By then, my village school offered co-education. Parents agreed to send their daughters along with their sons lest the lure of North Korean’s equal-opportunity Communism called their daughters away or American ogres did, as happened frequently in urban cities of the time.
The school agreed, thus rooting its brightest to our tiny village.
I excelled in school and in my duties at home, having been homeschooled in the classics well before our emigration, and my parents eventually allowed me — the first in my village, and certainly the first woman in the region — to study abroad.
It was nearly two years after the Korean War, the U.S. had just loosened its restrictions on immigration of non-whites to America, and I decided to enroll in physics at Barnard College in New York City.
I had convinced my parents on grounds that the pursuit itself had Christian merits: 1) It was an all women’s college, most importantly. 2) Its “brother school,” Columbia, organized by the Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was founded in the same manner as our village school. The long, sophisticated-sounding title of their progenitors helped my cause though any vestige of that society or its propagation had long been stripped from the secular school I would be attending. 3) My education in America at a “Christian university” would confirm the rightness of my rearing, prove we were grateful to our American rescuers, make a statement against North Korea and its Communism, and would get me away from the stiff-necked, pagan villagers my parents complained about daily.
A bonus was the potential I often suggested to my parents: that I might be married off to a good Christian boy so plentiful in America and non-existent in my province.
My luck would turn on this deception. And I am glad for it. Although I never lost faith, I shed much of my dogmatism, and I now see that my America experience was the catalyst. I have spent years questioning my own prudence; but it would seem your letter has brought clarity.
It’s a powerful lesson that you have learned, and me through you; though, no doubt, as you’ve mentioned at every turn, you would not see the Divine in this, as I do. But I am glad, nonetheless. As a little girl you imagined that my admonition on wisdom was intended for your edification alone. Dear Rosalie, it was also for mine.
See, I understand that you asked for help finding direction.
Nevertheless, your question was a more nuanced version of the real question, the question that has plagued (or inspired) the best of humanity since the beginning: “Why am I here?” And, you were right to ask it.
If you knew your purpose you would know in which direction to tread. You may side step or find the pathway littered with complications that obstruct your view; but you would still know the way.
Our basic needs are predicated on our basic wants: It is the person who wants to live who must eat. The person who wants privacy and protection needs shelter. Furthermore, the person who desires those gains must then work and seek adequate resources. And it is only the person desiring companionship, greater meaning, and or survival itself who requires love.
Contrary to popular belief, it is our wants that dictate our needs, and not the other way around. And, so, that is where we must start.