Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about The Meaning of Life : Lost and Found and The Hong Kong Couple.Support the show
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Hello and welcome to episode #73 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 Meaning of Life: Lost and Found and The Hong Kong Couple.
The Meaning of Life: Lost and Found
It was a sunny Sunday, around eleven o’clock in the morning. Like countless times, my boyfriend Devin of nine years picked me up to go for a drive and then grab a bite to eat. He stopped by McDonald’s drive-thru to get some coffee on this day. After getting his coffee, he decided to stop the car in a parking lot to drink his coffee. He wasn’t very talkative, which was unusual for him. I asked him what was troubling him. He was reluctant to speak. It was unusual for him not to chat away or share his problems with me. I thought it was money troubles because the business we were both a part of went out of business, and he would probably have to file for bankruptcy because he was a big spender and was no longer receiving an income. On the other hand, I am a saver, so I have money for emergencies. Times were tough, but I didn’t know I would be in for a shock that would change the course of my life.
Devin continued not to speak. I then said, “You call me your best friend, but here you are not confiding in me.” Devin silently stared out the front window with strained eyes. Looking at the side of his face, I said, “I hate cowards, and you are a coward. If you have a problem, we should be able to discuss it with each other as we always do.” They were harsh words, but I believed them to be accurate and have no regrets for saying them. My words finally made Devin talk. With his head looking down toward his chest, he whispered, “I got someone pregnant.” I was looking at him the whole time. He did not make eye contact with me when he stopped the car. I said, “Do you have anything else to say to me?” I thought this would be his only chance to say something to redeem himself or ask for forgiveness, but he said nothing.
I saw Devin nearly every day and talked with him daily. How did I not see it coming? How did I not know this would happen? I felt like I was in a daze or smog; try as I might, I couldn’t see what was in front of me.
Since he said nothing, I got out of the car and walked home, a fifteen-minute walk. He didn’t even follow me or call out my name. I was disgusted with him. I walked upstairs and into my bathroom. I knelt on the floor in a fetal position. My head was emptying itself, and my heart was gutting itself. No tears came to me, and no sounds came out of my mouth. I felt like Devin knocked the wind out of me, and I couldn’t breathe properly. My insides seemed to escape me, and I became a hollow shell.
Any meaning I had in life was lost. Any future I had with Devin was lost. Without warning, the enormous tsunami came and took me out to sea. I died that day and walked around like a zombie for nearly a month. Having the energy to put food in my mouth was laborsome. Trying to go to sleep was pointless. My mind was blank, but I still had difficulty sleeping. Suddenly I didn’t know why I was alive. What was the purpose of my existence? I no longer knew. I was always a person full of goals, ambitions, and direction, but now I was questioning the meaning of my life. I was always a planner, always planning my future. But now I was afraid to think about the future; it was now a big blank. The only thing I had was breathing in the moment, and I even questioned that.
Lost, I wandered to an island far away from home on another continent. I spent nearly a month roaming around all over the island. Fortunately, a friend of mine had connections and arranged for me to stay in different areas of the island. I explored places like a tourist and had a tiny bit of interaction with the people where I stayed. One family that I stayed with had a lady who volunteered to take me out to explore. She took me to a scenic area by a river with a paved path along the riverside. As we walked along the way by the river, she told me her sad story about her husband, who suffered a stroke in his forties and became partially paralyzed. She had to quit her job to care for him and their children. Her life was forever changed, and she wondered about her direction and the meaning of her life.
I don’t know why this stranger told me her personal story. Perhaps she saw my pain and felt comfortable sharing her pain. After all, misery loves some company. Maybe her sad story made me feel like my life was not so bad. I had no obligations or burdens to bear like her. She asked me some questions, but I was most reluctant to answer or share my troubles. She asked if I still had a home to live in and if I could get a job. That sounded simple enough. Indeed, I can take care of my basic needs, so why can’t I pick myself up? Perhaps those few questions made me realize that I am still a capable being, and I didn’t need to drown myself in sorrow like it was the end of the world. It wasn’t, so I picked myself up.
I flew back home wanting to live. Some of my insides materialized. My empty head began to fill itself with ideas to get a job and move on with life. My heart began to beat louder, telling me to live and move on. Though I had no suicidal thoughts, I wondered more about the meaning of life. How significant was life if all we do is eat, sleep, work, and play a bit?
Soon I was back to work. Soon I was eating and sleeping normally. What significance was there in that? Was I now in everyday but uneventful and meaningless life?
Many years have passed since the breakup with Devin, but I continued to wonder about the meaning of life. Before the split with Devin, my life was always one goal after another, one more thing to learn or do after another. Now I wonder what for; I pause and pause some more.
After Devin, I returned to the business of living, returned to work, started sleeping at night, and had some leisure time. How meaningful is that? And then, I moved abroad, traveled the world, spent time enjoying my hobbies, and lived a happy and carefree life. Is that the meaning of life found? The severed relationship of years ago still left me wondering, what was the point of living?
And then, in preparation to move abroad again, I had a language exchange partner from another country. Because our only way of communication was in conversation by phone, he asked me many questions, and we discussed many topics at length related to the meaning of life. Through all the discussions, I discovered that all the ups and downs, good and bad, all mixed to create the spice of life. To my surprise, I realized that the challenges were not altogether dire because they brought lessons, the strength of character, and seasoned this life of mine. And the moments of joy are to be savored and enjoyed in the celebration of life. A life lived is a life taking in all I can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch or feel.
To digest all the wonders of life, I found my meaning in life through writing and podcasting my adversities, encounters, and perspectives. I reflect, express, and appreciate a life lived with abundance through writing and speaking. Once lost, but now found: Meaning.
The Hong Kong Couple
He was a fit police officer, and his wife was a plump housewife. I would have never met this couple had I not been in this particular tour group. I flew from the USA and joined this tour group from Hong Kong to China. I can’t remember which area of China we went to, and I can’t remember the sights we saw, but I remember this Hong Kong couple in the group. They left an indelible mark in my memory.
It was a one-week trip when I came to know this couple. On the tour bus, especially when we got off and started walking, I would hear other tour group members comment to the police officer. Maybe they knew each other; I don’t know and never asked. Comments came mainly from men who had their wives next to them. They’d say, “You have such a fat wife; how can you wrap your arms around to hug her? Is she like a soft pillow for you to lay on to sleep at night?” The policeman would laugh it off, saying he had a lot to love and that he loved his wife. His wife would be busy talking to her husband and ignoring the men giving out unkind comments.
This scene bothered me as the men were relentless in their unkind comments about the weight of the policeman’s wife. And the men giving the comments were laughing about it. How could they be so cruel in their middle age? Because of the words and laughter I heard, I noticed this couple. Despite the negative comments, the couple appeared to remain in good spirits. If I were them, I’d be upset. I knew I could learn a thing or two from their positivity.
In Asia, people usually travel in groups of two to a dozen. So, when my tour group companions saw me traveling alone with them, they considered it odd. They asked, “Why didn’t you come with a friend or family member?” I thought, if I could, don’t you think I would have done so? My reply was annoyance and silence. They even asked why I didn’t join an American group. Other than the questions, they had nothing else to say to me. Their questioning made me feel like I didn’t belong. I felt unwelcomed. They were insensitive to the couple and me. They seemed to think it was all fun in the spirit of vacation. It created a sour taste in my mouth, and I just wanted to wash it out.
The Hong Kong couple noticed my quiet presence. Seeing that I was alone, they treated me like a daughter that they were minding. She said I was like the age of her daughter in her twenties and that I could be her daughter. When it was dinner time, they invited me to sit next to them. I soon learned that he was a recently retired policeman, and his wife had finished raising their three children, who were now grown. They were only in their fifties and enjoying their time together.
They asked questions like where I was from in the USA and my ancestry or origins. They showed interest in me as a person, and I did not feel they pitied me. I did not want pity and hated others for pitying me or making me feel pitiful.
By being with this Hong Kong couple, I suddenly did not feel alone. I felt cared for like a relative but conversed with like new friends. I appreciated their warmth and kindness. It was refreshing to be around genuinely goodhearted people.
When the trip was over, I thought I would probably never see them again, but to my surprise, they offered to take me out for lunch when we returned to Hong Kong. I thought they may have been just exchanging pleasantries with me, but they asked about making the arrangements and insisted that we meet.
As it turned out, I did meet with them for lunch, and they treated me. The retired policeman asked what I wanted to do that I hadn’t done before in Hong Kong since I had been to Hong Kong several times previously. I mentioned that I wanted to see a live concert, and he immediately stood up to go buy a newspaper. He looked through it and said the name of some singers. I let him know which one I liked, and immediately he made a phone call and ordered tickets for a few days later. I couldn’t believe it! Next, he told me what day, time, and train station to meet them for the concert. I asked for the price of the tickets, but he insisted that I did not need to pay.
I was ecstatic to go to my first foreign language concert. I was overjoyed to receive this gift from a couple I only knew for a week. I could hardly believe the couple’s kindness in spending time with me after our group tour trip. They paid for lunch and a concert for this stranger that is me. Being around them made me feel good. Though some of the tour group participants made unkind remarks, the couple remained optimistic. Though they were enjoying the beginning of their retirement, they did not need to stop to care about me or attempt to befriend me, but they did.
What started out as an unpleasant trip turned out to be a delight because of the Hong Kong couple I met. It was a surprise that left me with happy memories of them, and it was a reminder that there are still kind people in this world, making a difference one bit at a time.
Like the Hong Kong couple, I shall sharpen my skills to spread more generosity and kindness, no matter the adversity I face or what surrounds me.
Though I lost the meaning of life after a devastating breakup, the significance of life was found through conversations with a stranger while practicing a foreign language in preparation for moving abroad again.
Though I saw unkind people teasing and taunting a couple, I also saw a cheerful and kind couple who showed me the meaning of kindness and positivity.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Why You Can’t Turn Back Time and Life Lessons from a Driving Instructor. 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!