from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #5-1: Dreams and Why I Write

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Last Friday, one of my students asked me, via e-mail, why I want to be a writer. We had been practicing unreal conditionals, and the discussion that day revolved around what we would do if we could go back in time and how our dreams have changed since we were children. It’s an interesting question because, even as a child, I lacked anything remotely resembling conviction regarding what I’d like to do as a profession.

Coincidentally, I had a very similar conversation a few days earlier in the Japanese class I take at night in Gangnam. (I’m going to Miyazaki next month for my friend Taka’s wedding.)

Teacher: “horuden-san, kodomono toki nanini naritakatta desuka?”
Holden, what did you want to be when you were a child?

Me: “kodomono toki naritai kotoga arimasen deshita.”
I didn’t want to be anything.

Teacher: “he? soudesuka?” 
What? Really?

Me: “hai.”

Teacher: “hendesune.”

It’s strange to be judged in Japanese.

I remember very little of my childhood although it was the happiest time of my life. However, I do have a memory of one particular night. We were sitting around the dinner table in Chicago when my father asked my younger brother and me what we wanted to be when we grew up.

“A doctor or a lawyer.” Jason has always been the practical one.

“I don’t know.” I’ve always been the strange one.

I remember realizing that it was strange, but it’s a good possibility that the realization was facilitated by the lecture my father gave me for what was practically blasphemy to him, the genius, the adventurer, the pursuer of the American dream.

Whether it was a result of indecisiveness or indifference, I don’t know. It’s just who I am.

The five years I spent at the University of Washington I consider to be my academic vagrancy. I looked into Minority Studies, History, Philosophy, Dead Languages, and Computer Science. By the end of my fifth year, I had accumulated 264 credit-hours of coursework. You only need 180 to graduate from UW. In the end, I settled on Interdisciplinary Visual Art—even my choice of major reflected my inability to decide what I wanted—because I realized that college was a dead end and I liked to draw and sculpt. I had no delusions that I could ever make any money from it.

[To be continued in Entry #5-2]


Written by Young

April 14, 2010 at 6:51 pm

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