When the school principal called my house, I knew I was in trouble. See, I thought I had gotten away with skipping 85 out of 97 classes in my Grade 9 year. But I was wrong and now my parents know all about it.
We go through thousands of experiences every day, some simple some complex. But only a handful are defining moments. Fellow Toastmasters, I’d like to tell you about 3 moments that have changed the course of my life – starting with that Grade 9 year.
The first defining moment was the moment when I realized I had let my parents down. Before we immigrated to Canada, my parents were well established in their careers but I dreaded going to school. Before I turned 12, my family moved to Canada to give me a less stressful environment. They were right. I liked my schooling way better. The teachers weren’t as strict. I had more time to play, maybe just a little too much freedom for a 12 year old. After skipping a few classes here and there, it snowballed into 85 out of 97. I hid my attendance list thinking my parents would never find out given how busy they were making the ends meet.
My mom was heartbroken when she found out. I still recall the tears trickling down her face. I felt guilty that I had lied to her. It never crossed my mind that my actions would result in such emotional pain. My dad, on the other hand, was outraged. He dragged me out to a track in front of our apartment and ordered me to run. The rain didn’t stop that night and neither did I until I fell from exhaustion. I didn’t fully understand the meaning of education back then but I knew I never wanted to let my parents down, again.
The second defining moment was the moment when I realized I was capable of solving my own problems. Before that I relied heavily on my dad. He was this in-house professor of mine who could solve every single math and science questions. He didn’t know them instinctively. My dad studied my textbooks along with me. This model worked wonderfully up until my second year of University.
One day, I came home with another question that stumped me. It was from my civil engineering course on structure of buildings. My dad and I discussed the question until late. I went to sleep thinking the problem will be solved by the morning. That didn’t happen. My dad pulled an all-nighter and still couldn’t solve the problem.
That was the moment when I realized it was time I relied on myself to go forward. I couldn’t possibly rely on someone else to push me through life. It had to be me. With that determination, I solved it on my own. In fact, I was able to maintain the highest grade in my civil engineering courses all throughout University. This defining moment motivated me to take ownership over my life in both my successes and failures.
The third defining moment was the moment when I realized I need to believe in myself even when others wouldn’t. After I graduated, I landed a full time job working in a boutique architecture firm. Couple months flew by, I knew the job wasn’t for me. When I expressed interest of going into construction project management, not only did my boss not encourage me – he doubted me. He questioned how I could possibly be helpful to any construction company with minimal experience. At the time I felt extremely discouraged given how much respect I had for his words. I wasn’t as confident in my abilities back then but I stuck with it. Today, I am proud to know that I could make the transition. In fact, I can do anything I put my mind to. This defining moment has taught me to persist in the face of rejection and uncertainty.
These 3 defining moments have taught me 3 things. The first is to never let my parents down. The second is to own both my successes and failures, and the third is to believe in myself even when others wouldn’t.
At the time, these moments didn’t seem very defining. I am reminded to have faith in my journey. I might not always think it but I’d like to trust that I am exactly where I need to be.