Can You Smile?

The line between adulthood and childhood is thin. It’s not the day that marks your 18th year on earth. It’s the day you begin to perceive the world and see the truth. The day I realized that was April 16, 2014.

That is in fact the day of the sinking of the MV Sewol in South Korea. That was the first time in 21 years I was mature enough to pay attention to the news. That was the day I realized how preciously short life is and how you must make the most of the treasure you’ve been given by taking good care of yourself.

The Sewol tragedy affected me because it drew a fine line between me and my friends from college. While my heart hurt for the people who were suffering, my friends had the audacity to call the schoolchildren stupid for not saving themselves, or ask why I cared about a bunch of kids who had nothing to do with me. Needless to say we are no longer friends. It’s not about sticking my nose into other people’s business. It’s about the bigger issue of why the tragedy happened and how it can be prevented.

But this post isn’t a recap of the Sewol. It’s about how I saw the importance of my trust in God and learn how to deal with stress and hardship. Before having faith, my method of destressing was being immersed in pretty video games or rambling to my best friends. There were also a few times I am certainly not proud where I’d resort to beer.

As the anniversary of the Sewol tragedy approached, my friend, who had been vacationing in Korea at the time of the tragedy and experienced all the emotion first hand, sent me this video.

It’s an event called “New Life to Children” where K-pop singers performed songs to raise awareness for children with cancers, and each artist also wore the yellow ribbon of hope to symbolize the event for the children who died on the Sewol. The song “Can You Smile?” by Infinite was so inspirational and sweet, but most importantly told me that there are definitely other people out there who also care about other people.

At the time I was still new to the Christian fellowship I joined in the last post, but I was motivated to ask some of my new friends if they would help me pay respect to the victims on the anniversary. A bunch of them happily agreed to help me! I made yellow ribbons for us to wear on our shirts, then we got together to pray for the victims. I will never forget that day. It not only made me closer to my friends, but on that day I began to truly accept God is great.

The flimsy yellow ribbons I made with my art school skills out of sticker paper. They don’t stick.

People might ask, Liv how does praying help children who have already died? It doesn’t. Of course it doesn’t. Nothing can rewind time. My friends and I merely prayed that the students who survived will find peace and embrace their bright futures ahead of them, and that the parents who had to bury their children plus the relatives of other victims will too be able to live. When the Oriental Star sunk earlier this week in China, a tragedy almost parallel to the Sewol with the deaths of 400+ people, a friend and I got together to pray again. We prayed about the corruption in China that has forced most people to lose faith in any religion, leading to bad decisions that cause this tragedy.

I’m not asking God for miracles. I see prayer as putting my trust in God to take care of people in need. I am just asking God to be able to reach out to people so that they will be able to understand themselves better and work their own miracles, whether or not they decide to believe in God.

The color yellow is the official color symbolizing hope for children’s causes, which is why my ribbons were yellow.

Understanding yourself and your place is the key to handling stress because you begin to trust yourself more. Of course, it is not going to keep stress away. I had a much higher amount of stress during my semester of grad school in comparison to any of eight semesters in college. Between my job, classes, and social life, I lost 10lbs / 4.5kg in less than four months. My classes all began at dinnertime and lasted throughout the evening, and by the time I got out of class I had to run to catch the last train home. When I got home usually around midnight I would be too tired to eat dinner and crash right away since I had work early in the morning. Being hungry became a constant as food is so expensive that I tried keeping my lunches around $6, while a decent meal here costs at least $10. A lot of times under stress I was afraid of failing my classes, but somehow I scraped a near perfect GPA, something I’ve never done in college.

I definitely believe I managed everything because I understood myself more and more. There’s still more to understand as I spend my summer exploring Christianity more and work on the preliminary groundwork for my thesis coming up the next school year. The good news is that I will be moving back to New York City so say goodbye to spending all that time waiting for the train!

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2 Comments to "Can You Smile?"

Tara wrote on 7th June 2015 at 12:54 AM

To your former friend who said the schoolchildren were too stupid to not disobey the authorities — clearly that friend is not familiar with Asian cultures and society ~_~; I don’t blame you for not being friends with them any more.

The Sewol Tragedy was definitely big here last year, and its anniversary was taken very seriously, too. The yellow ribbons were everywhere!

And the Chinese cruiser sinking incident . . . it’s terrible another maritime accident involving capsized ships had to happen 🙁 My thoughts go out to those who are affected by this tragedy!


Cat wrote on 7th June 2015 at 5:03 PM

The sinking of the MV Sewol was really sad and heartbreaking to me 🙁 Not only did so many young people lose their lives, but the whole thing could have been prevented and more people could have been saved if it was handled properly. It amazes me that someone could call the students stupid and be insensitive about the whole thing. I wouldn’t be friends with people like that either.

I think that’s great that your friends at the Christian fellowship helped you pay respect to the victims! That’s really thoughtful to pray for the survivors and the parents, and also for those in the Oriental Star incident. I can’t believe another major ship accident has happened again.

Wow, that sounds like a tough schedule! Congrats on the high GPA though! I hope the next school year will be less stressful for you 🙂


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