To Infinity and Beyond

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.29.57 PMYes, I know it’s August and it’s a little past the “graduation season” and I’m sorry to have to post this so late. But better late than never! It’s official, I am now a proud alum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It’s crazy how fast four years of undergrad could go. I’m still getting used to the fact that I am no longer a college student. Graduation not only means getting a diploma and a teaching license (for all you education majors out there with me!), it also means “no more screwing around, you are now an adult with thousands of dollars of student loans to pay off”. Yes, it is the sad but true fact. You are out in the real world (which is honestly not much more “real” than the world I lived in during my four years of college) and now is the time to define yourself as an individual. Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.34.48 PMBut all serious talk aside, I couldn’t be more excite to start this new chapter of my life. Champaign-Urbana has been amazing these past four years from late-night studying with insomnia cookies in the third floor of the education building with my fellow cohort classmates, movie nights with my floormates back in freshman year at Pennsylvania Avenue Residents Hall, talking to drunk people on Halloween weekend, getting lost on campus during Welcome Weekend, and so much more. Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.34.10 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.30.15 PM    Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 12.02.08 AMThis is to four years of papers, four years of never-ending lectures, four years of final exams, four years of all-nighters, four years of chicken pad thai from Golden Wok, four years of CUMTD buses, four years of walking through the quad on a brisk autumn day, four years of studying at the UGL, four years of Jarlings Custard Cup, four years of tears, four years of laughter, and four years of lasting memories. Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.30.42 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-05 at 12.26.26 AMAnd I am happy to announce that this upcoming fall I will finally be fulfilling my dream of becoming a teacher and will be officially Ms. Choe at Heritage Middle School teaching 8th grade math! I couldn’t be more nervous, excited, scared, and exhilarated at the same time!

Here’s to a new chapter of my life! And to my fellow graduates of the class of 2015, WE DID IT!

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To New Beginnings

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I feel like every blog post lately (let’s be real, there hasn’t actually been any blog posts lately…) has been me starting out with the phrase “it’s been a while!”. But honestly, it has been a while. Like a-four-month “it’s been a while” kind of a break. Basically, my whole first semester of senior year, gone; and a new 2015 looming ahead. And to be frank, I couldn’t be any more excited to say goodbye to 2014 and my first semester of senior year and to just start fresh.

I don’t even want to look back at this past semester because it’s just that hard. I think all of social networking from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even blogging is somewhat an untrue, fabricated, and inaccurately beautiful picture put together of what we want others to see of our lives. From fancy 5-course dinners with countless likes on Instagram to new relationship statuses up on Facebook, we love to showcase our lives and try to one-up each other by posting more extravagant and more envy-provoking pictures, statuses, tweets, entries, and whatever else social networking does these days (I can’t keep up).

Don’t get me wrong, I am a total consumer of all of this social network showcase performance, and I love it when I receive more likes than I imagined, when I get comments like “you’re so lucky”, “you look beautiful”, “i’m so happy for you”, and any other positive comments, because who wouldn’t like that? And there’s nothing wrong with sharing these moments publicly! Sometimes it’s necessary to share these joyous moments and celebrate with friends and loved ones, but that doesn’t mean that what we put on these sites is a complete picture of what actually goes in our lives. I think that’s where we start to spiral downwards. We look on our newsfeed, feeling worthless and comparing ourselves to other people asking “why aren’t we doing what they’re doing?”, “they look so happy what’s wrong with my life?”. This, this is when we need to tell ourselves: there’s more to people than what they post online.

I guess that’s what I’m here to do today. Me being real. Living authentically, and showing all of the world (haha, the very select few people who actually read this far) what I’m all about. My insecurities, my struggles, fears, and me being vulnerable.

I guess the main reason I didn’t want to blog this past semester, was basically what I had shared above, there wasn’t too many great things to share! It was a rough semester where I felt trapped in this cycle of shame, disappointment, failure, and depression. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all that bad (there were really good happy memories and moments here and there!), but it would probably have to be the hardest semesters so far in college (let’s hope for a better one this upcoming spring!). It was a semester of a lot of change: having a car on campus, living in an apartment, student teaching, and being a coleader for my church small group. And I, being the harsh critic I am, really felt that I had failed in every single area of my life this semester.

Let me share some examples:

Here’s a big one, October 22nd, 2014. I thought it would be just another normal day of student teaching. Actually, it was more than normal, it was the day my supervisor was going to come in and observe a lesson I was going to teach at exactly 10:05am. Little did I know that about 3 minutes after getting into my 2-year-old beautiful white Hyundai Elantra that my parents gave to me as a birthday present, I would make a stupid left turn that I shouldn’t have made and crush up and total my baby. Yes, a pretty bad car accident, my first actually! Got t-boned right into my driver side. But thankfully, came out with only a scratch (I really am thankful for that). Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.14.59 PM

It’s actually hard, looking back now, I understand why I stayed away from blogging, Facebook, and even from my friends and family. I just wanted to get away from everything. I didn’t want people to ask me what happened and I didn’t want people’s pity. I just wanted to forget about it and start new. I didn’t want to reflect and I wanted to push it aside. And even writing about it now, it’s strange and brings back scary flashbacks of the car hitting me and the constant ringing and pounding in my ears.

I know that was a really big thing that happened to me this semester, but there are so many others from my dad moving away from home for work in Florida, leaving my little brother and my mom to live in Illinois by themselves, my loss of passion for teaching after being in such a rough classroom of third graders with a cooperating teacher that just didn’t support me the way I wanted, then came my feelings of inadequacies of being a first-time co-leader for my small group and not living up to my expectations and standards, and even my eating patterns (I know, it sounds crazy that even the most simple thing for survival, eating, I was having trouble with) yo-yo dieting from restricting everything I ate always resulted in a relapse of bingeing and guilt which resulted in a series of fasting, over-exercising, and whatever else you could think of; all resulting in a extra 10 pounds of unnecessary body weight. Just a bad cycle of disappointment, depression, and failure.

So there’s my sad little story of how hard my life was the past 4 months, and I didn’t intend for this post to be all this depressing, but with these sad stories there should always come a light at the end of the tunnel. A hopeful message, something that keeps us going. Because in life you have a choice to make: you can choose to wallow in your depression and stay secluded in your bedroom with the curtains shut out, or you can choose to make change and fight back and get back on track. I’m not saying it’s easy, it requires courage, discipline, and hope. Hope that we could improve ourselves, hope that gives us the encouragement to know that this isn’t it, that we’re not defeated just yet. And also, grace. Something I need to start showing myself this year; it’s okay to be imperfect and failure is part of life. I may not live up to my own standards and I may not see myself as a perfect person, but I need to preach to myself that Someone does, and that I am worthy of being loved and cherished by the One True God who sees me as His perfect and beautiful daughter. And with that I leave you with this verse; a verse I’ve been dwelling on:

18 “Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

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The Final Stretch

Hello blogosphere, it’s been too long. Way too long.

Summer has finally come to a close and the awaited senior year has finally arrived. It’s crazy how fast my undergrad years have gone, I remember vividly coming onto campus with mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness bubbling inside of me. Will I get along with my roommate? What will I major in? Will I find a community of friends? Is this the school I was meant to be? This year I came in filled with bittersweet emotions trying to embrace every minute I have left on this campus thinking very different thoughts. Will I find a full-time job after graduation? Does time ever slow down? How can I make the most of my last year? Am I really already a senior?

I really want to push myself to keep blogging throughout this year no matter how crazy it gets (and let me tell you, things are getting prettyyyyy crazy). It’s always so fun to look back on old posts to see how differently I looked at certain things (or how some things have never changed).Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 2.12.21 PMSo here’s to my last year of being a fighting Illini, may it be one of many learning experiences, memorable moments, and shared fun & laughter.

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The Summer I Became a Woman Part II: Kimchi Stew and Clean Dishes

Last week I cried about kimchi stew and clean dishes.

The kimchi stew, that I did not make and the cleaned dishes, which I did not wash. Pretty abstract things to cry over, no? Yeah, I’m still surprised at my own wide-range of emotions. However, it’s more than just the kimchi stew and clean dishes, this is a story about mother and daughter. And it’s more than just the story about mother and daughter, it’s a lesson about unconditional and unfailing love of our Heavenly Father.

Last weekend was a packed weekend for my mom. She had concerts after concerts, church events, small group leading, and visitors to host, all in the span of one weekend. And to top it off, she was a little under the weather. Our whole family was aware of this and did what we had to do to and survive a couple days absent of a mother.

So Saturday came along, and that Saturday morning my mom had to go her dress rehearsal for her concert. This meant that I was in full charge of being my brother’s personal chauffeur, babysitter, and chef. No problem. It was around dinner time when my mom came back and I had already told her that I had decided on what I was going to make the family for dinner and that she did not have to cook anything for us. But after about thirty minutes, she comes to my room telling me she had cooked kimchi stew for dinner. Before I go any further with this story, I need to give some context of what kimchi stew is. Kimchi stew is one of my favorite Korean dishes, and it cannot be messed with. I make good kimchi stew, and my mother does not (some people are gifted in certain areas of life, and making kimchi stew is not a strength for my mom, no matter how many times she tries). She will testify to that statement and will admit that there is truth in that kimchi stew is not her area of expertise.

I don’t know what was going in my head or what got me so turned off but after she told me she made dinner, (out of all things, she makes kimchi stew) frustration and anger started building inside me. I went down towards the kitchen and looked at the pot of stew. It wasn’t even stew, it was kimchi drenched in boiling water. I tasted it, and anger boiled inside me.

Was it my high expectations of what kimchi stew should taste like? Was it my disappointment that my mom disregarded my ability to make dinner? Was it just my exhausted and hungry physical state of mind? I don’t know what to blame the next sequence of events, but after having a taste of the “stew” I kind of lost it. It was unfiltered, ungrateful, selfish, hot-tempered Diane at its worst. I basically told her the dish sucked. How could she even call this kimchi stew? This kimchi stew was just a disgrace to all of Korean cuisine. I basically slammed her. I asked her how she made it and corrected every little detail she told me. No, you shouldn’t have added this much water; no, you forgot to add the red pepper paste; no, how could you forget to add sugar? no, the kimchi to soup ratio is completely off.

And she just took it. Just listened to me going about how bad her cooking was. No retaliation and no scolding. She just responded by saying in a clam tone that maybe it would be best to just throw away. It was then when sanity hit me full force. A rush of guilt and remorse filled me, but I couldn’t find a way to apologize for the sake of my own pride. I could only do what I do best, which was to eat. I gave the excuse that I was desperately famished and the only thing to eat was the “stew”. That was the least I could do, eat the food that I just harshly criticized. So I ate, trying my best to give the impression that it tasted bad. And after eating I left my dirty unfinished dishes in the sink with the other stack of dishes from lunch that I had told myself I would clean after dinner. I knew I had to clean those dishes, but I couldn’t stand being in the kitchen just me and my mom, not after what I had done. So I told myself once she leaves for her concert, I’ll come down and finish the dishes. I went upstairs to my room.

I said goodbye before she left for her concert. And once she left the house I went back to the kitchen to finish up those dirty dishes. But to my surprise, the dishes were all cleaned; there was nothing left I could do. And that’s when I had my breakdown, right in front of the kitchen sink. Thankfully my brother was at his friend’s house and my dad at work. I wept loudly without shame. I cried for the undeserving love of my mother when I had scorned her for her selfless attempt at making food for me, not for her, but for me. I cried for the guilt I felt with the way I treated her when she only showed me pure love and care. I cried for the cleaned dishes which were my responsibility to clean up that were all taken care of by my busy mother. I cried for feeling like a failure of a daughter. I cried for always receiving second chances.

But it’s more than just the dishes and the stew and it’s more than just a mother’s love. It’s a greater metaphor of the unconditional and unending love of our Father in Heaven. He constantly pursues after me, even though I do all that I can to blame Him, run away from Him, and disobey Him. He runs after me and sustains me. He keeps showing me love and keeps providing for me even though I clearly deserve hell. Why do you do it God? Why do you clean after my dirty dishes when I constantly criticize You? Your love boggles my mind, and there is no other love like Yours, help me to always remember. Thank you for repentance and forgiveness. Thank you for loving such a sinner like myself.

I will never look at kimchi stew and clean dishes the same way. May it be a constant reminder of underserving and unconditional love!

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The Summer I Became a Woman Part I: The Rant

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 2.41.29 PMIt has been about less than one month since I’ve finished my junior year of undergrad and finally come home! It’s been strange to say to people that I’m now on my summer break; from what the weather has been showing, it’s nowhere near summer. There would be little sneak peaks of  hot beach-y days here and there, but then a great disappointing plummet back down to the 50 degree, I-need-my-winter-jacket weather.

Nonetheless, I came into summer break with great expectations and plans that consist of: recipes I want to try, books I want to read, movies I want to watch, TV shows I need to catch up to, miles I want to run, pictures I want to take, journal entries I want to write, experiences I want to live, and words I want to share. Quite a hefty to-do list, huh? First thing I wanted to conquer and accomplish on my Summer 2014 bucket list was to learn how to cook! I have been privileged in the fact that I’ve been provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner to my disposal basically my whole life. Dorm life 3 years in a row has been holding me back from learning how to cook and clean for myself (I know, I’m still a baby… at 20 years old). But goodbye dorm life, because this upcoming fall, I’ll be shacking up with my two girlfriends and finally moving into apartments, which could be exciting and at the same time terrifying. Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 2.44.00 PM              I don’t mean to slam higher education and academia, but I just have to state this fact: I pay large sums of money in order to get a bachelor’s degree, but if I come out of college with the arbitrary knowledge of finding the standard deviation of a set of numbers, Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, or knowing the symbolic meaning of the green light in The Great Gatsby, but don’t know how to properly cook a chicken, there’s a problem.  I swear, instead of being required to take these “gen-ed” classes that have nothing to do with our specific vocations, we should be taking some sort of life skills course (how to change a tire, knowing the difference between roasting, broiling, grilling, frying, and baking, how to recycle batteries, etc).  It’s the truth that I’ve probably learned more about living these three weeks than I have taking these required gen-ed courses.

Before writing these blog posts I usually have an idea or general theme that I want to share about, but once my fingers hit the keyboard I kind of let my mind go wild in hopes that my fingers could keep up with my fleeting thoughts. For one, I was not expecting to write about college courses, let alone my objection towards required general education classes. Other than little typos or grammatical errors here and there, I try not to filter, change, or edit out my writing. This is me at my most organic and genuine state. Diane unfiltered. Which is why I had to change the title of this post from “The Summer I Became a Woman” to “The Summer I Became a Woman Part I: The Rant”.  I thought it’d be a lot more fun to write a summer series pertaining to this subject rather than slamming everything in one entry. I’m hoping that this summer I’ll be able to share my little stories of entering into so-called “womanhood”, whether that be learning the basics of cooking, taking care of my little brother, cleaning, etc. (I sound totally sexist categorizing those listed verbs as only exclusive to women, but whatever) Because believe it or not, it’s time for me to grow up. Cheers to new beginnings and a summer filled with new challenges and surprises!

Disclaimer: No disrespect to F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly one of my favorite books; there’s a reason why it’s considered the great american novel. If you haven’t read it, go read it! 

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So Close, Yet So Far

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.57.35 PMIt’s a truth universally acknowledged, that finals week is a week filled with mixed emotions of delirium, sorrow, insanity, deep camaraderie, and resentfulness/bitterness towards all of academia. The week has finally come, the best/worst week of the entire school year: spring semester final’s week. What’s the big deal? It’s only a handful of cumulative lengthy exams that’s keeping you from your three month summer vacation, right? Just one big leap before entering into freedom! But being an education major, I will admit that I don’t have it as bad as the average college student. For one, I will officially be done with my junior year of undergrad in less than 72 hours. I just turned in my final portfolio, teaching binder, final science journal, final lesson plan, and took one of my three finals. ALMOST THERE! 2 more finals to go! Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.58.47 PMBefore you come and tell me saying how “easy” I have it, let me point out that my finals week is a week before everyone else’s finals. The week where it just happened to be sunny 80 degree weather all week around, the week where the outdoor pool has finally opened, the Starbuck’s 1/2 off Frappuccino Happy Hour week, and the week where only education majors suffer from insomnia and depression (yes, we fight this battle alone). But let me be honest with you, I am currently writing this blog post at the library, in a cubicle; where I have purposely locked myself from any source of sunlight and hope to cram in 3 month’s worth of lectures and PowerPoints that I now wish I had paid attention to. But what do I do instead? I decide to vent out my feelings of frustration and desperation through blogging. Great choice. This is how I “do” finals. Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.52.56 PMI don’t know about you, but during finals week we could feel hopeless, lost, and doomed to failure. But maybe that picture above of the colorful words of wisdom, hope, and beauty will shine some speck of light into the dark tunnel of sorrow that you are soon about to enter. Just keep in mind that it’s only a week. How do I keep myself sane during finals week?

  • I run. I know this sounds stupid, that I would waste precious time and raise up my heart rate, but for me it works like a charm. It’s a natural stress reliever and it helps me to stay healthy, clean, and even helps me focus better.
  • Stay off social media. I know, I should really practice what I preach and get off WordPress and hit the books, but if Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Tumblr, etc. is that big of a distraction (like it is for me) I suggest getting a self-control app that blocks out any website you want it to for a given amount of time. I use SelfControl, and it’s helped me out A TON
  • It’s always better to get a good night’s sleep than to cram. I can proudly say that I have never, NEVER pulled an all-nighter for academic purposes. I function on sleep, and if you see me with less than 5 hours of sleep, I am not a human being. That’s just the way my body works; I make time for sleep, just like how you would make time to eat, shower, and go on Facebook.
  • Find what works for you. If study groups work, then stick with it. If cubicles work, stick with it. If studying in the morning works, stick with it. If cramming works, stick with it.
  • Don’t go at it alone. Find community, find others who are in the same boat as you so you can all suffer, cry, vent, binge, and cram together.

You can do it! Everyone that’s come before you has! 🙂 Finish strong!!

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He is Risen!

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 3.37.44 PMGood Friday is probably the saddest day of the year, but fear not because Sunday always comes! What a rollercoaster of a Passion Week it was; this is probably the most busy week out of the whole spring semester with preparation for Easter Sunday. Maundy Thursday Service, Good Friday Service, Easter Sunday Sunrise Service, Easter Sunday Baptism Service, and then Easter Dinner. That basically sums up my whole week. But in the midst of never-ending church services, there is always a sense of peace, gratitude, and happiness throughout the week. Passion Week is something that happens every year, but it NEVER gets old. I always learn something new each year; always more thankful, more in love with God, and more in awe of the Cross.Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 3.44.50 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-22 at 3.45.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 3.45.44 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 3.49.03 PMEaster is the pinnacle of the Christian faith and is something that I need to daily remind myself of. I pray that I will never outgrow the need to preach to myself the Gospel. Because it is there where I find my source of strength, hope, love, peace, and thankfulness.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

1 Thessalonians 5: 9-10

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