May Special 3: About Broken Heart
"Why did you choose what you do?" asked the Monsieur. I was surfing on my computer while he was folding his work shirts and cleaned his wardrobe.
I looked at him. "You meant why I chose which job to apply for when I had no clue?"
"Yeah. It's not like you want to be a banker since you were a toddler. The real reason?" He threw such a heavy question into mid air. He was right. When I was a small kid, I wanted to be a secretary when I grow up, because they seemed to be all beautiful and well dressed. I, therefore, paused for a moment. Although he was concentrating on his shirts, I knew he was listening.
Every life event almost always has a good reason and a real reason. The good reason is I do like what I do very much. I was fortunate to have made the right choice. The real reason, on the other hand, is always unappealing. The ignition of one's desire is almost always personal, regardless of what many people said about their “professional” motivation on their job interviews. ”I broke up with my three year ex during the summer of the first year of university. I found out he cheated on me the entire time," said I.
The Monsieur continued folding his shirts while listening. I continued. "And he said I'd be nothing without him. I told myself and him I'll prove him wrong. So I just chose the most challenging goal I could think of back then and persevere until I get it. My choice was the result of revenge." I lowered my voice when I recalled the emotional turbulence at the time.
The Monsieur turned around to look at me. "Where is that guy now?" He probably expected me to answer with some random place or lower-tier company so that he could give me some encouragements, perhaps some padding on the back.
I replied “He was at <Redacted Bank> Executive Office, which is why I didn't take the offer there. I will never want to be in the same place as him. Now he works for the UK Trade & Investment department in the government.”
“Oh!”. The Monsieur exclaimed unenthusiastically. The conversation finished in silence as I came back to surfing on my computer.
I am surprised by how far in life such revenge has taken me. I no longer have anything to do with a person of the past. I have forgiven, forgotten and moved on. Parts of me thank this person who hurt me so badly and what happened because it was a part of my development and enhanced the depth of my character. Recalling the process of mending my heart reveals to me the incredible power of having one's heart broken. What motivates a person more than desires? Hatreds and revenge. Fortunately, in my case, I have used it for a good cause. I took the job search as a way of revenge and persevere all the way until I get the ultimate results. Instead of using the hatreds to destroy others, I let the hatreds fuel my motivation. Instead of having the hatred consumes me, I in turn use it to serve me.
I have put in some time to think about these sources of individual motivations. If you have followed my blog for some times, you may realise I take an extremely neutral stand on almost all concepts (I strongly believe in “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” ― Shakespeare ) The norm is that hatreds and revenge are bad, I think otherwise. As a human, negative energies such as hatreds or jealousy occurs naturally. It’s unavoidable and innate like a feeling of hunger. It is, therefore, important for me to learn how to work with such negative energies. I think as long as one do not cause the harms to others and know how to regulate these negative energies to serve themselves but not to waste time on unproductive emotions, it will carry them to advance themselves. Most of our negative views of hatreds are because of the popular instances when hatreds are displayed without self-discipline and self-awareness. Such instances are often a complete emotional mess and rather a burden than a motivating factor.
Through my biography study and life interactions, I have never seen anyone who achieves a measurable success without having obsessions. (There are many great write-up on why obsessions are critical to success, for example, here) Hatreds create short-lived obsession which ignites the needs for actions and motivates a well-thought strategy. However, using hatreds frequently as life motivation is not sustainable because hatreds are, as intense as it is, extremely energy consuming. When I encounter such negative feelings, I immediately turn it into motivations and maintain it through positive feedback loops, turn hatreds into positive momentum for actions.
Such is easier said than done; when one is in the middle of an emotional storm, how can the mind stay rational and turn relationship pains into positive energy to serve our best interest? Four years ago, my heart was so shattered to the point I thought of harming myself because he was everything I lived for. I remembered I was crying between the shelves of the LSE libraries because I felt so damaged.
In the midst of my tears, my eldest sister in Vietnam, who was so much wiser and experienced than me, asked me when I called her. "Do you realise it's only you who is hurting you now? He is not affected in any way nor even know of your tears. Why are you wasting your energy?" She was right, yet I was not convinced but still crying.
"Do you realise all your later boyfriends are better than the last one? You have made progress and learn to make better choices from each mistake; that's more important," said she. She was right again. However, the tears still ran on my face as I was not convinced of a “better” companion in the future. He was everything to me.
"In life, you have two kinds of people. Family, and stranger. Care deeply for your family, and your friends who you consider family. Boyfriend, regardless of how long they have been with you, is always a stranger. Until he decides to marry you, engage you or make some other serious commitments that show that you are family to him, he is still a stranger. Don't waste tears on a stranger. Would you cry this much for a stranger on the street?"
"He was someone to me," I muttered.
"OK imagine you once go to the beach, of which lies pebbles of all identical shapes and sizes. You picked one pebble and made it yours. Although this pebble has the same in quality as the others, it is suddenly so special to you because it is yours. Somehow, you tripped over and lost that pebble among all thousands of other identical ones. You felt a great sense of loss, not because of the qualities of the pebble itself, but because it was once yours and no longer. Remember, if you can make one pebble special to you, you can make another pebble special to you in the very same way. You have not lost anything, except for your energy wasting in this drama."
This time, what she said made great sense to me. I listened. My life was fine before him, and it would be fine after him. He has no greater or more special meaning than the meaning I assigned to him, like a pebble who I claimed was mine. This analogy really helped me for accepting the departure of this person from my life. I then stopped crying and focus on healing myself instead.
In the first few emotional events of my life, I relied on my great family for support. Over time, I have gathered enough sense from their advice to be able to stand strong in emotional events and pick myself up without others’ help. It’s like learning how to walk, my family helped me at first, I eventually should learn how to walk myself. As I previously mentioned, it is a much more sustainable dynamic to be able to help yourself to stay rational against emotions instead of relying on others.
When I was heart deeply broken, I thought the whole world was over. In contrast, it was the beginning of a new chapter, when such drive from a broken heart got me to work hard for my future, and for where I am today. I must thank a broken heart, as it taught me great lessons and gave me the drive that a soul living in comfort would not.
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Illustration: A classic poem I hand-written with my SELF journal.