On Success And What It Means To Me

Sunday, 24 July 2022

A recent situation albeit disappointing, inspired me to reflect on success and what it really means to me. If I were to define success based on what was fed into me when I was growing up, I would say that success means having a degree and a title (i.e Doctor, Engineer), earning lots of money, getting married to a rich man, having children, owning a big house and a luxurious car, and acquiring expensive clothes, shoes and handbags. But that was and I believe still is the society's definition of success. Definitely not mine.

As I grew older, I learned how to look at success more subjectively. Hence, I redefined my definition of success. For me, success begins with intentions. When I was a little girl, I wanted to become a doctor so I can put up my own hospital and work for the UN. I can vividly recall telling my mother I wanted to build a free hospital for the least fortunate people. I remember my mother asking me how would I become rich if I did that?! But God knows, becoming rich was not my intention at that time. Then I took up nursing because I wanted to help other people, and I believed that nursing was the easiest way for me to help my family.

I wasn't born rich, nor did I grow up with a lot of money. In fact, there was a time when my brother and I were young, we ran out of rice to cook for dinner and our mother had to ask from our neighbours. That night is forever etched in my memory because I saw my mother cry so hard because she was refused help. Seeing my mother so helpless and worried that my brother and I would not eat that night inspired me to study harder. I promised myself that this situation will not happen to my family ever again. 

Of course there were people who doubted me and looked down on me. There were people who refused to help me attain my goals. There were people who wronged me along the way. But my intentions remained the same- to help my family and least fortuntate people. Never did it cross my mind to get back at those people who belittled me and didn't want me to succeed. Promise. Instead, I tried very hard to help the least fortunate ones. Through my mother, I helped fund some kids' school fees- from grade school to secondary school, some even to college although not fully. Our house was always open to anyone who needed help. I remember my mother lending money to some people and never getting her money back. Although this may not have been a big deal for some people, I was happy that my family was able to help other people when they needed help the most. And this to me, has been one of my successes in life. 

As a nurse, I worked my way up to becoming one of the many senior leaders in healthcare. At first, I thought that I would only be successful in my career if I moved up the ladder. Until about five years ago when I realised that my success should not merely depend on what I have achieved, but on the person that I have become in achieving my goals. 

I am successful because I love what I do- not just for my patients, but most importantly for the people I work with. Through the years, people have said how I inspired and motivated them to be better, not just as nurses but as people. Just recently, someone told me that she aspires to be like me. Being able to influence people positively is more important to me than titles, positions and material posessions. 

I am successful because I remain grateful to those who were instrumental in getting me to where I am today. Those people who lent money to my mother when she ran short, so she could pay for my tuition fees. The people who bought vegetables from me when I was a little girl, even if they didn't need them. My uncle who edited my thesis. The person who provided me with shelter when I needed it the most, even if it meant I had to sleep on the floor for months. My relatives abroad who gifted us with imported goods- because if it were not for them, we would not have known how spam or hersheys tasted like. Those people who pushed me and continued to believe in me even if I didn't believe in myself. The people who provided me with words of wisdom, who gave me hope when all I wanted was to give up and those who simply praised me when I was doing well and encouraged me when I was failing. Words are sometimes more helpful and powerful than anything tangible. Those things, no matter how small, were very helpful to me. As Tesco's theme says, "Every Little Helps". I can go on and on with all the little help that I received throughout my journey in life, however one blog entry will not be enough, so perhaps I will stop here for now.

I don't think I would be able to call myself successful if I didn't fail multiple times. Failure has been a big part of my success. Because if I didn't fail, I wouldn't have learned how to rise up. I wouldn't have learned the most valuable lessons that helped me become the person that I am today. 

Success, I learned through the years, is also measured by the kind of people you choose to surround yourself with, and the people you choose to influence your life. I am confident to say that I am successful in this aspect because the people around me are the people who infuse positivity in me. They are the ones who influence me to become a better person. They are the people I know will never condone my wrongdoings.

Lastly, I believe that I am successful because wholeheartedly, no matter how far I go, I will never forget where I've come from. Humility taught me how to be more compassionate, kind and empathetic towards others. Besides, I've always believed that there will always be someone better than me and more successful than me, so what's the point of being proud and arrogant?


My Thoughts At 46

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Yesterday, I woke up to birthday messages from friends and family who never fail to greet me on my birthday, year after year. And as the day progressed, more messages came through my inbox and through social media. I had mixed feelings because if I can be honest, I was not in the right frame of mind to celebrate my birthday due to some challenges in my personal life that I am dealing with right now. However, as much as I was and still is disheartened with what is going on, I am determined to continue a tradition that I have started almost 10 years ago. So here I am, writing what is on my mind as I begin my journey to 47.

1. On Being Unmarried and Childless at 46
- Having come from a country where having a family is seemingly the measurement of every person's success (apart from being rich), I was and still is often caught up in an awkward conversation about being unmarried and childless at my age. Some people show compassion, others nothing but insensitivity. I know people do not care about my business, but right at this moment, I feel like I need to say something- something that I probably have not had the courage to tell even some of my family and closest friends about. 

In 2017, after J and I came back from New Zealand, we decided to see a specialist for a work up as we were seriously considering having a baby. It was then I found out that my eggs were not reaching maturity, making it difficult for me to conceive. We considered IVF, however we were only given 15% chance of success. With my age, financial implications and the potential emotional and physical impact, we decided not to go ahead and instead, we kept trying. Five years on, we remain childless. I guess it is fair to say that J and I have accepted our fate in parenthood. This, and my fear that perhaps I am not meant to be a mother because that opportunity has been taken away from me when I lost Keith. But as a firm believer that things happen for a reason, I know from the bottom of my heart why I have not been blessed with a child- because there are other children out there who need me.

Now, on to marriage. I have been married once and it ended in divorce, so can anyone blame me for not wanting to get married again? For me at my age, marriage is no longer important because I believe that it is not a true reflection of any relationship. I am with a good man who makes me happy and that is all I need. Period.

You may ask why I am sharing this to the world. Only for one reason- for people to be more compassionate and sensitive when asking why someone is not married or has no children. Everyone is going through a battle you know nothing about as they say. Be mindful.

2. On the Power of Words
- A week ago,  I had a random conversation with a colleague and without realising it, I was giving her my "Ted Talk". She left the room saying that she will never forget that day. Oftentimes, when I share something on social media, I receive private messages on how my words have impacted them in a positive way, on how I eloquently expressed exactly how they were feeling or how my words gave them the comfort that they needed at the time. And when I am having conversation with poeple face to face, I try harder to be more positive, encouraging and motivating because I know that words have power. People may totally forget about the whole conversation, but they will always remember some if not most of the words that were said. 

It is often difficult to find the right words to say, especially when you are feeling upset, frustrated or angry. However, if you have the self-awareness and if you listen to yourself when you are talking, perhaps you will realise the weight of the words you are about to say. As much as words have the power to comfort and heal, it also has the power to hurt and harm, therefore you always have to think before you speak, or shut up na lang. No, but seriously, some people must be more careful with the words they say. That is all.

3. On Giving and the Rule of Reciprocity
- My mother's disability has taught me a great deal about giving and reciprocity. I mean, we give because we want to give and we don't expect anything in return, but reciprocity should be given. If you google the "rule of reciprocity", it will tell you that it is "one of the basic laws of social psychology", and that we "pay back what we received from others." I mean, where am I coming from and where will this lead to? I can be completely honest right now and say exactly how I feel, but I am starting my journey to another year so I don't want to be so negative. But I am sure of one thing- I am completely done with helping and will now only focus on my family. Because you know, growing up, my mother helped every person that came to our door begging for help, whether she had everything or nothing. But that was when she was able. And now that she is bedridden, I mean, where did these people go? I am not even asking so much, perhaps just to visit her every now and again and say hi. There is so much that I want to say, but I'd rather leave this here.

4. On Opportunities
- Until a few weeks ago, I got this feeling of instability whenever I thought of my professional life in the last two years. I say this because since I was made redundant in 2020, I never settled in one job. I had at least three jobs since then. And whilst I thought this was not good for my CV, some of my work mentors reassured me that sometimes, it is actually good not to settle. It's not all about longevity, it is about what you can bring to the workplace that matters nowadays. In the last year, a few opportunities came my way and although I was not successful in some, I gained some valuable lessons and experiences by merely attending an interview. I am writing about this because I have been underestimating myself, and to be asked to apply for a higher position by leaders I respect and look up to was such an honour. It was only then I realised that perhaps other people can see something in me that I can't see myself. And that is very reassuring to me.

5. On  Connecting with Other People
- I recently met up with an old friend that I have not seen since 2017. Within our conversation, I mentioned about one of our common friends and how they have been doing. He was surprised because he didn't believe that I would stay in touch with people. I was quick to defend myself and said to him that if I say I will keep in touch, I will be in touch. And this is true, except that recently I decided to limit this because I realised that I have been overdoing it. I guess I have been consistently generous with my time and I am starting to experience what they call "Generosity Exhaustion". In fact, in all aspects of generosity- time, effort, money. For now, I just want to focus on myself, my family and those who are really close to me. I will no longer insist on maintaining connection with people- because real connections should not be forced. It should come naturally, from both parties.

And those are just my thoughts whilst I wait for my washing to finish. And oh, last night J took me to the cinema to watch a film called "Everything Everywhere All At Once". It's a comedy-drama about the multiverse, but what I really loved about the film is that it touches on family relationships and the conflicts that they face. I came out of the cinema wanting to search for the lines as they really resonated with me. And for this, I would like to share some of my favourite lines from the movie:

- "Every new discovery is just a reminder...we're all small and sstupid."
- "The only thing I do know is that we have to be kind. Please, be kind. Especially when we don't know what's goin on."
- "Every Rejection, Every Disappointment has led you here to this moment."
-  "When I choose to see the good side of things, I'm not being naive. It is sstrategic and necessary. It's how I learned to survive through everything."
- "You are not unlovable. There is always something to love. Even in a stupid universe...."

I must admit, I cried watching the film. I realised that whilst this universe I currently live in is dysfunctional, challenging and chaotic, I would still choose to be here.

And as I start my journey to 47, I express utmost gratitude for another year and for all the blessings that I've received and continue to receive, big or small. I hope and pray that God will continue to bless myself and my loved-ones with good health, peace, love and prosperity.

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