Jay Cackowski (2003)

Jay Cackowski
August 8th, 2003 – SJC Session 1

Well here we are again. It’s the end of the week, and the end of another great experience at Sae Jong Camp – I think we can all agree that this past week has been quite a ride. Where does time runaway to? Like the Higgins Lake sand that slips right through your fingers, time seems to lose itself and return back to where it came. In the end, we all pack up and go home, right? But what is it that we keep? What is it that we go home with? I think it’s a little more than just new friendships and cultural awareness, which by all means are great. However, at the core of camp is the mission to help Korean adoptees understand who they are, and to equip themselves with the means to live in the world as their own person.

Throughout my years here as a camper I have seen everything there is to see. I’ve felt the drama, the love, the same trials and tribulations that you have experienced. I’ve sat at the water’s edge and gazed out at the picturesque image that laid before me in total silence as I contemplated the very meaning of my existence – my existence – the existence of a Korean adoptee, it seems to equal no other at time. Other times it seems meaningless and insignificant. Like a world turned over, ours is unique.

Finding our place within this world is usually one of the most challenging aspects of being Korean adopted. This world is constantly changing. Like life, continuity is nonexistent, and the way in which we live is always under attack by outside elements. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The good characteristics involving change are too often overlooked. It is all too easy to concentrate on the negative, even when the positive is right in front of you. Without change, imagine how narrow your perspective on life would be. Without change imagine how pointless life would become. Even this camp, its ideals and its people cannot escape change. I remember my first year when a few of my cabin mates said they just weren’t feeling camp in the way that they used to. I myself thought that this idea was absurd, because it was my first year and I was just simply having a blast. But now, three years later, I can understand completely. I have looked at some of you and even talked about it. To those who look at camp differently now, perhaps try to broaden your horizons. Understand that change is a part of life and that sacrifice is required to learn some of life’s most important lessons. Take a look down the road at where you will be in five or ten years. Perhaps you’ll be in high school, perhaps college, or perhaps you will be standing at the threshold of your freedom, that one moment where you are on the open road or standing in the middle of a bustling city street amongst a multitude of different jobs. That one singular instance where you can truly ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?” What then? Will you be ready? To take on anything that comes your way? To face the world head on and embrace your own existence with that of the world’s.

To quote a line from a friend’s poem, “To find happiness there is one place to begin your search. That is deep down inside of you, look within yourself. Because you know you better than anyone else.”
The very core of camp – the most important lesson to learn is to be your own individual. To have the ability to walk through life with confidence, knowing who you are, understanding your heritage, and knowing that you are not alone in this world – a world whose change is its evolution into something better.

The little rewards of life are great. Next time you exit the fast lane for a moment of relaxation, just take a little time to step back and look at this big picture called life. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Challenge the world as well as yourself to explore and experience the world to the greatest extent possible. And always always follow your heart. You are Korean adopted, you are your own individual, you are free.

My cabin, you are my brothers, I love you all like a fat kid loves cake. And to everyone else, I truly love you all and only hope to see you someday again.