Dear G. I. Joe: 50 years old (Ji Myong, 지명, 知命)

How are you, my friends? As I promised in my last writing, I want to share a bit more about the age of 50. The issue of age often becomes a critical factor in a relationship, especially for Asians. Many of my Asian clients ask me about my age. Clinically speaking, I could go in multiple directions to handle this situation, but I often smile and tell them my age. Then, I talk to them about the age and its subsequent meaning based on Confucianism. I am almost 50 years old. At fifty, one is to reach one’s enlightenment to know one’s purpose in Heaven. Thus, age 50 refers as Ji Myong(지명, 知命). What an age! I lived about half of my life, believing that my life is to help couples. I came to this country for that reason and lived my life to be where I am now past twenty years. Before my summer trauma, I thought I was very close to that stage of my life of knowing my bigger purpose in my life. I had a vision for my next twenty years when 2020 started. Was I arrogant? At least, I believed to myself that I was old enough to carry out my purpose in more tangible and feasible ways, clinically and biologically speaking. My summer trauma shook off everything I had in my mind.  

When I was 38 years old, the first interpersonal trauma of divorce happened. Divorce was hard, but I managed well enough to renounce, at least I thought to myself back then. I thought to myself that I was at my best again at my 40. I returned to seeking my long-overdue doctorate. My life was tremendously busy, filled with numerous cups of coffee, and sleepless nights with many prayers and tears. However, I had the second-best time of my life, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In Confucianism, 40 years old is called Bul-Hok (불혹,不惑). At 40 years old, Confucius was not conceived by the worldly affairs and apprehended the operations of the world. 

I dare to say that I knew why my marriage did not work by 40 years old. I am not Confucius; thus, I was content enough to move on with my 40 years old. Feeling being in the right direction for my life at 40 years old was enough to go on with my life. I did not know how this world operates just like Confucius, but I wanted to know how two people from two different cultures interact and build their life together without impacted by worldly affairs. My main interest was culture, religion/spirituality, and trauma, specific to sexual issues such as infidelity at that time.

I have a couple of years to become 50 years old, but I am not sure whether I could live until then. My fear of death and life was stronger when I was amid my summer trauma than now after a couple of months has passed. My summer trauma threatened my safety over my shelter, children’s well-being, my trust over my career, and my emotional and physical health. How did you Joe and G manage your traumas? Joe, you are almost 40 years old and G, you are 50 years old. How your traumas impacted the way you see your life and this world? Do you feel closer to know your purpose in life and not to be shaken by worldly affairs? My fear to live until 50 years old sounds irrational, doesn’t it? I agree. I did not have much concern about it at all until this summer when my house almost collapsed by water damage, when I was almost electrocuted, and when my identity was stolen. Figuratively speaking, I died three times in three months. It still does not make sense why I have fear of becoming 50 years old. I have my family history related to my fear of death and life. 

My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was between 44 and 45 years old. This is around the time when I started my doctorate. She was at her fourth stage of cancer and told that she could live about two years at the most. Treatment was available but the chances for successful treatment were slim. She decided to go on with her life. She did not tell anyone about her illness. She lived a little bit over four years. Instead of medical treatment, she decided to return to God and her church. She studied theology and wanted to be a pastor. She donated more than half of her money to the church, spent days after days at the prayer mountain, and kept to herself when the family gathered for various celebrations. She was often lethargic and sluggish. Her face and arms were swollen, at least to my observation whenever I visited home in Korea. None of the family ever imaged that she was slowly and painfully dying all alone. 

It was the last day of my comprehensive exam when my brother told me about my sister’s chronic condition, which led to an admission to a hospice center about a couple of weeks before when I started my preparation for the comprehensive exam. I turned in my comprehensive exam answers right before the deadline. My brother texted me whether I turned in my answers. I sent a smile emoji with a “yes” message. He called right away and told me about my sister. He said that I should be prepared to fly out in case she passed away. I recalled I walked by the window at the end of an empty school hallway. I could overlook a small pond where I often did my devotion, had lunch, and walked around it when I had a rough day. I was staring at the pond with a foggy mind. The most difficult and troublesome question for me was why she did not tell anyone in my family? Why did she decide to walk this painful battle with her illness with people she met at the church? Did she even tell them about her illness? I could not bear the thoughts of her trying so hard to hide her pain in front of our family gatherings. Why? I was tremendously angry at her, at my God and her God as if we believed in two different gods. My God would never let me do such a thing. I was for sure back then, but I was not sure anymore when I went through my summer traumas. I felt my sister’s internal pain more than the physical pain that kept her from hurting her most loved people, our family, and her children. what a difficult decision to make? She was in the middle of her forty and she died by the time she was supposed to know her purpose in life, according to Confucius. Did she know her purpose in her life? At age 40, she must have reached a stage where she certainly was not swayed by worldly affairs and decided to become a pastor then she got sick. I never had a chance to ask her deep questions. 

Dear Joe and G, you both said you have siblings. I remember more about Joe’s family that seems to be fairly well-established, socioeconomically speaking. I could not recall how many siblings you had G. I remember you talked about your brother or sister in Texas. I wonder what happened to your siblings when you were abducted from English when you were young, G. It took me several days to write to you two together this time. I was exhausted several times and I rewrote it multiple times. I still do not like it but I am going to send this to you two because I want you to know that I still remember you. It is a bit gloomy this morning and I feel my “normal” aging process of blurry eyes from staring at the screen for a long time and lower back pain. This morning, my gym staff told me that I needed to wear a mask even if I am on the treadmill. I cannot wait to take off this mask because my lung is not as healthy as used to be and I could not breathe well with this mask on especially when I am trying to exercise. Please stay well and safe until I recover and dare to see you two again.  

So long,

C.S. Taylor

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