have to complete six speeches, be chosen from the area group, and before the next competition, you now only have six months to get it done to be in the running." I thought, as a leader, she was very discouraging, and it angered me. I thought you didn't even know me or know what I could do; I was so angry.
Anyway, I proceeded to do what I needed to do to qualify. I gave my first speech in front of my area group. According to the guidelines, the first speech was to be about myself, an introduction of me. To my surprise, my voice quivered somewhere in the middle of my speech, and my eyes teared up. My arms shook a little. I could not believe I was crying because my own story moved me. And the audience was moved, too.
Then I went to my first speech competition. I told the same story. I quivered and shook even more. I barely shed a tear, but you could hear in my voice that I was crying. I tried hard to control myself and not get emotional, but you could hear my words tremble in some places. I couldn't believe I could be moved by my own story again.
After the competition, some people came up to me and shared that they felt they had a lost voice and fully identified with me. My speech was about how I lost my voice, my ability to feel free to express myself, and later to find my voice fully. I was shocked that other people also had a voice inside dying to get out and be fully self-expressed. Tearing during my speech was a unique cry because I had never been moved to tears by my own words!
I once joined a Memoir Storytelling class where you write stories about your life, share them aloud in class, and get feedback to improve your writing skills. One of our writing assignments was entitled Goodbyes. It sounded like a big and broad title where it gave room for many creative juices, but I quickly had an idea what to write about when the instructor said, "Picture that goodbye."
I started to picture that goodbye, and I saw Mom at the airport. I asked myself, why did I think of Mom? She is such an insignificant part of my life! Anyway, I went home and proceeded to write my essay. I wrote about saying goodbye to my first boyfriend and last boyfriend because they said the same thing, "Why don't you turn around when we part (after a date)?" I thought it odd that two boyfriends who were many years apart from being my boyfriends could say the same thing.
As I was writing, I didn't discover the similarities they said until I was writing. It was like my fingers were writing, and as the words appeared on the page, that was when I realized the strange discovery. As I continued to write, I wrote about seeing Mom off at the airport. I didn't know why I had the image when the instructor said to picture a goodbye. And here I was writing down that I was saying goodbye to Mom at the airport.
As I wrote it, I paused to picture it again in my mind. Suddenly, I realized it. I broke down in tears, I cried with crying sounds, streams of tears rolled down my eyes, and I was sniffling. I felt my head and face as hot as can be as I cried and cried. This cry was a big cry because I rarely do it. I couldn't believe the five to sixteen-year-old me suddenly realized why I would never turn around when I parted from boyfriends or anybody for that matter.
It was because every time I went to see Mom off at the airport, as a five to sixteen-year-old, she never turned around. And so, I never turned around to say goodbye either. This cry was special because I couldn't predict it, and you could never guess that I'd cry from an epiphany; I didn't see it coming.
And once, after nine years of being with one boyfriend who I had seen nearly every day that we were together, he informed me that he had cheated on me and got someone pregnant. So, that was to be the end of us. After telling him he was a coward for not communicating with me about something I knew he was hiding, he informed me while we were in his car in a parking lot ten minutes away from my house.
After he told me, I said, "Do you have anything else to say to me?" He said, "Can we be friends?" I got out of the car, walked home, walked upstairs to my bathroom, knelt in a fetal position on the carpet in the front of my bathroom, and said to myself, "I can't believe this has happened!" My head felt light, like it was a bit dizzy and floating to a land far, far away. I didn't cry; I shed not one tear. Hours later, I shed no tear. Years later, I shed not one tear. I call this a special cry because it was a situation where most people would cry, but I had a tearless cry. To this day, more than ten years later, I still can't cry about it, and it was most devastating for me!
As a person who doesn't cry often, I certainly had some special cries. I never thought I could be moved by myself so much so that I would shed tears. I never knew that epiphanies, not many that one could have, could make me bawl, and I certainly never knew that for something so devastating as a big breakup, I couldn't even shed a tear. Tears or no tears, we all react to things differently.
A moment of an encounter called: This Way Out of Hell
I couldn’t wait to go to college because it would be my ticket to freedom and a bright future. I had been living with relatives since I was five. I was cared for and grew up to be a teenager full of hopes and dreams. Though my relatives took good care of me physically, my emotional well-being was left unaddressed. Tossed at five by my mother to my grandmother, I felt unwanted and unloved. My uncles always told me I didn’t belong in their family, so I couldn’t wait to get out and be on my own.
College was my answer, but how was I going to pay for it when no one volunteered to help me finance it? Grandma and Grandpa were too poor to help. Mom and Dad dropped any responsibility for me long ago. How was I going to pay for college? How was I going to get out of hell?
I opened the yellow pages looking for a lawyer. Randomly, I chose a name. Though this happened decades ago, I still remember his name. I picked him out of a phone book, Stephen Cheng, public attorney. I proceeded to call him. Filled with desperation and nervous tension, I started talking fast. I began saying that my parents would not pay for my college education, and I wanted a divorce from them. Before I could finish saying all that I wanted to say, he stopped me in my tracks and asked me to say no more. He told me to go to his office and then we’d talk some more. I didn’t know it at the time, but I must have sounded ridiculous! Still, he told me to meet with him.
I quickly ran to hop on a bus and found my way there. Stephen Cheng appeared to be a tall man dressed in a dark suit with a tie. His dark black hair parted neatly to the side. In the enormous office building, I found his office. The door with his name on it was already opened. I looked in, and he stood up from behind his desk to shake my hand. Mr. Cheng seemed formal, but I already felt that he took me seriously. I sat down to explain my situation in more detail, and again he stopped me and said that I didn’t need to tell him anymore. He didn’t need to hear the soap opera of my family. He only needed to identify what he could do to help me based on a few facts. I told him that I had lived with my grandparents for over ten years. I didn’t live with my parents; they would not pay for my college education, and my grandparents were too poor to help me. He didn’t need to hear any more from me. I didn’t know what he could do to help me. I didn’t even know why I thought of calling a lawyer!
But in a matter of minutes, he knew what he could do to help me. He explained what he could do and what I needed to do. He treated me like an adult and with respect. The seventeen-year-old me appreciated that. He also explained that we’d need to go to court to present my case to a judge. All I needed to do was show up with a grandparent, get a signature, and pay twenty dollars to process documents. And just like that, it was done.
What did it mean? With a grandparent as my legal guardian and as a lawful permanent resident, I could apply for state funding, a bank loan and put my grandparents’ income on my applications for financial aid. I did all Mr. Cheng suggested and got the funds needed to finance my college education.
Mr. Cheng, a stranger, helped pull me out of hell and gave me hope for a bright future. He only spoke with me for a short while and soon had the solution to my overwhelmingly enormous problem that I thought was insurmountable. He was a genius! For the little time that I spent with him, he quickly figured out how to help me.
Without this encounter, I don’t know how I could have financed my college education. And if I didn’t find a solution, I would not be able to get a college degree. Of course, my life would have been different. Because of him, the seventeen-year-old me got my dreams realized. More than anything, meeting this stranger who helped me gave me hope for a bright future. Indeed, I did move on to achieve even more.
A moment of a perspective: Being Young, Being Old
Most people would say being young is fantastic. I'd say so too, but only that you supposedly have a whole life ahead with many years to live. Aside from that, being young was not great for me. It was a struggle.
First, it was the sense of not belonging by growing up with relatives. So young and a significant blow on self-esteem already. Next, it was growing up feeling trapped. Too young to make money on my own, too young to get me out of hell in the home and family where I never belonged. Then it was the struggle of making sure there was enough money to get through college through scholarships and work-study income.
Despite all the efforts until age twenty-one, I could say something good about life before that. Before I was twenty-one, I was already financially independent; that meant I was not living under any relative's roof or depending on any relative. I relied on myself for any income and, of course, some school aid and government aid. The experience helped me learn to take care of myself and not depend on others. Though it was not easy, it was worth having the freedom away from relatives. It wasn't that they mistreated me outwardly; it was the emotional torture of being outcasted and unloved.
The only other great thing that happened when I was young was that I had a boyfriend who was my best emotional support system, and I loved him madly. Undoubtedly, he was the most influential person in my life and will always have a special place in my heart.
Now I can think of a few more good things about being young. By being young, sometimes you could be so clueless and do things that a mature person wouldn't do. That could be a good thing. For example, since my parents were not going to pay for my college education, I called an attorney and said, "I want a divorce from my parents!" That sounds ridiculous now, but the attorney took me seriously and saved my life so I could have a future with a college education.
In another instance, I was on vacation during college and had nowhere to go, so I joined two ladies from Singapore on a road trip. We all hitchhiked with three other guys and traveled to northern California. A mature person would say that was dangerous, but for a naïve young person, I'd say I didn't know any better. Luckily, I did not encounter danger and even had fun sightseeing and enjoyed the kindness of strangers for transportation, food, and a place to stay. Ignorance was bliss.
Another time during college vacation, I slept on the luxurious sofas of a big hotel as I didn't have money to pay for a hotel stay. That was ingenious; I learned to be resourceful. I didn't think about what could happen if I got caught; I was too busy trying to survive.
I once went to visit a friend in Hong Kong. He led me to another friend's house so I'd have a free place to stay. I was all for a free place to stay and didn't think there would be any danger of being led to be with the wrong people. Luckily, I was in no danger. A mature person might not risk, but a young person just trying to survive could not overthink.
I suppose what is good about being young is that you take more risks because you don't know any better, and in the process of it all, you happen to live life.
Now in middle age, I call it being old. It means you are that much closer to death or the end of living. So many people may say they don't like getting old. Indeed, I wouldn't say I like getting old. My bones seem to make more sounds like they will crack or break. I don't have as much energy as I used to, and I can't run as fast as I used to. My skin is starting to wrinkle, and I am getting more and more white hair. Stop the aging process, please! I don't want to get any older!
As I write the many little stories of my life, I find that when you are "old," you get to have an abundant amount of interesting real-life stories that you own. Not only do you own them, but they are what make you have a unique value.
Last year, as I was taking a class to practice my foreign language speaking skills, my teacher, who was younger than me, seemed to seize the opportunity to have speaking topics to help her with some of her issues or concerns. I had some real experiences to share to relate to the problems and then give my opinions, suggestions, or advice based on my experiences. Because I was older and more experienced than her, I could give her some insights and help her. That's something good about being older; you can better help others and even inspire others more! Also, most of the people I know would ask me for some advice. Part of it could be because I am older, and part of it could be that I have more varied experiences in life. But without the years of life in me, I would not be able to help so many people.
One of the best things about being older is that after so many life experiences, you can come into being where you are a much more confident person than when you were young. You become most clear about what you like or don't like, what you will tolerate or not tolerate. Most freeing is when you no longer care what other people think, and you don't care to please anyone but yourself. It is not selfish; it is being yourself and having people accept you for who you are. It is, in essence, being yourself without pretense.
Whether we are old or young, we will be both of them at some point in life. It is good to be young whether you have good or bad experiences. It is good to be old whether you have good or bad experiences. What matters is that you learn something of value when you are young and when you are old. Treasure being young, treasure being old because they both have value.
Though I made unusual cries, I reacted and expressed my feelings through them.
Though I had an enormous problem, I was creative and fortunate to meet a stranger who would solve my problem and save my life.
Though I had many bad experiences while young, I also had some good ones because I was young. Though I don’t wish to continue getting older, I can better help others, share words of wisdom, and feel more confident and self-assured as a mature woman.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Waiting, Gotta Dump, and Inside and Outside.
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