Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about From Losing to Gaining Everything and Why Stop and Smell the Roses.
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Hello and welcome to episode #63 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 From Losing to Gaining Everything and Why Stop and Smell the Roses.
From Losing to Gaining Everything
I thought packing up to move abroad would be an exciting event as I would begin a new chapter in life. As it turned out, it was overwhelming and heart-wrenching. But when it was all done, unforeseen and surprising results unfolded.
As I began to sell my furniture for a fraction of what I bought them for, my heart sank into the dumpster. I had taken the time to purchase solid oak pieces I deemed quality furniture, and now it felt like I was throwing them away. I had spent the time shopping and paying for them, and now I had to part with them. Natural oak was heavy, and it didn’t seem logical to ship it overseas, especially when I had no idea about my new place.
As I sorted through my clothes, I didn’t want to part with any of them. I carefully chose each piece that I bought. I liked them and bought them. How could you tell me to toss them away? Most of them would not even be appropriate attire for where I was going. Heading to a tropical island, I did not need winter clothes, and even my many cotton t-shirts were too warm to wear. But what if there were sudden changes in the weather, or what if there were cooler days?
To solve this overwhelming problem, I called my friend Selina to help me. She quickly told me what I should keep and what I should toss. She had no emotional or financial attachment to anything of mine, so it was easy for her to help with the enormous task of choosing what to keep or donate.
The whole process took about a month, but it seemed longer. I worked as fast as possible, so the pain would not hurt so much. The amount of stuff I had seemed to all weigh on my head, giving me headaches. They also weighed on my back, which was too much for me to carry. My back was aching from all the moving of my belongings.
At last, much was donated or tossed, some went into storage, and little was sold. What I had left to bring had to fit in three suitcases and a carry-on bag. Passage of the luggage to the airplane was free, except I had to pay for the third piece of luggage.
As Selina drove me to the airport, I thought to myself, all I had left with me from my entire life were three suitcases, one carry-on luggage, a backpack, and a purse. My whole life amounted to just that. You could take a picture and see all my possessions in one picture.
When I got on the airplane, the weight on my back seemed to lift. The pressure on my head seemed to subside. I began to feel like a little girl that didn’t have anything weighing her down. I no longer had a car to maintain or car insurance to pay. I no longer had a mortgage to pay or backyard grass to cut. There were no more cable TV, gym membership, and magazine subscriptions to pay. Stripped of all the frills, I realized I could live fine without them.
Upon arrival on a tropical island, the person who hired me greeted and drove me to a studio apartment arranged for me. Since I did not have too many possessions, unpacking was quick. It was the fastest move-in I ever had because I had so little.
I soon realized I did not have many chores with a small studio. I didn’t even have a kitchen, but it was convenient to run down the street to grab a bite. Spending no time shopping for groceries or cooking, I had more time on my hands. Shockingly, I hardly had bills to pay! Rent, internet, water, and electricity were deducted from my paycheck since I lived on one of the boss’s properties. My phone bill was automatically deducted from my bank account, so I had no monthly bills to look out for to pay on time. No more writing checks or even moving money online! With little cooking and cleaning to do and no bills to pay, I had more free time on my hands than I could have imagined.
Since I had to wear a uniform, getting ready for work was quick. Even on weekends when I could wear my own clothes, it didn’t take very long to choose an outfit to wear because I didn’t have a lot of clothes to choose from! Instead of taking at least an hour to get ready as I used to, it took only fifteen minutes! The shortened time spent getting ready for work freed up yet another chunk of time.
The little things that ate up time before moving abroad became available free time.
The concept of less is more began to resonate with me. With fewer clothes and shoes, I wasted less time choosing what to wear! With less cleaning and shopping to do, I wasted less time on chores and errands. And with no bills to pay, I was worry-free!
With more time freed up, I had the time to relax, go to cafes to chat with various friends, and explore different places every weekend. More, I had time to enjoy all my hobbies and passions. Life became carefree and worry-free. Indeed, having fewer things lent itself to a simpler life. And a more uncomplicated life led to a happier me!
Who could have guessed that while I lost most of my worldly possessions when I moved abroad, I gained more than I could have imagined. Unforeseen was a carefree and worry-free life that I never thought was possible. Surprising was how light you could feel in your head and heart when you don’t have to worry about safety, driving a car and getting into a car accident, going out to grab a bite, or going to a convenience store any day, anytime. Everything I needed was within a ten-minute walking radius. I was in paradise.
Though moving abroad had me minimize my number of possessions, I discovered that consciously engaging in minimalism contributes to a simpler and happier life filled with wasting less time on some things and more time on things you want to do!
Aside from making better use of the 24 hours a day we all have, the available time I had in my hands also gave way to recognizing the things that matter. Not only can you notice them, but you can spend more time enjoying them.
For instance, instead of spending more time cooking and cleaning, preparing, or choosing things, I could spend more time with friends and relationships that matter. I could also explore more places around me and travel more often. Not only could I, but I did! And the result was joy and fulfillment. Without a doubt, I went from losing to gaining everything that would make for an enriching life.
Why Stop and Smell the Roses
Uncle Sheldon once said he wanted me to take a personal development course because he said I was too focused and needed to "stop and smell the roses." I considered it criticism and was not very happy with his remark. And it stuck in my mind to annoy me for decades until I was in Bhutan, the land of happiness.
Uncle Sheldon's comment made me feel criticized like something was wrong with me. We never spent a great deal of time together, but because I needed a computer to complete my Master's thesis, I was at his place for a number of weeks. He had a business with employees working in front of computers at his home. While they worked and chatted a bit, I was quiet and busy typing away on the computer. I was highly focused and determined to get as much done as possible because I also had a full-time job.
I thought my ability to focus was one of my greatest strengths. Why didn't Uncle Sheldon consider it a strength? How could he think of it as a weakness?! Because of my ability to focus, I completed many things before they were due or before deadlines. Because of my precise precision, I have accomplished many goals. How was that not a good thing? I wanted to scream, "Uncle Sheldon, open your eyes!"
Aiming to obtain a Master's degree while going to school full-time and working full-time, I kept my eyes on the target and finished within two years. My professor didn't think it possible, but I did it, and it was because I was focused and undeterred! Directing my attention to my undergraduate studies while working part-time, I finished college in four years without delay because my eye was on the target. "How was that not a good thing?" I mumbled to Uncle Sheldon in my inside voice.
As a quiet person, I often observed others rather than chattering away like Uncle Sheldon. I think I noticed more things than he did. He certainly did not notice my determination to complete my Master's thesis. He, however, saw the unimportant thing as me not getting distracted from talking to his employees. The more I thought about it, the more furious I was about Uncle Sheldon's comment.
It seemed like I was always struggling to reach one goal or accomplish another. Life was a painstaking process of achieving goals to get some satisfaction. What roses were there for me to stop to smell? What was beautiful in my life? What was there to look at or smell? I didn't have a beautiful life, and Uncle Sheldon's comment only added to its ugliness. Maybe he thought he was helping me, but I would disagree.
Many years later, when I moved abroad to work and live, I thought I had arrived in paradise and enjoyed the good life. I thought I was stopping to "smell the roses." I worked fifty long hours a week, but I enjoyed my weekends chatting away at coffee shops or tea houses with new friends. I had fun exploring new places and going to bed whenever I wanted. I enjoyed a carefree and worry-free life in paradise. I was smelling roses galore and enjoying a beautiful life. Ah! If only Uncle Sheldon knew or could see me!
After a few years of working hard and playing hard in paradise, I vacationed in Bhutan for the first time. The demands of my job, the many demands I had on myself to achieve, excel, improve, or do more, came to a screeching halt. What was before me was one mountain after another. There were not many people around. On tour, I sat in the car, staring out into rocks, boulders, gravel, trees, and bushes. It was hours before I saw some buildings or people, and there were few to see. Each day was a treacherous hike up mountains from sea level, only to see one isolated temple after another. My brain started to empty any troubles or ideas of everything I needed to do. I began to feel blank. It was odd to have nothing on my mind. It was strange to be thinking about nothing.
As if I was a child beginning life with a blank slate, I looked out the car window wondering how the rocky and jagged mountains formed. I paid attention and felt the bumpety bumps of riding in the car as it moved on gravel roads around one mountain after another mountain. I only heard the sounds of the car and the tires rolling over on the road full of pebbles and ground bits of rocks. It all seemed so loud because no one was talking in the car. I had the driver and the tour guide with me, and they were not talking unless I initiated a conversation with them. They only answered when I asked questions. I enjoyed and engrossed myself in the peaceful quiet that surrounded me. My mind simmered down, and my thinking brain had days of no thinking. I wasn't thinking and found nothing to think about!
What was I left to do? I was left to "stop and smell the roses." Oh, my gosh! Uncle Sheldon's words appeared in my mind. I suddenly felt the meaning of those words that annoyed me. I began to feel the wonder of nature and the delight in savoring its smell and sight. I started to appreciate and enjoy the gentle breezes nature gave me. I craved and cherished each human dialogue and connection. I was in awe of the magnificence that surrounded me. I was stopping "to smell the roses" like never before.
What took me so long to do such a simple thing? It wasn't simply that the world demanded so much of me; it was me who demanded too much of myself. Once I fulfilled a set of demands, I replaced them with more demands on myself. Sometimes, I focused too much on my goals or career that I did not stop to smell the roses and enjoy them. I didn't feel all the pressure I had put on myself until I had a stranger of a driver and tour guide who demanded nothing of me.
My tour guide and driver taught me the most unexpected things. They probably didn't know that they inadvertently gave me some life lessons from how they behaved. I was in a Buddhist country. When we went on our daily hikes, they did not say how much time I had. They did not tell me to pick up the pace. They didn't say anything and did not seem to make any judgment on me either. It made me feel free of the world's pressures and broke the chains that limited and controlled me. I realized I had imposed a lot on myself and didn't allow myself to enjoy and appreciate my life. Suddenly, I realized that even breathing is something to value. Being able to move, see, hear, taste, touch, and smell are wonders to behold.
Though my vacation in Bhutan ended, the treasures I got remained with me. When I feel the pressures bombarding my head with tension, I can stop, pause, and "smell the roses." When I feel the strain I imposed or created for myself, I know I can undo them in my mind and enjoy nature or rest. When I feel stressed about doing what I need to do daily, I can stop and balance it with doing things I want. I don't have to take a vacation to enjoy the roses; I can do it instantly in my mind or through conscious effort or actions. Thank you, Uncle Sheldon, for telling me I needed to stop and smell the roses. I am no longer annoyed by the statement but am delighted with the reminder that stays with me.
Key Takeaways: Though it was heart-wrenching to lose many of my possessions when I moved abroad, I gained a carefree and worry-free life I never imagined possible.
Though I was a very focused person who had accomplished many goals, I learned to “stop and smell the roses” and enjoy life more.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called How to Stop Crying When It is Over and Discovering A Passion. 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!