3 Defining Moments of My Life

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When the school principal called, I knew I was in trouble. I thought I had gotten away with skipping 85 out of 97 classes in my Grade 9 year. But I was wrong. 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. I would 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 when I realized I had let my parents down. Before we immigrated to Canada, my parents were well established in their careers but I did not enjoy my schooling. Before I turned 12, my family decided to move to Canada to provide me with more flexibility in my learning. They were right. I liked my schooling way better in Canada. The teachers were not as strict. I had more time to play, maybe a little too much freedom for a 12 year old. After tasting the fruit of skipping a few classes, it snowballed into 85 out of 97. I kept this a secret until the end of grade 9 because my parents were too busy making ends meet.

My mom was heartbroken when she picked up the phone. I could 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 did not stop that night and neither did I until I fell from exhaustion. I did not fully understand the importance of education back then but I knew I never wanted to let my parents down, again.


The second defining moment was when I realized I was capable of solving my own problems. Before that I relied heavily on my dad for my academic performance. He was sort of my in-house professor who knew how to solve every single math and science question. My father did not know everything instinctively. He studied my textbooks along with me. This model worked very well 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. I went to sleep that night but my dad ended up pulling an all-nighter. Except the next morning, he still couldn’t solve the problem.

That was the moment when I realized I could no longer rely on him to push me forward. It had to come from me. With that determination, I solved that problem by myself. In fact, I did so well that I scored 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 and most recent defining moment was when I realized I must believe in myself even when others would not. After I graduated, I landed a full time job working directly with an Architect in a boutique firm. After a year of drafting and limited interaction with people, I knew it wasn’t for me. When I told my boss at the time I wanted to go into project management, he looked at me straight in the eye and told me couldn’t do it. He said: “Helen, you don’t know anything about construction, what makes you think you can manage that?”

At the time it felt pretty discouraging especially coming from an industry veteran. Although I wasn’t as confident in my abilities back then, I stuck with it. Today, I am proud to know that I can do it. In fact, I can do anything I put my mind to.

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 would not. These moments have shaped me into who I am today. I am grateful for my past; I am happy about the present; and I am excited about my future.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from Mandy Hale, “Have faith in your journey. Everything had to happen exactly as it is to get you where you are going next. You might not always think it, but you are exactly where you need to be.”

Related Posts:

The Passion Project: Why Construction Project Management?

How Do You Measure Your Life?

The Climb

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