makeunder my life: korean edition

Today I’d like to share the fascinating life story for Denice, an MML reader and someone who has dramatically designed her life with intention. I think this letter is great for anyone who is going through the steps to find their intention and next steps in life. Denice’s life and story proves that intentions can take you to the ends of the earth and back.


Denice’s Letter

I currently live and work on a tiny Korean island in the Sea of Japan (aka East Sea), so I am all about living as simply as possible where I can and I really love the concept of making under one’s life! After reading several of your posts, I feel like you and I could be long lost sisters or something, because so much of what you say is what I have been saying to friends and family for years : )

I personally spent each summer in college bawling my eyes out while my friends did fancy internships because I couldn’t figure out my purpose in life. After all, I was a Sociology major with interests in group dynamics and experiential education, which is not high on employers’ wish lists.  I used to tell my friends, “I wish I could just be a professional FRIEND; someone who could just listen to people and give sound advice and relatable anecdotes when needed.” There were a lot of careers I knew I didn’t want to pursue, but I just didn’t know what was out there (and somehow didn’t have any decent mentors to help me). And likewise, there are just so many interesting paths out there, but I usually find limitations in each one (usually financially). Mostly, I just want to help guide people into being the best they can be. Over the years that has translated into creating service learning projects for youth, training mentors and tutors for after-school programs, running leadership workshops in high schools and universities in Eastern Europe and teaching English in rural Asia.

But I digress. One of the things on your blog that caught my attention was your worry flashcards. At first I thought you were going to take a flashcard and then once it got resolved, write on the back of it how it got resolved as a reminder, or something. As an expat, there is always some cultural difference in how things operate which promises to be confusing and frustrating to no end, so I often need to remind myself that things do usually get resolved…eventually. But the worry flashcard process you describe is very similar to how I used to design and implement service learning projects for youth during my AmeriCorps and Peace Corps days. And although I did mini-SWOT analyses (what we called them back then) on paper for projects and to some extent about all sorts of daily decisions, it wasn’t until 2006 when I randomly came across a book for $1 in Goodwill called The Tao of Inner Peace that the power of the process actually resonated with me. I have long been a fan of the Tao Te Ching, and I had just returned from the Peace Corps, broke, and hoping to find my next path while working at a corporate desk job to make ends meet (as you can guess, being a professional volunteer long term doesn’t exactly pay the bills). There was an exercise in the book which said to list each of your fears out and then ask yourself what you would really do if “the worst case scenario” actually happened. Once you figure out what you would do by sizing up the hardships and resources you have to combat them, you just keep going and addressing each fear until you basically realize that you can handle everything in life, even if it all doesn’t happen smoothly.

Now, I am the kind of person who LOVES to make up tons of hypothetical future plans and then weigh them against each other, and I even have written myself “newsletters from the future” but actually putting to pen to paper for that exercise was a watershed moment for me, and all of a sudden I realized that what I had perceived to be holding me back wasn’t true! I handed in my letter of resignation the following Monday and off my husband and I went to get trained to teach English in Korea so that we could pay off our student loans, save up for traveling, and try out classroom teaching all while giving us a bit more time to figure out what we really wanted to do. I am happy to say that next month, my husband and I will return back to the US for a little break before I begin training to become a Montessori teacher and he begins applying to MFA Creative Writing programs, which we will be able to fully fund ourselves.

I don’t mean to just spill out my whole life to you- but after reading so much of what you have shared, I feel like I owe you an explanation of where I am coming from! …


Thank you for sharing, Denice!

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  1. megan v

    Great for her for finding the path that is right for her instead of just miserably existing in one that she “thought” she “should” follow due to what society expects from us. Such a great story and I loved reading it! xoxoxo

  2. emma

    So inspiring! Its so good to hear other people out there are going through the same problems and life stages as me. Perfect!

  3. 17Perth

    What a great story. Very inspiring. Interestingly enough, I have been using the worry flashcards (too frequently I think) and have started pondering that my current profession is not the correct choice. I want to feel inspired again…..and this is not “it” for me. Very exciting to hear about other people’s experiences and life choices. I am also ready to start “living with intention”. This weekend, I plan on doing what Denice shared about what you would do in a worst case scenario–and then its time for me to start dreaming and realistically planning for “what’s next”. Thank you both for your inspiration.

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