Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called: Not The Usual Accomplishments, a moment of an encounter called: You Can't Persuade Me, and a moment of a perspective called: The First Time.
Hello and welcome to Episode #15 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 Not the Usual Accomplishments, You Can’t Persuade Me, and The First Time.
A moment of adversity called: Not the Usual Accomplishments
When we think of accomplishments, we usually think of degrees, positions, possessions, or the amount of money made. While those are forms of achievements and society tells us they are accomplishments, there are other forms of achievements.
When a friend asked what my greatest accomplishment was, I quickly knew the answer. But before I could answer, Everette, the person who knew me reasonably well, started guessing, and I didn't even ask him to guess! He thought it was my degrees, my move abroad, and my endurance in business. I said, "No, no, no." "Then what could it be?" he said.
I explained, and he agreed that it was indeed a great accomplishment. After that talk, it occurred to me that there are different kinds of achievements. And depending on your values or perceptions, you determine what is considered more remarkable.
With only a few decades of life, I considered my most significant accomplishments to be the degrees earned, the number of possessions, titles or positions, and the amount of money earned. As I aged or gained other experiences, I found more extraordinary things called accomplishments instead of the usual ones.
The younger me had worked so hard to achieve all the typical types of accomplishments, and once completed, it was like, "So what?" Am I just one of the millions of people on this earth that chase and try to pursue what society says is great to do? The older me, with other experiences, began to see accomplishments differently. Not the usual was intriguing and exciting because they brought more value to this life, this being, this character that is me.
I dreamed of going to college as it would be my ticket to freedom from family and a brighter future, but I didn't have the money to pay for tuition. I was only seventeen. In desperation, with a bit of creativity and luck, I found ways to finance my college education and obtain the degrees. The accomplishment was the struggle to find a way; to me, it was a matter of survival.
My whole life was at stake; I had to succeed and get on a positive path. I found government programs and an attorney to help me. I call my most significant accomplishment this act because I found the creativity in me to solve such an enormous problem.
Many years later, I took a considerable risk to go into business when I already had a stable and secure career. After five years of struggling to succeed and not making millions, I finally quit when the company went out of business during the economic recession. The hard work of constantly looking for clients made me spend more money than making money. Attending numerous networking events or seminars, creating many and varied marketing ideas, talking with hundreds of strangers, and reading about selling did not bring much profit. However, I call my experience in business an accomplishment because I demonstrated tenacity for five years despite earning little income. And along the way, I exercised creativity to produce new ideas to drum up business continuously. I was even able to do training to empower others to continue forging ahead. Strengthening my willpower and having a never-give-up attitude reaped the rewards in building character and skills to handle challenges.
Since I wasn't making money, I soon lost my house, emptied my bank account, dipped into my retirement fund, sold some belongings, lost my boyfriend, and couldn't get a job or return to my previous profession. I was officially broke, and I did it to myself as I chased the dream of fame and fortune.
I moved abroad, got a great job, and moved on to a better life. I call it a great accomplishment because I had hit rock bottom with no money, no house, no boyfriend, and instead of making matters worse or mediocre, I found my way to a foreign island, got a new job, started all over, and enjoyed a great life there.
In my middle-age, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the whole world. I was deeply affected by it. Eight months before the government announced a pandemic, I had already quit my job and searched for a new career path. Now that we were officially in a pandemic, I couldn't even have any freelance income. I couldn't travel. I couldn't continue taking classes or meeting up with friends. We were in lockdown.
As time passed, my savings were dwindling each day. I comforted myself by saying I had experienced worse when I went out of business because now I had more savings. Still, the lockdown started as a few weeks to a few months to more than a few months. It was getting scarier and scarier. One was the fear of contracting the virus and having no health insurance, and the other was having no income and knowing that the savings would be less and less.
I proceeded to make plans to move abroad again, but there were travel bans or restrictions worldwide. After three months of attempting to find ways to go, I finally found a way to leave the country within the allowed parameters. I call this a great accomplishment because while I persisted in finding a way to go, I had financial issues looming over me and travel restrictions stopping me. If I didn't hurry and resolve this problem, I would be broke again. Despite the travel ban, I found a way, did what I needed to do, and arrived in a foreign land with a job and income once again.
These experiences of highly challenging situations tested my ability to survive and thrive. Because I was able to overcome them, I call them accomplishments. More incredible than overcoming challenges was the resulting character of me. My value is not the degrees, positions, money, and possessions I hold. Titles, money, and possessions come and go; as precious as they may be, they are pretty fragile because we can lose them just like that. However, the value of me, the character of who I am, or who I've become from the challenges I can overcome and be victorious are everlasting. As I once read somewhere, the value of a person is not what they have; it is who they are.
A moment of an encounter called: You Can't Persuade Me
"Marry me," he said. "But I have to go to college," I said. He said, "I'll wait."
It was one August morning before I was going to start college. He was from California, and I was from Massachusetts. We met in my hometown of Boston. As wonderful as first love was, I was more excited about college. It was my ticket to freedom and a bright future. Not knowing it at the time, he did support my ambitions for college as he had not finished college himself but believed in higher education.
Two years in college, we kept a long-distance relationship with many phone calls.
"Come to California," he said. "But I love where I am at college, I said.
I was madly in love, but I had so many things to do for my future before settling down.
"Come to California; it's nice out here; come to California!"
He was saying this for two years! Finally, I made my way to California before my junior year of college. Busy with a new life and environment, he didn't contact me and told me to concentrate on my studies. I suppose we broke up, and I didn't even know it. Before you knew it, nearly two years passed by, and I was about to graduate from college. One Saturday morning, my roommate woke me up to answer the phone. I answered it and was shocked, surprised, and happy to hear from my long-lost love, whom I didn't hear from in nearly two years. I kept asking, "How did you find me?" He wouldn't tell me.
He said, "you're graduating soon, right?" "Yes," I said. "Come to San Francisco," he said. “Come to San Francisco!”
And just like that, as if no time had elapsed between us, I made my way to San Francisco. All in the name of love. At nineteen, I arrived in California because he repeatedly asked, and I loved him. At twenty-one, I made my way to San Francisco because he repeatedly asked, and I was still in love with him. Finally, we no longer had a long-distance relationship. Indeed, he waited four years for me to graduate from college.
One day, no particular day, we sat in my apartment conversing, and out of nowhere, he said, "Do you want to marry me?" I said, "I just started my career, and I am still too young to get married." I was twenty-three.
A few years passed, and he asked again, "Do you want to marry me? I want to know." I said, "I am going to grad school. I am still young, and I am not ready to have babies." I was twenty-five.
Upon reflection, he asked me to marry him at least three times in nearly ten years in the on-again-off-again relationship. Being that he was the love of my life, it is strange that I never outright said YES. I always had a good reason for a delay, as if I was a career-oriented person aiming for the stars. Why did I never say YES! I don't know!
Fast forward, five years later, by the time I was thirty, four men proposed to me, and I never said yes yet. Then two weeks before I was going to get married, I called the love of my life.
I said, "I am going to get married. Do you want me to get married?" He did not reply.
I said, "Do you want me to marry someone else?" He said, "You go ahead and decide for yourself." I said, "I'm asking you what I should do." Again, he said, "Decide for yourself." Then with tears in my eyes, I said, "You don't love me. You would just let me go marry someone else."
I'll never forget what he said in return, "You don't understand what love is; if you love someone, you let her be free as a bird, let her fly wherever she wants to go.
He was right; I didn't understand love, at least not at the level he was talking about. He was seven years older than me and probably always steps ahead of me. Perhaps I never thought I deserved love because Mom gave me away when I was five years old. Maybe I was scared of it and didn't know how to handle someone loving me so much. I might have even missed out on something more with him, but I will forever have beautiful memories of my greatest love, and he will forever occupy a place in my heart.
A moment of a perspective called: The First Time
Anything the first time is so sweet or bittersweet. To recall a first time is beautiful, but knowing how beautiful first-time things are, we need to treasure and savor those moments. We can’t bring them back because time will not reverse. Time will only move forward. We can’t rewind time; we can’t stop time. We can only go with it on the ride and enjoy it. When watching movies, we can see how much we sometimes want to go back in time; we even want to invent the time machine because we want to go back in time. But no matter how much we want special, precious, and first-time moments to return to us, they can only return in our memories and imaginations. I close my eyes and enjoy some first-time events.
The first time I fell in love: I was floating on the clouds; everything was so beautiful, and I was so happy.
The first time someone kissed me: What’s going on? What is this tongue doing in my mouth?
The first time someone proposed to me: I was 17, but my head was still intact, and I said I needed first to finish college.
The first time I went off to college: It was my first taste of freedom in every which way, and I was ecstatic.
The first time I sat on an airplane: I was in the clouds and wondered if I was going to another world.
The first time I sat on a train: I was excited and scared; I was on my way to college and on my way to independence.
The first time I sat in a police car: I was scared and hoped I wouldn’t be locked away.
The first time I sat in a BMW: I smelled the leather, and thought is this how wealth smells?
The first time I sat on a scooter: How fun to have the wind blowing in my face, and it was so romantic!
The first time I rented an apartment on my own: I was officially a grown-up and on my own.
The first time I experienced happiness: I took the Landmark Forum, and I was 25 years old.
The first time I went skydiving: It was the ultimate feeling of freedom and sheer joy.
The first time I sat under a waterfall: I felt clean and pure; happiness was sitting with nature.
The first time I bought my own house: I am a powerful woman.
The first time I went to a foreign country by myself: I was scared and excited all at once.
The first time I saw the terra cotta soldiers: I could feel history down to my bones; it was chilling, and I was in awe.
The first time I saw the Great Wall: I am just a little being in this big universe.
The first time I gave a speech and won first place: I felt triumph & satisfaction that I showed the world I am somebody.
The first time I made $10,000 on one sale: In disbelief, I counted the zeros again.
The first time I arrived in California: Everything was so beautiful; the clouds were puffier in California.
The first time I moved abroad: I was immediately engrossed in a new world and a new job I had never experienced before.
What about the first time something bad happened? Initially, when we think of the first time of something, we think of good things, but there are also bad things. And we don’t want to think about them because they drudge up bad memories. But by bringing them up, will they be a release or bring an end to them? Let’s think.
The first time I was dumped: I was shocked. I was devastated, and I couldn’t shed a tear.
The first time I was humiliated: Disbelief and anger dominated the core of my being.
The first time I was petrified: I arrived in Sri Lanka, and immediately people were trying to scam me.
The first time I felt dead: I was breathing, but my insides felt gutted out; I was empty, hollow, & heartbroken.
The first time I felt poverty: I had nothing to eat, and my stomach wouldn’t stop growling.
The first time I felt wealth: I bought a house all by myself.
The first time I went into business: I was making the biggest risk of my life.
The first time I was betrayed: The energy forces inside me escaped my body.
The first time I drove a car: I was scared to death of crashing and getting hurt.
The first time I was cheated on: I began not to trust men.
The first time I was in a car accident: I felt like my mind had escaped my body, and I didn’t know where I was.
The first time I was yelled at: What was wrong with him? When will it be over?
The first time I was blindsided: How did I not see it coming? I was baffled.
Whether they be good first-time somethings or bad first-time somethings, they all involve emotions. Perhaps the most memorable ones are the ones that evoke unique emotions. Most notable was one good first time and one bad first time. First, the bad one, the most significant emotional devastation of my life, was when my boyfriend of 9 years broke up with me when he cheated on me. I don’t know how such devastation turned me into a zombie, I was walking and breathing, but I was hollow inside with no energy or feeling. I don’t know why I couldn’t shed a tear. I suppose the shock of it all never escaped me because I still can’t shed a tear about it.
Now the good one. It was a unique set of emotions felt all at once. When I got two awards after five years of struggling to make money in business, I could never imagine the kind of emotions I had when I was floating over to receive my awards. It was a mix of excitement, nervous tension, a trembling body, a red hot face with tears uncontrollably running down my face. I had a feeling of euphoria like I was floating, a level just a little higher than when I first fell in love. I sensed myself looking on to myself like I escaped my own body. I was looking at myself from outside my own body. I never had so many emotions happening all at once.
There needs to be a new name for such feelings rolled up into one! Perhaps no one could understand it to give it a name, but can you imagine working so hard, tirelessly, relentlessly, optimistically, while getting knocked down over and over with no success in sight of closing a sale or making money for five long years??? I have no words left to try to describe it, but I’ll never forget the feeling.
Good or bad first-time occurrences are memorable. How we choose to perceive them is our choice. Choosing to remember the good ones can remind us to appreciate each moment. Choosing to recall the bad ones can remind us to learn a lesson or move beyond them. Good or bad, we need not judge them as such, but remember, they are the spices for an abundant life.
Though I made some usual accomplishments, I was glad to discover unusual achievements to be proud of because they say more about the value of me.
Though I was blessed that the love of my life proposed to me over three times, I had the sense to forge ahead with my goals and know that it wasn’t meant to be.
Though we have bad first-time memories to learn lessons from, we also have good first-time memories to appreciate.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called When They Say You Can’t, A Chance Encounter, and Things Saved and Things Left Behind.
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