Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about Why You Can't Turn Back Time and Life Lessons From A Driving Instructor.Support the show
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Hello and welcome to episode #74 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 Why You Can’t Turn Back Time and Life Lessons from a Driving Instructor.
Why You Can't Turn Back Time
Every day after school, Sawyer would follow me home after school. He usually had his friend Alan with him. Together they'd holler my name from ten feet behind me. It wasn't pleasant; I couldn't get home fast enough. On some days, he'd bring along a couple more friends and have them all holler my name, too. You might think it was in my imagination that he was following me because he lived next door. But it was not. Many times, after school, he would wait for me. I know because I would hide to avoid seeing him, but he was patient and waited until he saw me before he started walking home.
I was eleven years old and in sixth grade. I could not understand how Sawyer could like me when he hollered my name, called me names, and even punched me in the stomach for no reason. My Aunt Tessa said Sawyer liked me. She said boys in junior high would hit girls because they didn't know how to express their feelings. It was baffling to me.
Sawyer pestered me for an entire year after school. Though he was an enormous nuisance, he left an impression on me. I find it hard to say what kind of an impression. I was not yet at the stage of my life to like boys, even though I did think he was cute. He had fair skin and a square chin like the cartoon character Superman. As cute as he was, I had no interest in him. But I remember him.
Fast forward fifteen years later, I lived on the west coast but returned to the east coast to visit friends and relatives. I thought of calling Sawyer. Feeling scared and excited at the same time, I called him. "Hi, this is Emily; remember me?" "I don't think so, but my mom remembers you," he replied. How ridiculous was that! His mom remembers me but not him?! I was about to hang up on him when he said, "Would you like to meet for lunch?" "Okay," I said. I agreed to meet him at a subway station by the park near downtown.
I couldn't decide what to wear but gave myself plenty of time to prepare. I finally got myself together and arrived at the subway station. I was ten minutes early. I thought I would have to wait a bit, but when I exited the station, Sawyer was standing there with a smile. I couldn't believe I was ten minutes early and he was already there! Was he as anxious and excited as I was in meeting up after fifteen years?!
We walked to his car, and he drove us to a restaurant that had one side of glass walls. I could feel the warm summer heat while we sat inside. I saw Sawyer's sweat dripping down the sides of his face. He still had fair skin and a manly square face, but his face didn't seem to get much bigger from the time we were in junior high. He only seemed to have grown taller. He wasn't bigger or wider. He looked skinny and bony. He was like a child repositioned into a taller man. With the looks alone, I told myself, you can't turn back time. He looked the same but taller, which didn't look right in a man's body.
As we sat and had lunch together, all he talked about was his girlfriend. It made me feel bad. Maybe he thought I wanted to pursue him, which didn't sit well with me. I asked myself why I called him in the first place. I didn't know what I wanted out of our meetup. We didn't even discuss a word about all the times he chased after me after school calling me names.
After lunch, he drove me home, and this last scene left a bad taste on me. He went to the front of my grandma's house, stopped, unbuckled his seatbelt, and reached over to kiss me. I immediately turned away to open the door. I got out and said, "Bye, thank you." And that was the last time I talked with Sawyer. I was disgusted that he tried to kiss me when his girlfriend was all he could talk about at lunch. I regret that I contacted him. I was a fool to think you could have fun seeing your puppy love, or was it just an annoying eleven-year-old that I remember?
Kelsey is one friend I treasure and miss a lot. We have known each other for a year. We met weekly over lunch or brunch and conversed for two to three hours. Our conversations flowed so well. It was so easy to talk with each other. We talked about anything under the sun and couldn't seem to run out of things to talk about. The two to three hours never seemed to be long enough. We talked about things that happened to us and our thoughts and opinions about things. Since we had so much to share and too little time to share, we always wished we had more time to chat.
Luckily, one day Kelsey said her Hubby would be out of town on business, so we could spend a whole day talking and see if we would run out of things to chat about! As it turned out, I went to her home, and we spoke for twelve straight hours before I was too tired and wanted to go home. Of course, we needed to eat, but while Kelsey was preparing some food, we would still be chatting away. Of course, we'd need to go to the bathroom too, but we'd leave the bathroom door open just a little so we could hear the other person talking as we continued the conversation! Our conversations were just too interesting to each other!
And then, after a year, I was on my way to live and work abroad. I was sad to leave this friend that meant much to me. After moving, we chatted over the phone long distance only a couple of times because the time difference and when we were available were difficult to match. More, I got too busy with my new work and social life. Kelsey was also busy when she had a new baby girl. We drifted apart as we were both too busy with a new stage in our lives. But one year, I decided to return to the USA to take care of some matters and visit Kelsey. I would be back in the USA for only a week, and Kelsey could not find time to meet with me. She also didn't want to bring her baby along while we met. I don't know why. She was a stay-at-home mom.
I was so angry that she couldn't find time to meet with me for even an hour that I decided not to communicate with her anymore.
A couple of years passed, and I moved back to the USA. I thought of her again. I wanted to call her but hesitated because I wondered if it was a friendship to keep or not. I finally did call her. It was because I valued the friendship but didn't think she did. She gave me a heartfelt hug when we met as she missed me. It had been six years since I last saw her. It seemed like so much had changed.
Six years ago, we couldn't stop talking with each other. Now Kelsey was either busy checking or doing something on her cell phone or attending to her child. She could no longer focus on having a conversation. I could understand the need to watch the baby, but I was less forgiving about the technology and the addiction people have to it today. Of course, I check my messages and go online, but I don't do that when spending time with friends. I probably expected the same, but other people have other priorities.
After a year back home, I decided to move to another city hours away. After moving in, I called Kelsey and was alarmed to hear what she said to me. I started chatting with her to catch up. Soon she said, "Why don't you call someone else? Call someone who lives near you." I thought, if I wanted to talk with someone else, I would have called them already! It was all too cruel to me. It seemed like I could not salvage the friendship I so treasured. You can't turn back time and make things as they were.
Evan is another friend I treasure. We met in college, and it was there that he fell in love with me. I always viewed him as only a friend but an excellent friend. Every summer or Christmas during college, he would go back home. He would always invite me to visit. As I always looked for a place to go during vacations, I sometimes took him up on his offers. I hated to go home, so I always went elsewhere.
Whenever I went to Hong Kong to see Evan, he'd show me around and take me out to explore new places, meet his friends, and have fun. I did have fun and did value our friendship. Thinking of him always brought pleasant memories of him joking around, making me laugh, and considering our meaningful conversations always brought happy feelings to me. Though we kept in touch after college, we no longer saw each other often as we were on different continents. The few times we saw each other in Hong Kong or the USA were still very happy memories.
Fast forward three decades later, when we hadn't seen each other for twenty years, I looked him up since I had relocated to the same continent as him. I called him up, and he flew in for my birthday a week later. It was exciting to hear him sound the same, and when we met, he was still the funny guy I knew. He was still the guy that loved me differently from the way I loved him as a friend. We chatted up a storm and shared deeply personal things quickly. It was comforting and joyous to be in the company of a good friend. We had a great time, and it seemed like not much had changed between us since our days in college. He seemed to be the same person and thought of me as the same person.
Three months after seeing him, I flew to Hong Kong to visit him as he invited me, and I was on vacation. After knowing Evan for several decades, everything seemed different for the first time. It was like he was out of character or didn't seem like himself anymore. Perhaps whatever was going on in his life made him act differently, but I did not know what was on his mind. He did not share it. He was no longer the Evan I once knew.
He had invited me to a party, and when it was almost midnight, I said I needed to go since the subway trains stopped running at midnight. He told other people to take me to the train station while he stayed longer at the party. I felt this was out of character. The Evan I knew would not do such a heartless thing and not care for my safety. The next day was my last day in Hong Kong before departing. Evan did not call to let me know of his plans or that we would not meet up. It was again so unlike him to be so heartless. I felt like I suddenly didn't know him anymore. He didn't let me know what or why. I flew home, wondering what was happening in his life that I didn't know about. His actions were puzzling to me. Maybe I thought we could continue our friendship since we were now an hour plane ride apart. But I was wrong. After that trip, we were no longer in touch.
A few months after seeing him, I took a trip, and on my way home, I had a layover in Hong Kong. I texted him to meet me at the airport if he had time. He did not reply. It happened twice. I won't try again. For him to not respond was very out of character. I was left baffled, but I concluded that it was another friend that had an expiration date.
To revisit people we knew long ago sounds like fun. You begin to remember what it was like when you once knew each other. Strangely, you expect to pick up from where you left off, but it doesn't always work that way. Time passes. We experienced different things when we were together, and it wasn't the same the next time we met. They've changed, and I've changed, so you can't turn back time. Sometimes, we wish we could turn back time, but life would be boring if it remained the same. It could never be the same because we will always more or less grow and change with different life experiences. Since we can't turn back time, we must treasure all the moments we have with others. There is no need to be sad because we can always enjoy those pleasant times in our memories. And we can create new memories with new encounters and perspectives as we evolve or morph.
Life Lessons From A Driving Instructor
Growing up poor, I never thought I could afford a car, so why would I need a driver’s license? Living in the city, I could get from place to place with public transportation. However, as I wanted to venture further, I decided to get a driver’s license.
I hired a driving instructor, and he showed me how to drive. Learning to drive stressed and scared me. I was afraid of car accidents even before I started. There were street signs, bumps on the road, other cars, and people to look at while on the road. It was all overwhelming, and I was a nervous wreck. How would I ever learn when the tension in my head felt like it would explode at any time? The task of learning to drive was all too stressful for me.
Luckily, Jay, my instructor, had a gentle and soothing voice. It helped calm my nerves a bit. Every time I made a wrong move or stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake, he gently reminded me what I needed to do. Of course, I knew the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal, but I was not thinking clearly in my tense position. Fortunately, Jay’s car had pedals on his side that were attached to my driver-seat pedals. I felt safer with those safety features and Jay’s clearheaded alertness.
I drove slowly, and sometimes a driver behind me would get annoyed with my slow driving. The driver would screech and zoom past me. Before I could react, Jay would hold on to the steering wheel and say, “Easy does it; don’t mind the other driver. Just let him pass. He’s in a hurry. We are not in a hurry. You don’t need to be in a hurry.” He would continue in a soft, soothing voice, “If you ever have a driver cut in front of you or zoom past you, let them do so and don’t mind it. Your life is not worth losing to fight with another driver.” Another time, Jay would say, “Remember not to fight with other drivers on the road. Let them have their way around you or past you. Don’t take this risk of losing your life.” Jay seemed to be teaching me a lesson about when to take risks and when not to do so.
Before I knew it, it was time to take my driving test. I was not confident going in and did not pass the test the first time. Jay said we’d practice a bit more, and I would pass the test the next time. He mentioned that I was able to drive but that I was overly cautious. Perhaps it was because I was an “older” driver in my mid-twenties. He said teenagers learned fast because they knew not what to fear. While caution was reasonable, a little relaxation and boldness were in order. Now I felt like I was getting a fatherly figure advising me. Of course, I am not sure what a father figure would be like, even though I did have a father who was rarely in my life.
Jay let me know that, on the one hand, it was good to be careful, but on the other hand, excessive caution would not help me. He also let me know to pick my battles wisely. “Don’t be self-righteous when driving because you could lose your life; it’s not worth it,” he said.
Aside from teaching me to drive, Jay taught me unexpected life lessons from his fatherly words and his behavior or approach. His example let me know that you could change a person’s mood or feelings with their voice. He gave me much food for thought about caution, risk, and self-righteousness. His calm demeanor and patience amazed me. I taught children for several years, but Jay modeled patience and gentleness. He was a better driving instructor than I was an elementary school teacher. I learned to be a better teacher from him!
I also learned that if I were calm like him, I could also help others to be calm and collected. Never did I see Jay get angry at other drivers or me. He indirectly taught me to control my anger or distress; it could reduce my stress and save my life!
Though we can't turn back time, we can enjoy the memories and appreciate the good times we once had.
Though I thought I was only getting a driving instructor, I also got a fatherly figure who gave me a few lessons about life.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Life’s Pendulum and Connected by a Dream. 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!