Why I’m glad I married young

My daughter Emilie wrote about her choice to marry young, and I’m proud of her and Joachim, and how it’s turned out. I’m a grateful Mom! 🙂



Emilie S. Emilie S.

Josh just recently wrote an excellent article about waiting to get matched/married. While I whole-heartedly agree with 99% of what he wrote, I wanted to share my story as a counter-balance to show that marrying young can work and can also be a wonderful thing.

My husband and I just celebrated our ninth anniversary last month. I was 4 days shy of my 17th birthday the day we got matched by Rev. Moon in Korea. While I would never recommend getting matched at that age, I don’t regret my choice in the slightest. It was the right move for me at that time, and I was really clear about that. No matter what age you are when you get married, it’s important that you feel clear and confident about taking on the challenge and responsibility.

In the US, the average age of first marriage is 27 for women…

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LIFE STORY: or how to identify your transferable skills~

S-2 Class
Think of something you did that was really fun, challenging, adventurous, or difficult. It can be from any time in your life. It can be something very simple, like riding your bike for the first time, or that no one even noticed, like my story below. The key point is that you were fully invested, and you overcame a challenge in order to accomplish your desire. You will need to identify 4 things:

1. The Goal: What was it you wanted to accomplish? “I wanted to…”

2. The Obstacle: What was the challenge you had to face and overcome?

3. The Action Plan: What did you do? Outline the steps you took to eventually accomplish.

4. The Result: What did you learn? And how do you know you were successful?


Ever since my dad made fun of the way I answered the phone, I was fearful and avoided answering it like the plague. By the time I was in college, I knew it was time to put my phone phobia to rest. I wanted to feel comfortable answering the phone in my own house! (Goal)

The challenge was I was still SCARED, and would break into a cold sweat when the phone rang and no one else was home to answer. (Obstacle)

So, I decided to make a strategy to challenge my fear. (Action Plan) I wrote all the possible scenarios that might happen: Someone calling for my parents, someone calling for me, wrong number, etc…and wrote down what I would say in each of those events. “Hello? This is Robin….Sorry, she’s not here right now, can I take a message?” The action steps included jumping up and down when the phone started to ring. I knew enough about energetics to realize this would get me into a more positive space, and also get my voice up off the floor.

Result? I became super good at answering the phone. I found out it was fun, once I got the hang of it. To this day, I enjoy answering the phone, and can handle whatever comes through on the other end of the line. Success!!

Now it’s YOUR turn 🙂 Try thinking of a victory you had, an accomplishment that you’re proud of, and analyze what you did to make it happen. Then write it down and SEND IT!

I’m interested to find out how people challenge difficulties, and what inspires and motivates them to do so. If you contribute a brief story, including your name, age, and where the story took place, I will add it to this blog, and you will have become a contributor-at-large. No pay, but it will be an opportunity to reflect on a life lesson, AND read about other people’s experiences.

You can send your LIFE STORY to projectlifestory@gmail.com, or post it directly in the comment section below. Send me a private FB message when you do, so I don’t miss it. And if you need any help with the editing, let me know~ all my Korean students were grateful for that 🙂 Thank you!

To see the life stories written by my Korean students, see https://teatalksrobin.wordpress.com/category/life-stories-from-korean-students/ or just keep scrolling down. They’re longer than a paragraph because they were prepared for a speech class.

* * *

The LIFE STORY PROJECT is about identifying our unique stories~ reaching into the most important places in your life where you were most alive, most vulnerable, most challenged and most inspired. Richard Nelson Bolles, in his award-winning job-hunters’ Bible, “What Color is Your Parachute?” said that searching for these stories of struggle and success helps us to discover what makes us tick. Hidden between the lines of each of our Life Stories are the keys to our strengths and passions. When faced with something important to us, something that fully absorbed our time and attention, or that posed a significant challenge to us for one reason or another, we found ourselves calling upon our talents and skills to work it out. According to Bolles, finding your life stories is an important way to discover your passion and perfect vocation. He shows us how to take each story apart to discover what skills we used~ what he calls ‘transferable skills,’ meaning they can be used in other areas in our lives. When we use these skills, we are enjoying and expressing our original nature and BEST SELF, so this is what we want to look for in a job or career path.


KMU Stage Fright


“If I ever have to speak in front of many people again, I will never be nervous, thanks to this experience.”

Hello, everyone. My name is Seo Jin. I major in Chinese and Chinese Literature. I’m going to talk about my challenge, stage fright. Every time I had to give a speech in front of many people, I worried about it too much. Once I started my speech, I froze up and completely forgot what I was going to talk about. I couldn’t speak clearly and my hands shook because I felt so nervous. As my nervousness grew, my speech got worse and worse. Finally, I finished my speech almost crying. After it was over, I always regretted that I didn’t feel more comfortable or have more confidence. I thought it was a big problem, not only at that time, but also for my whole life. That’s why I decided to overcome my challenge, and I started to practice speaking in front of people.

What did I do to overcome my fear of public speaking? First, I started talking with my dolls and the wall. I regarded my dolls as an audience and I talked in front of them. I even talked with the fish in the aquarium. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I really did that. Secondly, I tried to answer the teacher’s questions as much as I could during class. That gave me more confidence.

Now, it’s so much better than before. I can speak in front of people without my hands shaking and I don’t feel nearly as nervous as before. I can’t say that I’ve completely overcome my fear of public speaking, because I still feel nervous sometimes, but I’m on my way. I believe that one day I will be able to speak easily in front of thousands of people.
The End

Teacher’s Comments: The LIFE STORY PROJECT was first conceived during a writing assignment by students at Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea.The stories were eventually given as short 2-3 minute speeches in front of the class.

In my job as a teacher of English conversation at Kookmin University, I was constantly faced with students who were in the process of job interviews and resumes and the daunting task of selling themselves in a very competitive job market. I realized that many of them didn’t really know themselves well, and that finding their stories as Nelson Bolles suggested in his bestselling job-hunting book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” would help them discover their strengths and interests.

The assignment I gave them was to write a story from their life about a time that they 1) wanted to do something, 2) faced an obstacle, and 3) overcame it. In the process, they were reminded of interests and strengths that they have, and the rest of us were inspired to hear their accomplishments. The LIFE STORY PROJECT was born! To submit a story, please keep it brief, include your name, age, and where the story happened, and send it to projectlifestory@gmail.com.

Thank you! Robin

GREAT TEACHINGS ~ Korean student speaks about his English teacher


GREAT TEACHINGS, A life story by Yoo Bin Heo 

Hello, everyone. My name is Yoo Bin Heo. I’m a freshman at Kookmin University and my major is Public Administration. I’m really glad to meet all of you in this class. Today, I’d like to talk to you about a very special teacher who meant a lot to me in my life.

 Whenever I think of the teachers I had throughout my school life, I always think of Mr. Yang, my English teacher. I learned a lot from him. Not only knowledge, but I also learned wisdom that is essential to my life.

 I met him when I was a junior in high school. He was my English teacher. He always greeted his students with a sweet smile and a kind word. In every class, he always told us exciting or touching stories.

 I figured that Mr. Yang was a very strong-willed man. His family was really poor when he was young, so his parents couldn’t afford the education fees. However, Mr. Yang, who had a great will to study, worked on a farm delivering cabbages to earn money. He studied and studied to get a scholarship at the college. He said that he studied about 15 hours a day. Finally, he got the scholarship and made it through college. Now, he’s a great teacher and tutor.

 I was a very negative and unwilling person before I met Mr. Yang. Since I was very young, my mother wanted me to try new things and gave me lots of chances to do what I wanted to. However, I never continued or finished anything I began. For instance, I started learning piano when I was in kindergarten. I played until I was in 4th grade in elementary school and then I quit. The reason I quit was because it was getting harder and harder. I was always like this during my school life. When something got harder, I lost interest and gave up.

 However, after I heard Mr. Yang’s story, which was like a drama, I felt I wasn’t trying hard enough. I saw in him the exact example of the proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Before that, I had always been negative about any challenge. I was afraid of failing and I also had no purpose. However, since Mr. Yang, I feel very different than before. Now I know that if I think I can do something, I can do it.

 I sincerely appreciate Mr. Yang for giving me courage by being a great example. I’m glad I was one of his students. Thanks to him, whenever I feel discouraged by my situation or any obstacle, I don’t give up anymore. He taught us great teachings, both academically and spiritually.

Did you ever have a teacher like Mr. Yang in your life, or were you ever strongly impressed by someone close to you? I hope so!


Editor’s Note: After hearing this story, I asked Yoo Bin Heo if he had told his teacher how he felt. When he said no, I suggested he make sure he did. So often the teacher never knows where his precious wisdom has taken root.


Teaching at KMU

As a former lecturer in the General Education Dept at Kookmin University, I taught conversational English, which in my courses included speech writing, presentation skills and public speaking, as well as an out-of-class real-life assignment interviewing foreigners. Over the course of my 6 years at KMU, I collected hundreds of life stories from my students.

When I first started asking students to write about a turning point in their lives, I knew I was on to something important. Listening to them recount their challenges and subsequent victories, I knew these stories should be heard by a wider audience, and the Life Story Project started taking shape.

1)An anthology of short stories about the lives of university students in Korea;
2)A textbook for teachers, including guided lesson plans, sample speeches, and comments from students;
3)An interactive website for university students, both in Korea and abroad, where they can submit written stories in English, ask for and receive help with topic ideas, basic writing skills, grammar corrections, and proofreading, ending up with a polished work published in an anthology.

There is a recent interest in many countries to know more about Koreans, and a fascination with the culture of what used to be called the ‘hermit kingdom’ but now has a woman president for the first time, and all kinds of artists and performers like PSY taking the world by storm.

If you are interested in supporting or contributing to this project, contact me at robindebacker@yahoo.com, or here on my website. For more information about how to submit your own Life Story, see https://teatalksrobin.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/the-life-story-project/ for guidelines and a sample story.

Thank you,
Robin Debacker
Liege, Belgium

THE JOY OF WRITING, IN THEIR OWN WORDS: An Anthology of Speeches, PLUS Writing Tips, Teaching Guidelines, and Feedback from Students~ Compiled and edited by Robin Debacker at Kookmin University, Seoul, Korea, 2007-2012


This is a very special story written by a very special student at KMU. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture, or even the correct spelling of her name. For now, she is just the girl who didn’t settle for less!

2Hello, everyone. I’m delighted to give a speech in front of my classmates today. The story I would like to share with you is basically about how I ended up being here at Kookmin as a college student. It’s also about the struggles I have been facing for the last decade and what makes me keep fighting to overcome the obstacles that lie around me and also within myself.

I hope that my story will be an encouragement to those of you who might think it’s too late to start something great, or to fix the mistakes you have made in the past.

 I’m currently in my junior year, majoring in Industrial Design. Like many of you, I’m just another college student with goals and dreams to succeed in life. One thing very special about me, however, is that I’m 33 years old and I entered this university back in 1995, which was 12 years ago. After finishing my sophomore year in 1997, I decided to take a year off. I wanted to explore a lot of things outside college life. I became very comfortable with my life during that year. I was busy traveling, learning English, and also having several part-time jobs. The problem was that I kept postponing going back to school even after one year had passed. I wanted to stay in my comfort zone.

 During that time, I also met and fell in love with a very special guy who is now my husband. Blinded by love, we decided to hurry up and get married. My husband and I have been very blessed to have a strong marriage for the past seven years, yet having to make a living and making ends meet as small business owners kept me from going back to school. I kept telling myself, “Somehow things will be different next year, and I’m going to have a chance to study the things I was once very passionate about.” Like water under a bridge, ten years passed by since I left school with the intention to take only one year off.

 Facing the ten-year anniversary of my unfinished dream last winter, I felt like it was now or never. When I finally started to consider going back to school, however, I felt afraid and ashamed. I began to wonder what people around me would think and whether I would be able to follow along with the curriculum. I was even afraid to face all the teachers who might recognize me and wonder why I had come back. Well, this should tell you I’m not an assertive person. Fortunately, with my husband’s support, I finally got the courage to apply for re-entrance into Kookmin University and I was accepted.

 Before the first semester began this spring, I paid a visit to the office of our department in order to ask a few question about some classes. I ran into one of the professors who had also been around ten years ago and he recognized me. The first comment that came out of his mouth when he saw me was, “You’ve gotten so fat! What happened?” I simply didn’t know what to say. While I was still standing uneasily in front of him, he continued to speak. “Well, I heard that you were coming back, but why do you need to come back after all these years? I just don’t see the point now that you are married and all.”

 Composing myself with a smile, I replied, “I want to and need to study industrial design because I’d like to build my own design company someday.” Then he said, “Are you serious? You should know better. That plan seems very unrealistic to me.” I took it to mean that my goal should be staying at home and being a good housewife. I wish he hadn’t been so insensitive. I was deeply offended but I kept smiling because it was obvious that there was nothing I could do to change his way of thinking.

 Deep down in my heart, I knew he was wrong and that I have every right to pursue my dreams regardless of my age or circumstances. I also believe I can be successful if I pour my heart into whatever I do. Strangely, however, his comments lingered in my head and began to drag me down. I felt embarrassed and not good enough to accomplish anything great. Whenever people acted shocked or confused about why I’m here as a college student, I began to regret coming back to school. I started thinking, “Maybe it is too late for me to do this.” Then, I thought to myself, “If I allow people to keep me down, it will only be my loss, not anyone else’s. If I try my best and things don’t work our, then at least I will have no regrets. If I give up, I’ll wonder for the rest of my life what I could and would have accomplished.” After all, you only live once and it’s worth taking a chance to make your dreams come true even when the circumstances are less than perfect.

 Obviously, I’m not the smartest person in the world, not do I have a lot of talents. I was a so-called “college dropout” and I am at least ten years behind people in the same class. It’s been a long time since I last contacted any of my college friends because I used to feel like a loser. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it took a lot of courage for me to be where I am today.

 Grabbing hold of one thing at a time, I’m doing better and feeling more comfortable every hour I spend here on this campus. I try to stay focused and do my best in everything I do. If I’m lacking in something, my theory is that must work twice as hard to succeed. After finishing the very first semester back at school, I was notified that I was the first in my class and I would receive a scholarship as well. As you can imagine, my husband and I were extremely happy that day.

 Looking back on the events that made me sad and uncomfortable, I’m glad I didn’t let them persuade me to deviate from my plans. I still have a long way to go in order to make my dreams come true. Should I face similar difficulties later on in my life, I hope that this experience will remind me to keep going. I truly believe all of us are capable of anything as long as we put our heart into our goals and dreams and more importantly, do not allow others to drag us down no matter what.

 When I finally graduate from Kookmin University, I hope to have gained something even more valuable than a diploma, something I didn’t consider important before. I hope to become a person who is much more courageous, confident, and also compassionate. Courageous enough to do what I believe in, confident enough to stand up for myself, and compassionate enough to put myself in the shoes of others. I’d like to thank you for listening to my speech.

Art by Elizabeth Slettnes