Life does not go in a straight line, a highly sought-after American youth and young adult speaker told Catholic millennials in New Zealand at a Zoom conference during the lockdown.
The Auckland Catholic Young Adult Community held the video conference on May 23 when the country was still on alert level two due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Inspirational speaker and musician Paul J. Kim shared the circuitous road he took before he found his calling. Married with three children, Mr Kim revealed he tried religious life by discerning with Franciscan friars in New York for 3 and a half years.
He said his parents were immigrants from South Korea who had very high expectations.
“My dad was like, ‘good, you got straight A’s. You get to live another school year.’ It helped me in some ways and wounded me in others, but that was my upbringing,” he said. “They also happened to raise me Catholic. I didn’t always appreciate the Catholicism part, but now I do.”
He said he encountered Jesus when he was in high school.
“The best way I can describe it is I felt his presence. It was very tangible and real. It felt like he was giving me a hug. And when you’ve made a mess of your life up to that point, and you’re expecting to be grounded forever or punished, instead you get a hug, that is when you cry. And ugly cry, I did,” he said.
Mr Kim said, though, his life didn’t turn around. He went to UCLA and the “had time of my life away from dictatorship home I lived in”. But he said even though he was partying, he felt miserable and burdened.
He left UCLA for the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He aligned his life to his Catholic beliefs, going to Mass every day. This was when he decided to try religious life.
“Ultimately, it was not for me, but I gave it my best shot,” he said.
Mr Kim said he felt the stigma of having left religious life. “When I came back, people were like, why are you back? Why did you leave? Are you weird? Are you crazy?” he said.
He went back to university and studied to be a counsellor, a job that he later found was not the right fit for him.
“What’s the take-away from my mistakes in life? If you are in uni, you are peddling away hundreds of thousands of dollars. University is one of the largest investments you will make with your life. Even if the government is subsidising that loan, you are who will be responsible for paying it back,” Mr Kim said. “It is in your best interest to really dig deep and figure out, is this thing that I’m majoring actually going to translate into something that I want to do.”
After jumping from one career decision to another, he became “a Catholic speaker and a musician which for some people sounds like, ‘wow, you just got a job in poverty’”.
But he said the secret to his success was hard work and a mindset to doing better.
On dating, Mr Kim advised young men to just be confident.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen if you ask a girl out on a date? She’ll say ‘no’. If that happens, just say, I understand, have a nice day,” he said. “Gentlemen, you will miss every shot you do not take. Just go talk to her. Girls appreciate guys who know what they want.”
As for the ladies, he suggested they ask themselves if the man they are considering dating would be good enough for a future daughter.
“If you’re answer is no, then that’s it,” he said. “You’re worth more than one relationship full of empty promises. Seek the Lord’s will.”
Mr Kim’s last advice for the Catholic millennial is “daily prayer”.
“Prayer isn’t a part of your relationship with God, it is your relationship with God. If you don’t pray, you don’t have a relationship with God,” he said.