When I used to work as a recruiter, I’d have people come up to me and tell me their story — how they’ve suffered, why they were unable to find a job.
It was often quite sad and I felt sorry for them. Life wasn’t fair, I thought. They deserved another chance to redeem themselves, to make things right. So I did everything I could do to get them a job.
One day, a frail elderly man visited. Thinking at first that he was the grandfather of my colleague’s, I asked him who he’d like to see. But after seeing how serious his gaze was, I realized he was here for the same reason as all of my other clients. He needed a job, any kind of job no matter how tiring or laborious it would be. His ex-wife was hospitalized and he needed the money badly.
As I got to know him better, he began telling me about his past — how he’d been a compulsive gambler and ended up gambling away his son’s college savings. He eventually lost his home, his wife, and his son; his wife left him, his son refused to see him, and his house was foreclosed because he couldn’t pay off his dues.
When I heard the story, I remember feeling really bad for him. I told him I was sorry about what had happened to him and how these things should never happen to anyone.
And then he looked up at me, straight into my eye, and said:
“Miss, thank you for listening to my story and being kind, but what I did…I deserved. What happened to me were merely the consequences of what I had done. I won’t blame anyone but myself. Only I can be responsible for the actions of my past.”
What he had said really stuck with me and it wasn’t until two years ago when I realized just how accurate his words were.
Back then, I had just broken up from a 9.5 year relationship from my ex who had left me stranded in China. I was miserable, hurt and heartbroken. The last two years of our relationship, he had insisted on seeing other girls, often bringing them home, asking what I thought of his potential dates and telling me how happy he was to talk with all these girls. But despite all that, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the relationship because I had desperately hoped that this person who I’ve spent over 9 years with would eventually come to his senses and remember the times we’d spent together.
Looking back at it now, I realize that I have nobody to blame but myself. I could’ve played the victim, but it wouldn’t help me lessen the pain nor make me feel better. What I should’ve done was to be stronger and respect myself, and to listen to what my intuition had told me. I should’ve brought myself out of that relationship so I could move on and build a life I was happy with.
And after the past two years of doing what I could to rebuild my life — writing, traveling and vlogging on Youtube, I’ve realized that it is true how the decisions you make in your past determines how your life will be today.
The job you choose, the friends you make, the things you do everyday all determine where you stand in life.
If you’re always at home playing games or watching TV, there’s a reason why you’re constantly complaining about not having enough money. If you’re constantly browsing Facebook and Instagram at work, there’s a reason why you’re not getting a promotion. If you’re sitting at home all day and never spending time to exercise, there’s a reason why you’re not losing weight.
Some people in this world are more unfortunate than others; their life is driven by circumstances beyond their control. In times of need like the Hurricane Maria in the Dominican Republic, Earthquake in Mexico, Monsoon flooding in Bangladesh or the Mudslide in Colombia, we should all chip in and give a helping hand.
But beyond a helping hand? It’ll be ultimately up to the victim to rebuild their lives. Sure, their houses have been ruined, their livelihood destroyed, but what determines whether or not it’ll stay that way isn’t through someone’s continuous generosity; it’s through their own efforts and eagerness. As much as we’d all like to help those in need, we’re limited in how much help we can give.
Everyone has the same opportunity to achieve a better life for themselves, but where we end up is different. If you want to be in a better place than where you are now, you’re going to have to put in a bit more effort, be patient, and take necessary actions if things don’t go as planned. You’ll need to try, even when the odds are against you, even if you’re afraid. And what you’ll soon come to realize is that what you do today will shape who you’ll become in the future.