So! This post has been in the works for a while now, probably started it about two weeks ago. I guess it’s only fitting that I post it on the day that I’m leaving…
The title suggests that this post will be about my new life in Paris… BUT, it’s not. It’s actually about all of the life-changing epiphanies that will forever change the trajectory of life. I’m not being dramatic, but it’s true because I’m deliberately changing the direction of my life 180 degrees.
In the first couple weeks of 2013, I was desperately trying to transition out of my funk, as I felt extremely defeated and in some ways, listless and purposeless. I shared with one of my close HS (Christian) friends that I’m sick of doing what I’m doing – not career-wise, but more so with how I’m living my life.
I saw some of my darkest days after my ‘faux-relationship’ ended. I compromised SO MANY of my beliefs. At many points of the relationship, I felt that I was inadequate. Ultimately, I realized that measuring my worth based on how someone else felt about me isn’t sustainable – relying on external factors would never, ever make me happy. Humans are fallible. And repeating this cyclical merry-go-round with an imperfect person will only end in pain and heartache. I was looking for someone to ‘complete’ me.
Ultimately, I felt so empty and broken. Deep in my heart, I knew that my emptiness could never be filled with anything of this world.
I grew up in Christian, private school my entire life, and church and church camps were regular fixtures in my life.
Being completely honest, I had a less than great elementary and youth group experience, where cliques of “popular people” were prevalent both in church and church camps. Some kids weren’t very nice – I never felt as though I belonged. I remember crying regularly to my dad and asking him if we could switch churches.
What made HS youth group bearable was a few new-found friends and a strong discipleship group leader (with whom I still keep in touch). Generally, I think that I grew in my faith, until the tail-end of my senior year of HS.
At the onset of my college experience, I was resistant to church activities, especially affiliated with the Asian Christian communities. There was absolutely no way I was purposely subjecting myself to what I tried to spend a lot of my life escaping. Additionally, I was a bit bitter that I had wound up at The University of Texas at Austin. I felt like all the time I poured into academics, clubs, sports, the arts, and community service was for nothing. I was trying to transfer out of UT ASAP. I also couldn’t reconcile others actions of ‘going out’ (and drinking underage) with the Christian walk. In my opinion, the two couldn’t coexist in my life. For a year, I partied pretty hard. I fell off the scene when I got super busy, and honestly, bored, too.
Looking back, I was a huge brat for the first couple of years in college. I was miserable and not very happy, because I had a bad attitude and severed relationships with God and even some of my other friends. The turning point occurred when my good girlfriend told me about a church named Vox Veniae. The pastors really practice what they preach. They, with their families, live in East Austin, the ‘ghetto’, and serve the community through their outreach of operating a community center. Additionally, I think they donate about 50% or more of their tithes to missions. I never felt judged there while still being challenged.
At this point in my Christian walk, I was praying fervently about everything, including an internship in Los Angeles at Toyota Headquarters. I told God, “God, I will be obedient and take the internship in Houston, whose headquarters are right next to my childhood church if you want me to. But, I’d really like to spend my summer in LA! But send me where you want.” (I didn’t want to wind up like Jonah in a whale!)
What happened next was a miracle. So I had met the Toyota campus recruiter in early February, dropped my resume with her and online. After a month, I hadn’t heard back. I told my dad, who always took me to car shows growing up, that I didn’t think it was going to get hired. I sent one last e-mail to the campus recruiter, but I didn’t expect to hear back from her. However, the next day, she e-mailed me back to set up an initial phone interview. Meanwhile, I’m getting antsy because all of my friends already had their internships settled in the fall. I had to get an internship because it was a graduation requirement. Then, in two weeks in March, after two phone interviews, I got hired. I was ECSTATIC. I remember jumping up and down and screaming. I called my parents and all my friends. Little did I know what God had in store for me…
So I when I arrived in LA, it turned out that I had the best internship (with the Engagement Marketing department), and word quickly spread that I was being flown out once a month to go to events to work / hang out with celebrities like Ryan Sheckler and getting paid overtime, too. I don’t say this to brag by any means… here’s my point… One of my favorite Bible verses that I’ve always clung to is this: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)”
I didn’t even know which internship would be the best fit for me, let alone the absolute best of about 90. And because I didn’t know, I couldn’t have asked for it. I look back on that summer, and I’m continually amazed by God’s grace in my life. I believe that God honors our hearts and our intentions. Even though God is always faithful, I believe that when you’re faithful, God pours out his blessings on you.
Right after LA, I was scheduled to arrive in Paris, France for study abroad. I won’t talk about my experience now — ask me if you want deets, and I’ll tell you later — but here’s the key thing, since I was abroad in the fall, I missed fall recruiting for a job. And in the business school, that’s a big, big deal.
At the time, one of my best friends was a Teach For America recruiter on campus. She convinced me to apply, so I figured, sure, why not? I had the privilege of attending a very prestigious HS on scholarship. Since I was in all honors/AP classes, I had the best teachers. One of my favorite teachers happened to be my math teacher who taught me math three years in a row. She was a significant mentor in my life, so I thought, “I was given a phenomenal education, so I should pay it forward.”
Long story short, after praying a lot about it, I got in. I found out during spring break that I would be teaching HS mathematics in Hawai’i. I very much believe that God’s hand guided everything in my life thus far. Here’s why: Fall 2008 is when the financial crisis occurred, so with fewer good jobs available, Teach For America applications spiked dramatically from the prior year. And I applied in the third (second to last) deadline, which, supposedly, has a harder admittance percentage.
My first year of Teach For America (Hawai’i) was extremely difficult, and that might be an understatement. I was thousands of miles from home and additionally 5 hrs behind my family and friends (time zone). So by the time I was done with work, everyone was asleep. I couldn’t make many friends, something I’d never had any problems doing before (I was pretty popular in MS, HS, and college). I was working 70 hrs plus attending grad school FT (15 hrs per semester). I slept about 4-5 hrs on average a night. All other time was spent on the job. I cried and wanted to quit every day. Second year got a little better, because I actually had time to go to church. Still, I’d say that if Hawai’i was God’s way of testing me, then I failed. (Read this post for more info on Hawai’i.)
The culmination of my life experience has brought me to where I am today. In all of these trials, God drew me back to Him. I’m not saying that I would repeat my mistakes in hindsight, but I do believe that God allowed these experiences to shape, break, and mold me. I appreciate him so much more because I know what it was like feeling so far away from him and longing to fill that emptiness that I believe only he can fill. More than ever, I feel God’s presence in my life – a call and invitation to work for his glory and “his will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
I’ll end with this: I’m over material possessions, wealth, power, fame etc., because I know none of that will make me happy. None of those things will fill my aching or longing for a relationship with the Creator of the world.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reading (my Bible), and praying, and I’ve decided I just want these five things: health (esp. as I’m still coughing/sick), safety (in Europe), wisdom (to navigate life – it’s confusing and hard!), peace, and purpose (so I can live my life for him).