I sat in my room and cried. Nineteen years old, I had just moved back to Malaysia for the first time in my life. Dad could no longer support our family’s expenses in Brunei.
How could he? He had spent his last seven years playing pool every single day and sometimes forgetting to pick me up from school.
I cried because my mom was crying every day. Dad was not the prince charming she had imagined as a child and thought she married.
Forty-seven years old, she regretted her decision twenty seven years prior.
A thought flashed in my mind. I could leave. I could just let my mom deal with all the problems. I was not responsible for most of them.
I could have left…
but I stayed. I didn’t cause this, I thought, but I will do everything I can to make things better.
Nineteen years old with a sick mother, all I could do was study hard, get a part time job and tell mom how beautiful she was and how thankful I was for her.
It felt like very little but it was all I could do. So I kept doing it.
I used my pocket money to pay for my college expenses, reducing the financial burden on my mom (at this point she was the only one paying for anything. Dad was essentially absent).
I read psychology books to understand how to talk to people in distress. I meditated with monks to understand how to love people who cannot love themselves. I learned to rewire someone’s brain to think positively about themselves.
I took up business courses that would help me increase my income. I knew this would be useful to sort out our financial problems in the future.
None of these were easy to do.
At nineteen years old, the future seemed dark and scary for me. It felt like none of my problems could be solved. They seemed heavy and impenetrable.
All that could be done was to take one day at a time. Get the things that could be done, done.
Nine years later
If you were to tell my nineteen year old self that my mother would be walking around, running her own business and not bed-ridden all day, crying, she would not believe you.
Nine years of struggle, pain, tears and effort, completely worth it.
I often wonder today, what would have happened if I had simply left?
Conclusion: Make it count
Sometimes, it is hard to see what the results of doing little things, one by one can be. Like putting a single dot on paper everyday, trying to draw a picture, it’s hard to see what the picture will be like in the end. But if you stop halfway then you will never know how it turns out.
Steve Jobs said you can ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards.’
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that our efforts are useless, simply because we cannot see the end result quickly.
1,420 Saturdays have passed for me. I don’t know how many more I will have or how many good and healthy ones.
I only know that I won’t have forever to do everything I want. So I can’t delay them.
Today is another Saturday. If you have a dream, even if it is a childish dream, take a step towards it today.
Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone.