Achievement or Well-Being?

This morning I read a short article about how parents in the Netherlands raise their children to value education for their well being, rather than for achievement. The Netherlands has one of the top education systems in the world. Naturally, I was intrigued as to what makes it the top-ranked country in the world and what are they doing differently compared to my upbringing in the education field. One aspect that the article highlighted was students are encouraged to see themselves as they are without the pressure of performance, competing with their peers, and grades.

I grew up in a household where education was everything. You go to school to apply yourself, be the best student, and bring home only the best grades. My parent’s always reminded my siblings and me of the opportunities that were easily given to us. In Haiti, they had to pay for school, prepare their own lunch, and travel far to get to the school building. In America, the school system provided school bus transportation, free education, and depending on your home situation, free lunch. My parents would say we were privileged compared to other students across the world and they were right. Sometimes I miss those days when my only responsibility was to be a student.

However, as I think about my son and have discussions with my husband about how we want to raise him, I can’t help but wonder, is that all there is to education– going to school, getting good grades, and being the best? How about the wholesomeness of the child and how will we make sure, as parents, that our children feel a sense of completeness within themselves, despite the pressures to conform, and perform in an educational world saturated with the need to prove self-worth by achievement and accolades from others?

I must give my parents credit because they raised me up to be a passionate, inquisitive, and curious young woman. I understand I was raised and brought up in a different time period. My parents projected upon my siblings and me, what their parents always wanted from them, or what they wished they could’ve had for themselves when they were my age. So it’s not a surprise that in elementary and junior high school, my parents expected me to apply myself. In high school, I had to remain focus to be qualified for the university level. During university, the expectation was to do well so I can get a good paying job. The problem is at these crucial stages of my educational journey; I lost my sense of purpose because I was too busy competing with my peers. I saw myself in who ‘they‘ were and not in who ‘I‘ was–I think that’s something many young people can connect with.

Competition.jpgAs a young teen, I maintained a mindset of always being the best and working hard. By the time I entered high school the value of education had become a source of achievement, rather than the awakening of my mind. At Mount Pleasant High, I was not only in competition in the classroom, (that’s if I was even interested in the content matter) image also became a defining factor of who I was and how others saw me. What I wore, the style of my hair, my friends, and overall demeanor. My intellect took a backburner, and if I was in good terms with the teacher, grades were not a problem. High school was all about graduating and getting into university.

My college years were a whirlwind of emotions. I entered a different world, with student peers that had a broader perspective on life and wasn’t afraid to share their opinions and worldview in the classroom. I felt like the invisible man occupying space. I thought college was just about doing well, earning a degree, and at the end of all your efforts, getting a good paying job. The reality of it all is college was a time in my life where I recognized my achievement gaps. It was no longer about competition or image–it was about proving myself worthy of the opportunity placed in front of me. For so many years, my mindset was all about being the best and achieving good grades to be successful. It never occurred to me, till then, the importance of communication, working collaboratively with different people that are entirely different from me and the importance of learning to appreciate and utilize my voice as well as life experiences to contribute to what should’ve been my real educational journey from the beginning.

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The beauty of different seasons and stages I have encountered throughout my academic journey is the growth and progress that it has made in my well-being. My parents were right by teaching me the value of education at a young age. Although I got lost along the way, it was the many lessons I allowed myself to learn throughout my process that has shaped me into the woman I am today.

So, as I think about my children and how I hope to raise them up, I pray my husband and I will be parents that teach them how to be confident individuals. I hope our children will welcome different opinions and have the courage to stand in their convictions in what they believe to be real and authentic, while also being receptive to what others can teach them. I have no desire to move to the Netherlands, but I sure can learn from their model and apply it to my household.

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

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A Fight to the Finish

This morning I am reminded of Apostle Paul’s famous words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7) I’m reminiscent of these words because lately, it feels like I’m fighting to finish strong during my last several days at work. As of this week, I have only 30 days left until my maternity leave starts. Remaining focused in the present moment is a challenge. My son consumes my mind and the upcoming transition back to the United States keeps me distracted and staring off into space.

The difference between Apostle Paul and me is he was actually at the end of the finish line. He lived a gruesome but fulfilling life. He endured the greatest storms and not once did he recant his trust in God. He walked into situations where the result was often unknown. It’s almost like he never had his own set of expectations as to how things would turn out. He only expected God to take over and guide his path through the dark valleys of uncertainty. He had hope that God will attend to his needs as he climbed up the troublesome mountains of this world. Paul was never sure of the end result here on earth. But he knew what awaited him in glory. For him, the fight to the finish to see the greater glory of what awaited him was worth far more in comparison to the precariousness of this passing world.

I glean on Paul’s perseverance. I read his words and allow them to uplift me; as I take hold of what my present moment has to offer me. An old Haitian proverb seeps its way through my pores and penetrates my heart, “Deye mon gen mon.” (Translated in English, “Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.”) An idiom most Americans could relate to is, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side.” As I go through this waiting period towards the finish, I must remember to keep my head focused in all situations and live in the present because that’s what dictates the outcome of my future. Endure hardships by not easily being distracted by fears of what’s to come or what currently is–I must remember to trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, and love extravagantly.

I believe what Apostle Paul was trying to convey to Timothy is a persistent pace forward is needed when running a race that feels everlasting. Emotions are misleading if one allows them to take over. His words serve as a reminder, a forecast of what can happen if one allows the anxieties of tomorrow to cloud their judgment about today. Therefore, I must keep my head above the torrent of negative thoughts and strive to finish strong. I must fight the good fight, finish the race, and remain faithful till the very end.

We are all in the process of becoming. I just live to speak mine out loud.

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

The Fledge Method

In recent months, I have been fascinated with the mother eagle, particularly on how she cares for her young. Several times I found myself asking, how is a young eaglet taught to fly? At what stage in life do they start learning how to use their wings and eventually maximize them? At what point does the mother eagle decide that it is time to let go? I believe a series of events prompted these questions– Lately, I’ve been thinking about my son. I’ve been imagining what his childhood, adolescence, and adult years will be like and this short story was created in dedication to him.

The Fledge Method

When I was just a seed, mother prepared the nest for me. She worked diligently to find the sturdiest of branches. Gliding through the winds to build the nest that would one day house me. I was her priority, her joy, her heartbeat.

Then I was born. I was white, frail, and extremely needy. Mother nursed me; in her wings, I was comforted and warm. We delighted in each other. For me, life was mother, and somehow, mother was me. I saw the world through her eyes. I understood in part by what she seen.

One day mother started acting strangely. She flew out of the nest with a look of determination in her eyes. My eyes followed her as she soared high through the winds. That is all I could do, after all, life was mother and mother was me. But something about that day, made a chill go up my spine. Before mother left the nest, she kept repeating one thing,“The time to fledge has come.”

Fledge, the one word that kept imprinting itself in my mind. Curiosity was starting to overtake me, so I stood at the edge of the nest protected by its borders, awaiting mother. I thought maybe she just went out to get me food. Surely she will come back soon. The sun relentlessly beat against me; slowly hours turned into days, no sign of mother or the sound of her voice making way in the wind.

The fourth day I decided to peer at the edge of the nest. My feeble legs somehow lifted me to the peak. Then a blustery breeze overtook my balance. I was falling out fast, uncontrollably with no awareness as to where I would end up. Swoosh was the sound of the wind, and I found myself laying on mother’s back. “Mother you saved me!” I beamed with contentment and joy. But all mother said was, “The time to fledge has come.”

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“Mother?” I asked nervously. “What does that mean…fledge?” Her only words, “The time to fledge has come.” Mother’s wings guided us back to the nest. However, the nest that once housed me was destroyed. “Mother, what happened to our home?” Her only words, “The time to fledge has come.” “Mother, I don’t understand what does that mean? Why do you keep saying that? You’re scaring me.” She looked at me with her potent eyes and began to hover over me.

It was at that moment; I begin to be entranced by her wings. They were dazzling. It was like they were singing a song to the wind. Mother said nothing. She just simply fluttered her wings above me. I was transfixed at all that was happening. Suddenly I had this urge to stretch. As I started to extend my feathers, Mother’s flutters became faster. Her eyes glued to me and my–feathers. My feathers. I was mother and mother was me, so I began to flap them.

Mother rose higher. In the still air, she watched me intensely as I started flapping uncontrollably. Then slowly but surely, the wind lifted me. I had the look of terror in my eyes. I’m almost certain of it. Yet, I felt carried by something bigger than me. I looked away from mother, and through the distance, I noticed others; other eaglets that were taking their first flight away from the nest.

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My eyes zoned in on them. Until I finally heard mother say, It is done. The fledge method is complete.” On that day, I learned, I was no longer mother and mother was no longer me. She was my first foundation and will always be the steady force behind who I am. But she is her own entity, and the same goes for me. Her wings were taught how to mount through the dangerous of winds courageously; so that one day, she, in turn, can teach me. She destroyed the nest for me to understand life in its wildest, windswept form.

Now that I am older, I later learned more about that day when my mother glided through the winds  and just left me with the words, “The time to fledge has come.” She flew to the peak of the highest mountain to watch me and what I would do. She recaptures her side of the story with only a few words, A mother learns early on in life the art of waiting on her young.” I asked mother, “What made you decide that it was time to let go?” She simply responded, “It was time.”

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So, as I prepare for my son, I imagine his life through stages. When he is first born, I will be like the mother eagle caring intently for her young. In my son’s young eyes, he will be like his mother, and I will reflect him. But he will someday grow to become a man, and I must be prepared to release him to the winds. I will someday have to recognize when the time to fledge has come. In that realization, I pray throughout his upbringing, his father and I will help him to see himself as his own entity. I hope at an early age he comprehends the power of his wings.

Because, son, if years later you find yourself reading this short story, mama and papa always knew the weighted significance of time and you, son, was created to soar high.

-The Fledge Method-

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Listen. Write. Speak.=Inklub

Hello, World!

Micah and I been active on our new youtube channel, The Inklub. Below are our latest videos on our page. Check them out!

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With a baby on the way, I’ve been thinking a lot about “pregnancy-related things.” Thus, the title shouldn’t surprise anyone. But, this poem goes beyond the anticipated birth of our son. There’s an even greater birth that I’m anticipating. Take a listen.

What makes words so powerful? Here’s my explanation. – Micah

Powerful spoken word about race relations in a foreign country. Take a listen.

One word to describe my life: Drum. – Willynn

Pregnant In A Foreign Country

Many have been asking the undeniable question, ”How does it feel to be pregnant in a foreign country? How does that even work?” I’m sure if I was living in the States and one of my girlfriends was pregnant abroad I would be asking the same question. So, it’s easy to sympathize with the concerns of family and close friends.

I must say long before I became pregnant I started researching and talking to different expats that had their babies here in Korea. Out of all the different women I spoke to, and all the information I gathered, nothing made me apprehensive about becoming pregnant. My biggest concern was finding an English speaking doctor that had experience working with foreign women with my past medical condition. It did not take long to resolve that issue.

My gynecologist, Dr. Sejeong Oh from Queen’s Medical and OBGYN Clinic, not only speaks excellent English but is highly attentive to me, my baby, my concerns, and has the experience I needed to trust her. I am very thankful and grateful for her. A lot of expats recommended her because of her compassionate nature towards her patients, her willingness to answer questions, her ability in elaborating on complicated medical terms and providing a comfortable place in her clinic for her patients. Dr. Oh highly recommended my obstetrician, Dr. Sumi Kim from St. Mary’s University Hospital, to deliver Baby T. Both doctors are women (which was very important to me personally) who are well trained and experienced in their fields. They both communicate effectively and have been providing me with the best possible care.

I first started seeing Dr. Oh when I was four-five weeks pregnant. After confirming my pregnancy, she gave me a form for the Pre-Natal Care Discount Voucher. It’s better known as the Kook Min Hong Bok Card. The pregnancy voucher entitles women a maximum subsidy of 500,000 KRW (about $450 USD) to pay for doctor visits and other expenses regarding the medical care of the baby. Since being pregnant, I only had to pay an equivalent of $15.00 out of pocket. The National Health Insurance System in Korea is amazing compared to what I use to have in the States.

As for my job, my contract entitles me to three months of maternity leave. Another perk is during the first and third trimester I’m able to leave work two hours earlier than usual. In Korea, government employers are very sensitive towards women who are in their early and late stages of pregnancy. They know it’s a very critical time for the baby’s development. I work at two schools after the logistics of my maternity, and early leave was figured out. A lot of my colleagues wished me well and were very excited about my pregnancy. Of course, they had endless questions that varied from personal to superficial (which I expected), but the overwhelming amount of love I received was astounding, to say the least. My country school always gives me vegetables from the school garden to take home with me. At lunch time, they always have fruits and fresh vegetables for me to eat.

My students started suspecting I was pregnant as of last week. One of my fourth-grade girls asked my co-teacher if I was pregnant and less than five minutes later the news spread like wildfire. I remember last Friday walking on the school bus, and countless students were pointing at my stomach saying, “Willynn Teacher, 아기, 아기 (baby, baby).” “Yes, baby,” I responded and then came the wave of applause and little people with excited faces.

I cannot fail to mention the extraordinary support Micah and I have at our local church, Saeronam English Ministry. I remember during my first trimester I had the weirdest form of morning sickness. I was constantly nauseous, but not to the point of throwing up. For two weeks, I had no appetite. I couldn’t take certain smells, and I was always tired. Several women from the church offered me help and support. They calmed my many anxieties. They bought me herbal remedies that helped with nausea and were always present. Not a day went by without at least one of the women from the church checking in on me. I’m so grateful for them.

Pregnancy in another country could be scary for most, but as for me, my heart is at peace. Micah and I have outstanding people in our community who have become adopted parents, siblings, and of course amazing friends. The Thompson’s are truly blessed. Of course, I miss my biological parents, especially my mama’s cooking. But even from afar, they have been a tremendous support to us by asking what we need, sending us care packages in the mail, and making an honest effort to communicate with us once a week. Sometimes I’m just blown away by the amount of love that surrounds us near and afar. Yes, it takes a courageous soul to do what we are doing. However, you never know what outcome can come out of breaking out of your shell and doing something outside of the ordinary. Following faith requires much sacrifice, but sacrifice brings forth abundant rewards that surpass the understanding of common men.

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Inklub

My husband, Micah and I started a new YouTube channel called, the Inklub. Below is a description of what the Inklub is all about. I hope all my readers will check out our new channel and subscribe.

Inklub is a channel where we will share our writings to inspire, encourage, and sometimes even challenge our viewers to think differently. Most of our videos will be spoken word pieces, but we also plan to share songs, stories, and various other creative presentations.

Our writings are inspired by the world around us; whether it be our experiences or others. As we observe, we listen, we write and then speak out our perspectives.

We believe there is something undeniably therapeutic about words–the right words. That is why we are so adamant about sharing what we’ve written. We hope you enjoy this channel. Feel free to subscribe and connect with us.

Till Next time Friends,

Esther Lynn

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Let’s Have A Conversation

I was taught at an early age the depths of words. I learned the immense weight that can transcend an atmosphere by the expressions, we, as people, use to express what’s hidden, stored, and felt in our hearts. I’m still a working progress, but in recent years, I have come to a conclusion, reflection is necessary, and awareness is imperative. So, I was then left with this question, what impact do our words have on the relationships that surround us. Let’s have a conversation. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes.

Let’s have a conversation about relationships. You see, too often we get it confused. When I speak, I often feel cross-referenced. It’s like I’m partially non-existent. Conversations unfold with what you heard and the words I actually spoke. You misguide my details, and they are often missing from the whole interaction.
Your reaction is never a response at all, but rather a flare up of raging emotions. Relations can either be existential or only sustained by vile contentment.

Let’s have a conversation where judgment is at a distance and wounds from words doesn’t exist. Let’s get past the surface fluff and reach deeper in our understanding. Where we no longer have to hold back our authentic thoughts in an attempt to save ourselves from our dismantled hearts. Let’s come together. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes. Let’s have a conversation to speak out loud the truths hidden in our broken places to release, the torrent suppressed underneath our emotional tides.

Let’s have a conversation where we stop hiding from ourselves; Where we turn away from our loneliness and confront our shame. Let’s have a conversation where our vulnerability has an open invitation to our discussion. Let’s come together. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes. Let’s have a conversation; where we stop defining ourselves by the pain that once masked us. Let’s go on this journey, you and I. Where we explore the world as warriors of light.

Let’s go deeper, where light no longer hides from darkness, uncertainty, and lies; where inner truths are spoken out loud; surpassing our outside borders. I was taught at an early age the depths of words. I learned the immense weight that can transcend an atmosphere by the expressions, we, as people, use to express what’s hidden, stored, and felt in our hearts. So, I was then left with this question, what impact our words have on the relationships that surround us.

My learned experiences taught me this: Words are learned. Words are remembered. Words are genuine. Words are expressed. Our words tell the real truth about our character. So, never neglect the importance of a real conversation.