The Happiness of an Independent Life
The Happiness of an Independent Life
  • Park Sung-ho
  • 승인 2018.05.10 10:01
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▲Sunset view on top of a mountain near the banana farm
▲Sunset view on top of a mountain near the banana farm

As a child, I lived like ‘Daechi-dong Kids’, the place which is in the heart of Gangnam, the first street of private education in South Korea. I was tired of attending countless academies, but I did not think it was too much at that time. Many friends around me also lived such life, so it seemed rather strange not to attend any academies. The days with my friends were usually similar. We got up in the morning, went to school, copied homework, and went to academies together after school. We participated the class there, waiting for the night to come. Of course, I could not go home after the class. We had to stay at the academy and solve additional problems. It was always nearly 12 A.M. when we went home. I do not know why I worked so hard. It was a shame not being in class enough to study. It just happened without thinking. I memorized all my friends’ grades.

In the winter of 2009, I received my letter of acceptance to KAIST. I felt proud of myself. I was always the kind of kid who was obedient, studied well, and envied by other parents envied. I remember my elementary and middle school days were always in Daechi-dong and I never missed a class presidency because I wanted to stand out from other classmates and teachers. For a long time, I felt that the end of my goal was to enter a good university. Therefore, I thought that everything would be happy if I entered a prestigious university. However, in just two years, my faith collapsed brutally.

In the winter of 2011, one of my close friend ended his life. I had to break the news to my classmates. Barely managing to break the news to each person. It was not just sorrow. But I felt a great sense of guilt that I had never experienced. He was a smart student who taught me and he was a great friend. Only a few weeks before he passed away, he told me it was so hard. However, even after I heard this, I passed it thoughtlessly. I may have even pretended not to acknowledge it. All I could think about was my assignments and exams. In the end, I got his help when I needed it, but could not give mine when he needed it. I was even ashamed to feel sad. Then, from winter to spring next year, one friend ended his/her life every month at KAIST. On the brink of the death, it caused a crack in my life. For the first time, there was doubt about the way I was living my life. Come to think about it, I had not figured out when I started leading this life. When I came to understand myself, I felt I was just on a street that someone had paved, being afraid to get away from it. I did not know what was at the end of the road, but people said there was something incredible that would light up my life. However, I was not sure anymore. Does it really make my life happier than now? What would my life be like if it did not experience that feeling?

Indeed, I had to leave to find the meaning of my life. Unless I did not go off, I could not dare to face this fate. As long as I continued to live the way I had been living, running around in circles, I could never find the answer that I wanted. Therefore, I decided to go to a whole new world I had not experienced; to see different aspects of the world and feel the life that I had not felt. I did not want to waste my life without even recognizing it. I have always believed that I took the right path, but I was always filled with the idea of ‘Am I doing well?’ So I made up my mind to travel and find the something that I was missing in my life.

Finally, I took 800,000KRW to a banana farm in the deep part of the country of Australia to make travel expenses. I worked hard there for 100 days, spending five dollars a day for living, and spent the night lying alone in a container box. With 10,000 dollars that I saved through work, I reached the top of permanent snow, the amazon jungle, Serengeti, and savanna. The six continents that I walked on were the best schools in the world. Everyone I met became a teacher, and everything I experienced became a meaningful study. The more I traveled, the more I came across my inner self. I finally found out being the main character in my life was not just filling my head with many things. It was knowing what I like, when I am happy, and finding the meaning of my existence in the world.

After coming back to Korea, I graduated summa cum laude from KAIST and became a writer fending off everyone’s opposition. I felt the tragedy I experienced was not a personal issue but a social one, so I wanted to improve the situation. I believed that Korean society needs time to think about how to be happy as much as how to succeed. Therefore, I try to write articles that make people reflect on their happiness or lives. I think this is the most valuable thing that I can do in the world. It is what I would like to do, and what is best suited for me. Of course, it is not easy. Taking this route that I have not taken before could make me restless. After an year of pondering, there are still times I feel uneasy. Moreover, the myriad of stories around me cause doubt about my choice. However, there is a reason why I can endure. Because I know why I have to do it, and it is a choice that I wanted to make; my life is not unhappy. The long journey of a year has taught me that I can do everything as long as I believe in its worth. I do not care about the words that modify me, and will keep trying to find happiness in my life in my own way. As life continues, my journey and challenge will never end. I leave this message to myself in the future just in case my resolution falters. “Hey, this is YOUR life.”