The date was September 03, 2006. The time was around 12:00 at night. While most kids at my age (19 years-old then) were sleeping at home, I was still driving my friend’s red-colored 1994 Corolla with a couple of my friends at the backseats, along the riverside, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, one of the developing countries in Southeast Asia. This was not a normal sightseeing driving, but a warming-up exercise before we got into a fight with a group of teenagers with whom we had just had a liquor-talking argument at the drinking parlor, which was second stop (drinking) for the night. While waiting for more friends to come, we were circling the shop as to make sure that none of our enemies would leave the place before we came in to crush them.
With not-less-than-10-can amount of beer in each of ourselves, we were more than ready to fight like a man, better said as a gang. Not very long, our counterparts—whom we had just helped the other day in such a gang battle—arrived with some sticks and iron-head belts ready. So, it was time to play the game.
According to gang rule, those who are directly involved in the story should inaugurate the fight. Being obedient to the word-of-mouth regulation or cocky as I may say, our car went in first when the other car already stopped near by. As we were getting closer to the stop, the fight broke out as planned yet much sooner than expected.
Because I was driving the left-wheeled car, I could see what was going on exactly and distinctly. The closer we were to the shop, the more teens at our age were coming out in a way that they were ready. Suddenly, I sensed a danger as two people walked very fast across the street targeting our car. Then, BANG.
A loud noise was coming out of nowhere and the right-side glass window was broken. Glass was scattered in tiny pieces all over my body and my friend’s who was sitting right beside me. Then, I started to realize that I was hit on my leg around the knee with something heavy, more like a big stone (because I thought our car was stoned). Unfortunately, I was completely wrong. When I touched my right knee, there was hot blood from the down part of my right knee to toe. My entire right leg was soaked up with blood. Then, and only then, I knew I was shot at. I started to get panic a bit with pain. It was even worse when I glanced at my friend sitting beside and saw that he had already passed out. In fact, he was also hit with bullet at his left knee. But thanks to my physical strength, I was able to immediately control the situation and especially the driving.
From heroes to cowards, from cock fighters to hens, and from bullies to victims, we were forced to run away. As I was driving 100 km+/hour away from the scene to hospital (I urged everyone to never do that in the city especially this small Phnom Penh; love your life and care about other lives), I could hear in my head the sound of retreat, exactly the same as one played by England when it was defeated by Scotland in the movie, BRAVE HEART. Fast and furious, I paddled the accelerator into its highest gear just to seek safe heaven, that was, Calmet hospital. Driving like flying is fun, but driving like flying while your friends screaming terrifyingly at the backseats was not that fun at all. (Embarrassingly and hilariously, one of my friends—who had always been the first in fighting—was praying for God’s help; he was literally closing his eyes, putting his palms together, and saying all he knew about Khmer praying.)
Even if we were fleeing the scene, our enemies seemed not to be really done with us yet. They were chasing our tail closely until we reached the hospital. In fact, they could have opened another round of bullets if there had not been police guards at the hospital. As soon as I parked my car right in front of the entrance of the emergency room, I was carried by two friends into the room doomed to the fact that I could not walk on my own. I guess everyone knows this fact that you don’t feel the pain IMMEDIATELY after the injury happens; you feel the pain AFTER. Without delay, a couple of medical students who were supposed to station in the hospital that night cleaned the wound at my right knee. Though I had drunk alcohol quite a lot, I was not sleepy or drunk at all. Yet, I was completely awake when they put cotton fiber at the size of a bullet into the injury hole . They dragged the fiber back and forth as to clean bullet poison in the inner flesh of my leg. Believe me or not, I couldn’t feel the pain at all, maybe because of the anesthetic medicine and alcohol.
My right leg especially around the wound was completely numb until 4 am (the day after) when I felt like hell on earth after the anesthetic medicine had no more effect. I looked at the mirror and my face was absolutely pale like a ghost. Not only this, I had no energy even to moan. My friends, who accompanied me for the whole night, bought some bread or porridge but I lost all the appetite. (Usually, I am a kind of person who eats more than usual when I am sick).
In the morning around 6:30 am, I knew that I had to call home to report what had happened to my parents for their intervention. But I was so scared to do so. First, it was because I did not go back home last night. At that time, wherever I went and whenever I went home did not matter as long as I informed them and I went back home to sleep, even at 3 o’clock in the morning. In our family, we had a culture of constant communication and always home accommodation. So, I broke one of the traditionally strictest and most important rules. Second, they had just tearfully (my mother is naturally sensitive at crying) advised me not hang around too much. So, I made a big disappointment to them. Third, my incident involved death and I should have had asked help from them right after it happened, but I had not.
Suddenly, my mum called and I told her that I got motorbike accident because I did not want to terrify her. But still and as expected, she was scared to death (after my fatal accident at the age of about 6 years old, my mother has not been able to confront any shocking news. At that time, I fell off from the first floor of my house, hitting face first to the ground. I was told that my eyes almost fell out of the skull, my skull was a bit cracking, and blood was pouring down my nose and ears. I was seconds away from death. Back then, I was like dead man walking for them). Half an hour later, my father and brother arrived at the hospital. My father was (and still is) a strong man, but somehow shaken as soon as I revealed the truth at which I was shot. Coincidentally, some unknown news reporters also came and started shooting pictures at me being carried by a trolley. In order not to be covered on the news, my father paid them a bit of money and quickly rushed me out of the hospital back home.
Walking into my house, I was enduring not only physical, but also emotional pain when I quickly sensed the care and worry from my family members. As soon as she saw me, my mother was speechless. She was standing literally still and about to cry again. For my late grandmother (while I am writing this, I still miss her, her warmth and endless love even though she has already rested in peace), she quickly jumped up from her bed to look at me though she had been sick. About my brother, he was quietly figuring out what he could do. He was a considerate man and really a heroic fighter, at least for me since I was young. He had protected me from other bullies in the neighborhood many times though he was small and young compared to them. By heart, I knew he was thinking of revenge if he could. In short, everyone in house was caring about me wholeheartedly.
Thank to this serious injury, I was grounded (better put ‘trained’) at home for one complete month. One by one, my relatives visited me (maybe because my parents had a big influence in our relatives). Some gave constructive advice while some threw at me destructive ones. I accepted them all because I had caused a huge disappointment to all of them, thus having no moral right to protest. Guess what? Whatever mistakes I had made outside the house such as playing truant from school or fighting with other teens, I had always hidden from my parents and when little news leaked from strangers who saw me committing them, it had always been covered by family. So most of the relatives had never known that I was also one of the most hated gangsters and teens in the society
If asked which life cornerstone completely changed my life like this, I will instantly say this shooting incident. During the whole month staying at home, I had plenty of time to reevaluate my then life gradually and carefully. I could clearly see the family that I had always taken for grated. Also, it had been somehow partially my fault that had plunged the family down into unhappiness and financial crisis. Back then in 2006, my father’s business had almost gone bankrupt from time to time which literally forced my mother to sell all her valued jewelry and run a small café business at our house. Even though I had seen this with my eyes and experienced it with my own hands, I was still spending money like kids from rich families. I stole my parents’ money to buy new clothes, drink, and pay for girls. Both my parents worked from 4 am in the morning to 10 pm at night without complaining while I was using money extravagantly without thinking.
Had I taken some little time to see what was going on, I would not have caused a lot of problems. Unfortunately I didn’t. I was too busy focusing on useless things including playing cards for money, shooting snooker balls, betting on football matches, karaoke singing, drinking alcohol like experts, racing motorbike, throwing stones at cars, fighting other players in the field indiscriminately, chasing after girls, watching pornography, and other stuffs which I now consider wasting time and money. I spent each day of the thirty training days to observe what was going on in the house and what I could do to help. Physically, I could not do anything because I was not able to even walk properly. This fact annoyed me the most because I wanted to help so much as soon as I saw the value of family in happiness. Yet, I can say that it was excellent that I could not help physically so I had enough time to mentally change my perspectives and think of what I would do better when I recovered. Frankly speaking, I was not able to come up with any vivid action plans at all then.
Instead I was frustrated like hell. (It is extremely difficult to CHANGE especially your way of thinking). I had to do a 360o shifting in how I looked at the world, how people viewed me, and how I felt about their judgment. It could not have been more difficult for me to change from a walk-man to a sleep-man. But if it had not been of the genuinely true love and guidance from my highly persistent parents and the whole family, I would not be writing this article now. My parents especially “MAMA” had tried whatever she could to drag me out of hell and never lost sight of me though she was extremely busy with her cafe shop and the whole family.
Whenever I think of my current successes now, I always think of the one day, the 30th day of my staying at home during the month, (if I am not mistaken, it was October 1, 2006) when my mom came and discussed small matters with me. Usually, she would blame for a while first just to release her temper or stress before she got to the point, whenever I made mistake. But that time was completely different. Just getting back from the market (my mom sold lunch boxes so she had to also go shopping, cooked, and finally sold to customers one by one; TORTURING), she walked quietly and appeared fresh approaching me. I was lying on the bed so I sat up and was quite ready for a string of chanting. In my mind, I said “Oh, it is coming again. It is a month already that I have heard all this. Hmm, now she cries again.”
“How are you?” she started her first word finally.
“I am ok. I can walk now, but I still hurt a little bit,” I responded, knowing what would come next.
“Your school (referring to IFL; I just finished year 1) will start soon. What do you want to do next?” she tested me.
“I had my friends submit my application form already. So when it starts, I will be ready,” I replied quickly and somehow annoyingly.
“What are you going to do next?” she repeated her question.
“I don’t know,” I raised my voice.
“I am happy to hear that. At least, I know you are planning to live your life like these few years,” she said plainly.
“I am not asking you to do anything for me. But have you ever thought that you have done enough? Should it be time you redo your life to be that when you were younger? When you were young, you said you would do anything for me even ‘go to die’. So do me a little favor by not going out like what you have done so far .”
After saying this, she was gone to get ready for the cooking and selling. I was completely wrong that she would cry and that she would give a chanting. Instead, she left me with a complete new way of fishing. I have been a kind of person who prefers to know how to fish rather than to get the fish. So, I was so intrigued by this approach of hers. For the whole day, I kept thinking and answering her questions in my head (I didn’t like writing down my thoughts into papers yet). It was more than right that I had to stop what I had done. So I told myself to stay committed to my study and start staying away from my old friends (though I knew exactly that it was very difficult to instantly cutting my friendship from them).
To immediately cut the friendships of my old punks and me was like an impossible task for me then. I had spent at least 5 hours with them every day, so how could I suddenly reduce it to one hour or say zero? I thought they had already been a part of my life and soul; some of them had been my friends for even 10 years. So, it was really one hell of a difficult job for me to accomplish for my family. But I actually knew that I had to do something for my family. They had done the impossible for me, so I had to do something in return. Not knowing what I would do exactly with my friends, I designed a new schedule which I believed (Thank God that I was right on what I was doing with my new schedule) could make my family happy.
|8:00 am||Pick up friends||Pick up friends||Help in the café shop||Help in the café shop|
|9:00 am||Ride at Riverside||Commute to Bakkheng||Help in the café shop||Help in the café shop|
|10:00 am||Play cards||- Play cards- Drink beer
|Play cards||Commute to Bakkheng|
|11:00 am||Play cards||- Play cards- Drink less beer
- Less karaoke
|12:00 am||Play cards||Lunch at home|
|1:00 pm||Play cards & lunch||Ready for school|
|2:00 pm||Go to school||- Rest a bit- Race motors back to Phnom Penh or pick up some fights||Go to school||- Rest a bit- No motor racing (drive relatively fast)
- No fighting!
|6:00 pm||Ride at Riverside||Go home to clean up||Ride at Riverside||Ride at Riverside|
|7:00 pm -1:00 am||- Chase after girls- Drink beer
|- Chase some girls- Drink beer
|- Dinner at home- Watch TV
|- Dinner at home- Watch TV
It was a simple schedule which focused on one purpose: make my family happy. The schedule for divided into three main parts: go to school and study harder (which my family appreciated), stay at home and help operate the café shop (which put some smiles on my family members’ faces) and try to avoid my old friends (which my family applauded). Let’s compare my schedule when I was a complete gang (before) and when I tried to change my life (Just after). (This schedule is currently made based on the things I was doing then; I guess you have no doubts why I remember them so well).
To some well-raised kids and people, I think my schedule even the one about the ‘Just after’ is rubbish to them, let alone the ‘Before’. Yet, the difference to me was gigantic and I am happy that I took that gradual approach. When I did it, I honestly did not know what kind of approach I was undertaking or whether it was the right one. But this approach is actually talked about and discussed in many of the hundreds Self-development books that I have read. Let me illustrate the approach. It says that when you want to change one of your old bad habits, you can not abandon it suddenly since it is impossible to abandon any habits you have possessed. What you can do with it is to replace it with a new habit that you want to have. So I did the right thing to replace my old habit of riding at riverside in the morning with the new habit of helping in the café shop. I stopped going out drinking at night and started staying at home more with my family.
Also, I think I did another right thing not to change so quickly and noticeably. As a reflection back, I would have made an alert sign to my friends if I had had just de-socialized them completely immediately. Probably, they might have been offended by my quick move or felt something bad about me and my change. It’s like in gang movies; gang members never want anyone to leave the group and change to normal people. Again, I took the right step to slowly and gradually take myself out of the group. How did I do that? I was simply committed with my change. I often reminded myself that I had to change and make a new life. So even if I was still going out with them, I was rather cautious not to cause any problems or to let myself plunge into the trap again. With full commitment and frequent reminders, I could realize my new life peacefully without causing any harms, resentment, and revenge.
Quite coincidentally, just after I recovered from my serious injury, IFL started. As I still remembered, I could not yet run but it was ok that no one noticed. Also luckily, I was promoted unexpectedly from one stage to another. First, I got selected to be the class monitor of A2.1. This might be a small accomplishment to some people, yet to me then it was like a huge step. Second, I got to become the 3rd most outstanding student in freshman year (2005-2006) afternoon Shift. Third, I was selected to IFL Debate Club, of which hundred students wanted and still want to be a part. Not only that, after I got so interested and committed to the club, I was also promoted Chairman Position of which I have never ever thought. Then, my whole life has been 100% on the right track that I want and here I am setting up this website and writing this article.
That experience taught me a lot of things about Personal Empowerment, particularly Change. When you want to change, you have to:
- Admit that you have problem. You may be surprised to learn that a lot of people find words of admittance and confession Admit that you have problemthe hardest words to tell themselves and people (like, sorry seems to be the hardest word). Not telling people that you have a problem may be ok, but not telling yourself that you have a problem when you actually know that you have a problem is a big problem. So, don’t fall into this trap of life. If you know that you are facing with a challenge and want a solution, admit it to yourself and if possible to other people (especially those who want to help you) too. Don’t be ashamed because nobody is perfect. Some people even try to hide their problems because they think that their problems are unsolvable and unique to themselves only. No one has ever experienced such big problems like they have. Personally, I am really sorry for this type of people because they are just on the wrong path. Never, and I mean ‘never’, believe that your problems can’t be solved thus they should be kept in you only. I dare to say that any problems in the world can be solvedand will be solved! So, speak it out and admit it. After you tell yourself that you have a problem, choose people to whom you feel really closed and trust to consult your problems. If you identify your problems well and express them clearly, they are half solved already.
- Listen to whatever people have to say about your problem. Now that you have publicly admitted and wholeheartedly Listen to whatever people have to say about your problemaccepted that you have a problem, it’s time to face with the devils and to learn. Be mentally ready because you are going to be slammed by people whom you have never even thought that they would do that to you. But it will happen, so be well-prepared. Some people, you know, like to criticize (I mean, negatively) and make a harsh conclusion on other people who have a problem, maybe just to make themselves look better and to satisfied their ego. In my case, some of relatives even neglected me; but guess what? I did not give a dam* because I knew I had to change so whatever they thought of me was not important; it’s what I thought of myself and my action that mattered. I just ignored them. Yet, there are also good (by good, I mean ‘supportive and caring’) people who understand you and your situation. Instead of leaving you in the mess, they jump in and give you a hand so that you can solve your problem more quickly and effectively. These people can be your parents, siblings, best friends and etc. So ask them to join you and help you figure out what to do. Listen to them because they are at your side and be friend them. Soon enough, you will know that you start to develop their mentality and are already on the way to solve your problem already. How do you know whether they are devils or gods? Very easy! Listen to what they say and watch their actions. If they are your friends, just compare what they have done to do before you have the problem and what they do to you after you have the problem. If their actions are strangely different in a way that upsets you, sure enough they are devils. But if they still remain who they are to you, guess what they are those with whom you should socialize more. Remember, Devils pull you down while Gods lift you up, Devils abandon you while Gods accompany you, and Devils satisfy their needs/ego while Gods satisfy your needs/ego.
- Choose what works best for you. When it comes to making decisions for yourself, my only recommendation for you is YOU decide. Choose what works best for youYou are responsible for your life, so you make the decision and live with it. Don’t ever let somebody else decide for you. Treat people around you as your consultants and their words as advice. After everything is all said, YOU are the one to decide what to do and do it. In my life especially when I was in high school, I made a lot of mistakes because I let people decide for me. I did not take control; I just let it be. And when things go wrong, I simply slipped away and pretended nothing had happened. Some mistakes were so big, which made me regretful until now. Actually, there is nothing wrong to let people decide for you if and only if what they decide for you is accidentally right for you and exactly what you want. But this is such a rare case. When people decide for you, their decisions most of time do not fit with your situations. Now let think with me this way; who in the world knows you better than you do? Your parents? Your sweetheart? Your friends? I don’t think so. ONLY YOU know all things about YOU. So, why do you let the blind (people around you) decide for you? Making decision is not an easy job. It takes practice (believe me, some people are afraid of making decisions because they have never practiced doing so. That’s why I strongly encourage you to start making decisions for yourself). It takes time and a lot of efforts. If you are new to making decision, I recommend you to choose only decisions that serve you best and make you comfortable (Don’t tell me that you don’t know what works best for you!) You listen to a lot of advice and ideas from your supportive people, but you choose only a few that are connected to you and give you most benefits.
- Change persistently and consistently. “Nothing in the world is impossible if you have persistence and consistency,” said anonymous. Persistence simply means “never give up” and consistency means “doing the same thing regularly until it’s done even though it is boring”. These two words sound nice and seem easy to follow, but their hidden truth lies in your action and attitude. Confucius says “a journey of a thousand mile begins with a single step”. Now, you can make any implications out of this quote, but what I want you to learn from this quote is that you won’t complete a journey of a thousand mile if you just begin with a single step and stop walking forward. The moral of this quote is for you to keep stepping forward no matter what (persistency) and keep stepping forward on the same path to the right direction (consistency). As for you, if you have decided you do something, just do it. You will face with challenges but don’t give up. Change persistently and consistentlyKeep moving forward. And don’t change the course of your action either. Keep moving toward that direction and soon enough you will reach something (get your result). Then and only then, you can make another decision whether to continue or not.
- Set a higher bar for yourself. After you have achieved something, it is important that you are not too happy about your success because if you are, you will stop moving forward and start to indulge.Set a higher bar for yourselfThis is bad and I have seen a lot of people who have done it. Donald Trump says “Keep your momentum for it is hard to gain back”. It is the same for us students. If you rest too long and enjoy too much, the rest will move ahead of you. In my case, when I was promoted to the chairman of IFL Debate Club, I did not stop right there. I could have paused my life and partied. But I knew that it was not the right thing to do. So, I moved forward. I challenged myself to do better, achieve more, learn more and gain more. I set a higher bar for myself that I would go for the Most Outstanding Student Award of Excellence that IFL had to offer. And I got it two years in a row and a lot more achievements. Supposed that I had stopped studying hard, I would not be writing this article right now.