Key Events That Shaped My Life: Reflective Essay

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When I first entered university, I was well aware of how I was the minority in school. Here I was at age 27 in my first year of university among my peers in the 19-21 age range. Add to the fact that I was a private A-level candidate in a sea of students coming from their respective post-secondary institutions and, as unsettling as it is, my own race being Malay, I was in many ways a minority in various aspects. Having done the reflection exercises, would I have changed anything? Perhaps I would prefer being younger, but the level of maturity I have now, I wouldn’t trade it away. In my younger days, I was far too volatile emotionally and lacked the necessary maturity to have succeeded in my educational pursuits. The values that I identified as my strengths that being resilience, commitment to my own beliefs, and attempting to be non-judgmental were largely formed as I grew older or changed to be more flexible to allow me to serve my clients effectively.

Looking back, it seemed that my path was never going to be easy since the day I was born. The first key event that shaped my life was undoubtedly my parents’ divorce when I was a month shy of my 1st birthday. While I don’t remember much during the period of the divorce, the stories from my grandparents, mum, and sister told of a very chaotic environment. An environment where my 3-year-old sister fed me milk while I was crying as my parents fought almost daily.

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Being without a father undoubtedly shaped some of my own personal beliefs, and I can highlight how it helped shaped my cultural values and personal values. For one, the lack of a father figure led to a weak foundation in my religious beliefs. Instead of applying what religious lessons spoke of, I chose to judge based on my own values and found religion a suffocating belief that I refused to blindly follow. After all, how can religion preach love and acceptance when they explicitly state that non-believers were going to hell? That was one of the things taught in my religious classes and I refused to accept such a thing. As a result, I was the kind of person who felt strongly about my beliefs and was not afraid to stand against the norm. However, with age comes a more rational view. While I still hold onto my own beliefs, I have grown to learn to be accepting of how others believe. While once I may have held resentment towards organized religion, I now respect others’ beliefs in it as long as it doesn’t impede on my own beliefs. I believe such mutual respect is crucial in my professional relationship with clients to ensure I can serve everyone objectively without being influenced by my own values and beliefs.

I would say I was lucky to have a mother who instilled in both me and my sister a desire for education. At night, she would read to us and always encouraged us to read. When it came to books, money was no object to her, despite her modest salary. While it took me longer than my sister, it did serve as a protective factor being raised in a single-parent family.

In addition, I do believe the lack of a father figure may have led me to pursue social work as a profession. Rather than being pressured to ‘behave like a boy’ growing up, I was raised by primarily women who were my pillars of strength, who helped shape my ideas of gender, but yet shattered the typical gender roles due to the absence of a father. Social work unfortunately is still seen as ‘women’s work’ by a significant portion of society, but I am not daunted by entering the profession.

A second significant event is also related to the family, this time when my mother remarried when I was age 11. The sudden addition of a male figure into my life led to some rather tense moments that would shape my adolescence and my adult life as well. There were moments of conflict that arose between me and my stepfather that would result in periods of fighting between my mum and my stepdad. All of this came to a head when I left home at age 15. The addition of a stepdad came with expectations of being a ‘typical son’, which I didn’t know how to do. I was expected to be a pious Muslim which I never was, I was expected to be well-versed in doing things that ‘men should do’, and when I failed, there will be criticisms from him that affected my self-esteem.

These expectations led me to further rebel against my religion and to refuse to let gender roles define my place in society. While I am accepting of people’s religious views, I refuse to let my religion form any part of my identity and initially, it led to some confusion about my identity as I was torn between ‘being a man’ and being myself. I have since reconciled those two ideas, and that being myself doesn’t determine my masculinity in any way, even if I am unconventional in terms of it.

Another outcome of this period was the development of depression. It led me to fail my O-levels and set me on a rather uncertain path academically. With depression comes negative beliefs about myself and I struggled with it for many years. This battle with depression did strengthen my belief about entering social work to help people who have struggled in life just like I did. In a way, I would fit the idea of a ‘wounded healer’ that Jung (1966) conceptualized.

Looking back at my life then, I initially harbored resentment towards my entire family for not being there for me. However, I have learned to forgive and move past the conflicts of past years. Currently, I am back living with my family and we have a good family life together.

I believe the capacity to resolve problems, even deep-rooted ones, to be a strength in my case and to allow me to work with my clients to better understand and hopefully resolve their own deep-rooted issues. I am fully aware of the need to realize that each client is different and to avoid pinning my own expectations onto them.

A third key event in my life would be the recovery phase of my depression that occurred when I was 25. Undergoing psychotherapy helped me think clearly for the first time in years, and at the urging of my therapist, I decided to jump back and study for A-levels to further my education. It was during this period that I learned how resilient I was, how despite not having studied for nearly 10 years, how despite being an O-level failure I could succeed if I didn’t give up. My hard work paid off when I was accepted into NUS, something that I never would have dreamed possible at age 16 after I failed my O-levels. This period also coincided with my personal development, my desire for helping people increased during this period with my volunteer work for Action for Aids, my desire for new challenges, and my willingness to step out of my comfort zone.

While I always had the desire to be a social worker, this period was when I felt I would be able to be an effective social worker for my clients. Particularly, my volunteer work helped me understand how diverse people can be. I would often speak to people who came from all walks of life, from high-flying executives to senior citizens to sex workers, and helped me to be aware of my preconceived notions and put them aside to help serve clients who need support.

To conclude, despite the various setbacks in my life, I have still managed to accomplish many things, and it’s precisely those setbacks that I experienced that fueled my desire to enter social work. The reflection exercises helped me to understand myself better, to take a step back and look at myself throughout the various years, and to also better evaluate my past relationships with people, particularly my family. There is a hint of irony in that I consider myself more of an individual than someone interconnected, but my family still has had the most impact on my life and helped shape my current path.

References

    1. Jung, C. G. (1966). Fundamental Questions of Psychotherapy (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The Collected Works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 16, 2nd ed., pp. 111-125). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published in 1951).
    2. Khunou, G., Nethonoda, A., & Pillay, R. (2012). Social Work Is 'Women’s Work': An Analysis of Student’s Perceptions of Gender as a Career Choice Determinant. The Social Work Practitioner-Researcher, 24 (1): 120-135.
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Key Events That Shaped My Life: Reflective Essay. (2023, October 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/key-events-that-shaped-my-life-reflective-essay/
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