YK’s 365 Release: Day 9

I don’t like competition of any form. This means, I don’t play team sports. This does not mean I’m not a team player. I just don’t like competitive group sports.

I surmise this comes from my time in Korea, where life was dramatically competitive. EVERYTHING was a fight to succeed, and failure was not an option. It was traumatizing to say the least.

In Korea, I slept 2-3 hours of distressed sleep a night for about 7 years. This was still not enough time to cover all of my studies. The general mantra amongst students, which you often saw carved into study cubicles was, “Sleep when you die.”

After school, most students would go straight to study centers, where we all rented cubicles to study at throughout the night. We would then go home for a few hours of sleep and then get up for school again.

The entire time I lived there I had migraines and violent dreams of genocide, entrails falling out of people’s bodies, grotesque death and murder.

Korean school prepared you for one thing; you had one chance to get into college. Unlike the U.S. where you can apply to as many colleges for which you can afford the entrance fees, when I was in Korean school, you were only allowed to apply to one college. If you didn’t get in the first time around, you and your family were eternally shamed for the rest of your life. ONE COLLEGE. Imagine the amount of pressure that comes with that.

In addition to this overarching anxiety of dishonoring your family name, the arts were not encouraged at all. In fact, they were considered the less intelligent field. So if you did end up pursing the arts, it was because you weren’t smart enough. For us, this meant that the arts were not an option, second best was not an option.

Of course corporal punishment was unrestrained, so in addition to never sleeping, exorbitant stress and unrealistic expectations, we were hit, whipped, or slapped every day. This I will go into more detail another time because it is its own story. For now, I will say that this part was the least of my worries because the reasons they hit us were ridiculous.

Every student contemplated death at one point or another, whether you were at the top or bottom of the class. Everyone was slightly driven to insanity. I remember when I was maybe 14, perching myself on the bedroom window of our high rise, straddling the window frame, looking down at the 10-floor drop. As I sat there, I looked around at the apartment complex buildings all around me, I saw that I was not the only one sitting like that, contemplating falling. It was not uncommon to hear of classmates ending their lives on a regular basis. We all just desperately wanted sleep.

I did find that all of the suffering came to an end, when you finally broke.

Korea broke me. It changed me forever. And it made me understand genuine suffering. I knew that nothing could make me suffer that much ever again. And just like that, the migraines and the nightmares ceased.

When I was given the opportunity to attend college in the States at an excellent university with an irresistible package, I took it. The U.S. is founded on “the competitive spirit”, and in fact, it is encouraged and deemed healthy here. I have seen competition literally kill people. Competition here is entirely different than it is in Korea. I dislike competition in the U.S. more than I do in Korea, because in Korea at least it’s blatant. Here it’s subversive, conniving and egotistic, and if you are not wary, it will eat you alive.

I believe if I hadn’t been broken by Korean school, I would not have been able to get to the current constant state of bliss of I am in today. Now you see why I am always generally at ease and happy. It is because I have been to hell and back and right here right now doesn’t compare to what I have seen.

And now I disdain competition. I am easygoing, independent, and spontaneous. I really don’t care who wins when I play cards. I don’t want to kick more goals than you. I don’t want to win more points. I don’t care about that at all. I don’t like the pressure of having to pass the ball to someone and the game depending on that toss. I don’t want someone’s win to be contingent on me. And when you’re someone that doesn’t care which side wins, or that anyone wins for that matter, that does not make for the best team sports player now, does it?

I like one or two person sports like skiing, sprinting, tennis (for pleasure of course) or swimming. Yes, things that I can do alone, for fun, and not have to worry too much about me winning for someone, or winning at all.

My feelings around competition are one method I practice non-attachment. I seek bliss and happiness for everyone in the world, but not through competition. There is an infinite amount of awakening available for everyone.

So in the spirit of easygoing laidbackness, I’m giving away the one thing I have that symbolizes competition in sports. Long ago, I purchased a baseball glove because I always loved the smell of the leather and the sensation of catching a ball perfectly in the cup of the glove. That’s as far as I got with it. I wanted it to catch a ball, but the game did not interest me at all.

So, on day 9 of my 365 Release, I am not necessarily letting go, but I am reminding myself of the ways that I have already let go. I am remembering how attachment does indeed lead to suffering and how valuable each moment is to make it blissful. I am not afraid to live and I am not afraid to love. I am reminding myself how I had to break to make me understand that I will only do what I love, that I will love passionately, never settle, always go for what moves me, and always live life to its fullest possible potential, right now.


[I created the 365 Release Project to practice non-attachment, letting go and change by giving away 1 thing a day for 1 year. The background, vision and guidelines to the 365 RELEASE project are here. The running list of everything I have released is here.]

13 responses to “YK’s 365 Release: Day 9”

  1. richard says:

    i just emailed this to people. i am absolutely floored. in awe. deeply grateful you shared this with me/us. and nodding my head, appreciating the clarity when i see your blog subheading “my rebirth and transformation”. thank you.

  2. richard says:

    you don’t need to accept all of those relaity show offers you get, the realest “reality show” is going down right here!! bless up, lookin forward to sharing this journey with you.

  3. YK Hong says:

    oh oh. i hate drama, and all those shows seem to embody drama. hopefully mine is the sane version. yes. xx

  4. richard says:

    it seems like you have survived the real drama, and the present is a saner, more enlightened version of a… reality blog 🙂 xo

  5. nicole says:

    I’m so happy to have found this via my FB news feed…
    I just got through reading the first nine days. this is probably the best mindful release project I’ve come across to date. perfect timing for me as well – similar things on my mind – I’m currently in India (since January) and lately have been thinking about all my stuff I left behind, boxed up and stashed in various nooks and crannies of my Brooklyn loft. (as I approach a full 8 months and no real departure date in sight) I find myself making mental lists for if I really stay here… what would I consider getting rid of for good, leaving packed up for later (for when?), wanting to drag out here? I’ve been living so minimal here in India, everyday I realize how much I take for granted the shit I have in NYC and don’t really need.
    thanks for the inspiration.

    • YK Hong says:

      thank you for being part of this journey! i love that you found me from india.
      it is indeed so surprising when we are not surrounding by so many things, how we really do not need so much of it.
      yet we do want some of it. today’s post is actually a bit about that.
      i appreciate that you are here.
      thank you.

  6. […] from competitive skiing early, and just continued skiing for myself. I never wanted to compete (see Day 9)  and I can imagine my life would have been vastly different if I were just retiring […]

  7. […] asked to be in a competition. Mind you, this is before Korea and my trauma around competition (see Day 9). But you will see from this story, even before Korea, I was never much of a fan of competition in […]

  8. […] our adulthood) is to make you enter competitions. By now you know how much I abhor competition (see Day 9 and Day 17). Even so, I did win trophies and played for 10 years until I left […]

  9. […] broke me, shut me down, spit me out (see Days 9 and 25). It hardened me emotionally and physically. Also, there was not even a word for […]

  10. erica says:

    thank you so much for this. i feel EXACTLY the same way! you’ve articulated my feelings so clearly. thank you dearest, beloved one, thank you.

    i am so very glad that you survived the grueling environment of your earlier years. because, as you noted, not everyone gets out alive.

    love you,

  11. […] with college students, who had accomplished one of the most difficult hurdles of life in Korea (see Day 9), getting into college. So as soon as Korean students entered college, they could relax and spend […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *