Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called Asking for Money, a moment of an encounter called One Romantic Platonic Friendship, and a moment of a perspective called The Wonders of Perspectives II.
Hello and welcome to Episode #27 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 Asking for Money, One Romantic Platonic Friendship, and The Wonders of Perspectives II.
A moment of adversity called: Asking for Money
I had to apply for financial aid for college. It felt like I was asking for a handout or begging for money. More shameful than that was to say that my parents weren’t helping me or that my grandparents were too poor to help me. I felt like I was broadcasting to the world that I had a family that didn’t care about me, and somehow that made me look like there was something wrong with me. I didn’t ask to be born to parents who decided not to care for me as a baby. Why do people think something is wrong with me when I am not close to my family? How could I be close to them when they tossed me out at age one, age five? These thoughts in my head were insurmountable.
Unable to hold my head upright, I went to meet with the financial aid officer. He was a tall, large, and friendly man with a smile. I am sure he had no idea how embarrassed I was feeling. He proceeded to do his job and let me know what he needed to complete the paperwork. He showed me the estimated cost and expenses. I told him I wouldn’t spend that much money. He said it was an average amount for an average college student. I insisted that I wouldn’t spend that much money. He proceeded to tell me to record my expenses and keep my receipts. This exercise would be proof of my expenditures.
After some time, I met with the financial aid officer again. I brought with me my record keeping. He appeared surprised to see an eighteen-year-old keep such meticulous records. It did take a conscious effort to record everything I bought, and it took time to calculate the monthly amounts. I did it to prove what I said before. I showed him that I did spend less than the average college student!
Because of the need for financial aid and meeting the officer who told me to keep records of my expenses, I started on the path of managing my money. I learned that when you see all the numbers of your spending before your eyes, you feel the value of money when you had worked hard to earn what little you earned. I figured I could control the numbers and the amount of spending I made. I was gaining control of my life; I was becoming more independent, and my life was in my hands.
Because of exercising the task of recording expenses and continuing with it, it became a habit. It became a life-long habit that I do to this day! Though it may not have brought me any wealth, it has kept me afloat.
I seem to worry about money constantly. Perhaps it is because I never forget the days of being poor. Though I worry, people who know me don’t worry about me. They see me as frugal but always having money for emergencies or necessities. That was the best result from the shame of meeting with the financial aid officer!
A moment of an encounter called: One Romantic Platonic Friendship
It was in the international dormitory where language majors lived. During lunchtime, professors would have lunch with the language majors. I was one of them. Evan was not, so I don't know what business he had in being there. I didn't know him, but it seemed that I kept trying to avoid him because he kept trying to talk to me, and I was a shy girl. Through my professor at the lunch table, I learned that Evan was from Hong Kong and was in Connecticut to study U.S. History. I suppose he was in my dining hall because he wanted to be around people who spoke some Chinese so it would feel a little like home for him, but I didn't know for sure. I hardly talked to him and had no interest in him.
During the weekends, everybody on the campus had to go to one particular dining hall. It was larger than all the other dining halls. I suppose fewer people ate on campus during the weekends, so the school had everyone eat at only one place on the weekends. I dined on campus every day. I usually ate with my good friend Vicky during the weekends, whom I met at freshman orientation. She was not a language major, so I didn't eat with her until the weekends.
As I sat there eating and conversing with Vicky, Evan came over and introduced himself to Vicky. Vicky was a friendly girl and invited Evan to join us at our table. I thought to myself, why is he always coming over to me? I already see him at lunch during the weekdays, why do I have to eat with him on weekends, too? It seemed that on many weekends, in the large dining hall, he had to find his way to my table, and when he didn't, my stupid friend Vicky would wave at him to come on over. She enjoyed talking with him but had no interest in him either. Over time, I learned that he was quite a funny guy. He often said things that made me laugh, and I am not a person that can easily laugh. I can't remember anything he said; I only remember that he was funny.
Connecticut is magnificent with its autumn leaves of red, yellow, orange, and brown in the fall. Every time I saw the autumn leaves blowing in the gentle breeze, it would remind me of a poem that described the leaves as dancing merrily in the wind. During my second year of college, I distinctly remember two things with Evan. The first is that he pestered me to go to the mall with him. Near the school were nothing but residential homes everywhere, so I said it was too far to go there. He insisted that he knew a shortcut and it would only take half an hour's walk to get there. I finally gave in to his persistence.
We walked through the woods at a leisurely pace in the cool light breeze with warm sunshine all around. The fall leaves were so beautiful that we stopped to take some pictures. I can still see the photos of each of us sitting on a big gray rock, him looking or trying to look cool with his hand holding his jacket and whipping it behind him. And me looking so young, smiling, and full of innocence. When we continued to walk, he would sing songs to me. I laughed with happiness. I thought, my goodness, how romantic is this! It was just the two of us in the beautiful woods, and he was singing me love songs like Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love With You." I wish I felt something romantic with him, but not a thing.
The second distinct memory was one conversation we had. The night before I met up with him, I had gone to a party with a guy not of my ethnicity. I couldn't believe Evan found out about it; I mean, it was none of his business. He asked me about my date. I was uncomfortable talking about it with him, so I said nothing. Next, he asked, what are you? I said, "I'm Chinese." He said, "No, you are not." I was so furious that I engaged in a heated conversation with him. Precisely what, I don't know, but I remember feeling so angry and so fully self-expressed. He said, "You are an American. Your nationality is American. Your ethnicity is Chinese." Ignorant me, it was the first time someone clarified my identity for me. It was also the beginning of our friendship as we started to have very interesting conversations after that.
One time, our professor invited us to go to New York for Dim Sum. The big bus was going to leave on a Saturday at 8 a.m. I was so excited and so looking forward to the trip. On Saturday morning, I woke up at 8 a.m. Oh my goodness! I forgot to set the alarm, and I overslept. I was going to miss the trip! I hurried to put on my clothes. I didn't brush my teeth or wash my face. I didn't even put on socks, and I ran as fast as possible to the bus. Huffing and puffing, the bus was still there. I got on, and Evan had saved a seat for me. How sweet was that!
The ride would take over three hours, so we had lots of time to chat up a storm. First, Evan laughed, "Why aren't you wearing socks?" I said, "I woke up late and ran over here." He asked me what I wanted to do with my Chinese and Child Psychology majors. I said I didn't know. He said, "I see you traveling, going around the world, and giving speeches telling people to treat children properly. You will be famous. Can you see it?" I couldn't, but I thought, what a wonderful guy. He believes in me and is encouraging me. Come to think of it, this shows how innocent I was and how he was more mature than I was. He was five years older than me. He had already gotten a degree in Hong Kong, and now he was getting another degree in the United States.
Every summer, Evan would go back to Hong Kong as school was out. Sometimes, he would go back during Christmas break, too. Every time he went back, he'd ask me to go to Hong Kong. Since I did not want to go home during any vacations, I took him up on his offer after sophomore year.
He found a place where I could stay for free, and he took me on tour everywhere in Hong Kong. He took me out for Dim Sum with at least ten of his friends on several occasions. I heard karaoke was the thing to do in Hong Kong, so I asked him about going. I'll never forget this; he invited ten of his guy friends and rented a karaoke room to sing. The cushioned bench was a semi-circle. As I sat there, all the guys were looking at me. I thought it was because they didn't know me. Then Evan said, "Stop looking at her and making her feel uncomfortable." The guys said, "When there's something beautiful to look at, why wouldn't you look?!" Evan responded, "Come on, guys, stop!" I thought this guy had a lot of friends. He is a nice guy; he is a good friend. We had friendly conversations, and he always made me laugh. He was fun to be with, too. But I didn't like him in any romantic way.
The following year was my junior year; I moved to California to be with my long-distance boyfriend, whom I met just before college. Vicky was moving back to New Jersey as she had just gotten married. Evan said we left him all alone in Connecticut. I never told Evan about my boyfriend in California, but we never had conversations about boyfriends and girlfriends. I still thought of him as just a friend. I thought of him and Vicky as my best friends in college. We had many intelligent and meaningful conversations. In my mind, I described him as humorous, smart, and romantic. It was too bad that we had no chemistry.
Soon it was Christmas time during my junior year. Evan had said he would visit me and that we'd travel around California together. When the time was near, he said he had to go home to Hong Kong but would send a friend from Hong Kong to travel with me. This occurrence solidified to me what a great friend he was. Evan knew I was not going to go home, he knew I had to find a place to go, and he got me someone from Hong Kong to travel with me so I would not be alone. I couldn't ask for a better friend!
In a blink of an eye, it was the end of my junior year. Evan was graduating from college in Connecticut. He said he would stop by California on his way back to Hong Kong. He did. His trip was supposed to be one week in California. On the second day, in my dorm room, he asked me to marry him. I burst out laughing loudly. I thought it was so funny. How could this be? We were just friends! I said, "You must be joking!" The next day, he said he was leaving for Hong Kong, and he didn't give me a chance to say anything more. Call me naïve or oblivious; I didn't see it coming. Still, I didn't have the kind of feelings for him that he may have wanted.
Before long, I graduated and started a career. Evan kept in touch with me, wrote me letters, and always relentlessly invited me to Hong Kong. Being an adventurer and wanting to go somewhere, it was nice that someone asked me to go somewhere. I did go to Hong Kong during some Christmas vacations, and each time it was with Evan. You'd think I felt more for him, but seriously, I always considered him an excellent friend. Each time I went to Hong Kong, he asked me to marry him. By the fourth time, I said we had to sit down and talk.
We sat down on the edge of a small boat as we had been walking by a body of water. "Did I do anything to lead you on or think that we would get married?" "No," he said. I started to feel bad that I didn't reciprocate, but I didn't feel it. Worse, one time, while we were having dinner at a Portuguese restaurant in Hong Kong, he said, "I'm buffing up, exercising a lot, but I can't attract any girls and get a girlfriend." I said, "you are great, don't worry about it." Then he said, "How am I great?" I said, "You are intelligent, funny, romantic." "Then how come you don't want me?" I was at a loss with words. I didn't say it out loud, but the only thing I could come up with in my mind was that there was no chemistry.
Years later, I married someone else. Evan came to visit, and I did inform him ahead of time that I had gotten married. He saw my big house and doting husband as we were newlyweds. Then he said, "You should thank me." I said, "Why?" He said, "Because I brought you to the fortune teller in Hong Kong, and it all came true." The fortune-teller did say that I would be well provided for when I would marry and that I would have a doting husband. I didn't believe it back when I heard it when I was in college, but indeed it happened as described by the fortune teller, and it was Evan sitting next to me. You could say it would be such a private thing to have someone else sitting next to me while the fortune teller talked, but I needed Evan's help to translate because the fortune teller spoke in classical Chinese, and I didn't understand it, plus my Chinese wasn't too good at that time.
A couple of years into my marriage, my in-laws, who went to Hong Kong every year, invited us to go with them. Of course, my Hubby said no, because he didn't like to travel, but I seized the opportunity! It was a chance for me to travel without him rejecting my suggestions to travel. Hubby was okay with my departure since I would be with my in-laws and wouldn't have to pay for anything. I even told him about my platonic friend Evan and that I would visit him. He had no problem with it. The in-laws thought it was strange, but Hubby told them it wasn't a problem. Maybe Hubby was as naïve and oblivious as I was in college, but he had nothing to worry about. I did visit with Evan for a day and remember having a wonderful carefree time talking and laughing with him.
Nearly twenty years pass, unbelievable. I was already in Taiwan for about five years. I suddenly received an email from Vicky, my college friend. I had tried to find her five years earlier, and she suddenly decided to respond to my email to say that yes, I found the right Vicky. Unbelievable. We chatted like no time had passed, and then she asked about Evan. I said I hadn't seen him in a long time and couldn't find him anyway. She said, "Let's put our heads together and find him; I'm sure we can find him!" She was excited, and it was like we were college kids again.
We worked together, and I found him on LinkedIn. I sent a message, and immediately he called me. I told him the next week would be my birthday and I would take a few days off from work. As expected, he took my bait and was on a plane to see me. Of course, Hong Kong was only an hour plane ride away. Still, I wish my previous boyfriends would be as romantic as he was. Evan and I agreed to meet at the subway station. Though hundreds of people would pass through, it was an easy way to meet up with people. He said he would have no problem finding me or recognizing me even though twenty years had passed. So sweet, so romantic.
Indeed, through crowds of people, he quickly saw me from a distance. He was full of smiles and laughing with joy. But of course, he had to throw in a joke and say, "You look just the same; I could spot you a mile away." We quickly searched for a place to sit like a coffee shop. We sat down and started to chat up a storm. It was as if no years had passed. It was so easy to talk with each other. We quickly got to serious and personal things that had happened to us. I told him how I lost everything and ended up in Taiwan. To my surprise, he told me how he too lost all his money, became suicidal, but found his way back. I had colored a picture and put it on a small poster board to give him as a gift. I told him he could put it on a door in his home as decoration. To my surprise, he also had a present for me. It was a Swarovski bracelet with pink and white jewels. I couldn't believe it. I looked at it and then closed the box. He said, "Why don't you wear it now?" So, I opened the box, he took it out and proceeded to help me put it on. I thought this was so romantic; I never had a boyfriend as romantic as him. Why can't I feel anything for him? As I wore the bracelet, I felt so feminine, like a lady. Then I remembered through the years the other special gifts he bought me like a two-heart ring, a silk cloth picture of children playing, a silk scarf, a computerized image of us. I still have them all.
I am so lucky to of had this most romantic platonic friend who has loved me all these years and still has me on a pedestal! Though it did not end happily ever after like fairytales do, I think it was a happily ever special friendship to remember forever.
A moment of a perspective called: The Wonders of Perspectives II
1. You can escape your blues in a minute by creating a different story in your mind.
2. You can escape your blues in seconds by singing a happy tune.
3. You can escape your blues in a moment by dreaming and using your imagination.
Key Takeaways: Though I felt getting financial aid was like begging for money, I developed the habit of recording expenses, managing my money, and taking control of my life.
Though I never fell in love with Evan, he was an exceptional friend with a sprinkle of romance.
Though some perspectives can take a long time to realize or discover, some only take a few moments.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Belongings, What Teddy Bears Do For Us, and I Am A Bird .
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