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Letter from the Chief - October 2011
[ Issue 109 Page 2 ] Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 21:45:20 Jae Young Byon jaebyon@kaist.ac.kr

Dear Readers,

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of something. It’s something that we all have been aware of and will continue to be aware of, and yet at the same time we always seem to forget it when we need to recognize in the most. I know that I am in no position to play the part of a wise man - how much advice can an undergraduate engineering student give on life anyway? - but I think no such qualifications are necessary to point out this bit of truth - we all want, no, need to live large, but such aspirations often die down to banality.

Living small has its merits. It’s safe - you are in full control of just about everything you put yourself through and, more importantly, you just about know what will happen as a result. There is no fear factor to account for in living small and such comfort is tempting. How great does that sound? Really, really great… except for one tiny problem - you’re wasting the single lifetime given to you (the question of who or what gave you that chance I will not have to broach) by doing nothing of significance. You have the entire planet Earth to explore but you choose to sit at home? That, dear readers, is plain crazy.

And to those who think themselves otherwise, a word of caution: when I say “sit at home,” I don’t actually mean sit at home. There’s a 1,001 ways to live small, many of which may not appear so at first glance. Scenario 1: you study hard in high school, attend a decent college with all your high school buddies, get that same desk job as all your college buddies and tell you kids afterwards to do better. That’s the easy one, right? Scenario 2: study REALLY hard in high school, go to a better college than all your friends, get a more “prestigious” and high-paying job than all your friends and begin to wonder why you bothered with it all by the time you turn 40, at which point you already feel 80 on the inside. Here’s one more: you attend KAIST, you decide to work at it all the way to a doctorate (and for the guys, conveniently earn yourself an exemption from military service) and then go work at your job. Was that really any better?

The common theme to all these scenarios is that everybody’s too busy copying each other and doing the same things to fully comprehend what their own lives are turning into. Regardless of how much money you make, if that path is one that already has been taken, you better have a good reason for doing just the same. And often enough, people do it only to fit in with others. Of course, there is nothing wrong with living just like everyone else. As far as I know there are no fixed answers in life and a choice can only be satisfactory (or not so satisfactory) to whoever makes it. But there’s always bound to be a better choice and unless all you ever wanted to do since you were three was to conform like nobody’s ever conformed before, following the crowd hardly seems an amazing feat.

If you happen to be the minority, who took the road you did because you truly wanted what lay at the end, I salute you. It is a shame that others took that same road without quite so much thought and passion as you did.

It can be a serious challenge to do as you want. In fact, it is sometimes illegal. But even within legal limits, breaking out of the herd to become something of an anomaly is definitely intimidating. If everyone else in the world decided to wear a pair of jeans tomorrow, one can hardly be blamed for putting on a pair of Levi’s himself. But life isn’t like that. The choices given hold so much more significance than what you wear on some random day and if you screw them up, the consequences are dire. I sincerely hope that when the time comes, you will not make such a mistake.

Regards,
Jae Young Byon
Editor-in-Chief
 

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