Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives.. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called: When They Say You Can't, a moment of an encounter called: A Chance Encounter, and a moment of a perspective called: Things Saved, Things Left Behind.
Hello and welcome to Episode #16 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 When They Say You Can’t, A Chance Encounter, and Things Saved and Things Left Behind.
A moment of an adversity called: When They Say You Can’t
As I sat down to my first meeting with a group of strangers, someone asked why I wanted to be there. I boldly said that I wanted to be a professional public speaker. The facilitator said something like, “That is a great dream to have, but it is difficult. If you want some exposure, you will have to participate in competitions. It’s now September. In February there will be a speech contest. If you want to participate, you will need to complete six speeches here and perform at a level where you can represent our area group.”
Upon hearing her words, I fumed inside. My silent voice said to her, “You haven’t even heard me do one speech yet, and already you are telling me it is difficult. Couldn’t you be more encouraging?” I disliked her already. In the next meeting, my voiceless mouth said to her, “You think I can’t? I’ll show you, woman!” Sometimes, anger is good for motivating us. I didn’t like her as the leader of the group. Still, because I had a dream, I continued with the program.
I completed six speeches as required, and the group agreed for me to represent them at the speech contest. Our group had only twenty people. When I went to the competition, there were two hundred people, and I competed with people in several districts. Though I was nervous, I was excited, too. It was a thrill for me to speak before hundreds of people; it was part of my dream that said, “Hear my voice!”
When I got to the stage, they handed me a microphone. I said I didn’t need it. I was ready to use my voice and project myself! I repeated the speech introducing myself to my area group of twenty people. When I first presented it to my area group, I almost cried because my story moved me. It was a surprise to me as I was never moved by myself. Then when I said the same speech at the contest, I shocked myself. My body trembled a bit. My eyes watered, and I wanted to cry. My voice also trembled a little because I was moved by my story again. Still, I continued, and the shivering subsided. The applaud seemed loud as I walked off the stage. I was glad to be done so that I could wipe away the tears in my eyes.
The judges made their decisions, and soon it was time for the awards ceremony. I was astonished to hear that I won first place!!!
Afterward, many people came up to tell me that my story moved them or that they also had a voice that wasn’t heard and wanted to be heard. The comments astounded me! I thought I was alone in feeling unheard and wanting to be heard. It was comforting to know that I was not alone. I was surrounded by a sea of strangers who seemed to want to connect with me because of my speech.
And what did my area group leader have to say? It was a while before I saw her in the crowd, and all she said was, “You did good.” From there, I learned that though I was angry before, it motivated me to act. And most importantly, the opinion that matters most is mine, not others. If I want to do something or think I can, I should go ahead and not let anyone’s words anger or stop me.
A moment of an encounter called: A Chance Encounter
The world was officially in a pandemic in the middle of March 2020. The plan to move abroad in June was in jeopardy. After a spiritual journey to Bhutan in March, I safely arrived home in the USA in April. I packed nearly all my belongings to have them transported by sea, which would take two months, so I hoped it would arrive in June when I planned to move.
Having a minimal number of things left, I was waiting to move and hoping the pandemic would be over or that I would be able to travel abroad. But the airline canceled one air ticket after another because of travel bans. The pandemic was no doubt real. Not only were there travel bans stopping me from enjoying adventures and moving, but my freedom also became limited as my world was in lockdown, and we were only allowed to go out to get necessities.
Despite the pandemic, some good things came out of it! Staying at home a lot during a pandemic, I had time to write some essays, which I have always wanted. Aside from enjoying all the hobbies that I could do at home, I decided to practice my foreign language and make some new friends as I prepared to move abroad.
I got on a language exchange website and quickly contacted many language partners. At the beginning of this "project," I "met" a guy who easily clicked and had interesting conversations. He quickly asked to schedule chatting twice a week, and I promptly agreed. It was 4 hours of chatting per week. I was happy to have the opportunity to practice speaking the foreign language, and it was nice to have people to talk to, especially when I was not going out much while in lockdown.
This one particular language partner was a good conversationalist. Everett did not waste time and had many interesting topics for discussion. Quickly I began to like many things about him. He was always punctual. He called precisely at the scheduled time. This action told me he was a reliable person. If he were going to be late or had to change the time of day, he would text me and let me know ahead of time.
Everett was responsible. He would start with a topic, and if he sensed that I didn't like it or was not interested, he would quickly move to another issue as he had backup ideas. He was respectful, polite, considerate of my time zone, intelligent, mature, and "professional." We shared the ordinary things you may talk about with new friends, like your work experience and hobbies. We did it in great detail as he would ask probing questions to make me elaborate. Aside from all the beginning niceties, our conversations quickly became analytical and thought-provoking, something that interested me.
At our sixth call, he asked what my impressions of him were. I was shocked, especially from an Asian guy, because I've never known one to be that forward. Anyway, I told him my impressions, and he said I was primarily accurate. Then, with a fast-beating heart, I asked his impression of me. He was also mainly correct. It was scary and comforting to know that we had "accurate" specific impressions of each other after six conversations or twelve hours of chatting.
By our seventh call, Everett finished a sentence for me. That was exciting and scary all at once. It was exciting to know just how perceptive he was, and it was frightening to see how a stranger could so quickly know me so well.
Everett asked about one of my work experiences several times for more and more details. I didn't want to talk about it by the third time and let him know why. To my surprise, he said he was asking me because it was inspiring him! It was about my failed business experience. He wanted to know how I could persist with one rejection after another in sales and how I could persist when I was not making much money for five years. I tried to explain, felt I had nothing more to say, and felt more gloomy about my failures. His response was one I never considered. From that conversation, I learned to acknowledge my tenacity and not be ashamed of being in business even though I didn't make millions. For me, this was a big gift from him.
He asked when I went to sleep. I call this a strange question. Maybe he wracked his brains about what to ask. And he didn't like my answer! As I told him I wasn't working in a pandemic and was homebound, I went to sleep at one or two in the morning. He thought it was late and that I should go to bed earlier for my health. Shut up already! I told him I'd go to bed earlier if I were working. This little bit told me he was a bit too proper for me. There doesn't look like a whole lot of room for spontaneity. Still, I liked the question because I thought it was personal coming from him.
Everett asked about my travels, nothing abnormal about this, but then he would ask if I traveled alone or with others in each of them. It was a bit scary. I didn't understand why he asked for those specifics or fishing to know about my relationships. He asked about the kinds of friends I liked or would like to have; I wondered if he was fishing. As "proper" as he seemed, I thought him to be a bit devious too because he wouldn't directly say some things. At other times, he was so direct. Ah, humans are so complex.
He asked for my impressions of him, and after I told him, he said, "Deduct one point from you because you didn't say I was honest." I said, "I can't be sure if you are an honest person." Then he said, "I don't want you to be sure!" We laughed and laughed; it was real; it was like sweet innocence. He also said deduct another point because I said he might be a little dangerous. He asked why. I said I would not tell him at this time. Fortunately, he didn't press me on it because I didn't want to tell him. We both laughed it off. With this bit of conversation, I don't know if we were flirting or not.
Everett asked if I had financial planning. I thought this was a bit personal, especially when we've never met and only had seven conversations thus far. Anyway, I answered him, and he wasn't shy to share his details. Now I know he is a planner, not materialistic, yet financially secure, mature, and only wants a simple life, all qualities I like and value.
He asked if I played any musical instruments; nothing abnormal, but this was the only place I learned from him that he played a little guitar before to chase after or attract girls. You see, three months later, I began to think he might be gay. I'll explain later.
Everett asked, and I asked, about near-death experiences, the happiest time in life, the worst time in life, crossroads, what makes a best friend, what's good about growing older, what's good and bad about being young. We talked about the most significant fears and influential people in our lives. We chatted about how to deal with people we don't like, what to do in upsets, what makes us angry. They were all exciting and thought-provoking topics I loved to discuss.
He asked me what I was most proud of in myself. Surprisingly before I could answer, he started to guess. He guessed twice, and they were wrong. I wondered why he guessed when I didn't ask him to guess. Anyway, it was nice to know that he didn't know! I wanted to say, "Don't assume you know, ask!" Still, the question had me think and tell myself what I was most proud of, and indeed I told myself that I should be so proud of it. He agreed that nothing he did could trump it either. This bit helped me to be proud of myself. Yet another gift from him, because he asked and we talked about it.
Sometimes, Everett would ask things that I thought were so impersonal. Maybe I was looking for a friend or boyfriend, and I was getting a professional conversationalist. We had so much in common, and we were at the same stage in life, too. We had both had a long career, and now with the pandemic, we were wondering if we should change jobs. We were close in age, too. Same generation, same likes, same values. If anything, this was of great comfort to me.
Sometimes, he would ask, "How have you been?" When I said, "Okay," he would say, "What's wrong?" Wow, I thought, he knows me. He knows that when I say okay, I am not really okay. It sounds like what I hear guys say about women: Say one thing and mean another! This simple little question made me start to fall in love with him without knowing it. When I shared my frustrations, he'd tell me I was too hard on myself. It was comforting to hear. I was falling some more.
I asked about risky things done in life, and we shared. Now Everett is clear that I am a risk-taker, and though he is too, not as much as me. He may not like that about me; I don't know. He did say what an abundant life I have with all that I shared. Yes, with all the twists and turns in events, I certainly haven't had a boring life with all the good and evil. I never felt that I had an abundant life until he "pointed" it out to me—another wonderful gift from him.
I asked some questions that required short answers, and this was how I got some trivia knowledge about him. We both like autumn; he is of the astrological sign that I get along with very well; his favorite color is yellow, he's a morning person and not a night owl, he doesn't get angry often.
Would you like to travel to the future or the past? Would you like to reminisce old memories or make new ones? Is it worse to fail or never have tried to do something in the first place? We mainly had the same answers! Small details, but I wanted to know! When asked if we could open a store, what would it sell? We both said a bookstore.
Everett asked; I asked. He'd also tell me his answer to the same question if he asked a question. I'd answer the question, too, following his example to be equal partners in conversation if I asked a question. That says a lot. And I like it; it's not one-sided. Quite a "balanced" or equal partner in terms of how much each person talked. I appreciated this. He was mindful of not talking more than me or less than me for the most part. It shows consideration and that he is not an overbearing person.
Only once did we go over the scheduled time for half an hour. What allowed Everett to let us go over the time! We had both been in management before and discussed issues in the management position and our management styles. I discovered more about myself and how others see me in this conversation. Thank you to this conversation partner.
Though we talked about all kinds of topics, I noticed two issues he never asked me about, and I thought that was quite strange. We never talked about family or relationships. Everett did prod and probe about my friendships, and I still don't know if he was fishing or not. Frustrating, sometimes so direct in some topics and sometimes so subtle or indirect in other issues.
Interestingly, I felt I shared so much, and he thought I didn't share enough. He said I was protective of myself. Nothing wrong with that, I thought. He should remember that we haven't met. And I already shared with him more things than any other single person!
Interesting how a man with a stable and primarily uneventful life was now looking for a little more pep in his life. And me, a woman with an eventful life full of twists and turns, was now looking for a more stable life but also craved some excitement, too. "Meeting" at the same time in life where we both want more or something different, I thought Everett would be ready for this American girl, but I was wrong.
After three months of consistently chatting on the phone for four hours each week, this chance encounter ended when I finally moved abroad. Calls just ended with no conversation that sounded like it was the end. Still, I believe he insinuated it by saying that I no longer needed a language partner since I would have the environment to practice it when I moved abroad. So, I saved him the trouble and ended it by not responding to his text question, and he never contacted me again.
I liked this new friend a lot. I enjoyed our conversations a great deal. By the end, I realized that I had fallen in love with him because the last time I felt like this was when I was with the boyfriend I loved the most. What do they have in common? These two understood me the most because they asked the most questions about me.
This chance encounter has left me baffled as to why it ended just like that. Importantly, it has left footprints in my mind. I never thought I would fall in love like that again, but I did.
A moment of a perspective called: Things Saved,
Things Left Behind
Time for another move. What should be tossed, donated, sold, kept? So many things accumulate over time—so much work to physically pack and move items. At each move, one has to think what can I throw away and what can I not throw away? Amazingly, there is so much that we could live without; there is so much that we wouldn't even miss if we tossed them out! Yet, we seem to think we need a lot more than we need or use.
Interestingly, we will keep some things that we have no need for in our daily lives. We will keep some things that we may hardly even look at from time to time. We will keep some things that are many years old. They just can't be thrown away because they are too valuable to us. They mean too much to us. They are pieces of ourselves and our memories: collections, gifts, pictures, memorabilia, things.
After moving seventeen times, thus far, in my life, I have no doubt thought many times about what to toss and what to keep. However, I only recently thought about why I never toss out some things even though I don't need them.
Mini friendship books, a love poem, a statuette of two caterpillar lovers, a unicorn clip, a locket necklace, a piece of jade, two stuffed animals are useless things that I have had for too many years but will never part with until the day I die. Why? I can never throw away those little things from my first love and best friend. Too precious are those memories.
My master's thesis, high school diploma, Bachelor's degree, Masters degree, Chinese School diploma, Elementary School teaching license, Mandarin teaching license, Teach Chinese as a Second Language Certificate, Insurance License, Real Estate License, Securities License, Passport, I.D.s, other certificates that are just pieces of paper, and pins from being in business are just little things. Still, they represent hard work, accomplishments, and identity; how can I throw them away?
Travel souvenirs that I only started collecting in the last ten years serve as home decorations and represent another kind of accomplishment. I could never get a travel education in the classroom, and the experience could never be more enriching; it is priceless.
I once had many photo albums, but after so many moves, I finally got rid of some or took them out of the albums and put them into plastic bags to save space. One may say, but how could you throw pictures away? Sometimes it is better to remember in the mind than to see in the actual images. Why? Look how young I used to look! Look how skinny I used to look! Now that can be depressing when you see what I look like now! Or, how sad it is that I used to have those days when I used to have such a fun group of friends or ex-boyfriends, and where are they all now? They are not in my presence.
In the end, with these things saved, they will be left behind when I die, and those who are still alive will see them. What will they learn? Some old boyfriends, even a husband photo, but can anyone decipher which boyfriend was the most special? Places I have traveled to would be easy to see, but that doesn't include travels I had at a younger age. You can see accomplishments in diplomas, degrees, and certificates, but you cannot find the most outstanding achievements from those things.
What are those intangibles or other achievements? I overcame many adversities; I faced fears, tolerated things, and enjoyed some of the greatest moments of happiness. I came back from great devastations. All those experiences built who I am in character. You won't find physical evidence of those vitally important things. However, I have put some of them in writing. While I may not have expressed all that is my life, I hope some of my written stories reveal my thoughts and feelings and what matters most to me.
Whatever you save will be left behind, and what will they say about you? Whatever they are, you choose them. To not leave it to chance, I decided to write memoirs. And in the process, I have come to rejoice in my abundant life.
Though someone told me I couldn’t do something, it angered me; it was the impetus to propel me to turbocharge achievements.
Though we began as language exchange partners, he became a person who has impacted my life affectively and intellectually.
Though I have moved numerous times and cannot save everything, the most important things are kept, and my memories are captured in stories.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called An Insignificant Marriage, The Most Valuable Person, and The Wonders of Perspectives I.
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