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We were in a hurry. My mother, my sister, and I had to catch a Korean Air flight that left in 20 minutes. We arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport just in time. As we boarded, I waved farewell to my unforgettable two years at MacLachlan College, and to my best friends.
I was sad because I knew I would not be back. But I overcame the sadness rather quickly with happiness and excitement about what was waiting for me in Seoul—my father and my home and my friends.
I woke up as the plane landed at Inchon Airport, which looked familiar. Our father met us in a new car. On the way home, I noticed that the surroundings seemed not much different. I napped in the car. But when I woke an hour later, everything looked different. I was astonished; I didn't recognize my hometown. I was naïve back then. I thought everything would stay the same and welcome me, even after three years. But the real world wasn’t what I expected. New apartments, new buildings, new schools, new hospitals, and new restaurants were built, new companies were created, and new people moved in.
I was unhappy because I was then an introvert person, too shy to talk to strangers. I had a hard time making new friends. I was more like a querulous person, who denies the truth and complains about change, than a passionate person, who accepts the truth and adapts to change. It took me weeks to adapt to home that summer. And when I was almost comfortable living in Korea again, I heard from my father that in three weeks, I was going to the U.S. for high school.
Again? I was in a desperate situation. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be at a new place with new people surrounded by new environments. To be honest, I feared learning new things. It had taken me a year to adapt to MacLachlan College. I just couldn’t imagine going to the U.S. I blamed God for such a calamity; I asked God why this calamity had to befall me. I was so overwhelmed by my pessimistic mind that I couldn’t see my parents' real purpose.
I fell into depression, as if I’d lost a family member. Sensing my sadness, my father came to me one night and asked me what was wrong. I decided to tell him my opinion. I told him how I felt about going abroad again to study. How I can’t adapt to new environments and how I can’t get along with new people and how I still need to learn more English and how much I fear English. I was pessimistic.
Perhaps I could have taken his decision as my benefit, but I didn’t. I never thought about my father’s opinion. How he had to do more work than I did, how he was more tired than I was, and how this decision was tough for him to make.
I asked him, “Why?” I waited for his answer.
“Why not?” he said.
His answer was disappointing. He told me I have a pessimistic mind, the worst habit. Then he said that my pessimistic mind will never bring good to me. He added specific examples: how I always think negatively, how I never accept anything, how I blame others, how I always question why. I didn't want to believe him, but he was correct. I did question every issue and I did blamed others for my sins, my wrongs. But I wondered how it would handicap me. As if he read my mind, my father started to talk about how a pessimistic mind is futile. He told me his story as an example. It happened when I was four.
My father owned a jewelry shop on the fourth floor of an emporium. He was at his shop as usual, when suddenly the emporium started to fall. Abruptly, the top of the building kissed the floor. My father fell with the building, from the fourth floor to the basement. He was alive, but he couldn’t move. He could see dead people around him, but he never felt lucky to be alive, since he was in deadly pain.
During this catastrophic moment, however, he thought about us. The only thing he could think of was his young children and lovely wife. He said that he endured all that pain with only one hope: to see our faces. He was rescued unconscious, with a broken back and a steel rod piercing his shin. But he became better and better and is now back to a healthy man, both physically and mentally.
“After all,” he said, “the only reason that I am still alive is my optimism. If I had pessimistic mind like you have right now, I wouldn't be here. I would die questioning myself, 'Why is this happening to me?’ You need to know the difference. An optimistic mind will lead you to act but a pessimistic mind will lead you nowhere."
He smiled. "So you are the son of an immortal man. I have learned through this experience that there is nothing that can’t be done. There is nothing you can’t do. But you first must change your mind."
During the conversation, I only talked a little. Most of the time, it was my father’s lecture full of lessons. I was embarrassed because I didn’t realize that I was pessimistic. From listening to his story, however, I truly understood how useless pessimism is and how it can’t benefit me. I learned how much my parents love me and sacrifice for me. I was changed. My father gave me a life motto to remember his optimism: “You can do it. If not, then try with passion. Don’t live a life with shame and regret.”
Currently, I am a fourth-year senior at Culver, who has spent nearly seven years studying away from my home. Now, I am going to college—I must adapt again to new surroundings. Thanks to my father, however, I am not afraid nor in deep depression anymore. In fact, I am excited to go to college to experience a new environment and meet strangers who might become my friends.
Highland Park, IL