[Outlook] Rock bottom

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[Outlook] Rock bottom

Last weekend, I rolled over on a slope while riding a bike. The wind blew my hat off, so I took one hand off the handlebars, which was my first mistake. Then in an attempt to reduce speed, I held down a handbrake with the other hand, and that turned out to be the crucial mistake. The bike spun quickly and before I knew it I was thrown onto the ground ? into a lane of oncoming traffic.

My elbow, chest and forehead hit the ground. Using my reflexes, I stood up quickly and covered my face with my hands. Blood poured from my nose and lips and there was a knot on my forehead the size of a fist. Everything happened in a split second. It make me realize how easily I could have died.

I tried to collect myself and went to the emergency room at a hospital. I had X-rays taken on my chest and head, the parts of my body that I suspected were fractured. The doctor ran tests on my lungs and did an electrocardiogram. It appeared that I was seriously wounded, but fortunately there were no fractures. As I lay down on the bed after basic treatment, the scene that kept going through my mind was me being thrown to the ground. It was certainly a scary experience. But the experience of hitting rock bottom in life is even worse.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, delivered a commencement speech at Harvard University on June 5. To Harvard graduates, the symbol of success, the British writer said that it’s hardest to build a foundation when you’re at rock bottom. After graduating from university, Rowling herself was a terrible failure in life for seven years. As a single mom, life was very difficult and everything kept spiraling out of control. No matter how hard she tried, there was no sign that life was going to get better, so she contemplated suicide. But Rowling couldn’t kill herself and leave her infant daughter. She hit the bottom and fought her way back up again.

After deciding to go on living, she grew determined to become strong. She rented a shabby, old apartment for 600 pounds ($1,170) a month from a friend. Fighting against depression, she wrote stories about Harry Potter.

She wrote the first book to make ends meet, of course, but also to tell her baby daughter a story that she’d written on her own because she couldn’t afford to buy her books. She wrote in the hours while her baby slept, and thus completed the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Since the first book was released on June 26, 1997, the series has shaken up the entire world, as if by magic.

Thanks to the great success of her fantasy series, Rowling, someone who used to have difficulty putting food on the table every day, earned 545 million pounds, or $1 billion. She was on Forbes’ list of the World’s 500 Richest People. Rowling is richer than the British queen.

But the reason she was able to deliver a speech at Harvard was not because she was a successful writer or had made a fortune. The reason was that she had hit bottom and gotten up again. It seemed that Harvard students had experienced only success in their lives and were unlikely to hit bottom. But she told them that in order to become truly successful, they should try hitting the bottom.

President Lee Myung-bak and the Korean government keep falling downward and there seems to be no end to it. But they should fall further, instead of trying to escape it. They should lose everything and reach rock bottom. They shouldn’t struggle to come up again. They simply need to hit the bottom.

Then they can stand up again. The problem is that they want to avoid failure. The president must forget the memories of his legendary success and the honor he earned from restoring Cheonggye Stream. He should bury his arrogance and self-righteousness in the ground.

by Chung Jin-hong

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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