Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called Juggling, a moment of an encounter called The Stick, and a moment of a perspective called Farting.
Hello and welcome to Episode #30 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 Juggling, Mom’s Influence, and Chosen and Unchosen Roads
A moment of adversity called: Juggling
James, a special education teacher, took a skinny and scrawny kid named Tim and held him upside down like a broom. While laughing, James swung the hearing-handicapped Tim and used his hair to sweep the floor. James looked like he was having fun, but I was horrified. As the teacher assistant who was fresh out of college observing all this, I definitively decided then and there that I would become a teacher to treat children better.
I studied child psychology and wanted to make a difference for children, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher. After seeing Tim held upside down like a mop, it became clear that I wanted to be a teacher.
I proceeded to apply and register for the teaching credential program to become a licensed teacher. I continued working as a teaching assistant while going to school at night. Though I had to go to school and work part-time on the weekdays, it was manageable. In one of my first classes, my professor stated that we could start teaching with an emergency credential right away if we were bilingual. He said that as long as we tested to be bilingual, there would be a position available as there was a great demand for bilingual teachers. I hurried to inquire for the details as I needed a full-time income to pay for tuition.
Soon I was busy working full-time and going to school full-time. Since I was a beginning teacher, I didn’t realize how much work was involved. On the job, not only was everything new to me, but I had to learn as I went. When my students left for the day, I still had to clean up, plan lessons, organize and prepare material, and check student work. The workload seemed endless.
Aside from attending classes at night, I also had homework assignments and papers to write. So, I had homework in my full-time job as a teacher, and I had homework in my full-time job as a student!
Determined to be a licensed teacher as soon as possible, I worked tirelessly and made sure I completed all my homework. With less sleep, I would finish all my tasks on time. It would not be until Saturday that I would realize how tired I was. On many Saturdays, I would sleep twelve or more hours straight and know that I was exhausted from the weekdays. I was doing homework or preparing other tasks or assignments ahead of time on most Sundays. There was always more work to do. I never knew that a teacher’s work involved so much more than the time spent with students. As they say, you have to be one to know the reality.
Upon reflection, I don’t know how I juggled two full-time jobs with homework in both of them. Perhaps it was because I was young and full of energy, but it was probably also because I was determined. I felt I had no other choice. I couldn’t just go to school and have no income. I had no one to support me, and I would never ask anyone to lend me money. How would I afford tuition? I had to work many hours. If only I didn’t have to worry about money; it would have been easier, but I didn’t have the luxury of only going to school.
Despite the challenge, the situation compelled me to learn other life skills. As I juggled, I learned and got to practice time management. As I managed, I learned to prioritize tasks, assess efficiency, and use time best without wasting it. Practicing and multi-tasking were valuable in the situation I was in and in being more productive in everything I did. There was no time for procrastination and excuses if I were to reach my goals, and so I learned to get things done with minimal excuses or procrastination. The situation also challenged my endurance and tenacity in achieving goals. I knew that to accomplish anything I wanted, I had to press on and refuse failure.
So, instead of complaining about my hard life or lack of money and support, I chose to do what was necessary. In the end, it not only paid off, but it produced dividends in that the life skills acquired continue to help me with more accomplishments.
A moment of an encounter called: Mom’s Influence
Like many moms, my mom had a significant impact on my life. I hate to admit it because many negative thoughts come to mind. Positive or negative, an impact is an impact. Though I spent at most the first five years of my life with her, her influence on my behavior, thoughts, and actions is plentiful.
Since I was a child, I have wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference. I felt Mom didn’t do a decent job as a mom, so I inherently wanted to do something to treat children better. I studied child psychology in college because I wanted to understand the impact of parents on their kids. I had a soft spot for kids because I had never forgotten that little kid that was me. I wanted love and acceptance, and I didn’t get any. I wanted to give kids the love and voice I never got. Teaching seemed to be the right place to satisfy that need. I did grow up to be a teacher and loved it for many years. So, what began as a negative influence from Mom turned out to be a positive thing in that I loved my career and what I studied.
Since Mom tossed me over to Grandma, who lived in another state when I was five years old, I was left feeling unloved and unwanted. My reaction to her decision left me to become a survivor and a fighter for independence because I unconsciously wanted to say, “I don’t need you or anybody for that matter.” At age five, I was on an airplane by myself to move to Grandma’s home. By age eight, I was walking to school by myself. Under a unique school program, I was working at age fourteen.
By the time I was seventeen, I was financially independent from any relatives and going to college. Mom’s actions propelled me to become independent early on. Many people say I am fiercely independent. I used to say it was a matter of survival, but now I am proud of my strength and creativity to be independent. Again, what started as an adverse effect from Mom’s actions turned positive as I developed essential life skills.
Because Mom tossed me, I thought I didn’t belong in her family. Because my uncles said I didn’t belong, I thought I didn’t belong in my grandparents’ family either. Not seeming to belong anywhere, I made myself unique or different to say if I don’t belong anywhere, then I belong in a group of my own. And no one belongs in my group! Seeming to make myself different effortlessly, I became the special person I am.
I wasn’t like my siblings; I accomplished many things with my individual effort. I overcame many challenges with courage and strength like no one else. Many bosses, relatives, friends, and boyfriends would say that I was different from other people and that no one was like me. I still felt left out, but now I can say I am unique, and there is nothing wrong with that! Thanks to Mom and my uncles, I made myself belong in a separate group that I created for myself, and no one could compare!
When Mom said she wanted someone in the family to have a Master’s degree, I kept it in mind. I became the first to get a Master’s degree in my family. The little girl in me wanted to please my mother. I don’t know if I ever pleased her, but I got the degree and am proud of it. More than anything, I feel proud that I financed it on my own and completed it while working full-time as a teacher by day and going to school full-time as a student by night. Once more, Mom influenced me.
As an adult, I got married and never had any children because I was afraid. I thought I’d lose my independence. I thought I was scared of the physical pain of childbirth, but I was gravely frightened of becoming a mom like my mom. I didn’t want to take the risk of being a mom that made children feel unloved and unwanted. Though I never became a mom, I have had many students. I have had many chances to give children love and attention and give myself some satisfaction as a caregiver.
Though I may not have had the best childhood or the influences I wanted from my mom, I did turn some of the negatives into something that would help me. My reactions to the negative experiences with Mom led me to study child psychology, become a teacher, fight to stand up for myself, be independent, be childless, be unique, and get a Master’s degree. And they are all not bad accomplishments.
While we may have no control over some things that happen in our lives, whether the impact is positive or negative, it is up to us to make them into something that would benefit ourselves and others.
A moment of a perspective called: Chosen & Unchosen Roads
At the age of five, Mom sent me to live with my grandma. I moved from the deep south to the east coast. What if that didn't happen? This unchosen occurrence led me down an unforeseen path in life. If that didn't happen, I would have never had the opportunity to learn Chinese culture from a traditional grandmother. I would have never had the chance to go to a Chinese school and learn the language early. How different my life would have been! If that single event didn't happen, I would be another me. My siblings who did not live with Grandma are testament to how different my life would be. I learned that hard work was necessary; I figured out that saving for a rainy day was a must; I surmised that caring for others and being kind were valued. I learned that Chinese culture and language were influential because they were part of my identity. Grandma said, "You are Chinese, so you need to learn Chinese."
A college friend of mine would beg to differ. I remember him asking me, "What are you?" I said, "I'm Chinese." He said, "No, you are not. You are an American." I was so angry at what he said at that time. After all, my grandmother told me I was Chinese. My college friend clarified that I was an American since I was born in the USA. Since my parents are Chinese, my ethnicity is Chinese. So, to be clear, now I say I am an American-born Chinese or ABC. That identity led me down a path of learning Chinese in college, traveling all over Asia, securing jobs that would utilize my bilingual skills, and even moving abroad!
My siblings, who had a different upbringing, never experienced any part of my path. Aside from that, I grew up with poor immigrant grandparents who believed in the value of hard work to get ahead in life and never forgot where they came from or who their ancestors were. My siblings grew up learning to assimilate into American life and forgetting where they or their ancestors came from. They also learned to become materialistic to show that they were an American success story. And if there were any problems, money could solve their problems.
As an early teenager, I moved back home to my parents and got to experience that life. When I was not happy about something, Mom went out and got me a blow dryer, a gift, to fix or disappear a problem. Maybe someone else would be satisfied with a new blow dryer, but I was disgusted that she thought money could buy anything. I did not grow up with that value or perception. Growing up with Grandma gave me a different set of values, a different identity, and a different path in life. Though there were other challenges while growing up in Grandma's household, I am thankful for the treasures she instilled in me.
At seventeen, I went to college away from relatives and friends and away from childhood places I roamed. Two years later, I even moved to the west coast. This path was a path I had chosen. What if I didn't choose that path? No doubt, my life would be so different. My junior high school friends all went to the same college together, even shared some same classes. They went to the same places and had the same circle of friends. I used to think how comfortable that would be; they wouldn't experience loneliness, awkwardness, scariness, or risk like me. They lived in a luxurious zone; they lived inside the box.
Come to think of it, I am glad for the path I chose. Because I picked it, I got to risk and experience many exciting adventures. I had more opportunities to live outside the box, grow, and expand my world. My friends were varied in age and ethnicity as I explored different places, moved from the east coast to the west coast, and did other things. Had I continued to stay in the same circle of friends, I probably wouldn't have done all the things I did because those friends would not do them with me and would even discourage me from taking chances. For sure, I would have missed out on a lot of exciting things in life! Although I have small moments where I wish I still had those friends, I would never trade them for all the different and incredible adventures I experienced without discouragement from doing things differently. This path I chose gave me the variety and adventure I craved in life.
Divorce was a path I chose to take. It took enormous courage to do it, but I did it. What life would look like after a divorce was unknown and scary to me, but If I didn't do it, it was clear to me what life would look like if I stayed in the marriage. If I didn't get a divorce, I'd end up having kids, feeling stuck in an emotionally abusive marriage, and staying together because of the kids. I would forever be walking on eggshells and wonder what my life could have been. I would ask myself why I had to lead a life like everybody else: Grow up, get married, have kids, and become a grandmother. That picture of the future didn't look good.
The concept of life after a divorce was a huge question mark. Many would choose knowing and familiarity, whether good or bad, rather than not knowing and unfamiliarity because it was too scary. For me, while frightening, unfamiliarity was also exciting at the same time. So, I chose divorce. I no longer had to feel guilty about going out with the girls, about getting a take-out order now and then, about getting a car wash now and then. I was free to do whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted! Freedom is so joyous, so precious! This path I chose was choosing happiness and freedom rather than familiarity or following norms.
I chose to let go of a successful career I enjoyed. I had a very secure and comfortable job that I thoroughly enjoyed for eighteen years, so why consider letting go of it? It's called being exposed to more things in life and knowing that while you had a great life, there were also more things to see, more things to do, more things to experience in this life. And being a Sagittarian, I didn't want to miss out on it. So I quit a career I loved and went into business full-time. Yes, it was an enormous risk, but I took it anyway.
I went into business with the dream of making millions, but I never did. Do I regret it? NO. It was one of the most extraordinary life education I had in my life. I dared and learned to do many things outside my comfort zone; I did many things outside my box. I stretched muscles I didn't know I had. I learned the power of me. But, of course, I also learned technical knowledge, communication, and how to better relate with others. Introverted me learned to experience the extroverted part of me. Quiet me grew to be outspoken. Reserved me learned to be open and unabashed.
The more risks I took, the more I gained, and the more I felt I was living life fully. As an old friend of nearly 30 years said to me, though she loved me for me, she enjoyed watching my metamorphosis. I, too, was happy to come out of my shell. What I got out of the five-year experience, money could never give me. It was priceless. Though this road had its many challenges, I went through them and came out confident that I could handle any other challenges ahead. This path I chose reaped so many rewards that I wouldn't have otherwise had if I didn't choose it.
The choice to move abroad during middle age, I chose. I went out of business, lost my house, emptied my bank account, and lost my boyfriend to someone else. Being at a crossroads in life, I faced another challenging decision because it was facing the unknown, which could be scary and risky. Despite the bumps to making the decision, I made a choice. Everything I imagined that could happen did not happen. I never imagined life could be so perfect, happy, and carefree! At least it was like that for the first four years when I moved abroad and lived in paradise.
I had no bills to pay; I deducted the few expenses from my paycheck or bank account. I traveled out of the country up to six times a year, and I could afford it! I quickly found friends to chat and socialize with at a moment's notice. I enjoyed my job. I didn't have to worry about safety because I lived on a very safe island. I met many nice and friendly people on the island, too. I worked hard and played hard. Life was good. That decision, that path I chose, turned out to be well worth it; it was one of the happiest times of my life.
Risk is taking a chance. It could turn out great, or it could turn out bad. If you let fear stop you from taking a risk, you end up losing the chance to experience something turning out great. On the other hand, even if something turns out bad, you can learn and grow from it and choose your next path. Whatever the risks you take, the directions you choose to take, or the courses you didn't decide to take, remember that life is about living it! And living life without the kind of regret where you wish you did something but didn't do it is living a thrilling and fulfilling life.
Key Takeaways: Though it was challenging to juggle working and going to school full-time, I learned to be efficient in time management, prioritizing things, and multi-tasking.
Though Mom's influence was negative for the most part, it also produced many positive results because of it.
Though we have chosen and unchosen roads in life, they all produce benefits. Further, taking risks in the chosen ones bring discoveries, growth, and incredible adventures.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Hitchhiking, In The Police Car, and Most Important Thing For A Child To Learn. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please leave a comment, share it on your social media, subscribe or click like on Youtube, or go to www.inspiremereads.com. Thank you for listening!