This week’s lesson was about the story I wrote in my previous blog. After I finished telling the story in one of my Junior boy’s classes, they all sat in silence. With a serious look on my face, I leaned my back against the whiteboard and gazed without direction into the classroom of students. They stared back at me. Only their faces showed a medley of expressions. Some gazed back at me with hope in their eyes, others with confusion. But what got to me the most were those with a look of deep pessimism, because I could just tell that there in their young minds, they were about to give up on their dreams. Then, someone raised their hand.
“Teacher, what if I don’t know what I love?” He said this with a twinge of anger and sadness behind his voice.
“Here, let me show you. I’ll tell you how I got to where I am today,” I hurried over to the board, and began drawing my life’s path.
My path began when I was a little boy with a heightened awareness of emotions. Even as a four year old, my mother has told me that I would bother her whenever she looked sad, despite the fact that she would tell me she was fine. I would pull on the hem of her shirt until she told me what was wrong, and without knowing why, I felt better when she did.
All throughout school I had a lot of anger inside me. That anger came from the fact that I never knew why I was studying what they told me to study. I was forced to just accept it. So, when I got into high school, I did as little as I could. I had decided to go to a junior college where my high school grades would not matter, and from that p0int on high school was no longer a place for academics to me; it was a place to study people. I made many close friends and had deep conversations. I made mistakes and learned from them and watched others do the same. Whether I knew it or not, I was learning some invaluable lessons.
When I got to junior college, I decided to take a psychology class against my counselor’s advice. “You don’t need it at all. It will be a waste of your time,” he said to me. “That’s okay, I want to anyway.” Even then, I felt something guiding me. I used to read the textbook for that PSY 101 class for fun. I couldn’t put it down at times. I even remember going into the kitchen to share some of the things I had learned with my family. Once I had transfered to a four year university, I decided to minor in psychology against the advice of a counselor. I instantly fell deeper in love with the subject. I started reading books on the side about facial psychology, emotions, and body language. Even further still, my marketing classes included a lot of psychological lessons and college became like a playground to me.
Then, as graduation was approaching, I decided to come to Korea, against the advice of many friends and peers. “You’re crazy man. One year!? That’s a loooongggg time,” they would say. But no matter what they said, something was telling me to go. And it was the very same thing that told me not to listen to my teachers in high school, or my counselors in college. It was my heart telling me to go.
Since I have been here, all of my knowledge of psychology has been put to the test. I cannot tell you how many times I have been able to spot kids that needed someone to talk to and others that needed help and were too afraid to ask (in Korean culture, it is impolite to ask questions in class, so I have had to literally pull questions out of them). It feels as if I were meant to be here. This job has shown me the career path I am meant to take. I have been able to practice the same presentation 20 times a week. I have learned to perfect them. And that skill has given me the confidence to return to the US and, without fear, pursue a career as a public speaker.
THE TAKEAWAY: Steve Jobs‘s Stanford commencement speech has become one of the most watched speeches of all time for a very simple reason; everyone wants to believe that someday they will be extremely successful, look back, and be able to connect the dots. Well, I may not be extremely successful in terms of money or reputation, but in my mind I could not be more happy with where I am. I no longer fear the uncertainty that the future holds. I can see how my dots connect all the way back to my childhood, and, in this week’s class, I drew those dots on the board. I showed my students how they connected to bring me to where I am now, and how someday there will be more dots added to that line. “All you need to do is follow what you love,” I told them. And the rest, as they say, is history.