Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about How to Turn Sadness into Smiles and My Heroes.Support the show
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Hello and welcome to episode #78 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 How to Turn Sadness into Smiles and My Heroes.
How to Turn Sadness into Smiles
I gave up a long and successful career to go into business, hoping to make a fortune. As it turned out, I made little money, struggled most of the time while in business, and went out of business. Around the same time that I had little left in my bank account, my boyfriend broke up with me, and I was devastated. Things got worse. No longer able to pay the mortgage, I lost my house in a short sale. In an attempt to return to my former career, I found it difficult to secure a job as younger candidates were more appealing to bosses because they required lower salaries. No business, no job, no boyfriend, no house; I lost everything. My mind went blank. I became like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz; I couldn't feel anything. I was not in the past, present, or future; I was nowhere. What was I going to do with my life?
I secured a job and moved to an island nation where the cost of living was low. I thought I'd live in a rat hole; I wanted to crawl into one and hide until I could wake up from the nightmare and find that it didn't really happen.
As it turned out, I was bored with the job in my first year. Strangely, it was a teacher's dream come true to have entire classes of well-behaved students, but the students I had were so well-behaved that there were no challenges, and it quickly became monotonous. I had hours to prepare lessons and didn't need all the time provided. I had never been so bored at a job. My life as a teacher back in the USA was always exciting and challenging; I always had too much to do. I never saw how teaching could be boring. But here I was bored with not much to do during office hours. It was hard to bear when I was in front of students repeating the same lesson on the same day but with a different group of students.
Luckily the boredom gave me lots of time to plan my weekends and have them filled with places to go and people to meet for language exchanges. As I sat in cafes or tea houses, I found myself lucky and grateful to enjoy such freedom as meeting up with people, having conversations, and learning about the many things different from my homeland. I had no obligations, burdens, or responsibilities other than to myself. Since I had a studio apartment, I only needed to spend a small amount of time on chores. Because I lived in a bustling area close to all my daily needs, I spent little time on errands. My daily commute was only a few minutes of walking. I called myself enjoying a leisurely and carefree life I had never experienced before.
By my second year, my boss promoted me to a management position. It was most gratifying because I was in a position to help others solve their problems or deal with issues. I discovered that while I was busy helping others, I seemed to have no problems of my own! Perhaps it was because I was too busy advising or solving other people's issues that my own seemed irrelevant or minor. It was also stimulating to do various daily tasks, from teaching kids to helping adults outside the classroom.
My job kept me busy by constantly calling me to solve problems at a moment's notice. I interacted with various people and visited different branches each week. I thrived on the variety of people, locations, and problems. The many unexpected issues and happenings kept me on my toes, and I was never bored.
Though I worked long hours, I also played hard during vacations. I never thought it could be a reality, but I had the opportunity to travel out of the country up to six times a year. I didn't need to worry about money or penny-pinching. Though I was not wealthy, I had financial freedom like never before. Free from any anxieties, I was a soaring bird enjoying ultimate freedom. Can you imagine a life free from any worries? I had such a life for four years!
When it was vacation time, I did nothing related to work and was fully engaged in having pure fun. Immersed in different cultures, landforms, and people, I obtained gems by stepping foot in foreign places. And the broadened perspectives acquired only opened my eyes wider to grasp the richness and variety in the world.
The people I knew and the strangers I encountered were friendly and helpful. Further, it felt safe; for the most part, I didn't need to worry about anyone bringing harm to me. These points are important when you arrive on an island knowing no one.
Though I found myself escaping to a faraway island from all the troubles I had, I found myself in a place that was safe and friendly. I loved my job, enjoyed traveling frequently, and treasured the carefree life where I didn't need to worry about money or having a support system. Life was good. Life was whole with friends and places to explore. There was little to worry about, and the freedom to do whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted was sheer joy. I led a contented life for four years.
And then the honeymoon was over. With time, reality set in. There were work issues that would not be resolved the way I wished. Call it cultural differences that I cannot change or have the right to do. My many friends were not people I could confide in or be my pals. I found it difficult to have deep or meaningful conversations with the locals. Again, I thought it to be a cultural difference where locals didn't tend to express their thoughts or feelings freely. I began to question the meaning of my job and the value of my friendships. Of course, the land would not and should not change for me. But I shifted to wanting more meaning in life. I was no longer happy in paradise.
As I reminisce those four years of living in paradise, I miss those worry-free and carefree days of joy. Sadness envelopes me as those days ended because things happened, and people changed.
How do you turn sadness into smiles? I smile because I have been blessed to enjoy some years of living in paradise where I had a job I loved, an island of helpful and friendly people, and the finances to travel frequently. It was one of the happiest times in my life.
Sad moments will pass with happy moments just around the corner. As Douglas Horton said, "Smile; it's free therapy.”
After facing one challenge after another that seemed to come after me relentlessly, I thought myself unlucky. After many years of overcoming one adversity after another exhausted me, and I felt most unfortunate. I wondered if the spirits were testing me. If they were trying me, why were they doing so? Haven’t I proven that I have solved them, overcome them over and over again? Why are they still testing me? Is my life doomed for demons to suck the life out of me until I can’t breathe anymore? Are there any angels for me?
Some years ago, I met with a fortune teller who spoke with me briefly. He did not spend much time with me; I am sure it was less than twenty minutes. As concise as he was, I remembered what he said. He sadly said I faced an overwhelming number of challenges in my life, but I could overcome them all, so I didn’t need to worry. My first reaction was delight that I didn’t need to worry. I was going to overcome anything that came my way, and I didn’t need to waste time worrying about the results because the outcomes would be positive! My next thought was despair because it sounded like my fate was adversity. Whether I wanted to believe it or not, my life moved that way long before I ever met him.
Always looking for ways to bring me out of darkness, my determination and creativity helped me, but I also had some secret angels. When others asked me how I could overcome one difficulty after another, I usually fell silent. I didn’t have a definitive answer, but I wondered and pondered. After years of contemplation, I concluded it was a combination of a survival instinct, tenacity, inventiveness, and imagination to create and perceive outside the box. However, there was another ingredient I neglected to acknowledge or believe. I had the assistance of secret angels.
When Mom abandoned me, Grandma Sandy took care of me. She gave me love, warmth, and values to treasure. Had it not been for Grandma, I could have been on the streets or become a runaway.
Feeling unloved and unwanted by my parents, negative thoughts and feelings filled me for many years. Along came Keith, who listened to my troubles, encouraged me, and gave me hope for a brighter future. He showed up when I most needed a soulmate and best friend; he filled my heart with understanding and love. His emotional support gave me the strength to move forward.
I wondered if anyone could understand or even care about my agony of being tossed out like trash and treated like an outcast in the family since I was a child. I suffered from low self-esteem and self-worth. My other grandma, Grandma Betsy (who did not raise me), gave me a gift on her deathbed. She let me know that she understood my pain, that I mattered, and not to let anyone take away my importance.
When I had no money for college, I found a lawyer, Mr. Cheng, who helped me find the solution that would help me obtain the needed funds. He was a stranger with the expertise, but he also had the heart and respect to aid a seventeen-year-old. Had it not been for him, I might not have gotten a college degree, and my life would have gone in another direction
During college vacations, I would refuse to go home where I didn’t belong and end up alone with little money and nowhere to go. One friend once enrolled his female friend, Ria, to vacation with me. Evan also invited me several times to his hometown. He gave me a free place to stay, and we had loads of fun.
Desperate to fund my tuition for graduate school, Professor Pental connected me to the right people to get me the job of my dreams before I was licensed. I got hands-on experience at work and could pay for tuition. He helped me solve my money problem, and I gained the needed experience ahead of time.
Trapped and unable to detach myself from a non-committal boyfriend, my friend Selina found two new boyfriends as birthday gifts for me. I was no longer stuck. In a matter of a few days, she presented a way for me to move on because I had immobilized myself from taking action to make it happen for years.
I thought it would be the end of my teaching career as I grappled with how to deal with the most challenging class in my fifth year. Feeling disillusioned and defeated, my dreams of making a difference were shattered. In walked Ms. Gatlin, who showed me a discipline system in five minutes and saved my career. It led me to become an exemplary teacher for many years onward.
Struggling to build a team of business partners and create wealth, my cousin Eason joined my business, built a team for us, and made my dream come true. Because I had a team, the chance to train and inspire them to greatness was possible and fulfilling. Had it not been for my dear cousin, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience the joy of having a team in the business.
As much as Grandma Sandy gave me love and care, I didn’t feel I belonged with her family, as my three uncles would remind me that I didn’t belong. After I got married, however, my in-laws welcomed me into their family. For the first time, I felt like I belonged in a family. Mom-in-law showered me with gifts, cooked food, bought groceries, and supported me when my husband gave me problems.
Desperate to save my marriage, I asked my friend Sonny to help give me a male perspective to help me understand my husband better. He agreed to fly over, go on vacation with us, and chat with Hubby to see if he could give me any suggestions. Sonny took the time to help me with an enormous problem. Though I ended up getting a divorce, his support made a difference for me.
Uninvited by relatives to Grandma Sandy’s funeral, I was hurt because this was the grandma who raised me. Longing to attend the funeral but dreading a confrontation with relatives, I wrestled with what to do. To go or not to go, I shared my dilemma, and my two friends: Sonny and Selina, offered to accompany me to the funeral. With one friend on each side, I couldn’t ask for better friends.
With most possessions already shipped by sea, I was ready to move abroad to start a job, but a travel ban stopped me because of the global pandemic. My belongings arrived, but I could not go sign documents and claim my possessions. If I did not sign in time, all my things would go on auction. The pandemic gave me no exception. Frantic to find a solution before losing all my belongings, I called my friend Selina for help. She could travel in place of me as it was her native homeland. She could sign the documents for me and would endure two weeks of quarantine. I couldn’t be more thankful for her selfless act. She saved my life’s possessions.
My life was at stake. Jobless, penniless, and homeless, I urgently needed to move abroad and secure my livelihood. Panic-stricken, I once more called Selina for help. She gave me a place to stay for free and helped me find a way to leave within the travel restrictions of the worldwide pandemic. The most difficult was this challenge, but Selina helped me triumph.
Uncertain about the meaning of life with many adversities, I took a trip to Bhutan for a spiritual journey. While it helped bring some peace to my rollercoaster life, I found meaning in conversations with a chance encounter. Everett helped me see that the insights, perspectives uncovered, and lessons learned from my adversities contributed to a life that could inspire others.
Though ridden with many adversities that temporarily knocked the wind out of me, personal heroes helped save me. Grandma Sandy (Mom’s mom, the one who raised me), Grandma Betsy (Dad’s mom), Keith, Mr. Cheng, Evan, Professor Pental, Ms. Gatlin, Selina, Sonny, Everett, my cousin Eason, my in-laws, and many other friends, acquaintances, and strangers have served to be my heroes. Thank you, my heroes and heroines. You have made this unlucky girl’s life feel most fortunate and blessed. You remind me that though there may be difficulties, mishaps, or challenges, there is also kindness, goodness, and godsends like you.
Key Takeaways: Though it was sad that the four years of living in paradise ended, I can smile because I got to enjoy a carefree and worry-free life like never before.
Though I have had many adversities and have overcome them, they were made easier with the help of two grandmas, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Running Away From a Suitor and Two Faces of Ownership. 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