Good afternoon. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Yunny Chung, a graduating senior at NMH.
When I was offered the opportunity to speak for this honorable occasion, I welcomed it because I saw it as a chance to share my story on just how I came to be known as the “Big Yuns who does not sleep.”
That’s right. I know that there are concerns regarding my lack of sleep.
In order to fully explain my non-stop involvement, however, let me take you back 26 years to a small, suburban city in Korea.
It begins with a young girl who fell in love.
Once wealthy, the young girl’s family became financially strained just before the wedding, and to the mother of the groom who wished for an affluent daughter-in-law, the poor young girl with a good heart just wasn’t good enough.
Blaming the bride for the blight, the mother of the groom began a life-long hatred towards the young girl, incessantly throwing acrimonious words and tantrums. However, the young bride simply endured it all for the next 21 years, dutifully offering her unwavering service until her mother-in-law died of cancer.
Perhaps you could call it a fairy tale of a sort, as the once young bride was rewarded for her services in the end as the mother-in-law left her inheritance to her son’s only child.
Right about now, you may be wondering just where I exactly fit in in the story.
Yes, the young girl with the good heart is my mother, and her only child is me, which makes me an “heiress.” Not the Paris Hilton kind, obviously, for the inheritance was never expected and from the day that I received it I realized two things:
One, like wining the lotto, I knew that the supposed “gift” that changed my mother’s life and then, in turn, my own life was something I came into without lifting a finger for it.
Two, I immediately came to see my grandmother’s inheritance as a gift of the heaviest burden, since it originated from my mother’s sacrifice.
It was also a responsibility, always reminding me that my privileged life and education come not from my talents or abilities.
Because I did not earn the gift with my own efforts, I knew that it was my duty to pay back, and to really use the money for good, for those who did not receive a gift like I have.
Hence, there I was three years ago when I came to NMH – with a purpose and determination to excel, with big dreams and goals, but without knowing just how to reach them.
I was that awkward new sophomore who didn’t quite fit in – the self-conscious girl with a strong accent, who didn’t know how to seamlessly join the Dwight Night party held last night.
Not knowing what to do, I began my NMH career by doing “something” like everyone else. So I began math peer tutoring, which in part began to fulfill the work-job requirement, and in other parts, to avoid Forest’s offer to join the NMH Math team.
The truth is that I was afraid to reveal my less-than-adequate mathematic abilities compared to those of the geniuses in the math team competing in national math competitions.
I’m not being humble here. Believe me, the grades I got in math are the result of hours of studying, not an innate talent.
In short, my self-consciousness led me to math peer tutoring.
Yet, to my surprise, I soon discovered my love for teaching. I was actually quite good at it because knowing how frustrating math can be helped me to identify with my peers’ frustrations, and allowed me to be a better tutor, creating a bond based on mutual respect and understanding.
Ironically, what I had tried so hard to mask all these years actually helped me to realize that I could make a positive difference in others.
In NMH, I became a little kid again, swarming through an all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet. Coming from a country with a rigid education system, I was totally mesmerized by this new environment and I was eager to taste just about everything on the table.
However, as a horrible athlete, a fat chance I had of moving beyond the Third and JV Girls’ sports teams.
And as a terrible singer, I dared not to join the Concert Choir.
What I could do was play the piano, and hence I began the NMH Pianists with the support from Craig and Sheila who encouraged my wish to create a community of pianists.
Yet, my naïve arrogance was completely shattered on the first day of audition, when Yihao Yang, who was a freshman at that time, hit the first note of Chopin’s First Piano Concerto in E minor. The piece I’d never dared to even try for its difficulty was being beautifully and so easily played, followed by Will Copeland and Noah Gamble’s excellent performances.
Clearly, I wasn’t all that good at playing the piano either.
However, NMH did not leave me disappointed. The presence of so many amazing pianists in our school strengthened my commitment to the group.
Yes! Getting bombarded by SWIS emails, following up on the latest updates for different organization events, and spending my free time in brainstorming about events with Atta, I found myself excited rather than tired.
And most of all, generating more opportunities for pianists on campus to perform and to communicate with the rest of the student body, I saw that I was fulfilling my purpose as one who received an undeserving gift from my grandmother.
The NMH experience has allowed me to embrace my shortcomings, which has led me to discover my own assets that help me to fulfill the purpose that I had not known how to attain.
Three years ago, I was a self-conscious girl who feared to say “I don’t know.”
Three years ago, I was the girl in ESP, afraid to speak out.
Three years ago, I was that awkward new-comer, who had big dreams but did not know how to attain them.
And now, three years later, I am given the chance to speak before the whole school about my experience at NMH as the ‘Big Yuns’ on campus.
Not because I am smart, but because NMH provided an environment where I could build my confidence.
More importantly, NMH has allowed me to see how to use the inheritance that I received, to not waste my mother’s sacrifice, and to use this privileged education to make a difference in the lives of others.
I once asked my mom about the reasons behind her lifelong compliance.
To that she said that harboring malice only hurts oneself, while the good deeds spread outward.
As she never forgets to remind me to make my new life purposeful, I am truly thankful that I came to NMH where I was able to insert myself in multiple organizations, and to create many opportunities for myself and for others, because I believe that I became a bit more deserving of the new life that was given to me.
That I am not the best pianist, mathematician, or an athlete is okay because I now know that I can be of true service to our community.
In short, NMH can help us to reach what we dream in the most realistic sense.
We all have dreams and the aspirations to achieve them.
Yet, every so often, we do not know how to get there.
Here at NMH, I want to say one does not need to compromise as I have turned my weaknesses into my strengths and valuable assets.
What we have here is truly rare and valuable.
Let us remember how fortunate we are to be here in a place where we are free to pursue our individual passions.
From the way I see it, all of us are in a sense, heirs and heiresses who have the duty to make a difference using the great education we are receiving.
Let’s not waste it, but celebrate it.