The Last Time (Year Four)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin

How many times I have I told myself or my friends, “I will do something… tomorrow?” In the span of four years, hangouts were postponed but promised, homework was left until the last moment, and I shrugged off saying goodbye to the point of missing my chance of saying goodbye. Part of it stems from my fear of leaving all that I have known for the last four years, but I struggle with leaving that habit of procrastinating behind as I also leave my home of four years, UCI.

This past year has been completely amazing. From the very beginning I suddenly had a renewed purpose and drive to tackle this year with all I had. It was as if knowing that the finish line was in sight gave me the extra energy to sprint that much faster. It was the year where I owned my decisions. It was the year where some of my past failures were turned into successes. It was the year where so many things that I said I would do in college were finally done. It was the year of divine appointments. It was the year of answers to questions (and prayers). It was a year that perfectly ended the era that has been my career at UCI.

I started loving people recklessly. When the Holy Spirit spoke to me and I felt nudged to do something, I did it.

Lead a small group even after a fairly negative experience? Alright.

Go talk to some people at a tent at UTC to ask if they had gotten my application? Oh wow.. hired in 30 minutes.

Love bomb not JUST my fellowship friends when they are sick? Okay.

Hand out pizza to homeless people in Costa Mesa? Why not?

Go to Mexico City for Spring Break to work with human trafficking survivors? Let’s go.

Foster the friendships I have and continue to encourage and uplift? For sure.

In even more than just these situations, whenever I heard that voice that dared me to do something unconventional, sometimes inconvenient, and always interesting, I would find myself embarking on an adventure that always lead to hearing someone else’s story and seeing the world through a different lens.

I find it sad that it took me so long to get comfortable in my own skin and to trust Holy Spirit enough to live life listening to His cues, but it was ultimately so rewarding.

Late night conversations about our dreams and passions, car ride talks about the future and the lessons we’ve learned from the past, questions posed in small group that were presented with no intention of holistically answering, and group discussions about how to be more effective and active in the communities we are in, all of these were experienced this year. Looking back, I don’t even know how so much fit into this one year.

I got to see so much growth in some of my closest friends. I got to see friends get baptized. I got to reconcile with my best friend. I got to work with some pretty awesome people (and talk about both the profound and the absurd while scrubbing floors). I got to go to Disneyland probably a bit too much. I got to see a family that was in the trenches fighting the war against human trafficking. I got to learn from three families that opened up their homes to us college students for a couple nights a month. I got to finish strong at UCI.

The phrase made famous by Drake, “You only live once” or abbreviated YOLO, is apparently the theme for many of my peers’ adventures. I agree with the concept that life is short and oftentimes I find myself saying that phrase as my friends and I hop into a car and drive twenty minutes to get pho at 2 in the morning. But more than that, I think I found a new reason to live life so boldly.

We honestly don’t know how much time we have on this earth. Religion and personal beliefs aside, we are mere inches from death everyday, whether it be a careless turn into oncoming traffic, a surprise terminal disease, or some other horror that is being held at bay while we take our safety for granted. It makes sense to live life dangerously if we are unsure of whether we will be here tomorrow.

But, like the rapper KB puts it,

“If He never rose, then hope is a mirage, and we are indeed wasting our time. The best thing for us to do is to eat as much as we can, drink as much as we can, lust as much as we can, live as merry as possible for tomorrow we die. But if He did rise, then our life is always getting better because every day is a day that we are closer to being with Him, for tomorrow we live.”

I think the idea behind KB’s statement really resounded with me because my thoughts as I began my last year at college took a dramatic shift from the viewpoints that I had when I began.

If life is about more than getting a good job, saving up money, buying a house, and retiring, then I want to pursue whatever it is that will get me more than that. No matter how much I buy, I am never satisfied. I can buy the latest iPhone model, build out my pedalboard, add to my skateboard collection, eat the best food, and drive the most luxurious car, but I will always be onto the next great thing two minutes after I acquire what it is I wanted an hour ago.

This last year, I dared to ask “What if?”

This last year, I dared to be a “do-er” instead of simply a “say-er”

I am great at coming up with ideas. I’m pretty sure I have annoyed all my previous bosses with endless questions and then subsequent suggestions about how to optimize our operation. Where my human failings show is in how few of my great ideas ever leave the space outside of my mouth after I say them and materialize into reality.

I learned this year that sometimes I need to push planning to the side and I need to just step out and do something for a change. It goes against everything in my control freak mindset. I need to know the next six steps before I take my first one. And yet there has been situation after situation this year in which I was forced to take multiple steps before knowing where I was going.

How fitting that this last year before stepping into the unknown, I would get a lesson in stepping out before knowing the outcome.

This year, I learned that I don’t need to wait to do what I am passionate about. Me being young is not a curse or something that will inhibit me from making a difference. The excuse that I have hid behind for so long could no longer protect me as I lived a life of mediocrity. It was time to take life by the horns and pull a Nike and “just do it.”

To all my high school aged, college aged, and recently graduated peers, we don’t need to wait to use the gifts we have been given. We don’t need to have sets of two or three letters before or after our names before we can influence the world for the better. As my friend says probably too often, “What a time to be alive.” We live in a world where we have instant access to almost everything, and we have the potential to create things that can be shared with the world nearly instantaneously. The vicious media is not the only one with the power to make things go viral. And I refuse to believe that trash is the only thing that has the capacity to catch peoples’ eyes. The cliche “be the change” is basically what I’m trying to not so subtly hint at here. The ball is literally in our court. So are we going to YOLO with purpose? Or are we just going to have “fun” while we are young, sober up in 10-15 years, and then reflect on our “good old days?”

This year I am grateful for:

My parents still supporting me and encouraging me to pursue what I am passionate about.

My sisters who in their special ways encourage me with random videos and texts.

My girlfriend for being supportive and creative in her ways of brightening my days.

My roommate for being down for late night beer tasting and deep talks about life and our struggles.

My pastor for eating with me and being honest and vulnerable with me.

My three families that welcomed us into their houses and fed us in more ways than one.

My small group for showing up, participating, being down for crazy shenanigans, and for showing me the importance of brotherhood and community.

My fellowship for braving the storms of change and for continuing to encourage and uplift all those they were in contact with.

Raymond Thai for initiating hanging out and always keeping it real. Thanks for warning me about the postgrad life and for working out with me even though I have Chickfila buns now and can’t run for my life.

Aaron Tan for sharing your story and being down to Disney date. It was a hangout that was a long time coming, but I’m glad it finally happened. Keep on leading in humility as you are and God is going to take you to great places.

Ryan Mui and Ryan Martin for introducing me to the world of coffee (with a side of companionship). I won’t be able to taste things the same way anymore thanks to you guys. I am sure there is an allegory to tasting everlasting life or something like that, but we’ll just leave it at I really appreciate you guys sharing your passion and craft with me.

Nick Look for being consistent and for coming back even when the discussions were disorganized and all over the place. I always appreciated your presence at small group. I definitely can tell that you possess a lot of wisdom and I would encourage you to share that wisdom with those who ask advice of you.

Joyce, Amy, Diana, and Ashlynne for putting up with my terrible jokes on the way to and from retreat. I hope you guys are at “zero” and that the ride wasn’t too boring. And don’t forget the five key signs that tell you that you are in the ghetto 😉

Craig for giving me a job and teaching me so much about owning a business and leading a family. Your patience is so inspiring. (I’m not being sarcastic) If I owned Chickfila I probably would have killed someone by now…

Michelle for being patient and understanding with my craziness. HA I never thought I would be such good friends with my direct superior. Thanks for liking my playlist. I’m glad we got to meet even if only for a short time.

Taylor for making my long shifts a little more “chill” than Team No Chill would want. I appreciate your humor and your presence whenever we work together. Life is more fun when we approach it “chill-fully”

Imon for choosing to have a conversation with me instead of just listening to music (which would have been easier). I never would have expected to get to know a co-worker on such a deep level. I appreciate our deep talks and I relate to you in more ways than I thought at first. I’m glad that we got to know each other and that I finally learned how to pronounce your name. When we release our first mix tape we can call it Holy Grail. 😉

Thanks Ian Shrop for being down for things of the Spirit and diving head first into writing letters to strangers. I am inspired by your boldness and your genuine heart for people. I wish we had more time to hang out, but I know that you are going to do great things. Your hard work will pay off and people are encouraged by you being you.

Thanks David Tran for always being interested in coming out to small group. I appreciate you driving out just to come to small group and I appreciate you participating and talking to me about your struggles and trials. We have so much in common and I’m glad that some of my difficulties resonate and that we were able to encourage each other.

Thanks Jimmy for coming out, it actually meant a lot to me. I think Abe is right. You have a depth that few of us are fortunate enough to have seen while we were here in college. I am inspired by how much you value your close friends.

Thanks Brian for being so vulnerable with us. When you did speak, I’m pretty sure all of us were listening very intently. You have this power when you speak that commands the attention of people who are listening.

Thanks Kim and Beeta for saving me a seat in Labor Economics. It’s unfortunate that Professor Neumark didn’t remember my name on the last day, but I’m grateful to have taken that class with you two. Pretty sure both of you will be ridiculously successful, so I can’t wait to tell my kids that I sat next to you guys in class.

Thanks QV for grace on that EECS final. I should have failed that class again. You will probably never ever see this, but I think that you will make a great professor. I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks Joy Shrop for listening to my rants and being a good friend. Can’t believe you were down for the 116 concert. Glad that we got to point lead together and I’m grateful that God gave us this friendship. Remember that every time you introduce yourself and say “I’m Joy” that the statement that you utter is in fact the truth.

Thanks Loyce for finally hanging out (sorry that it took so long). Glad we didn’t get chirashi… wouldn’t have been worth it.

Thanks Ashlynne for being down to talk for hours about life. I am so glad that you decided to start coming to the Edge, and I’m glad that you never said no to me basically giving you no say in whether or not you wanted to go to after events.

Thanks Ryan Moua for coming out and for showing me that I should not pass judgement upon people based upon first impressions. Seriously man, I am so encouraged and have learned so much from you. You really inspire me. Keep on doing what you are doing.

Thanks 191 for letting me crash at your place all the time. I should have built a cubby for my uniform.

Thanks Charlene for being down to love bomb people at random times. I’m honored that the most popular girl in our class would be down to hangout with me. But for real, thanks for being my first friend in business economics.

Thanks CK for enduring my teasing and for hanging out and just talking about life with me. Whether we talked over mcnuggets or while we drove to a place to eat that you couldn’t decide on, it was always encouraging to hear about what God was doing in your life. Remember what your name means.

Mikey, thank you for being a part of my life. I realized that we have basically known each other since freshmen banquet and immediately bonded over not being good enough for the justice league or young justice and I appreciate you hanging out with me.

Thanks Melissa for coming down and visiting us.

Thanks Jeremy for finally asking Melissa out. We can all breathe a sigh of relief now.

Thanks Grace Ho for being an awesome sister small group leader. I am still amazed at how much I learn by watching how you lead. Crazy how we have similar school stories as well.

Thanks Amy He for doing so much for the Edge. The current season may be tough, and I can offer no consolation as of right now, but God will work all things together for you.

Thanks Christian, Wesley, and Daniel for sending me off at senior well. I appreciate each of your words and I’m encouraged by seeing such men of God in the Edge.

Thanks David for being an awesome cousin. I’m so glad we got to get to know each other better than our “once every five years” get togethers would allow. I am encouraged by the way you live your life.

Thanks Shin, Andrew, Josh, Tolu, and Michael for being vulnerable at retreat. It takes more than one to break the ice, and I’ve never seen a group go deeper and faster about insecurities and struggles than we did in the first night alone. Thanks for being down to be honest.

Thanks Danica, Gigi, Crystal, Kathleen, Eve, and Ian for being an awesome BWAM team. I wouldn’t have rather had diarrhea with anyone else. But all jokes aside, it was awesome going to the Well and experiencing Mexico together with all of you. It’s never a bad idea to do cleansing prayer.

Thank you Benny and Janice for giving me a glimpse of the work that is being done to combat human trafficking. I definitely have a completely different view of my part in the world after seeing the girls at the Well, but more importantly after seeing how your family lives by faith. My prayers are always with you and I hope to return soon.

Well isn’t this the longest post you’ve ever read?

In conclusion, the reality of the end of this season of my life has only begun to set in. I denied it when I graduated. But after Abe’s last large group, Senior Banquet, the last small group, and our last Newsong Family dinner, I realize now that the end is in fact here.

People ask me how I feel, and I say “I don’t really know… this whole experience is bittersweet”

One thing is clear, if the definition of blessed does indeed mean that one is receiving unmerited favor from some divine source, then I am most definitely blessed. The family and friends that have surrounded me have allowed me to thrive. I can’t say that I got here by myself, because in reality I’m only here because there is an incredible amount of favor that has been shown to me.

Thanks God for giving me this chance to grow and learn.

I wish that I was better at saying good-bye and I wish that I didn’t hate it as much, but alas life will be filled with changes. The changes are what makes it such an adventure.

In the words of Bilbo Baggins:

“I’m going on an adventure!”

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