Eye-Opening moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called No To Helplessness, a moment of an encounter called Romantic Moments With A Special Friend, a moment of a perspective called Fat Calves.
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Hello and welcome to Episode #21 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 No to Helplessness, Romantic Moments With A Special Friend, and Fat Calves.
A moment of adversity called: No To Helplessness
Sent to live with my grandparents at a young age, the five-year-old me concluded that I wasn’t wanted or loved. The fighter in me said, “I don’t need you!”
Living with relatives all older than me, no one had time to take care of me. At the age of eight, I had to find the courage to walk to the school bus stop by myself because no one had the time to take me by the hand. The fighter in me said, “I’ll do it, I’ll show you I don’t need anybody.”
By the time I was graduating high school, relatives had suggested that I was too stupid to go to college, so I should get a job. The warrior in me said, “I’ll show you.”
I was determined to go to college, but my relatives said nobody would pay for my college education, so I should get a job again. The lion in me said, “I don’t need you, and I’ll show you.”
Tossed at five was the beginning of me being on my own in my mind. Walking to the bus stop by myself at the age of eight was the start of me learning to find courage. Told that I was stupid early on was the beginning of me fighting back to prove the world wrong. Being informed that no one would pay for my college education was the rise of my problem-solving skills and creativity.
All the adverse childhood experiences propelled me to become independent. Others would say how fiercely independent I was as if it was an admirable thing. To me, it was just a matter of survival. I refused to be a victim. After all, I had to prove that I didn’t need anybody.
While this independence allowed me to accomplish many things, such as financing my college education, it had side effects. Since I sent the message out to the world that I didn’t need anyone, when I needed help, no one came to my aide. I didn’t ask for help; I refused to need anyone. I refused to be helpless. I hated to ask for help because I saw it as a sign of weakness and a sign that I needed others. Occasionally, people said they didn’t come to my aide because I looked like I could handle things myself. At other times, if someone came to my aide, I’d show that I didn’t need help. It was like I was on autopilot.
I once took a seminar on self-expression and leadership. One exercise was to walk across the stage, say something short and simple to represent me. I started to do it in a low voice, and support staff rushed to the bottom of the stage to help me. When I saw it, I got angry and fully expressed myself in a loud voice. In my mind, it was I could do it; don’t try to help because I can do it myself. I stopped the assistants in their tracks and showed them. That was me on automatic.
Though I worked hard to do things on my own, sometimes I wished there was someone there to help me. Constantly fighting to do everything myself was tiresome.
As a grown woman, I learned to ask for help and be okay with it. But still, I would exert my independence as it has become a habit. Instead of saying it was a matter of survival and dismissing the compliment, I am now proud of how the independence has helped strengthen the person that is me.
A moment of an encounter called: Romantic Moments with a Special Friend
It had been decades since I last saw him when we were both in college. We lived in different countries and had lost touch. Since I was moving abroad and near his country, I searched for him, but I couldn't find him. Five years later, another college buddy got in touch with me and asked me about his whereabouts since he was a mutual friend. I said I didn't know and now lived in another country not far from his.
She said we could try to search for him online; I said I tried already. Anyway, putting two heads together, we found him. I called him up, and as if no time had elapsed between us, he said he could fly over to visit me in a week since it would be my birthday soon. I was elated! I thought that if I let him know that I was taking a few days off from work for my birthday, he'd come over, and he did! I told him where to meet up.
I said to meet at a subway station because that way I wouldn't get lost in the foreign land. But I said it might be a little tricky because many people would be around in transit. He said, "Don't worry, I can spot you a mile away." Did I think? We haven't seen each other in so long; we might not recognize each other! As it turned out, he did spot me, and I did spot him in the midst of crowds of people walking around. He laughed and said, "You look the same." I laughed too and said I did not. I only laughed because he laughed, and he always made me laugh even if he didn't say something. How he could do that, I didn't know. I could say, however, that it was the very subtle little things that he did. And, of course, he joked around a lot too. It was not easy to make me laugh, but he made me laugh easily.
We quickly looked for a place to sit down to chat as we were eager to catch up on all the things that had happened in our lives since we last saw each other. We found a coffee shop and sat down. The first thing my friend did was to give me a gift. I took it, opened it, and saw a diamond bracelet with light pink sparkling round diamonds. I thanked him and was about to put it away in my purse when he said, "Why don't you wear it now?" I took it out, and he proceeded to help me secure the latch on it. While he was doing it, I thought, this was so romantic! Why couldn't I have romantic feelings for him? I was so thrilled with the unexpected gift. I had a present for him, too. Nothing expensive or elaborate, just something I made that was sentimental for friendship.
We sat and shared many things, including personal and serious things, that happened with us in our lives for the past twenty-plus years. It was amazing how we could share so much and so profoundly when we hadn't seen each other in so long! But we did.
Later, we got on a subway train to go elsewhere. While on the train, we continued talking. My friend asked me how I would describe him. I said, years ago, I was asked that question by our mutual friend to describe him in three words. He said, "What did you say?" I told him to guess. He wanted to refuse, but I said, "You are so smart, I am sure you can guess." He said, "You are right. I can guess." He quickly guessed: intelligent and funny. It took him a few more guesses to guess the last one, but he did get it: romantic. See, he is brilliant. He had the look of victory and satisfaction.
A couple of months later. I went to Hong Kong on vacation to visit him.
We got on a ferry to go to an island off of Hong Kong. He had been there many times before, but we had never been there together. I was in town on vacation for a week. I told him I wanted to go somewhere I hadn't been before. I don't even remember the island's name, but I remember our time there together.
We walked around the small quaint town. We came to a glass building that was being newly built and looked modern. Standing outside of it, we could see ourselves. He took a picture of our image on the mirrored panels of the building. He said it would be a unique picture to have. He took many pictures of me without me being aware of it or without my permission. I wouldn't say I liked taking pictures, but I wasn't going to keep arguing with him to stop. He always had a way of making me laugh, and then I'd just let things go without being so serious.
As we walked down one alley after another of old building structures with cozy small shops and eateries, he said he was having a lot of fun and didn't expect to as he had been to the island several times before with other friends who were in town as tourists. It made me feel special, and I was also having a great time with him. He was fun to be with, a good conversationalist, funny, and romantic.
Across from one alley, we could see that there was a beach. We walked over there. My friend said, let's take off our shoes and walk on the sand. I said, "No!" I was uncomfortable doing this. I thought, even though I had known him a long time as college buddies, he had never seen my toes, and I didn't want to expose them! He insisted, and with his funny wit, I gave in and took off my shoes and socks.
We walked a little bit, he stopped, and he put his bare feet in front of mine. As if examining my feet, he said, "You have short toes, and they have spaces in between." His comment was like a child noticing the curious sight of another person's toes. Since he said that, I looked at his toes. They were long, considering he was not a tall man. His toes were together with no natural spaces in between. They were the opposite of mine. It was an awkward moment and a feeling of its too personal moment with him. It wasn't a moment I cared to have with him. Nonetheless, it was a memorable moment as I never had such a moment of someone commenting about my toes and putting them close to mine to examine the structure of it all.
We walked along the beach some more. He found a stick or branch and wrote my name with it. I, in turn, wrote his name. I thought it was romantic. He didn't erase it, and we proceeded to walk some more. It was a sunny day, and it was windy by the beach. The wind kept blowing my hair in all directions, and I kept trying to get my hair out of my face. He said, "Just let it be." And he took more pictures of me. I don't think he was a taking pictures lover, but I know he wanted to preserve the memories of our trip. He had romantic feelings for me, but I didn't have any for him.
One breezy night we went to Victoria Peak, a major tourist site in Hong Kong. I had been there before during the day, but the feeling was different at night. We walked along the elevated pathways along the mountainous park to look down on the beautiful night view of the city. I felt Hong Kong was ever so beautiful. I even felt beautiful.
As we walked in the cool temperature, he demanded taking some pictures with the two of us in them. Without looking at the pictures, I can see them in my mind. I was so happy. We were both full of smiles. I remember sharing about having gone to Bhutan, and he said how he wished he had the chance to go. At our older age, we still shared dreams.
On another day, we went to a party with karaoke singing, food, and mahjong. I was excited about this as I loved it but didn't often get a chance to play mahjong and karaoke sing with people. When I awkwardly began to sing amid a group of strangers eating or playing mahjong, he soon chimed in and sang along with me. I never thought of this, but how romantic was this, it was like singing a duet with a lover. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though it was just a friend. Now I dream of having a boyfriend that would karaoke sing with me; it would be so romantic.
That was the last trip I saw him, but before that, aside from the decades-long separation, I did see him before. It was also decades before that.
I was in Hong Kong on vacation again. But I was with my in-laws who pampered me and took me shopping, demanding that I find things for them to buy for me. In advance, I had told them and my husband at that time that I had a friend in Hong Kong, and since I went all the way there, I had to visit with him. They didn't have a problem with it. I spent a wonderful day with him roaming the city, eating and chatting up a storm.
I most remembered our conversation as we sat down for dinner. We were going to eat snake soup. He asked if I was afraid to try it, and I said I'd try it. He said he had been going to the gym a lot and building up his muscles but that he still couldn't get a girl. He was confiding in me. I said, "You are great, you have a lot of wonderful qualities, and looks aren't everything." He said, what is great about me?" I said, "You have a great personality, you are funny, you are smart." He then said, "Why don't you want me?" I was speechless. As great as he was, I wasn't interested in him in that way. I was not attracted to him. Looks are not most important to me, and at the same time, the attraction or chemistry did not and never brought me to feeling something more than friendship with him.
Strange, but true: Some of the most romantic experiences I've had was with this particular friend. I wish I had romantic feelings for him, but the chemistry just wasn't there. I wish it were there, but it wasn't. Even with years of a great friendship, nothing developed beyond it. Still, I treasure him and our romantic moments together. The moments are precious and forever embedded in my happy memories. I cannot explain this romantic friendship rolled up into one, so I call it a special relationship where we are fated to have this unique relationship.
A moment of a perspective called: Fat Calves
You haven't seen fat calves on a woman until you have seen my calves. No matter how skinny I could get, the size of my calves won't shrink. That means it must be hereditary. My calves look just like my father's; it seems just fine on him. But on me, a woman, they look too manly. I estimate the width is twice the size of an average woman. So, when I get a massage, I tell the masseuse to please squeeze out the fat from my calves. To my disappointment, they all say I am full of muscles, and in fact, I have more powers in the calves than an average woman. While that may sound nice, you wouldn't want to have my calves if you looked at my calves.
Not only are my calves twice the size of an average lady, they even sound like an elephant coming: Thump, thump, stomp, stomp; the firmly muscled calves walk full of blocked sturdiness. You know, with all that fat muscle, I couldn't fall. But, my two stumps are as sturdy as can be. They keep me balanced, they help me lift heavy groceries, and they help me kick the daylights out of anyone who dares to attack me.
With these fat globs attached below my knees, I can't wear mini-skirts, tights, or tight jeans. They would show how chunky the calves are. And with chunky calves, I can't even look like a lady. I am by no means masculine, but if you only saw my calves, you'd think I was a man. How I wish I could just cut each calf in half without bleeding.
But wait, if you halve each calf, would I still be in balance? Would I still have those muscles to help me lift heavy things? Could people still hear my stomping calves coming? Would I still have those muscles to help me walk long distances? Hmmm, I guess those stiff fat calves full of muscles are pretty helpful. I think I will keep them and forfeit wishing for skinny feminine calves to look good.
Though my childhood experiences left me with an attitude that I didn’t need anybody and I was out to prove it, I learned to be fiercely independent, and if I ever asked for help, it wasn’t a sign of weakness.
Though I never had romantic feelings for my friend, I enjoyed his romantic gestures and our special friendship.
Though I hated my fat manly calves, I discovered that they are pretty valuable!
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Letting Go, Walking on Crispy Leaves, and The Color Blue.
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