A Graduate’s Journal

A Graduate’s Journal

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In our Graduation Program we not only want to hear about the curriculum you might be doing, but we want to know who you are, what influences your thought process and the person you are aspiring to be. Because in a society that has forgotten to value wisdom, curiosity and introspection, young adults who are nurtured in this way during the most developmental period of their life are an incredible asset to our world as whole.

Prospective graduate, Michael Heaton, delivers a reflective report of his personal growth and shares his thoughts as he navigates a trivial time in his life.

If I’m honest, I could call February my realization month. I read many books from prophets to philanthropists, philosophers to fables; everything. Many of them had different messages and sometimes they were conflicting. But the things I have learned have helped me to see where I truly am, where I will go if I continue doing what I am doing, and where I truly want to end up.

In the beginning of February I had a huge personal expense come up. The good news is that I finally paid it all off. But that whole month I felt totally broke. Which is not a bad thing to feel at my age because I don’t have a family or spouse depending on me. It just makes me realize how much growing I still have left before I am really ready for the real adult world. In a nut shell I’d say the beginning was humbling.

That works out perfectly for this type of education because it proves the old story of Socrates. Most people know about the young man who goes to Socrates and says something to the fact that he wants to learn from Socrates and be wise like him. Socrates then walks down to the beach and shoves his head in the water. The young man fights to come up to breathe. And finally when he almost drowns Socrates lets him up. Of course the young man is furious. Socrates responds calmly saying that once he wants truth and knowledge as bad as he wanted air, then he would teach him. That very desire that Socrates points out, is what I had in February. I got tired of settling for the life I had. My income seemed capped. My friendships, limited and self absorbed. My spiritual life, mundane and routine. My physical health, mediocre at best.

After I realized where I was at, I wrote some things that I wanted to change. I put up a white board where I can track my progress in different areas in my life to see what I needed to work on. Although I’m not perfect at updating it, it is in my room and I constantly look at it as I do my schooling. I’ve learned that if you want something to improve, you need to track it. The moment you do that, it becomes a priority. That has really helped me appreciate the gift of a day. There will never be a day like today ever again. And each day we are given, we trade for the things we think are important. Whether we are just killing time, or investing it, we can never get that day back. So we must use it wisely.

Previous to February, I often found myself bored, unfulfilled, and not where I wanted to be. If that continued, I’d follow the saying, “Some people die at 25, and aren’t buried until 75”. I don’t want that by any means. When I was bored and unfulfilled I also found that it effected my relationships. Not because people were all a sudden being jerks. But because I was focusing on myself so much more because I had nothing else to do. And lets be honest, none of us like a friend who is self centered.

Once I realized that my laziness was effecting who I was becoming, I decided to change. I started passing out flyers to expand my landscaping business in South Phoenix. I’m reading deeper into the words of God. I’ve tried to be less task oriented and play with those around me when they ask for my attention. When I think of old friends, I send them a text to let them know that I appreciate their role in my life. If I have down time, I invest it into my future. Just those simple things have revolutionized my life; not to mention my self confidence.

Now I know a lot of this could not be classified under math, science, or history. But I still believe that it is education. I believe that education is supposed to make life easier. Without knowing the things that I’ve just shared, life would be much harder. And if I could narrow down everything I’ve learn last month, I’d say this, success is never an achievement or trophy that we can attain and lock away for the rest of our lives. That is what you call a goal. Most people, including myself, think that success can eventually be achieved once we do this, or accomplish that, or face a certain obstacle. But the truth is success is only realized in the pursuit of your goals. The moment we stop stretching for what we want, and becoming a better person each day, we are no longer successful.

So thanks again for this program of credibility, and accountability. It’s helped me a lot already. Talk to you next month.

A Graduates’ Path to Self-discovery

A Graduates’ Path to Self-discovery

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The West River Academy Graduation Program students are a true testament to the philosophy that there is beauty in diversity. The young adults that we cross paths with have learned that it is okay to hit walls, question your identity, and feel imperfect. Because what you learn from that is how to bounce back, be authentic and embrace your uniqueness.

Marta Chan is an exceptional young woman in our Graduation Program Class of 2018. In one of her monthly report assignments, she reflects on a trip to Finland, growing up in Estonia and her journey to self-discovery.

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine… And it’s breathtakingly beautiful!” L.R. Knost has managed to put into words the description of how this month was for me.

I learned once again, that sometimes things just don’t work out as you planned. I thought I had already learned this lesson, but this month proved me wrong. Nothing seemed to go the way I wanted. I was really upset and irritated. But then, I started noticing all these unexpected little, wonderful things that happened in my life. I realized how I sometimes rush to get everything done and forget the reason why I’m doing these things in the first place. Writing my thoughts and feelings down into my journal, really helped me find some serenity and peace of mind.

One thing that was constantly on my mind this month, was my dad’s Chinese origin and his ancestry. It’s challenging for me to do family history from his side, because I do not speak neither Cantonese nor Mandarin Chinese. I’m learning the latter, but it’s rather difficult. It’s not so much the language that’s hard to learn but the notion and culture of the Chinese people. As I have learned more about their culture and traditions, I have recognized pieces of it in myself. I know my parents gave and still give their best in raising me and my siblings and I am really grateful for them, because they have allowed and encouraged me to become the best me. But at times I feel like I am disconnected from the Chinese “part” of me. When I was younger, I always tried to convince others (and myself) that I am a “true- Estonian”. And I remember being so upset when someone would point out that I’m “half- Chinese”, because it made me feel as if I’m incomplete and hence insufficient. But with time I came to realize, that’s not true! Rather than trying to define myself, I learned to know myself. Who I am? Who and What I love? What are my fears, my talents, my passions? What do I do to accomplish my dreams? These are the things that matter. These are the things that make me complete. Not perfect, far from that. But whole.

I learned that if we come to accept ourselves the way we are, it helps us move forward and better ourselves. The beauty in being a human is that we have both the ability and power to improve ourselves. Our backgrounds and situations do not play important roles in this. Our attitude does. My dear grandpa told me once: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t drive the car anywhere until you change it. And if you change it, you can go anywhere your heart desires”. I agree with him.

February Twenty-fourth officially marked the one-hundreth birthday of the Republic of Estonia. This gave me again a reason to dive into my family history and celebrate the people who built this country. Their sacrifices and diligence in hardships don’t cease to both amaze and impress me.

Screen Shot 2018 03 16 at 2.21.51 PM 48x36@2xOne of the highlights of this month was our family trip to Finland. We went there by a ferry. It was really cool to see the frozen Baltic Sea. All of the water was pretty much asymmetrical blocks of ice. Finland is really pretty! They have many lakes (about 168 000) and endless uninhabited boreal forests! But our first priority was to visit Helsinki Finland Temple. I believe it to be (along with the rest of the 159 operating temples our Church has) a sacred place and the house of God. It was wonderful to visit it and it really made me appreciate everything that has been created, even more than I did before. The time there also gave me a chance to rewind everything that has been going on in my life lately and steer myself back to where I want to be. In conclusion, this month I mostly analysed and studied myself. As ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”