My defining moment

“There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this and after this.”

– Anonymous

I believe everyone experiences crucial moments. These moments are turning points. They are wake up calls. How we react to these moments will significantly change our lives. I experienced my defining moment while believing I was going to die.

My host family in China had invited me to accompany them to their hometown, Chengdu, to celebrate Spring Festival. I was absolutely thrilled and couldn’t wait to experience this cultural hub during its peak. We boarded the plane at Shenzhen’s airport and made ourselves comfortable for the two hour journey. Everything seemed completely normal – the air hostess gave me a blob of suspicious looking food and I mentally prepared to stare into the open space and concentrate on not introducing 50 shades of green to the rest of the passengers.

Half an hour before we were due to land in Chengdu, we went through a bit of turbulence. I was quite new to flying and hated when this happened, but I knew it was common and held onto my seat. But, instead of the plane steadying itself, the turbulence grew worse and worse. I clutched my seat for dear life and tried to make myself small. I was freaking out, but still certain that things were going to get better. I turned to look at my host family and saw the frozen look of horror on their faces. Their facial expressions were mimicking a two-year-old preparing to throw a tantrum. Chills rolled down my spine as my face flushed with heat. It suddenly felt as if the plane was descending and a few people actually cried out. I asked the lady sitting next to me if this was normal; she shook her head frantically and held my hand.

My defining moment arrived.

I started to pray (read: beg) and thought about my family and friends. I then thought about my life and realized how little I had done. A wave of shock ran through me as I tried to think about how my life had significantly impacted the world in any way. I struggled to think of one. Sure, I achieved excellent marks, was a great orator and won many academic, cultural and sporting awards, but suddenly it didn’t matter anymore. I had so many ideas for community projects that I had never put into action, because I didn’t have time and I was going to do them later in my life. I had spent 18 years on this earth and I had put off pursuing so many of my dreams with goal of doing them one day. I realized that putting off my diet until the following Monday, waiting for the perfect weather before exercising and never starting my community projects had been a waste of my time.

As I realized this, the plane steadied and everything returned to normal. All the anxious cries had turned into nervous giggles and the lady sitting next to me had let go of my hand. The only person who couldn’t calm down was me. My body shook uncontrollably and I started to cry. I was so thankful. God had given me a wake up call – an excruciatingly serious one – and I thanked him repeatedly for showing me that I had to stop dreaming and start doing. My moment had arrived and what I was going to with it was up to me.

Some passengers chuckled at the sight of me – a girl with very messy hair, tears streaming down her face, clutching her seat and whispering weird words to no one in particular. I couldn’t blame them; I must have been quite a sight! However, I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. I was ready to start living out my dreams. I craved action and adventure rather than my bed and my daydreams.

Ever since that instant of realization, I woke up every morning ready to face the day. I stopped wasting time on nonconstructive activities and suddenly had more time to do things I had always wanted to do. I kept a diary, I bought books that would improve my public speaking and time management skills, I thought of business ideas, I stopped dreaming and started doing. I realized that there is no one day.

It is now or never.


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