Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about The Frowns on my Face and Unemployment Opportunities.
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Hello and welcome to episode #67 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 Frowns on My Face and Unemployment Opportunities.
The Frowns on My Face
"Smile, Emily," said Auntie Tessa and Auntie Cassie. "Smile, Charlie," said Uncle Holden and Uncle Ray. My uncles nicknamed me after Charlie because I always had a frown on my face like the comic character Charlie Brown. But didn't they know it was them ridiculing me and making me feel bad?
Every time it was picture time, Dad would always say, "Smile!" Dad loved to take pictures; he was an avid unofficial photographer. I have heard him say "smile" too many times. Looking at old photos, I found a picture of me sitting next to him at a restaurant. We both smiled in the same way; it was a smirk. That photo told me that I was definitely his daughter. That meant something to me because, as an outcast of the family, I sometimes wondered if I belonged in the family. As often as Dad said the word smile, I didn't see him smile a lot, and if he did, it was a smirk!
Friends of the family would also say, "Smile, Emily." I got so sick of others saying it to me. I didn't see many other people smiling, so why were people picking on me to smile? Even strangers would say, "Smile!" It was unnerving. Sometimes I would fume and want to lash out and say, "Shut up!" At other times, I wanted to say, "I have nothing to smile about, so why would I smile?" My inside voice said, "Instead of telling me to smile, why don't you ask me why I am frowning??? I don't want to frown, but my face looks the way it does. Leave me alone!"
Mom sent me away to live with Grandma Sandy at five; what was there to smile about? Kids laughed at me because I didn't live with my parents; what was there to smile about? Mom dressed me like a tomboy while she dressed my sisters like princesses; what was there to smile about? My list of examples could go on and on. If you heard the long list, you wouldn't ask me to smile. Instead, you would know why I had so many frowns on my face.
My childhood was miserable; that's why you would only see frowns. I was traumatized by my mom disowning me at age five. Though Grandma Sandy gave me lots of love and care, I still carried a frown. I didn't realize it until I saw my birthday photos at Grandma's house. I did not look like a happy child. I now feel bad because Grandma made such efforts to buy me a new dress and a birthday cake every year, and all I gave in return was a frown. It was probably because of the blow to my self-esteem caused by the disposal of me by my mom. Maybe I didn't think I deserved happiness because Mom didn't love me. So why would I smile? My frown was an expression of my pain. As much as I expressed it, most people never bothered to ask what was wrong.
Despite the many frowns that drooped on my face, smiles began to appear on my face when I was seventeen. That was the year I fell madly in love and found someone who would understand me more than anyone else. The comfort and joy experienced with Keith were beyond measure. Sixteen long years of emotional suffering disappeared with the entrance of Keith into my life. The beginning of college life also brought many smiles to my face because I was finally free from the uncles who said I didn't belong. I was also free from living with any relatives who made me feel worthless. I was finally able to spread my wings and soar like a bird. Now there were so many smiles on my face!
But the frown came back several years later when I transferred schools to live in Keith's state in my third year of college, and he told me to concentrate on my studies. I didn't hear from him for the next two years. Once more, strangers and friends would say, "Smile!" I gathered that it showed on my face when I wasn't happy. Still, it irritated me to hear it. I wished people would ask, "Why the long face, or what's wrong?" Most of the time, no one asked.
The only person that bothered to ask was Keith. He didn't see my frown very often, but when he did, he would inquire. One thing Keith did to make me love him so much was that he saw and asked. He cared. I miss him asking.
Of course, other good things that would happen outside of me brought smiles to my face. My happiness was dependent on external factors. I had conditions; if certain things happened, then I would be happy. It wasn't until I was twenty-five, when I attended a personal development course, that I realized I had made external factors the determiner of my number of smiles. And my outer world was not altogether in my control. In the course, I discovered that you could generate smiles and joy from within. It was a colossal eye-opening moment that created a seismic shift in me. My thinking and perceptions determined my smiles or frowns. The power to change them was in my hands!
Looking through a new lens, I began to smile more often. I smiled for no reason. Some people would even ask, "Why are you smiling?" I'd say, "No reason!" For the first time, I discovered I didn't need a reason to smile. I didn't need to have certain things happen before I smiled. I could smile simply because I chose it! My smiles were no longer all dependent on what was happening outside of me. My smiles depended on me and the lenses I decided to look through. Wow!
Through a set of new lenses, I saw the beauty in the existence of people and nature. I saw how incredible things worked to make the world go round. I was like a child fascinated with all the everyday things I saw before me. Whenever I stopped in my tracks and stopped feeling full of wonder, I'd ask myself, where did I put my lenses?
When faced with the global economic crisis of 2008, along with going out of business, losing my home and savings, and learning that my boyfriend cheated on me all at the same time, there was only a frown on my face. I was affected by all that was outside of me. Despite all the devastation, I knew I could turn the frowns into smiles. I wasn't sure, but I knew it was possible, and the power of change was in my hands. It was going to come from within me; I was going to generate it.
I escaped to an island nation where I got a job I enjoyed doing. I made many new friends and enjoyed a carefree and worry-free life. I chose to make the best of what I had and put a smile on my face. Before long, smiles came naturally and frequently; I decided it. No one on the island ever said, "Smile, Emily." At last, I was free from those comments.
At last, there were fewer frowns on my face. I learned and grasped the concept. The many frowns that were once on my face were self-created and dependent on external things. Though they do show up every so often, I am aware that I did it from the inside to the outside. And with my awareness, I can change it to a smile as I generate it from the inside to the outside. I have the power to put on the lenses that will turn my frowns into smiles!
Unemployment woes could be depressing. With no income, your livelihood could be at stake. Without a steady job to pay the bills, you could become pessimistic and hopeless. You could even question the meaning of your existence. Working can give you a purpose and a routine. It rewards you by the week or month, so you can buy the things you want or need. It takes up many hours of your life daily, so it is an essential part of your life. Getting laid off, fired, or voluntarily leaving all end in unemployment. While the end of a job could be upsetting as it creates more problems for an individual, it could also be the beginning of something new.
Working in the financial industry was exciting at first. I was doing something totally different from what I used to do. I used to have a stable, secure, and predictable job. It was great on the one hand but monotonous on the other hand. Then I resigned and got into an unstable, unpredictable, and insecure position. It was exciting, surprising, and varied. And then, the 2008 financial crisis happened. It affected me, and I was out of business. With no income and no work, it was devastating financially.
I wanted to start another business but didn’t have the money to do so. I was willing to learn something new and begin new projects, but time was not on my side. I did not have time to take it slowly when income was needed to put food on the table. I looked at going back to my previous career. I was shocked to learn that there were few job openings as people were holding on to their jobs and not retiring during the financial crisis. The few available were not to be mine as money was tight, and employers were hiring those they could give lower salaries. If they hired me, they would need to pay me more as I was seasoned and experienced. Jobless, I was in dire straits. Time was of the essence as money needed to be deposited in my bank account.
Unemployed, I had to find another source of income. Without the funds or the time to learn a new skill, I could not start another business. With years of experience in my previous field, I was not the wanted candidate whom you needed to pay the higher salary. Pressed to solve the problem, creative ideas needed to enter my brain. I discovered many opportunities abroad and proceeded to move, where I did get a job. Because I was out of business and couldn’t return to my previous profession, I had to find another job. I found it abroad.
I would have never considered looking abroad if I were not in dire straits. As it turned out, I enjoyed my time abroad, working a new job, saving money, and traveling frequently. Unemployment allowed me to do something I had never considered. Having done something outside the box, I was glad for it. Who says unemployment has to be a bad thing? The bad thing could turn into a good thing! In my case, it did. So, I believe for every bad thing, there is always its opposite lurking around.
The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 came, and no one could escape some effects from it. This was another occurrence with a global impact. Once more, I was unemployed. However, this time I voluntarily stopped working eight months before the pandemic. Voluntary or not, it affected my income. With no income for a whole year, I was on the verge of a disaster. With little money in the bank and no longer able to pay rent, the end of me seemed inevitable. Soon I could return to my previous job, but I no longer enjoyed the work. Feeling like quitting the job every day, I searched for the work I wanted.
I found myself browsing online and taking some classes online to learn and keep my brain active. Soon I found writing classes interesting to me and began writing. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. The more I wrote, the more meaning I found in this life of mine. Months later, I began writing my first book. Within two years, I wrote and published six books. I found a new passion and never imagined that a long-lost dream would materialize.
Further, I started a podcast speaking what I had written and never imagined it could inspire others as I hoped. Hating my job led me to find a new passion. The passion kept me motivated to keep writing. With more and more books under my belt and more and more podcast episodes broadcasted, I have a new dream for it to turn into a passive income stream that will bring in money to relieve unemployment blues and allow me to enjoy the passions of writing and speaking.
The 2008 economic crisis and the 2020 pandemic were both unforeseen global events that impacted everyone to some degree. In both cases, I was unemployed with no income. It was hard to bear, and I didn’t know if I could survive. All the strength to handle challenges before seemed to leave me with little grit left to live through them. The instinct to survive and the hope of a better tomorrow helped. Pulling out ideas, problem-solving skills, help from others, and a little luck made a difference. Believing that possibility existed and it was just a matter of me finding it kept me going to find solutions. The tenacity with a never give up attitude also helped to create unemployment opportunities.
Because of the economic crisis, I ended up employed in an island nation and lived a carefree and worry-free life for years. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I discovered a new passion: Writing stories in books and broadcasting stories in a podcast. Both global disasters helped create new opportunities and realize dreams never considered.
For every negative, there is a positive. For every disaster, there is a blessing in disguise. I am thankful I found them and celebrate. Regardless of what happens around us, there is always something positive to find. Perspective makes the difference in changing feelings and behaviors.
Though I had many frowns on my face for many years, I discovered that the power to change them into smiles was not dependent on external factors but on my hands.
Though I was unemployed during the economic crisis of 2008 and the pandemic of 2020, they provided space to create unemployment opportunities I never imagined.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called How to See Your Blind Spots, Part I and Not Independent. 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!