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“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” - Milton Friedman

A tribute to my mentor who has always believed in me.

“If you’re not paying for your lunch, someone else is.” These words from my mentor remained forever etched in my mind.

It’s true, life doesn’t simply serve you things on a silver platter for free. Swap out the world lunch for another thing that I value but am not having to pay for from my own pocket and the meaning hits deeper. Growing up, I never had to worry about my school fees, mortgage payments or utility bills because my parents were taking care of them with their monthly salaries. Whenever they would bring up the topic of having me learn to manage my finances, I would get turned off because I simply saw zero importance in doing so at that point. In hindsight, the responsibility of having to eventually take charge of my life seemed foreign and far away.

So when the reality of having lived off others’ sacrifices for most of my life sank in, it sank in really deep. The amount of guilt that flooded my heart as I looked at my ageing parents, who had made multiple sacrifices over the past decades to provide me with what I needed and wanted, was tremendously heavy. For every dollar, they had spent on me or every opportunity they had passed up because of me, they had to forgo other things they could have had. Whenever my friends could afford more expensive things, or not have to worry a single bit about not having money to spend because of their parents' provisions, I would become resentful and question my parents why they weren't able to be better off financially. Not only had I taken their love for granted, but I also had an unhealthy mindset that expected these sacrifices from them because they were my parents.

Since then, I had begun to reevaluate my priorities and lifestyle choices and made 3 key changes. Firstly, I became more sure that I had to be cognizant of purpose and outcomes in whatever I do. While this has taken years of blood, sweat, and tears to figure out, being convicted about these things has enabled me to make sensible decisions on my own. Instead of accepting every offer of help, I became a lot more selective about the kind of help that I wanted to accept bearing in mind that living off the resources of people who had little to no stake in me accomplishing my purpose and meeting my outcomes would be disastrous.

In addition to making better decisions, my philosophy of helping others has also evolved into one that values the importance of sustainability and personal wellness. As much as many of us hope to receive immediate help to soothe our current problems, our problems often run much deeper into areas like our mindsets and beliefs that require time to be refined. I liken this to the example of a drowning child where the immediate need for help entails rescuing the child from drowning while the deeper need stems from his lack of knowledge of how to swim. Saving the child in that instant is crucial, but what's more important is teaching the child how to swim so he can learn to protect himself. While giving someone a free lunch can help them to live another day, it cannot guarantee that they’ll be able to live for a lifetime.

In a bid to stay focused on this path of growth and change, I decided to keep my distance from many individuals in my social circle who encouraged my old ways. While it was painful and incredibly lonely at the start, and at times I genuinely wondered if I had made the wrong decision, the results have shown me that it was one of the best decisions I have made. I stopped complaining as much, started stepping out of my comfort zones in various aspects of my life, and experienced fulfilment from scaling greater heights. The once insecure girl who felt she had no power or ability to accomplish bigger things now sees the world as her oyster.

Everything that I value, I treasure even more now. I’ve also realised how important it is to always be grateful for the opportunities and resources that one receives because they represent the hard work and sacrifices of others.

Here’s to us, seizing every moment we have to make something better with what we have.



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