Precious lessons I learned from my Mom

I never have thought that my first blog post in 2021 would be non-technical. I shared this personal story on LinkedIn and want to make it a blog post.

I want to share how our beings are shaped by our life experiences. Let me take myself as an example. I grew up in a low-income family in China, but I inherited tremendous riches from my Mom in terms of precious characters. She taught me several things that money can’t buy.

First of all, honesty and integrity. When I was in primary school, I stole a five Chinese dollar bill and wanted to buy snacks. I put it under the pillow, but I could not fall asleep. I was so nervous that I could even hear my own heartbeats. My Mom found it out and was really mad at me. She punished me by kneeling on a washing board. It may not seem to be appropriate physical punishment; however, I learned that I could not steal, and I need to be an honest person. I have such a deep impression that I remember it so clearly even today. Later, there are many temptations in my life, but honesty is the limit that I never passed.

Second, grit and persistence. My mom used to work as a shoe mender and had a shabby booth by the street. It was scorching in the summer and freezing in the winter. Life had been harsh, but she worked hard and made ends meet for the whole family. Meanwhile, she saved my Dad’s salary for our tuition fees. What added insult to injury is that she was later diagnosed with tuberculosis and could not even get up for a few months. Again, she showed her persistence and finally recovered. She reminded me often that only knowledge can change my destine. She was very stingy with herself, but when I wanted some money to buy books, to attend workshops, she never hesitated to pay for them. All those things have a profound impact on me. I studied diligently and did not let her down. I ranked #1 in our county in the high-school entrance exam. I still remember her tears of joy when we got the news. Life always has ups and downs. Three years later, I didn’t do well in the college entrance exam and was admitted to a middle-ranked key university. I was in a dilemma, should I go to university or should I go back to study and take the exam next year again. My Mom encouraged me to stay, and I am glad I took her advice and made the optimal decision. To be honest, it was not easy. Some of my classmates stayed but eventually went to university before the deadline. Eventually, my efforts got paid off. I ranked #5 in the county the next year and went to a much better university, which changed my life trajectory. The university has an excellent culture to go abroad to study. I was saturated in such an ideal environment to prepare for English tests and apply for graduate schools.

On August 8th, 2008, I flew to the US to pursue a Ph.D., writing another chapter of life in English like many of you. It was the first time in my life I got enough stipend to support myself and even saved $50,000 during my Ph.D. I gave them all to my parents to buy an apartment in China. That’s the best investment I have ever made! I was grateful to my parents and also proud of myself.

When I look back, my Mom has passed many precious characters to me: kindness to people, humbleness, a high standard of working ethic, keeping my words and delivering the commitments, etc. When I have setbacks, I can boast about my resilience because I now see every failure as a good learning opportunity to make me a better human. Of course, she was restricted by her background, and her view of things has some limitations. However, those essential qualities have paved a solid foundation for my life and work.

Many years later, I got married; I went to work, and I am a father of two. All those events have a big impact on me. I attended A2C leadership camp which is also a life-changing experience. My views are enlightened, my horizon is broadened, and my vision is elevated. I learned enormously from our teachers and classmates.

Life is pretty interesting. You go through mountains and valleys, but you may enjoy different views at different altitudes. You go through the four seasons, and that’s why your life is colorful. Winter is harsh, but you may enjoy the white snow and more importantly, you believe that the buds are swelling, soon the leaves will unfold, and the flowers will be blossoming. Thank you all for reading this.

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