Happy Accidents

“There are no mistakes. They are happy accidents,” said a painter, Bob Ross. I didn’t understand it at first, but today was an opportunity to reflect on this. I feel I get to meet people from different walks of life. We encounter many different lifestyles or choices daily. We may judge other people’s choices or our own as not “smart” in our own heads, but ultimately each choices were made through each person’s inherent qualities, individual characteristics, and perhaps other cultural factors. And rather than critiquing them, perhaps each one is uniquely beautiful, as they capture the complexity of a human experience. And perhaps we can be easier on our own experiences of what we call “mistakes.” Those each “mistakes” together compose a social ecosystem we build together – a make up a society with a vast array of risks and opportunities. I’d then call them “happy accidents” or really adventures, no less. πŸ™‚

Songjukwon Orphanage

(Originally Written 1/25/2010)

Unevenly cut hair and freckled faces were what I have become accustomed to volunteering at the Songjukwon Orphanage for girls in Seoul, Korea.Β  While the general public tends to refer to these girls as simply β€œthe orphans”, having gotten to know these girls as individuals, I am keenly aware that each girl has her own story and aspirations.

Of my time spent at Songjukwon, there is one day that remains especially vivid in my memory.  It began with the girls calling out loud and cheerful hellos to me as I walked toward the main building. Excited, I scurried down the road, barged through carelessly painted doors and into a room redolent of the familiar scent of ramen noodles and old socks.  I demonstrated particularly impressive balancing skills that day, carrying a set of bongos in my right hand, while clutching three phonics books in my left, all the time weighed down by badminton rackets hanging from my shoulders.

It was a long summer day and much too hot for my students to concentrate on our daily grammar lesson – prepositions.  In the midst of class, we decided to take a break.  I then noticed that one of my students, Yerim, was crouched away from the other girls. She was thirteen years old, often wore baggy jeans and sported a heavy set of bangs that framed her freckled face.  I glided over to sit close to her so I could casually strike up a conversation, but was careful not too come so close as to be obvious that I had done so on purpose.

β€œHey Yerim, your birthday is coming up soon. Are you excited?” I asked.  She first responded with slightly widened eyes. Then she managed to cough out, β€œNo.”  I started a light conversation with her as I poked her stomach.

β€œThat tickles!” She looked back, a smile sneaking out of the corner of her mouth.

Beneath her smile, she hid the pain of times when she was locked in her room for days with packs of ramen, or was beaten for hours. Without the parental love that every child deserves, she could have easily fallen into hopelessness. Thankfully, she was able to join the Songjukwon community, but nonetheless, she has had a difficult time transitioning.

Although she was shy, she stood out to me. Unlike other girls, she knew what she wanted. No matter what life threw at her, she clung onto her hopes of becoming a famous singer. She often printed songs off the Internet that she practice on weekends.

 Suddenly, the light went out. I carefully walked towards a wooden door on the wall next to the TV. My hands searched the wall for the doorknob, opened the door, and made a hand gesture. Through the door, three girls strutted out in a row, two girls each hugging a bongo and a third holding a cake with fourteen brightly lit candles. We began to sing,

         β€œHappy birthday to you…!”

We were off key and off beat, but we were there to bring birthday cheer. Perhaps we were better than I suspected, since our birthday girl broke into the biggest smile that I had ever seen.  The ends of her mouth stretched to her ears, and her eyes sparkled with tear droplets.  In her smile, I saw her fears, loneliness, and cries of frustration melting away. I was so glad. At least for the moment, she was not masking her pain with a smile.  She was happy. I hope that through our small celebration, Yerim realized that there are people who love her, so she may throw aside any fears and stand strong to continue to pursue her dreams. Yerim wanted to be loved, and she wanted to have hope. For one special night, we reminded her she had both.


I love philosophizing about life, and this has been working for me!

When you run into people throughout the day, your apartment security guard, colleagues, roommate, people who don’t hold doors for you, family, whoever it may be, treat them with authenticity, kindness, and respect.

It may not be as easy as it may seem, but it is a pretty quick and easy solution. You’re being yourself, (hopefully) living your values, and you’re present. It fuels positive self-view and helps to savor each moment.

I truly believe that the traits we hold dear help to define what our own definition of success or happiness may look like or feel like. I think something easy and manageable like this can help hold ourselves accountable and make meaningful relationships during our short and unexpected ride of life. πŸ™‚

Who are you going to be in the future?

(Originally Written 3/1/2013)

Last winter break, I had dinner with my grandmother. She looked exuberant at the prospect of me attending college overseas. She leaned forward with a great smile stretched across her face.

β€œSo what are you good at?”

What we do matters. It matters, because society is full of people that need things, like a new car, or houses fixed or a relationship. People create society, so we built it to serve our needs. Then the society labels us with what we do: computer programmer, translator, secretary, or a student. This label puts a monetary value on ourselves, and ultimately defines who we are.

But there is more to us than what we do. What about how we feel or think? Depending on our skill, we express ourselves through different media of music, photographs, films, and books. They are all manifestations of our expressions, and therefore forms of communication.  

The ways in which we express ourselves can be powerful. These forms of media engage us and connect us. When I watch someone performing a cardiac surgery, I close my eyes and sing my favorite tunes. I can somehow feel the pain when I watch it. Humanitarian organizations often use images of hopelessness and misery to evoke emotions for us to donate. But did you know that poor people donate to the charity the most? Perhaps there is a relativity issue here.

Since our society demands us to be useful, we define ourselves through concrete labels. These labels conjure up certain images of people in our minds instead of the entirety of the human spirit. The level that we relate to each other is limited, as our professions define our status and social expectations. Even though we are biologically programmed to empathize with each other, we are not faithful to our innate human need to connect with others.  

We can overcome the barrier of impersonal communication by opening up to the forms of media around us. When you take your life a little bit slower to notice the painting on the wall, or to listen to different kinds of music, you are communicating to the different sector of professions. It allows us to see others by not what they do but who they are. Through medium of cultural exchange, we can see the human spirit behind the labels.

When we participate in other cultures, we can feel how they feel and understand where they are coming from. The diversity of cultures can affect and shape our behaviors and thoughts in infinite ways.

μ‚¬νšŒν•™μ  상상λ ₯ μœ μΉ˜μ— κ΄€ν•œ κ³ μ°°

(Originally written: 10.3.2012)

μ œκ°€ μš”μ¦˜ μ—°κ΅¬ν•˜λŠ” μ£Όμ œμž…λ‹ˆλ‹€. μœ ν•™μƒλ“€μ—κ²Œ 묻고 μ‹Άμ–΄ ν•œκ΅­μ–΄λ‘œ μž‘μ„±ν–ˆμŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€. 10λ…„ μœ ν•™μƒν™œλ‘œ μ–΄νœ˜λ ₯이 많이 λΆ€μ‘±ν•˜μ§€λ§Œ μ½μ–΄μ£Όμ‹œλ©΄ κ°μ‚¬ν•˜κ² μŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€.

μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ€ μ‚΄λ©΄μ„œ λ§Žμ€ 문화듀을 λ§Œλ“€κ³  μ‚½λ‹ˆλ‹€. ν•œκ΅­μ—μ„œ λ™λ‚¨μ•„μ‹œμ•ˆλ“€μ„ μ°¨λ³„ν•œλ‹€ λ˜μ§€ μ•„μ‹œμ•„μ—μ„œ 아름닀움이 μ„œκ΅¬ν™” λ˜μ–΄κ°€κ³  μžˆλ‹€λŠ” κ±°λΌλ˜μ§€μš”. 이런 문화적 κ°€μΉ˜λŠ” μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ˜ 생각일 뿐이고 κ³ μ •λ˜μ§€ μ•Šμ€ μ–΄λ–€ ν˜„μƒμΈλ°λ„ λΆˆκ³ ν•˜κ³  μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ€ 이런 피상적인 문화적 κ°€μΉ˜λ₯Ό κ΅¬ν˜„ν•˜λ €κ³  ν•˜μ—¬ μžμ‹ μ„ νŒŒκ΄΄ν•©λ‹ˆλ‹€.

ν•˜μ§€λ§Œ μ‚¬λžŒμ˜ μš•λ§μ€ 끝이 μ—†μŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€. 아무리 μ•„λ¦„λ‹€μ›Œμ§€κ³ , λ˜‘λ˜‘ν•΄μ§€κ³ , λˆμ„ 많이 λ²Œμ–΄λ„ λ§Œμ‘±ν•  수 μ—†μŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€.

세계화와 μƒˆλ‘œμš΄ 기술이 개발 될수둝 피상적 톡신이 보편적으둜 λ³€ν•˜λ©΄μ„œ μš°λ¦¬λŠ” μ–΄λŠ λ•Œ 보닀 λΉ„νŒν•˜κ³  편견이 μžˆλŠ” μ‚¬νšŒμž…λ‹ˆλ‹€.μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ€ 차별을 ν”Όν•˜κΈ° μœ„ν•΄, λ˜λŠ” μ‚¬νšŒμ˜ μ„±κ³΅μ˜ 기쀀을 λ‹¬μ„±ν•˜κΈ° μœ„ν•΄ κ·Έ μ–΄λŠ λ•Œλ³΄λ‹€λ„ μžμ‹ κ³Ό λ‹€λ₯Έ μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ„ νŒŒκ΄΄ν•˜κ³  λΉ„νŒμž…λ‹ˆλ‹€.

μ—¬κΈ°μ„œ λ―Έκ΅­κ³Ό μ•„μ‹œμ•„λŠ” λΆ„λͺ… 맀우 λ‹€λ₯Έ κ°€μΉ˜κ΄€μ„ 가지고 μžˆμŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€. 미ꡭ은 κ°œμΈμ£Όμ˜μ™€ 닀양성을 μΆ”κ΅¬ν•˜μ§€λ§Œ μ•„μ‹œμ•„λŠ” 더 μ§‘μ‚°μ£Όμ˜μ™€ μ‚¬λžŒλ“€κ΄€μ˜ μœ΅ν™”λ₯Ό 더 μ€‘μš”μ‹œν•˜μ£ .

이 μ‹œλŒ€μ— μœ ν•™μƒλ“€μ€ 그럼 κ³Όμ—° 두 κ°€μΉ˜κ΄€ κ°€μš΄λ°μ„œ κ· ν˜•μ„ 맞좜 수 μžˆλŠ” 도ꡬ가 될 수 μžˆμ„κΉŒμš”?

ν•œκ΅­μ—μ„œλŠ” μ •λΆ€κ°€ μ „λ¬Έκ°€ν˜• 인재 양성을 μΆ”κ΅¬ν•©λ‹ˆλ‹€. ν•˜μ§€λ§Œ 이런 μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ€ μ „λ¬Έμ μœΌλ‘œλŠ” 많이 μ•„λŠ”λ° μ’…ν•©μ μœΌλ‘œ 보면 연결이 잘 λ˜μ–΄μžˆμ§€λŠ” μ•ŠμŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€.

μ‹€μ œλ‘œ μš”μ¦˜μ—” μ „λ¬Έκ°€μ˜ μ˜μ—­μ— 있던 것듀도 많이 λ³΄νŽΈν™”λ˜μ—ˆμŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€. κΈ°μžλ‚˜ λ³€ν˜Έμ‚¬, μ˜μ‚¬λ“±μ˜ κΆŒμœ„λ„ μ˜ˆμ „λ§ŒνΌμ˜ νž˜μ„ λ°œνœ˜ν•˜μ§€ λͺ»ν•˜μ£ . κ·Έλž˜μ„œ λ”μš± 경쟁이 μΉ˜μ—΄ν•΄μ§€κ³  λ§Žμ€ μΈμž¬λ“€μ΄ 내곡 λŒ€κ²°μ„ ν•˜λŠλΌ μ‚¬νšŒμ˜ 틀에 κ°‡ν˜€λ²„λ¦°κ²Œ λ©λ‹ˆλ‹€.

μ „λ¬Έκ°€λ“€μ˜ κ°€μž₯ 큰 약점이 μžμ‹ μ˜ λΆ„μ•Όλ₯Ό λ²—μ–΄λ‚˜λ©΄ λ§₯을 λͺ» μΆ”λ¦°λ‹€λŠ” 것이죠. ν•œκ΅­μ΅œκ³ μ˜ 컴퓨터 ν”„λ‘œκ·Έλž˜λ¨Έλ„ 컴퓨터가 μ—†μœΌλ©΄ ν•  수 μžˆλŠ”κ²Œ 많이 μ—†λ‹€λŠ” κ±°μ£ .

쒁고 깊게 μ•„λŠ” μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ΄ 잘 움직이렀면 κΈ°νšν†΅μ΄ ν•„μš”ν•©λ‹ˆλ‹€.

우리 λͺ¨λ‘κ°€ μ‚¬νšŒκ³Όν™•μžκ°€ 될 μˆ˜λŠ” μ—†μ§€λ§Œ, λ―Έκ΅­λ¬Έν™”λ₯Ό 읡힌 우리 μœ ν•™μƒλ“€μ΄ μš°λ¦¬λ‚˜λΌ μ‚¬νšŒμ— μžˆλŠ” κ°œλ…λ“€μ„ μ–΄λŠ 정도 읡히고 μ΄ν•΄ν•œλ‹€λ©΄ ν•œκ΅­ μ‚¬νšŒμ˜ λ¬Έμ œλ“€μ„ μ΄ν•΄ν•˜κ³  뢄석 ν•  수 μžˆμŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€.

우리 μœ ν•™μƒλ“€μ΄ 이런 μ‚¬νšŒ 학적 상상λ ₯을 μ–»κΈ° μœ„ν•΄, μš°λ¦¬λŠ” μ–΄λ–»κ²Œ ν•΄μ•Ό λ κΉŒμš”?

A Cadence

(Originally written: 10.20.2018)

I’m at a few different crossroads, so I wanted to take some time to reflect and share with my hivemind.

People say they underestimate what they can do in ten years, and overestimate what they can do in 1 year.

What I think it means to have a meaningful milestone is to be even more yourself. To continue letting originality, vulnerabilities, and imperfections to crack obsolete traditions for good.And thus I begin, hiking into my life. To the time when I was a 9 year-old little girl who didn’t speak English in boarding schools. I hoped that by my own perspective, I could bridge my two cultures to create something hopefully meaningful.

And thus I began trying to bring ideas together – communications, anthropology, ethics, culture – fabrics that led me to the me now.

A personal milestone is to continue putting myself in uncomfortable situations and to unconditionally love friends, mentees, and my family. Trusting the beauty of life, believing in my friends, and my vision so the ability to wonder, sense, create, to be different, and to be myself, is fully explored.

I’m a bit dazed, clumsy, and not as prim and proper as I should be. I think that’s okay. In a year, I don’t know where I’ll be. At the very least, I hope to be more me, in my spiritual journey of a misfit inflecting from one cadence to the next.

A Life of Meaning and Ambition

(Originally written: 10.6.2018)

The life of ambition eventually wears out. Life endlessly unfolds, and it is a process of self-discovery, an unpredictable dialogue between our potentials and our situations – potential as in our capacity for loving, learning, sensing, wondering, and aspiring for more.

We want to believe that there may be a scoring system to say we’re successful. And maybe getting to speak. But as we scramble to climb what we think is the goal, at the top, we may feel a little empty. We can build meaning into your life, through your commitments, religion, ethical order, your life’s work, to people you live. The identity is what we commit ourselves to.

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something inside you. Hike into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of the humankind passed on to you, out of your own understanding, talent, things you believe in, people you love, and values you are willing to sacrifice something.

You are the only one who can put them into a pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has meaning and dignity for you. If it does, the particular definition or balance of success and failure is of less account.All seek happiness. Not only is our desire for happiness universal, but our inability to find it as well.