When Life Throws a Punch

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." 
Mike Tyson

I almost spit my coffee, while I stifled an imploding laughter when I came across this quote because it's so true!  

We all have received several life punches.  Mine would include family separations and drama that would be a cool pitch for a tele-novela script.  

Financial rock bottom that made me stand up clapping with inspiration when I watched Will Smith  in Pursuit of Happyness. 

We weren't always like that. I was born in a middle class family, but my Dad suddenly passed away and my Mom left her high income job shortly after and was unemployed since. I am the eldest of five children. I was barely out of college and I was definitely not prepared when everything suddenly came crashing down. But this change is an example of one of life's punches.

I can vividly remember those days when I was reviewing for my board exams under candlelight because our electricity at home was cut.  

My minimum salary was not enough to cover household expenses and utility bills. So much, that I had no idea what my family and I will eat the next day. I had only five pesos left in my wallet and there are 7 of us in the family.  

I walked 2 kilometers daily for 2 years in order to save the jeepney fare to buy food.  

My dream kept me going. 

I walked the same route everyday, talking to God in my head. When there wasn't anyone around, I conversed with Him out loud like a crazy person. I discussed with Him my dreams, my thoughts,  and my plans of action to survive day to day while imagining a bright future. This is a habit I still keep.

I recall walking after work one late evening,  I paused outside the windows of a luxury five-star hotel restaurant in Makati City. I stared at elegant couples enjoying a fine dinner. I said to myself, "I would be dining in restaurants like these someday." 

I strongly felt something within and was so sure of the feeling, in my heart, that it would happen. I saw a vision of myself  through the glass window,  then I smiled as I walked away.

These daily walks fueled me. 

I look back at these now and I am grateful I went through that. They were tough years with lots of tears and there were days I wanted to give up.  

However, my dreams were far too big, they kept me hungry to fight. They lit a fire in me.  I was relentless. I did everything I could, taking in extra work to make ends meet. 

I learned to become financially conscious. I persisted and I was determined. I saw a side of myself that I never knew existed.

Opportunities presented themselves. Not in a grand way, but in tiny simple packages that demanded courage because I had no background nor the skill set to do them. I merely said yes to each of them with the attitude that I could learn them along the way.

These opportunities were linked. Looking back, these simple choices formed  a  grand tapestry built up to create a major life change.  They were so subtle, I didn't notice.

Oh, in case you're wondering, Yes, they did happen. I had many formal dinners years after that. Sometimes sitting across international personalities that I am flabbergasted meeting because I used to only read about them in fashion magazines, but that wasn't the point.

Every time I place a napkin on my lap, I am reminded of that dreamy-eyed girl standing outside the hotel.

Another punch I can recall, was when my favorite boss, our managing director announced that he was leaving the company I have been working for for 5 years. Before he left, I was given a task to handle the re-design of the headquarters apart from my regular sales job.

The truth was, I was hesitant to move out of my comfort zone, because I was well compensated despite not liking a job in sales.

There were many company changes after he left. I initially had conflicts with his successor, until I learned how I could effectively work with my new boss. I eventually earned his trust and proved myself worthy to be a part of his team. Still, there were more challenges that followed from other departments, which made me decide to quit. 

I later realized that those timely upheavals were life's way of pushing me towards the direction of my destiny, a path that I was so afraid to take.  

After I completed that project, I took the leap to the unknown to find my life's calling. It was in perfect sync, a year after my youngest sibling graduated from college. For long time readers, you might have read it here when I finally did it. {Read more: On a Personal Note: Freedom}

People might think it is so cool to quit your job, just like that. Yes, the first few days were awesome, but when you're thrown into nothingness, it makes one question the purpose of their existence. 

Little did I know, looking for my life's purpose will lead me to confront my biggest fears and my past traumas. I hardly ate. I was so stressed. I hardly slept. I was up most nights. I became depressed.

It wasn't because I quit my job. 

It was because for the first time in years, I had a lot of silent time in my hands to think and re-assess my life. 

For many years, I was too busy to stop and clear out the baggage that I have been carrying heavily in my heart. {Read more:Travel Light}

During therapy, the truth came out. I built the courage to assert myself and choose myself for the first time. 

How I wish I could write and tell you about that truth, but I can't.  Because I might regret hurting the ones who have hurt me by revealing them.

There are punches that we may not be aware of hitting us constantly.  When I learned how to stand up for myself, stronger hits came.

I'm still coming to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as a happily ever after while we're living. We only get to say that when we stare at our own tombstone. 

Sometimes, we need to go through really hard times in order to remove our tunnel vision. 

Hard punches will wake us up and re-direct us to where we're really supposed to go.  

Hard punches will make us appreciate things even more. For we can't say life is beautiful, if we haven't seen ugly.

Hard punches may throw us down on the ground, but the victorious ones get up and keep fighting.

Tomorrow as I celebrate my birthday, I'm raising my glass to every victory. There's no such thing as failure. It is merely a stepping stone for a better version of ourselves.  Cheers to that!

Stay strong. 
Love & light,

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  1. I find myself relating to this in so many ways. From being catapulted as the bread winner of the family when I was yet to graduate from college due to the sudden demise of my father, to looking through the glass windows of shops and establishments and promising myself that I will eat or shop in those places. They hit right at home. It made me remember the hardships that I went through years ago and made me thankful that I was able to overcome them. As Steve Jobs said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards." The things that we go through in this life, they all happen for a reason, as cheesy as that may sound. But if it weren't for those things, we wouldn't be where we are today.

    You've gone through a lot but you emerged strong and mature. You know already how much I admire you and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Keep your light shining Arni and may you continue to be an inspiration to us all. Happy happy birthday!

    1. Apologies for my late reply. This month was busier than I expected it to be and I'm thankful. Thank you so much for your heartwarming comment and birthday greeting. Wishing you a lovely week Marge!

  2. "I'm still coming to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as a happily ever after while we're living. We only get to say that when we stare at our own tombstone."

    Every few months, I'm confronted with the different ways that life is very very very hard, even the things that are supposed to be very easy. And it drops me into a deep dark hole that I don't feel like I can get out of (nor really want to get out of). I don't have the answer and it cycles over and over again but I hope someday I'll be able to look up from that dark hole and realize that there's a way to crawl out of it WITH my dignity still intact

    1. Hi Rooth, what you are going through sounds tough. The hardest is waiting for the storm to pass while desperately trying to spot a light at the end of a tunnel. I pray that whatever it is or whatever they are, they get resolved quickly and circumstances change to your benefit.

  3. Profound and deep reflection a day before your birthday. I hope you continue to grow and learn and be surrounded with love.

  4. Hi Arni, I always talk to God to give me strength whenever I feel so weak (Proverbs 3:5), especially when I walked thru rugged paths (literally) but God is so good he has bigger plans ahead of us. Plus follow your heart's desire and offer to him, you'll see he'll make a way for it to happen. And never ever give up Arni, you have so much potential and talent. :)