Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about The Voice I Want and Neglected vs. Spoiled.
Comments or questions are welcomed on Twitter @emilykaytan OR on my website.
Hello and welcome to episode #49 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about The Voice I Want and Neglected vs. Spoiled.
The Voice I Want
Shushed as a child when I tried to make a suggestion for a family picnic, I stopped talking. Told to be quiet many times by Grandma, aunties, and uncles when I wanted to share my ideas, I became silent. Ignored as a teenager when I tried to share my opinions about something, I shut my mouth. I lived in a house of eight relatives; it buzzed with much chatter, but I was not one of them. I was the youngest. My opinions, ideas, or suggestions did not seem to matter to anyone. I might as well have been invisible because I certainly felt like I didn't exist in this household. I got used to being quiet. I ended up listening more because I was not "allowed" to talk, or my speaking was ignored.
When I finally escaped to college, professors called on me to express my ideas and opinions. I began to talk, but only when asked to do so. It was as if I needed permission to speak because usually, someone would cut me off or interrupt me if I tried talking at home. I was used to being silenced. Fortunately, my college environment encouraged more talk than I was allowed at home. I talked a bit, but not a great deal, as I was used to not talking or already had the habit of being quiet.
I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference for children. The hunger, the craving lasted a good twenty years as I never forgot that child in me who wanted to express herself. The profession coincidentally lent itself to much talking on the job. I could speak as much as I wanted and had a captive audience. Someone up there must have heard my cry for help to let me talk and be heard!
Somewhere in the middle, where I took a break from teaching and entered the world of business in the financial industry, I got a chance to give training and motivational talks to other business partners. I reveled in the satisfaction of speaking and helping others. I loved it so much that I joined Toastmasters International as a hobby. It was so much fun that I dreamed of becoming a professional speaker. And then, the facilitator seemed to laugh at me for having such a lofty dream because she felt it was challenging. Luckily, it didn't stop me, and I went on to compete and win first place in my first speech competition at Toastmasters International, a worldwide organization.
I had a chance to talk a bit during college. I got the opportunity to speak plenty as a teacher. So, it seemed that my desire to communicate and express myself should have been fulfilled, and I wouldn't look like the quiet and shy girl I always appeared to be. It didn't happen. Perhaps habits developed as a child stayed with me, and it was hard to free myself from the chains that were later unlocked. I continued to be a relatively quiet person.
When I was in business and Toastmasters, I spoke to present and to motivate; that was most fulfilling, but the frequency was not enough for me. I wanted to do more. Being silenced as a child seemed to leave scars on me that needed more relief from the pain. Blocked from talking as a child left residual feelings of discomfort. Even when the obstacles were removed as an adult, invisible walls went up to stop my speech. It was as if I was used to the walls being there that I thought they were still there even when they were removed. Doubt was everywhere.
When I thought of speaking in a large or small group discussion at a meeting or seminar, I would question myself. Is what I want to say important enough for me to speak aloud? Did my ideas have any value? The little girl in me was saying all this inside herself, and no one could hear her inner voice. Why did I have all this negativity inside of me? I am disheartened. I know what it is. Maybe my relatives shushed me because they didn't think what I had to say was important, so I questioned or doubted myself.
Occasionally, I would speak up and let people know that what I had to say was relevant and significant. Instead of patting myself on the back, I would tell myself that they complimented me because I didn't voice myself often. Self-defeating thoughts were in automatic mode. Still, I continued to hunger to speak and be heard. I still wanted to talk to motivate and inspire others. The dream of it being a reality was on the back burner, but it was there even though the flames did not burn brightly.
Time passed, and I was busy with life; I didn't take the time to continue to explore what I could do to become a professional speaker or motivational speaker. Even if I had the time, I lost hope that it could ever happen. It was too difficult to get the right connections to help me. I didn't have any background that screamed for me to be a motivational speaker.
I always had a career or work that I loved to do for many years, but one day, I no longer loved what I did. Work became a job to pay the bills. I was used to meaningful work, and now it was no longer. Scrambling to have meaning in my life since work was no longer a focus or a place of satisfaction, I took some writing classes. Before I knew it, I began to write and ended up writing my first book. That was another dream I had left on the shelf for many years. But now I made it happen. It seemed like I accidentally made a lost dream come true!
As I wrote more and more, I found it therapeutic and enlightening. I wanted to write more. It gave me satisfaction and a place to "put" my voice, that voice that was hidden, unheard, and unspoken. Its fulfilling feeling motivated me to keep writing, and I published three books the following year. Thinking that I would run out of thoughts and ideas, I did not believe there would be more books, but to my surprise, the following year would bring another two books. I was on a roll that seemed to keep rolling!
Soon after the first book, I began my podcast. A few friends mentioned that I should start a podcast, but I dismissed the idea. Why? I don't know! Then one day, I decided to consider the idea. Why? I don't know either! I proceeded to learn how to start a podcast, and I did it. As I recorded my stories on a podcast, I realized that the voice trapped inside me was coming out. I enjoyed words coming out of my mouth and into stories I wrote. Before I knew it, I had accidentally made another dream come true.
As a podcaster, I was my own professional speaker broadcasting my voice out into the world. I no longer needed to get into the field by traditional means. I could put my voice out there on my terms with today's technology. Also, accidentally, I wrote stories that would motivate, move, or inspire others. Another dream come true. I call them accidental because I did not consciously or intentionally plan for them to happen. Still, perhaps my unconscious led me to have my voice heard through writing and speaking. The joy of having my inner voice come out through speaking aloud is exhilarating! The happiness in writing my stories is stimulating and invigorating! Once a pipedream to have a voice that moves, touches, and inspires, is creeping up to be realized. It is the voice I want.
Neglected vs. Spoiled
Grandma Betsy, my father's mother, told me I spent my first few years of life with her. At that time, I had an older sister and a younger sister. Why was I the only one with her? Why did my older and younger sisters get to be with Mom and Dad while I didn't? I don't remember anything about my first few years of life, so I never thought to ask. I took what Grandma Betsy said as the truth.
I assume Grandma Betsy took good care of me, but I felt neglected by Mom. Neglected is defined as one who is given little attention or respect; to disregard. It is correct; I was ignored.
By age five, I moved from the south to the east coast to live with Grandma Sandy, my mom’s mother. By then, Mom had child number four. Grandma Sandy said that for Mom to have four kids by the time she was twenty-three was a lot for her to handle, so she took one off Mom's hands to help her out.
I suppose it was a logical decision to make sure all the kids were taken care of, and I was told that I was the low-maintenance one, so it would be easier on Grandma Sandy, who was older. It all made sense, but I felt neglected.
As a child, I was not physically neglected; I was well cared for by each grandmother. However, no one ever considered that I could be emotionally neglected. As an adult, upon reflection, I found myself greatly affected by the shuffles of living with Grandma Betsy and Grandma Sandy. I wondered why I was living with them even though they gave me explanations for them. I wondered why I seldom saw Mom and Dad while living with each grandmother.
I was left to feel abandoned, unwanted, and unloved by Mom and Dad. It took several decades before I directly asked Mom why she sent me away. She said the same thing Grandma Sandy told me. Mom had her hands full, and Grandma offered to take a kid off her hands.
I ended up living with Grandma Sandy and her family for the next ten years. After that, Grandma decided I should move back home and enjoy my parents' new home. By that time, my siblings were older, and my parents were leading a comfortable middle-class life which was not the case when I was a toddler.
At this time, I discovered the sharp contrast between my mother's and my grandmother's families. My siblings got all the material goods that money could buy. In Grandma's low-income family, only the basics were covered. Problems in Mom's household were solved with money. Problems in Grandma's family were solved with lectures and nagging. Mom demonstrated that dressing nicely and having a beautiful home and cars were valuable. Grandma showed me that working hard and being kind to others were more important. With the sharp contrast in values, I discovered that what I called neglected was not so bad after all.
While I lived with Grandma and her family, I was the youngest one in the house. Because everyone was busy going to school or working, I quickly needed to learn to be independent. Since I was not old enough to work, I was home with Grandma when she wasn't working. I learned to cook and clean with Grandma. I learned to take public transit if I wanted to go anywhere. I learned to watch my spending because I only had a little money from birthday or holiday gifts. All that I learned in Grandma's household were invaluable life skills.
In Mom's house, Mom drove the kids to wherever they needed to go, bought whatever they wanted, and did all the cooking and cleaning herself. My siblings were spoiled. I envied their beautiful life. From the outside, it looked wonderful. I thought they had it better than me.
Now in my job abroad at a private school, I work with spoiled kids like my siblings. They expect things to be handed to them as if they were princes and princesses. They do not want to care for themselves with essential things. They do not even know how to solve their problems. For example, when they need paper or pencil, they act like they don't know what to do even though I have told them countless times. I'd remind them to ask to borrow someone's pencil or bring an extra pencil to school. I often saw students voluntarily give another student what they needed. Other times, if I didn't solve the problem for them, they'd sit there and not do their written work until I provided a pencil and paper.
What did one kid do? He didn't ask anyone. He held his hand out like a beggar to another kid after I said to ask another student for a piece of paper. I was wholly appalled. These are students from wealthy families. Where is their sense of responsibility for themselves? How hard is it to come to school prepared with paper and pencil? Seeing a few sit there saying nothing, doing no work, and waiting for things to be handed to them disgusts me.
Faced with spoiled children daily, I realized I was fortunate to be neglected by my parents! I wouldn't want to be like my siblings or students.
Being neglected by my parents, who spoiled my siblings, I lived with my grandparents. I learned life skills to care for myself. I learned to cook, clean, and later care for my place. I learned to solve my problems. Maybe I was forced to get creative to solve my problems because if I didn't, I would end up waiting forever because no help would come; no one would be there to save me. I would hate to feel helpless, act like a victim, suppose I was entitled, or depend on others who may not be reliable.
Fortunate to be under the care of my grandparents, I had the opportunity to practice problem-solving skills and exercise creative skills. Today I am thankful to have those skills because they have helped me with all my life challenges and strengthened the core of my being.
Though my voice was silenced as a child, I never gave up on finding a way to express my voice; I now speak my voice as a writer and a podcaster.
Though I was neglected as a child, I learned valuable life skills that have helped me overcome many challenges.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called From Self-Abuse to Self-Love and The Need to Know. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!