It was a few hours past midnight and I couldn’t find anything open around the area where I parked my car – which was also my bed at that moment – so I went outside to find some place to hide for me to take a leak. Maybe it was the combination of the cold autumn night and not having anything to eat on that day, but I never felt so exposed to the outside world like that in all my life. I felt so bare, unprotected, and, the saddest thing is, so alone.
Have you ever felt like your world as you know it went and crumbled to the ground in just a matter of seconds? Imagine everything you have, everything you worked so hard for, everything that is important to you – your whole world – taken away from you. I remember crying inside the car until the tears couldn’t come out anymore and my voice could no longer scream, until finally I was so exhausted that I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up a few hours after, I had never felt emptier in life than what I felt that morning. I opened my eyes with no purpose in life whatsoever. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just felt so empty.
I remember back in my school years – I wasn’t the alpha type; no, far from it even. I had always been this naive girl who always ended up being bullied either by my fellow classmates or by some of the teachers because I couldn’t stand up for myself. I was a typical Asian girl who didn’t think much about anything other than falling in love with romance and thinking about getting married to my prince charming. I didn’t care about a career or whether I wanted to be successful in life. Sure, I went to college and got my pre-med degree but I really didn’t think too much about what I wanted to do with my life then. After college, as any typical Asian child would, I had to work in the family business. I didn’t really have much dedication to my job in the first few years until some very influential people came into my life and gave me a lot of enlightenment about myself and about life. Maybe it was the combination of that and my mother trying so hard into making me a hardworking lady boss; then, before I knew it, I had become a strong, independent woman.
In the midst of all that, mother gave birth to my baby sister and that innocent baby girl turned my world upside down. My mom has been a busy businesswoman ever since I can remember, so I felt the need to be the caretaker of that beautiful baby girl. She had me at “uh”.
Raising her, I learned to be selfless and put her needs before mine. I learned to be a “mom”. I searched for her school, her pediatrician, her nanny, and I’d go to all of her school events, parties, or parent’s meetings. I taught her how to lift up her neck, taught her her first words, how to walk, etc. I also took her to school, did her homework with her, scheduled her next pediatrician appointment… anything a mom would do. She was my world.
Working in the family business was tough. At first, I had to prove to everyone that I could do the job so that I would earn their respect; and then there’s your parents, always pressuring you and wanting more out of you because everything you did was never good enough. If it’s good, it’s just okay. If it’s awesome, it’s just good. And when it’s bad, it’s so terribly awful. I had to do more, achieve more, be more. And not including the weight of the whole company resting on my shoulder – it was a very tough life for me. I would cry as I was driving home, and I remember thinking, did all these people work as hard as I did? But if I didn’t work this hard, I wouldn’t even be able to pay the bills, so I had to keep on moving.
I didn’t realize when, probably because my job required a lot out of me, thriving in my field felt good. I had become an independent businesswoman and I felt confident with myself. I felt like finally I had something in life I could be proud of – finally, I had achieved something in my life. And without me realizing it, I had made that my identity: that I am a successful businesswoman.
Until that one day, everything that I thought was mine apparently was not. It turned out, I didn’t even have anything I could hold onto. Everything that I built, everything that I worked so hard for, everything that I ever loved, everything that was my world… they weren’t mine. And when everything was gone, I felt like I was left with nothing in this world and I didn’t know what the purpose of me waking up in the morning was for anymore. My whole life, as I knew it, was over.
I felt like there was a huge hole deep inside my heart and I seriously didn’t know how to find the strength to build myself up from the ground all over again. I just wanted to give up on life and surrender. If I knew something was coming, I would probably be a little more mentally prepared for it, but this came all too suddenly. I went from a hero to zero in the blink of an eye.
I thought I had it all figured out, and I really thought I was on the right path before all this happened. I had evolved from a girly-girl who didn’t have a lot of motivation in life to a girl boss who had managed to lead and grow a company; and this transformation required a lot of tears, sacrifice, hard work, and dedication, not including almost losing my mind every few seconds.
But why, after all those hard years, could I now be down here at the lowest point in my life? I couldn’t help but keep on asking God as to why He allowed all this to happen to me.
Now, my baby sister, she meant the world to me. It broke my heart the most when I had to be separated from her. I used to wake up at night looking for her because I was used to her sleeping next to me. It made me sad that I couldn’t be with her every step of the way, but this was the moment when I had to realize that she is not mine. I took care of her for six years, but she’s not mine.
The whole situation was a lot to digest and it took me a very long time to finally have the willingness to stand up, start over, and start living again.
I then started the entrepreneurial route and boy did I struggle! I thought, “I got this, I have led a company before,” and I thought I knew all the things about business, but was I wrong. Starting an entrepreneurial journey is like walking in limbo – everything around you is just so vague and you feel like your feet are not touching the ground, but you’re not flying either. It’s like walking on the moon with your spacesuit and there’s no gravity – and it’s really hard, especially when you feel like you’re so busy all the time but you’re not making money. But somehow, day by day, I managed to support myself – all because of the grace I received from Above.
I had to relearn everything about me, about life, about everything in general. I had to learn to deal with anxiety and depression, but in the midst of that entire soul-searching enlightenment journey that I was taking, I managed to find who I really am on the inside. Apparently, sometimes you need to lose it all in order for you to gain yourself – and in the end, finding who you truly are is much more valuable than anything you could’ve ever lost.
And now I realize that it was not my destiny to be a super strong businesswoman. It sure felt really good to have such power and authority, but I found out that is not who I am. I am so glad now that I didn’t go down that road because I finally realized that deep down inside, I am still this sweet girl who still wants to believe in humanity. And I want to believe in that girl. Being strong is a good thing, but this is a slippery slope for a businesswoman, because sometimes, we might just lose our way just a little. Sometimes we might just forget to put down our CEO badge when we’re at home or when we’re socializing with people. I do believe in standing strong and believing in ourselves and fighting for what we believe in – this is what women empowerment is all about. But, as women, we also need to understand that being strong doesn’t mean that we always have to be right all the time and it certainly doesn’t mean that other people have to follow what we want all the time.
And the thing about life is, we will always have to continue to learn and grow, whether we like it or not. I was never that motivated girl who was always ahead of her time and always knew what to do with her life, but I find strength to always continue on living life to my best ability because I was always put in a situation where I either needed to fight and survive, or die. And maybe life’s been a bit hard on me for a reason, and I’d like to live to one day find out the purpose behind it all.
Author Bio: Ria Oenardi is an entrepreneur and visionary who grew up in Atlanta, GA. She received her Bachelor of Science degree with the highest honor from Kennesaw State University. Since then, she decided to take a different route and look into the world. When she is not completely occupied with work, she spends her waking moments with her precious little sister to provide an unforgettable childhood. Ria is currently introducing her brand of a children’s clothing line and pursuing her passion in fashion and writing with hopes of helping to encourage and inspire others. Sophistication, elegance, and a hint of playfulness define her sense of style. She wears her heart on her sleeve and pours out raw emotions into her words. It is meant to connect, inspire, and encourage people with real life struggles to be the best version of themselves. After all, we are all still learning to navigate the winding roads of life one day at a time.
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