Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you'll hear about a moment of adversity called: Jealousy with a Twist, a moment of an encounter called: One With The Biggest Heart, and a moment of a perspective called: From Greed to No Desire.
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Hello and welcome to Episode #18 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 Jealousy With A Twist, One With The Biggest Heart, and From Greed to No Desire.
A moment of an adversity called: Jealousy with a Twist
Discovering another part of the meaning of jealousy was eye-opening for me. It was so simple. Yet I didn't see it. Perhaps I was just too busy being annoyed with people jealous of me and causing me discomfort.
I was conversing with my friend Everette, and he asked about my previous work life as a teacher. He asked about any problems I encountered. I said people were jealous of me, and I didn't understand why. I did my job to the best of my abilities, and I minded my own business. I was mainly in the classroom working with students, so what was there to talk about me? It bothered me that some co-workers talked about me behind my back. I heard, "She threatens her kids; that's why they are well-disciplined." I saw stares when my class walked quietly down the hallways passing by other classes. The adults stopped to stare at my students, who were quietly walking in an orderly manner which was different from their students. It felt like they were mocking me for having my students behave differently from theirs. It wasn't comforting.
Instead of complimenting me for training my students to be well-behaved, they made up stories that I threatened them. I found the remarks disturbing and causing me trouble when all I did was work to do a good job. It made work uncomfortable knowing that there were whispers behind my back. I couldn't understand why people needed to talk about me. What was so interesting? Is their life so dull that they needed to talk about me?
In another school, my classroom was chosen to be used on a TV commercial. Photographers took pictures of classrooms throughout my school district, and from looking at thousands of photos, my classroom was chosen. Because my classroom was chosen, I was getting money to purchase books for my classroom library. A few other people whispered about how they didn't understand why no one chose their classroom. They wanted a chance to be noticed by Joe Montana, a football player in the back-to-school commercial. They wanted the money for more books for their students, too. I didn't do anything to get chosen, nor did I ask for the disruption to my class. Since my classroom was selected, they wanted to use the classroom and take my students and me out of it. My students and I had to relocate temporarily. It certainly didn't feel like I was chosen; neither my students nor I were in the commercial. What is there to be jealous about?
In a couple of other schools, my students' standardized test scores were the highest, and the principal would broadcast it, but it was also public knowledge as test scores were published for all to see. They were even in the newspapers. A few teachers would look at me, smirk, and say nothing. Others would turn away from me after seeing scores posted. When we sat down in a meeting to review the scores, I'd get glaring looks. They were not kind looks or congratulatory looks. It seemed like there was no reward for helping students get high scores; it seemed like I was getting punished for it or made not to feel good about it.
Year after year, someone would be jealous of my students' high test scores, disciplined students, or the principals or bosses who thought well of me. I always felt punished for it because of colleague reactions. Principals didn't like me for me; they only liked me for the test scores, so what was there to be jealous about?
I didn't know how to get rid of the problem. It was like an under your breath subtle problem at work. I only continued to strive to be a better teacher. Then one day, when I went to a fortune teller for a quick reading during a vacation, I got a surprising statement from him. He said I should be in business for myself with just a few people because as an employee or working with many people, I would always have people jealous of me and trying to stab me in the back. I thought, was I fated to have such? He didn't know anything about me other than my birthdate. And yet, he made a statement that rang true to have occurred over and over in my career.
This matter of jealousy was annoying and a nuisance to me. I never saw anything good about it. By definition, it means envious of someone thinking that person has an advantage or hostility towards someone you believe has something you should have. Another explanation of jealousy is that it is an emotion felt when someone has something you want. Perhaps it has bothered me because I couldn't understand why anyone would want anything I had. When anyone wished to be like me or wanted to be like me, my reaction is I don't even want to be in my shoes! So why would anyone want to be in my shoes?
I am beginning to realize that my reactions show that I don't think highly of myself. I don't. I could always do better. However, I should acknowledge my strengths and not cut myself down. There are enough naysayers out there in the world already.
I recall my conversation with Everette about a part of my work experience. As I told Everette my troubles of colleagues jealous of me, he made a few comments that left an indelible mark on me because I never saw that perspective. Everette said he never had anyone jealous of him, and he wished he had something others wanted. That would mean he had something of value. He also said that I must have some excellent skills or abilities that others wanted. The part of the meaning of jealousy that was eye-opening to me was when Everette said, "You have something valuable, you have a treasure, so people want it, too."
What Everette said led me to, for the first time, embrace my abilities and strengths as a good thing rather than "I could always do better." What a gem it is to feel good about yourself, to feel you have value. That is far better than getting annoyed and angry at jealous people.
A moment of an encounter called: One With The Biggest Heart
If you saw me meet her for the first time, you would think we were long-lost friends. She welcomed me with warmth and joy. She looked like she was so happy to meet me and she had never met me before. Aside from the wicked hot and humid weather, she was my first impression of this island nation.
Ada, who was to be my boss, sat me down, holding my arm. She said, “Just think of me as your friend.” Her bubbly personality helped put me at ease as I had just arrived from the USA to this island nation.
I soon started work, and Ada showered me with her kindness, generosity, compliments, and gifts. She didn’t even know me, but she treated me like she knew I was an exceptional teacher. She said we were fated to meet. I would come to hear this phrase often from many locals to explain the unexplainable.
As a boss, Ada did many things I thought were odd, but I took it all in knowing that I was on a foreign island. I don’t think any boss in the USA would do what she did, especially in the first few months of work. When I needed a cellphone, Ada grabbed my arm and took me down the street to help me buy a cellphone. On another day, when I was at an agency getting my documents in order, she called to tell me she would pick me up for dinner. I couldn’t believe my ears, but it did happen!
On many other days, she’d walk into my classroom to check on me. Sometimes she’d give me some gifts, and sometimes, if I hadn’t seen her for weeks, she’d give me a hug for many seconds. We’d stand there hugging, and the students wouldn’t say a word. Then when she left, I just continued with my lessons, and the students just continued learning. It was like Ada and I missed each other, and you couldn’t explain it. Perhaps it was fate like she said!
During my second year of working with Ada, she invited me on vacation along with some other co-workers. This instance was when I discovered how amazing a person she is. On this trip, we were a group of ten. When we arrived at 11 p.m., there was a long rectangular table full of food; it was a feast to the eyes. As it turned out, it was the most scrumptious food I had ever tasted in my life, and her personal chef made it. I had the luxury of enjoying the tastiest meals for ten days.
Ada had made arrangements for all the meals and activities, and it made us all feel like royalty. I couldn’t help but be moved by her thoughtfulness. This busy woman with hundreds of employees made the time to take care of all the details. One time while out sightseeing and everyone was busy taking pictures, I sat down on a bench to take in the moments rather than snap photos. Along came Ada, and she sat next to me. She was quiet and looked out into the beautiful scenery like me. In awe, I said, “You are amazing; you could make so many people happy.” I saw how everyone on the trip, myself included, was so happy and felt fortunate to be on this trip funded mainly by her, Ms. Generosity. Her comment to me was that what else could her hard work be for other than giving to others? Her kindness and generosity touched me.
In the daily grind of various activities and issues at work, I witnessed Ada’s incredibleness. More often than not, employees would make mistakes. Ada, with her big heart, would forgive them. Some employees would keep doing the wrong thing, and sometimes they were terrible things, but Ada would still forgive again and again. It seemed like her ability to forgive and give people chances was bottomless. The many chances she gave showed me she believed in the goodness of people. More, she thought they could all improve; she trusted that they would all do better than previously. Her trust and faith in others are boundless. Her compassion for others is abundant.
Occasionally, I would be frustrated with an issue that would strain me. Then I would call to speak with her. She would respond instantly and resolve matters in a matter of seconds when I had brewed over them for months. That is what you call an incredibly sharp businesswoman. More than that, her immediate attention made me feel that I mattered. She took care of business and cemented the bond.
I know her to be an intelligent and perceptive woman. Perhaps I am to better learn from her abilities to forgive, give others the benefit of the doubt, grant people more chances, show compassion for others, and spread kindness and love.
Though I have had the great fortune of being on the receiving end of Ada’s greatness, the lessons to learn by her example are ongoing. Perhaps I was fated to meet her because I needed to grasp her qualities of kindness, caring for others, forgiveness, faith in others, loving unconditionally, and compassion.
Though I have a minimal amount of those qualities because maybe I received so little of it as a child, it is no excuse. Maybe I yearned to receive some and wished I had some to give myself. Perhaps I value them because I lack them. Ada’s ability to seemingly love so many unconditionally is like a precious gem not easily found. Her example keeps reminding me to have a bigger heart. She has undoubtedly made a difference for many, and I want to do so, too.
A moment of a perspective called: From Greed to No Desire
As a kid, I always dreamed of growing up, buying a house of my own, having a career, having a nice car, making millions of dollars, and all the material things that would say, "See, I am a success, see I can keep up with the Jones." I wasn't even aware that I had such aspirations as many Americans did or still do.
Then one day, I went out of business and was on the verge of losing my house and needed to sell off stuff. Somewhere in life, I came to value possessions that money could buy. When I tried to sell some things and did so, I realized how much things depreciate soon after buying them. It hurt because hard work went into affording all the possessions I had. Worse, I couldn't sell some items, and I couldn't even donate some things. When I couldn't sell or donate something, I had to dispose of them. It was like throwing my hard-earned money in the garbage can. It hurt! Emptying a house that accumulated so much over the years was overwhelming and enormously emotionally draining.
So many possessions, did I have to buy all those things? No. Greed had me buy something, want things I didn't need, want to look good to others. It is a 1600 square foot home, not big, but many say it is pretty good for one human being. Did I need all that space? Did I use all that space? No and no. So why did I get it? I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment; I wanted to say I am a success because I wanted to look good. So vain, but aren't we sometimes?
Going out of business left me with no income. I took a significant risk to go into business full-time, and I failed miserably. I ended up having to sell my house on a short sale. What a sad day, what a tragic year. Going through the work of also selling, donating, and dumping its contents was hard to bear. Worse, I now needed to fit my whole life in two-plus suitcases to move out of the country instead of a 1600 square feet space. Why two-plus suitcases? That was what was free fees on luggage with the airlines. How can one fit all of one's possessions in two suitcases and one carry-on luggage??? I didn't know how it was possible, but I had to make it work.
In the process of making it happen, I realized that there were a lot of things I didn't need. There were a lot of things I could carry around from one move to another, I didn't need them, and I wouldn't miss them if they went missing, but I still chose to carry them around with me until I only had two-plus suitcases left, and I couldn't do that anymore. Having reduced my life to two-plus suitcases, I realized that you could live life with that little or that that little was enough. We don't need as much as we think. We can live off of very little. We have so much that we don't need!
Finally, I am at the airport with my two-plus pieces of luggage. Suddenly, life seemed a little bit emptier, a little bit lighter, a little bit freer, and more carefree! I arrived on a foreign island. I bought a few more things. I had fewer things, and I found that I didn't need many things. The minimal that I had was enough. I have fewer things to take care of; I have fewer things to tidy up or clean; I have fewer burdens and responsibilities; I am freer and carefree!
Suddenly, it occurred to me that my "greedy" life in America gave me more responsibilities, more worries, more anxieties, more strains, more things to do out of obligations. And now, with only two-plus suitcases of things, I have little. With so few material goods, suddenly the feeling of life feels a bit different in an unexpected way, in a good way. It feels freeing.
You wake up, you shift from wanting things to wanting almost nothing or at least what money can buy because you realize those things don't make you happy or satisfied. You don't need them. Admit it or not, satisfaction and happiness come from connecting with people and experiencing life with all the wonders of nature, people, and experiences. Moving abroad, living with few possessions, and gaining the luxury to travel frequently, I have enjoyed having more time to connect with people and nature like never before. From greed to little desire for material things, a thirst for sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and experiences are all precious treasures to behold.
Though the jealousy of others towards me annoyed me, I discovered the essence of jealousy, that I have something someone else wants and gained a new appreciation for myself.
Though I have lacked compassion for most of my life, I met someone with the biggest heart, the greatest model of compassion.
Though I treasured the possessions I worked hard to acquire, I learned that what we need is not that much, less is more room for a simpler and more joyous life, and possessions do not necessarily represent success in life.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Running and Floating, An Unimagined World, and My Heartbeat.
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