Monday, January 28, 2008

Dandelion Break

One of my earliest memories is when I was growing up in Korea. I must have been about seven years old. There was a clearing in the woods across from our house and in that clearing was a stone bench. I remember lying on that stone bench one hot day, my cheek against the cool stone. The sky was blocked by the tree branches above me, but some of the sun rays managed to peek through between the leaves.

For some reason, I have a very clear memory of that scene and of what I was thinking. I was thinking that I knew what life was all about. I felt I understood more than other people and I knew that this was happiness and calm and that this was very important. I felt very peaceful. Now, I wonder what that little kid could possibly have understood about life and happiness, and what could have brought such existential tranquility to such a young child.

For my page in my high school yearbook, I used a cartoon of a penguin who turns on the T.V. and hears nothing but bad news about crime and disasters, then walks outside to sit in the grass among the dandelions. I don't know what I could have found to be so heart-crushing at the age of seventeen to think I needed a break from life, but apparently, I felt overwhelmed by the negative noise around me.

When I was a senior in college, twenty-one years old, I wanted to drop out two weeks before graduation. I felt no connection with any of my classmates who were excited about graduation, planning parties and chattering on about their photos for the official college yearbook. They seemed so silly to me. I felt like I had spent so much time growing up and learning, and that I was finally going to graduate from university and go out into the world. Only there was nothing for me to go to. I had a job lined up as a teacher, but I didn't think of that as a meaningful endeavor, just something I had to do because I was supposed to go out and get a job.

I saw my classmates going on to business school, law school, Wall Street, and it all seemed so meaningless to me. This is what we worked so hard for? This was IT?! I wanted to drop out of school and out of life. If I ever came close to ending my life, it was this moment. Luckily, I happened to walk by a travel agency and saw a poster of an empty beach -- white sand, clear blue water, bright blue sky, and a solitary palm tree. I walked in, bought a ticket, and went off to Caracas for a week. That did the trick and when I returned to school, I got back on the treadmill and did what I was supposed to do without kicking up a fuss about the meaning of life.

I think it's time for another Dandelion Break. Tomorrow, I'm going to a little island off the coast of Thailand to be by myself. I hope to spend the week looking out at the ocean and sky, writing letters, not speaking a word, having no contact with people.

I'm not going to find God, the meaning of life, or even to "find myself". Besides, if I've been looking for God, the meaning of life, or myself all along and haven't found them by now, I think it's a clear sign that either I've already found them or that I don't, in fact, need to find them.

I think we could all use a Dandelion Break once in a while.


Golf69 said...

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
Dalai Lama

Have a peaceful week.
Mandy and Kim

Anonymous said...

Hi all fellow blog readers, I saw Shin last night and we had a very happy curry night out (she looks more gorgeous than ever by the way!). One thing we discussed was her blog comments. She loves all the e-mails that people send her which are inspired by her blog entries, but, as we all know, Shin is all about helping people. So she would really love if people would put the things they want to e-mail her as blog comments instead, so that other people can also learn from them. So lets do what she requests, and leave comments on her blog (especially if she asks us all a questions). Happy Dandelion Break, Shin. Mel xxxxxx

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the bad english! "question" not "questions"!!!! Melxxx

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your break my dear. Thought of you tonight as it was just about one year ago that I had met you at the Esplanade at the symphony concert w A and Tony. You guys had just managed to get there after the first piece of music. The night was fun, we ended up at a Korean restaurant where you ate almost nothing as it was "not good for you"....though being a good Korean girl you did nibble at our bulgogi just a teensy smidgen. A was right, we did hit it off, though we didn't see each other much, you've made a big difference to my life.

Its been a rough year and since the day I had made your aquaintance, I went through my personal hell. When I resurafced and contacted you we slowly became friends. Yes, A was right, we do share things in common and also have a similar intensity. That I would admit to!

Last year you too went through your tough part when you found out the cancer came back. We've both come a long way. Whichever way the future holds, during the operat tonight I though that what you have given me this past year via your blogs has been priceless. You've shown such courage and have inspired me to keep going when I just didn't know what to do. So now, if I can only give back to you and to others what you have shown and given me would me my only wish.

So whatever happens we will all just do our best and be remembered as the person we want to be.

Enjoy your Dandelion Break. Love you lots,

S's Mommy

Marge said...

Shin, I'm reading this after you've already left, so I hope this trip has turned out to be all that you want and need. I love you so much and am heartened that you're taking care of yourself and getting your essential "me" time.