Her name is Lia, and on June 3rd, she will turn 21 years old. Since February, I have had the privilege of mentoring Lia and four other incredible young individuals as part of the KEN program -- an Erasmus program coordinated and led by the amazing team at the Romanian NGO "Copiii în sânul familiei".
Each of them carries profound stories that deserve to be shared with the world. Today, I have the joy of being the messenger for Lia's story. Although it is brief, it contains valuable lessons.
As you read her story, I encourage you to pause, reflect, and consider writing your own. The rewards it brings may exceed your expectations.
LIA: A young woman believing in the power of her dreams
“If I were to describe myself in three words, they would be:
o courageous, and
I have a story that highlights how I became the person I am today.
Firstly, during my childhood, I observed how fortunate I was to have my mother as a hero figure. She always strived to excel in her job and served as a mirror and role model for me.
As a result, I felt a sense of responsibility and worked diligently to complete my school assignments. My teacher consistently praised my intelligence, but I lacked the courage to speak in public. Others were envious of me, and my classmates often attempted to bully me. I felt vulnerable and afraid that any mistake I made would result in laughter from others. I believe this fear originated from my parents' attitude towards the elderly, as they taught me not to say anything to them, suggesting that their opinions were unimportant. Consequently, as children grow up in such an environment, they may develop a fear of expressing themselves and retreat into their shells. My advice to parents would be to allow their children the freedom to fully express themselves.
As I mentioned earlier, I felt vulnerable in school, which initiated the development of numerous complexes that greatly impacted my self-confidence. These complexes extended beyond my internal qualities to my physical appearance, leading me to believe that I was short, ugly, and unlucky, incapable of experiencing even a hint of happiness. I harbored immense ingratitude towards my life because the school system fosters an environment that shapes individuals and confines them within a certain mindset. Such mental conditioning can endure for a lifetime.
However, a turning point came when I changed my thought patterns.
I read a book titled "Advantages of Being Alone" which completely transformed my life. I realized that not every moment in life can be pleasant, and that we must experience challenging moments to grow.
One paragraph from the book resonated with me and I wanted to share it with you:
"What are the advantages of being alone? What's the benefit of battling a sea of emotions locked inside you with no one to discuss it with? Perhaps this will compel you to pick up a pen?"
Who knows? If I hadn't faced numerous challenges in my life, I may not have discovered my passion for writing. Thus, my perspective shifted, and I made a conscious effort to become a brave, independent, and goal-oriented person. I began to believe that everything I could imagine was attainable.
For two years, I dreamed of going abroad and pursuing my studies there. I envisioned myself as a successful girl living in Europe, receiving a quality education, and having friends from different countries.
Initially, this dream was merely a figment of my imagination. However, I told myself that if I transformed this dream into a goal and fought for it, it could become a reality. Although I didn't pass the university entrance exam, I reminded myself that there are always alternative options and choices available.
Consequently, I found a volunteering program in Romania, and now I am here, living my dream. I firmly believe that by taking step-by-step actions, this dream will come true.
It is my dream for this year to remain in Europe and commence my university studies!
If given the opportunity to meet my seven-year-old self, I would advise her to express herself more and be brave, allowing her imagination to flourish with vibrant and diverse colors.”
Pretty powerful, right?
I believe Lia's story beautifully captures the essence of one of my favorite statements from Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Address in 2005:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.