No time like the present for dreamsA few days ago, I received an e-mail from singer Lee Jang-hee asking how his friends in Korea were doing. He was in the Caribbean and had been hopping from Sint Maarten to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was on his way to Miami, but once home in Los Angeles, he would “hibernate” for the season before returning to Ulleung Island in spring.
When I first met him in late summer 10 years ago, he was sharing dessert with fellow singer Cho Young-nam and told us about his trip to Sierra Nevada. While traversing the mountain range, he ran into a brown bear. Cho joked, “Why would you go there? Are there beautiful women or good drinks?” At any rate, Cho praises Lee as the “greatest Korean man.” Other members of Cho’s band, C’est Si Bon, agree. Lee has lived his life not with words but actions.
When I asked about his secret to living well, he told me a story about when he was in fifth grade: “After watching the movie ‘Dracula,’ I couldn’t sleep at night for a month. I wasn’t afraid of Dracula but feared death itself,” he said. “I started worrying that when I died, no one would remember me. I was shocked to realize that you only get one shot at life and decided to live as I wanted. I would never waste time. For better or worse, I would follow my own judgment. Of course, I’ve had my share of gains and losses.”
At the core of his dream life are nature and travel. He has traveled across North America, explored the Amazon and visited countless islands all over the world. Some may think it is only possible because he is wealthy. When I asked him about this, he said, “I don’t even have a bank account.”
“People are dashing to attain happiness,” he said. “They think, ‘When I make money, I will travel around the world with my wife and live my life fully.’ But that’s only a dream. If you haven’t been anywhere, how can you enjoy traveling? Will your wife join you gladly? If you want to travel, you must leave right now. You must start when you are younger.”
We are now approaching the season of graduation and retirement. In the face of such radical change, people may be feeling unsettled. If you don’t yet know which direction you should take in the next phase of your life, what about listening to your inner voice, just like Lee did? Regardless of your age, this may be the best time to start following your ambitions, your happiness and your long-forgotten dreams.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Na-ri