There are a lot of things I’m thankful for this year.
This weekend, I spent Thanksgiving with my family for the first time since 2011. It was comforting to be surrounded by my loved ones who’d nurtured and watched me grow, and it was especially lovely to have my grandmother add her warmth to the table all the way from Busan, Korea. I’m also grateful to have seen my father for the first time in four years this past winter, and happy to have reconvened with many members of my extended family along the way — something I’m not regularly able to do.
This past year wasn’t easy. I learned a lot about myself, my weaknesses, my limitations, and the very real world around me. I watched myself succumb to the pressures of university and become so disengaged with the system to the point of psychological depression. I developed an extremely cynical view of the education system, something I would later learn I couldn’t be separated from unless I physically distanced myself from the institution.
I’m a staunch advocate of improving our public education system and constant learning, yet I was finding almost no personal value in school. What I thought was supposed to propel my future forward was the very thing that was holding me back. There were so many things I wanted to do and try, yet I couldn’t because of papers on early political theory and exams on 19th century Canadian history. My curiousity brought me to go and explore some of these things anyway, but I had to constraint them within the limitations of my university schedule.
As some of you know, I’ve recently chosen to take an unorthodox approach to my education. From working since I was 13, I can strongly attest that I’ve learned so much more from my jobs and community involvement than I ever have in school. I haven’t indefinitely given up on school, but I’ve chosen to invest some time in personalizing my education through pursuing curiousity in work and travel.
Through this, I learned to choose myself. I’m grateful I was able to use one of the unhappiest moments in my life and pivot it into one of the best scenarios I could ask for. Currently, I’m out of school and paid to do full-time work in something I’m so incredibly passionate about: working on an extremely technologically advanced political campaign to re-elect some of the best community leaders I know while simultaneously getting countless youth engaged in our civic processes. One of the best feelings I ever get is helping youth grow into high-impact leaders and I get to watch this unveil every day before my eyes. Some days I can’t believe how I landed so much luck, because I never thought I’d be able to capitalize on the intersection of passion and work this early on in life.
I’m thankful to be back in the home city where I learned to care for my community and stand up for what’s important. It’s incredible how familiarity with your environment can help so much; I always feel myself being able to provide more emotional capacity in Vancouver as I don’t have to worry about accommodating the unknown. Being able to eliminate mindless yet essential everyday tasks like planning your transit route creates greater head space for things like compassion and caring for others. To give an (extreme) example, President Obama doesn’t make small decisions like choosing his outfits because “making too many decisions about mundane details is a waste of a limited resource: your mental energy.”
I think the main key to happiness is choosing yourself (James Altucher explains this really well — he wrote a whole book on it here). By learning to choose myself, I also developed trust in my ability to take action. In late November, I’ll be packing up my bags and moving to London, UK to explore and understand more of the world. I hardly know anyone or anything there, but I know I’ll be learning and growing exponentially because of it.
I see so many young people around me allowing others, and social pressures, to write their life stories for them. I’ve also met people who did choose themselves, and they are some of the happiest folks I know. Choose yourself — and if you’re lost, reach out to people who will help you find that path. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to lend a hand if you just ask (myself included!).
Happy Thanksgiving, friends!