3. Change is hard
“I grew up living in a huge hotel. Kind of like your ‘Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ thing except I was a spoiled young kid. When I was seven, I’d have a nanny put on my socks, wear my school uniform every day, etc. I had four nannies before that, and they all left. I made one cry once because I yelled at her for not helping me with my math homework. I slapped another one. She left three months later.
It hit me hard a year or two later when my dad had to travel overseas to work, so I was stuck with this one particular nanny named Tina. My dad didn’t really send a lot of money back to us and so we had to live in a cramped apartment because we needed to move out of that particular hotel. I hated my nanny at the beginning because she was strict. Turns out that she was doing this because she wanted us to change, and we did.
Because my dad didn’t send enough money and didn’t want to (stingy guy), we had to ration our food on some days, and I couldn’t go to many school activities because we didn’t have a car like we used to. And we didn’t have enough money. This was hard on my brother and me because we went to a private international school, so it was hard not to try to show others our personal struggle. It was even harder for me as I was a prefect at that school, and not attending school activities/extracurricular stuff was the worst.
During that period, I learned so much and began to empathize. I learned to socialize with my neighbors, be independent, and this made me enjoy my childhood living in that apartment more than I ever did living in a hotel. I owe it all to my nanny, to be honest. I consider her my surrogate mom now regardless of the rough beginning and honest to God, I would not have changed one single bit if it wasn’t for her.”
“By developed nation standards, I don’t have much and never have. Buying food and paying rent has always come with varying degrees of difficulty. But my partner had an experience that made me realize I’m still spoiled rotten in many senses.
My partner took what we considered to be a crappy job at the time, working a physically demanding position at a large nursery for low pay with long hours.
One day, he noticed a new guy in the lunch room. The guy was wearing a suit, (totally unsuited to the work), and standing in front of the microwave staring at it, seemingly with no idea what to do. At the time my partner thought he must have just been a bit simple.
A couple of days later, he got talking to this guy and heard his story. He was a young man from Sudan who had been at home with his family when militia came calling. They made certain demands of his father, who refused to comply, and in response, they beheaded his father in front of his family.
While this was happening, he managed to gather up his brother, mother, and sister, and escape. They ran away, and in time, they made it to a refugee camp. They stayed in the camp for some time, but he feared for the safety of his mother and sister. He and his brother decided they would have to strike out and make an attempt to reach the UN in the neighboring country.
They left on foot to try and make it, but had no shoes while traveling through the jungle full of scrub he described as being like razors, severely lacerating their feet. They even had to run from lions along the way.
Eventually, in bad shape, they made it to the UN who took them in. They said they could arrange asylum for the brothers, but all they had was one place in the U.S. and one in Australia. They had no choice but to accept, and so they were split up.
The brother that went to Australia begged to have his mother and sister brought over too, as he believed it was only a matter of time until something bad happened to them in the refugee camp. He was told he would need to get and hold a job for a certain amount of time to show he was legitimate, then later he may be able to bring his family over.
He was provided with a small allowance to arrange clothing and transportation so he could get a job, with which he purchased an old suit and bicycle from a thrift store. He was set up with a job as part of a program whereby businesses can pay staff less if they are willing to take on refugees. He wasn’t told what the job was, however.
So he put on his suit and rode his bike to his new job. And that was the day my partner first saw him in the lunchroom. He was staring at the microwave because he had never ever used one before, and had no idea what to do with it.
When telling my partner his story, he explained how crucial this job was for him, and he believed the life of his mother and sister depended on it.
A few days later, my partner went to work and found out the young man had been fired. The business, despite having wages subsidized in order to help provide training, decided he was learning too slowly.
So now, when I’m struggling to pay my rent or bills but I’m doing so from the safety of my home having eaten three square meals, I think of the young man from Sudan’s story, and I’m thankful for everything I have.”
1. Who’s the man
“I was spoiled rotten until my mid-20s. My parents gave me anything I wanted. When a new gaming generation came out, I would get every system and essentially every launch game. In high school, I drove nicer cars than all of my classmates’ parents, and I had three different cars depending on how I felt. Two of them were brand new sports cars, and the other was an older, but desirable sports car. I never paid for gas or insurance. Never paid a phone bill. Didn’t pay for food, movies, snacks–anything. I was given almost limitless amounts of money to spend on whatever I wanted.
My parents paid for my college tuition, and I later worked in the family business and was paid a good wage for being simply who I was. I wasn’t a slouch, per se, but I had a false sense of security due to things being handed to me for years.
My perspective of life was that you are always on an upward trajectory to earn more. I swore that by 25, I would own a Lamborghini and a half-million dollar house (at least). Anything less than that would be an abysmal failure.
While living in this excess, I met a girl who grew up poor. She didn’t live in poverty, but she had to work since a young age and had to help pay her family’s bills. Basically, she lived a life that I deathly feared. Her financial situation stabilized by the time we started dating, but her life experience gave her a pretty solid background.
I initially approached our relationship from a position of wanting to give her the finer things in life. I spent thousands of my parents’ money on her to take her on trips and buy her jewelry. She was never comfortable with it and frequently said that she is fine with a cheap dinner and a movie. She and I got married and were expecting a child soon after.
My great awakening came when the family business fell to pieces. Suddenly, the endless supply of money stopped. It was so bad that I couldn’t even receive a salary and had to look for a job. I had a college degree, but really no discernable skillset. Finding a job wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for me to do.
I eventually found an entry-level job in a different field. The salary was incredibly low by any measure. For the first time I had to pay for gas, insurance, phone, food, etc. and the high-performance car I drove took premium fuel and got abysmal gas mileage. I sold it and bought the cheapest car I could find (that was safe and new enough to keep my family on the road).
I never drove anything so cheap in my life, was never paid so little, and had to pay bills for the first time in my life. I had to perform at work because I was living paycheck to paycheck.
My one constant? My wife was unflappable. She had been in far worse situations before. She was pregnant yet calm, cool and collected despite the sudden life change. She didn’t stress and essentially pulled up her sleeves and devised a budget for the household to see us through our new reality. It was clear why we were put together. I thought I was the man! Look who ended up taking care of who.
This experience taught me that money literally didn’t matter. Not only does it not matter, but it can disappear in an instant. I became closer to my wife, new son, and my faith after this experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”