How One Small Step Changed My Life

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26th Feb 2016

4 min read

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Trust your journey. We don’t always end up in places where we want to be but we will definitely end up at places where we are supposed to be.

I had often come across this philosophical idea, but never understood what it meant or what good would come from it. Wouldn’t being in a place you don’t want to be make you feel miserable?

Well, here is my story of how I finally understood the concept and how I went through a series of lows before breakthroughs came.

How it all started

I had big dreams about studying at The University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, when I began my South Australian Certificate of Education International, previously known as South Australian Matriculation.

I was not the brightest student. I knew the score I had to achieve to make it into my dream university for a degree in chemical engineering.

When I was a child, I was often compared to my brother, at least when it came to me not being intelligent enough.

I would often hear things like, “The only reason why you did above average was because you are hardworking.” Those words affected me greatly, but I was determined.

I may not be smart but I worked as hard as I could to go where I wanted in life. I scored well and was eligible to enter UNSW, but due to unforeseen circumstances of my scholarship, I was sent to The University of Queensland instead!

Devastated by the thought that life had been unfair to me despite all the sacrifices and hard work I had put in, I was at my lowest point in life. I shut the world out and spent all the hours in my room, apart from attending classes because I had to. This went on for a good couple of months.

A new chapter

One afternoon, I bumped into a friend of mine, a college senior. He had asked me to take over his management duty at a small event. Still very much depressed, I was reluctant but he needed my help so I took up the offer.

To my surprise, just by saying “yes” to a small opportunity, I felt a little light at heart. The small event has led me to meet a group of students, whom are now my travelling and foodie companions.

At the same time, I also came to know about a pre-departure event called the Down Under Camp held annually by the Malaysian Students’ Council of Australia (MASCA). The council was recruiting an organising committee, so I applied. I was roped in as deputy for the events team but it was not anything fancy.

During the event, I was approached by the vice-chairperson of MASCA and it changed the course of my leadership involvement entirely.

After moving up step by step, I became the National Treasurer of MASCA the following year. Looking back at the series of events, I realised how seizing opportunities really does make a big difference and how it could take you to places you had never imagined.

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. —Martin Luther King Jr.

In between those good moments, I became an international student ambassador for the university and took up a tutoring position. It was a dream come true as I have always had a deep passion for helping others.

I also spent my vacation volunteering at an orphanage by teaching different subjects to the children who will be sitting for the Malaysian national exams, including the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.

It was something small yet significant that I could do.

I hope I will be able to help a larger group of less fortunate children by providing them basic education and skills to allow them to escape from their cycle of poverty.

Soon, I realised that engineering was not what I wanted to do for life. After all, we have all heard about how passion is the key to one’s success, and engineering was just not my passion.

Nevertheless, I believed that an engineering degree could be a stepping stone for me to become financially stable.

Not only that, this degree would allow me to foster good rapport with people as well. It was a good opportunity for me to one day make my dreams come true at helping others on a larger scale.

My life lessons

When life does not treat you the way you want it, take time to lament on things, but never succumb into harming yourself or others around you. Be kind to yourself.

Remember that you, yes you, deserve love, kindness and attention more than anyone in this world.

We are all leaders in our own ways. You don’t need to lead a nation, a troop of soldiers or hold a position as the chief executive officer of a multibillion-dollar company to be known as one.

I believe that anyone can be leaders: Fathers supporting their families, teachers leading entire classrooms; teenagers forming a band or even a small girl leading a group of her friends to play with dolls.

Parting thoughts

Sharing my story with you has been an emotional one as I am a fiercely private person by nature. Hence, I hope it will renew some faith in your life.

Whoever you are or will be, wherever you are and wherever life takes you, choose happiness and love your loved ones dearly.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. —Steve Jobs

Vilaiwan is very driven in her own quiet and Zen ways when it comes to making things happen for the greater good. If you could relate to her story on how she went through life’s challenges as a young person and you feel compelled to share your story with us, please e-mail us at editor@leaderonomics.com. For more Starting Young articles, click here.

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