Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about The Word Impossible and Pulled Out From My UtopiaSupport the show
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Hello and welcome to episode #66 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 Word Impossible and Pulled Out From My Utopia.
The Word Impossible
It was lunchtime, and I went into the teacher’s lounge. Soon after I sat down, Leslie, a co-worker, put a sheet of paper on the table before me with one word on it. She said, “What do you see?” Without hesitation, I said, “I am possible.” As soon as I said it, I was delighted with what I was able to see. Written on the paper was the word ‘impossible,’ but what I saw at that moment was ‘I am possible.’
I had no idea why Leslie wrote it and put it in front of me, and I didn’t think to ask. I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I reacted with ‘I am possible.’ I looked at it again and thought to myself, yes, that was what I saw.
All this happened over twenty years ago, but as I recall this seemingly short interaction, I realize it was most significant. It was an indication of where my mindset was at that time and on forward. I had moved from a life full of struggles with an ‘impossible’ perspective to a life still with plenty of battles but with an ‘I am possible’ mindset.
Only I knew that I probably thought many things were impossible not too many years before that day. I had no money to go to college; I couldn’t see how I could find the funds. I had fainting spells just before college, and doctors could not find anything wrong with me, but I had some more in my first year. I was suddenly yanked out of the first school I worked at because of a reduced number of students and went to a highly challenging school, which made me wonder about continuing in the teaching profession. I worked with my fiancé to renovate the home we were moving into, but we got into fights that made me question whether I should move forward with the marriage. All these were just some of the difficulties I thought were impossible to overcome.
As a matter of survival or instinct, I did whatever was needed to resolve the problems. Using my creativity, I hired a lawyer who showed me how I could finance my college education. Had I not figured a way out, I might not have been able to get a college degree; my whole life would have been on a different path. It could have been a path I didn’t want, like being a struggling worker doing a meaningless job to pay the bills. Starting college was a new beginning; months after beginning school, my fainting spells disappeared. I call that luck, or I was elated to be in college. College gave me an escape from relatives who made me feel like I didn’t belong in the family. It gave me my freedom and hope for a brighter future.
Moving from a school I liked to a challenging school demanded my tenacity and courage to overcome. I had struggled to juggle work and going to school at night to get a teaching credential, and was I ready to hang up my towel? The incredibly challenging students made me wonder if I was already at the end of my career. To gain class control, I learned a systematic way of discipline. It not only saved my career but made me an exemplary teacher.
Moving from singlehood to marriage also required overcoming fears and taking risks. I thought getting married meant giving up my freedom, and I didn’t want to lose it. I took the chance, got married, and learned about compromising. However, when it became abusive and intolerable, I needed to make an exit. I thought I overcame all my moments of adversity through hard work, a little luck, and a fighting spirit, but it was more than that. It was because I unconsciously knew it was possible or saw ‘I am possible’ that I fought hard to overcome the adversities.
When did the shift from impossible to possible occur? I can only guess that my mind shifted through the growing trials and tribulations and many personal development classes. Of course, the human instinct to survive was there, too. I didn’t realize it until Leslie put the word ‘impossible’ in front of me.
The discovery that you could change your mood, attitude, and thinking through how you perceive things was astounding. Suddenly I was consciously aware of it. The weight of problems became lighter. The amount of time to generate solutions was quicker. The power within my hands came back to its owner.
Though challenges continue to appear, it became clear to me when my friend, Lydia, asked what I did to overcome my many adversities. My answer was nothing new in the world of knowledge: Change your perspective, and you change your world. However, the ability to do so was another matter. How does one change it? A strong desire and hope for possibilities were necessary. Finding, seeing, or trying on another perspective makes all the difference.
Many years ago, I went shopping with my sister, Nina. She saw a red dress with white polka dots. She thought it looked good and asked me to try it on. I said it would not look good on me, and it was not my preference to wear polka dots. She insisted that I try it on, and I tried it on to stop her from pestering me. Looking at myself with the dress in the mirror, I saw a me I didn’t quite recognize, but it was a me I liked. What I thought would not look good on me turned out to suit me just right. I liked the image I saw in the mirror and smiled at it! To my surprise, I bought the dress. While it may have been easy to buy a dress, I was astonished to see a me I didn’t see before. The usually dispirited me beamed; the often unhappy me had some pep, and I seldom saw or felt it. Simple as it may have been, it altered something in me. It taught me that I could be happy despite my many adversities.
Fast forward to a time after realizing ‘I am possible.’ It means anything is possible; I just need to find or see it. I never imagined getting divorced; I did not believe in divorce, or I believed in keeping my vows. I thought I had made the right choice. I felt we needed to work them out if there were any difficulties. However, the reality of an emotionally abusive and intolerable marriage took its toll on me. I found a way to end the marriage civilly when I saw the possibility. I only needed to recall seeing the word ‘impossible’ on a scrap piece of paper, and I would know what I needed to see in this situation.
I quit my safe and secure job to embark on an adventure in business. Though it took me two years to do it, I saw the opportunity of what I could do in business. I never dreamed of moving abroad and feared the horrors of what could happen by making such a move. But seeing the word ‘impossible’ on the tiny scrap sheet of paper from years ago reminded me all I needed to see was ‘I am possible”.
I went out of business, lost my house and boyfriend, and emptied my bank account. Still, I knew that possibility existed even in this dire strait situation. I found it and proceeded to move abroad with a job. Of course, it took some creativity to get me out of the horrendous situation, but the effort wouldn’t even be there had I not seen the word ‘impossible’ on a piece of paper and saw ‘I am possible.’
The most challenging was finding a way to move abroad again with travel restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I had overcome many adversities, but this one would be the biggest challenge of all. The government enacted the travel bans; how could I possibly leap over them? I was stuck. If I didn’t find a way soon, I would be in dire straits. Jobless, I would be broke and homeless soon. Life was getting scarier by the minute, and I didn’t know what to do to escape the nightmare that imprisoned me. The word impossible appeared before me; I didn’t like this word. In my mind, I looked and looked at it. I got disgusted with it. I yelled at it for existing, and I wanted to obliterate it. If I did, what would replace it?
AHA! ‘I am possible’ would take over! Wait! I saw it before. Yes, years ago, Leslie wrote the word ‘impossible’ on paper, and I saw ‘I am possible!’ Suddenly, I saw possibility again. I proceeded to reread the travel restrictions and see how I could move abroad within the officially dictated limits. Possibility was alive again. I called possibility; it appeared before me, and I found a way and moved abroad. Without perspective, belief, relentless determination, creativity, and chance, a possibility wouldn’t occur.
I have lost count of the number of adversities I have encountered, but I can reassure myself that I can continue to overcome each one that comes along because I choose ‘I am possible.’
Pulled Out From My Utopia
I called it Utopia because it was the first time I felt free from the chains of being where I didn’t belong – with my relatives. I was seventeen; I was in Connecticut for college and loved it, yet I chose to rip myself away from it to go to sunny California.
For the first time in my life, I felt free. When I arrived in Connecticut, seniors dashed out of the dormitory to help me move my things into my dorm room. It was an incredible, warm, and happy reception for me. The movement of my belongings was like an official separation of me from my relatives. Though Grandma Sandy cared for me for over ten years with love and kindness, I always carried the scar of Mom sending me to live with her and leaving me to feel unloved and unwanted. And my uncles would forever remind me that I was unwanted and didn’t belong in their family either.
As I ran across the large open spaces of green grass in front of my dormitory, I opened my arms to rejoice. It was my first taste of pure happiness. After all the limitations of being a child or a teenager unable to care for myself financially, I finally had the means with financial aid and scholarships. After carrying all the emotional pain of feeling unwanted and tossed at age five, bits and bits of my wounds seemed to blow away in the cool gentle breezes of autumn. The scars that left me gave way to healing skin that smoothed the way for hope.
I had tolerated and survived emotional abuse and had found a way to finance my college education. At seventeen, full of hope, I was on top of the world. In college in Connecticut, life was beautiful. Soon the colors red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves covered the green grass. Before long, blankets of clean white snow covered the autumn leaves. Each season covered the ground with beauty.
Inside my cozy dormitory, I studied and learned. I was free to think and dream whatever I wanted for hours on end. No one bothered me from my studies, and no one interrupted my daydreaming. Mealtime was only a minute away from my room. All I had to do was walk out my door, enter the small dorm cafeteria, sit at a small table, and enjoy my meal. I could talk to someone, eat in silence, or carry my food to the lounge and join others watching television and eating dinner at night. Having the choice of where or how to eat was a simple piece of freedom I savored.
Walking on the paths to the side of blankets of greenery, autumn leaves, or snow were pleasing sights to see on my way to classes. I felt like a princess surrounded by beauty and walking with delight. I was a giddy schoolgirl enjoying my walk to class and happy to learn all I could.
Going to a small college of a few thousand students, I appreciated the attention given by professors who treated students as individuals with a mind of their own. I was not just a number; I was not invisible. I felt valued as a human being. My junior high and high school friends asked what life was like in Connecticut. I had but one word: Utopia.
After two years of living in Utopia, I left. I didn’t want to leave! It took two years of persuasion before I reluctantly left my perfect world. There had to be something more alluring to take me away. There was something. Since I started college, Keith had been pestering me to move to California, where he lived. He was my long-distance boyfriend and best friend. Keith helped me through growing pains, visited me just before I started college, and we fell in love. He called every week, and each call included a request to move.
After two years of college, I got on a plane to move to California. Looking out the airplane window, I saw the puffiest cumulus clouds I had ever seen. As much as I loved life in Connecticut, I was excited to be with the love of my life. As the saying goes, “Love conquers all.”
I quickly learned that love does not conquer all! Soon Keith told me to concentrate on my studies, and I didn’t hear from him for the rest of my college days.
Fortunately, I discovered another world: Sunny California. Despite the breakup with Keith, I was too busy adjusting to a new life. The beautiful weather of California allowed me to cycle to and from class. Never had I seen so many people on bicycles. I was happy to feel the warm air and gentle breezes as I bicycled to my classes. The campus was much larger, and there were many more people around. Though it was a stark contrast to my cozy Utopia, I welcomed a fresh new world. Though my physical environment changed, I was able to adjust quickly. I was excited to see and experience new things. The significant change did not bother me because I still had the most important thing with me: Freedom.
I was free from being outcasted from a family that never loved me. I was free to be myself, study, and work for a brighter future. Though thankful for a cozy utopia and sunny California, I learned that location and even love do not conquer all. Though being independent had its many challenges, I had what mattered most. What matters is that I have my self-worth and freedom to be me regardless of where I am. These precious gems I proudly attained at seventeen and would forever treasure them.
Key Takeaways: Though my life began full of misery and impossibilities, I found my perceptions could change my life; I once saw the word impossible as a fact, but I now see it as ‘I am possible’, and with that, anything is possible.
Though I was pulled out of my utopia, I discovered that more important than location was my self-worth and freedom.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called The Frowns on My Face and Unemployment Opportunities. 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!