A Curious Can of Warmth
5 min readDec 31, 2023

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End of the Year Reflection: Going ‘Medium’ to ‘Large’

Due to my slowing metabolism, I have been steadily gaining weight. By the middle of this year, I noticed most of my clothes felt tight. I initially blamed my dryer for shrinking all my clothes, but soon I realized that I had actually gotten bigger. Throughout the year, I’ve been gradually upgrading my wardrobe from ‘Medium’ to ‘Large,’ and clothing is not the only thing that I’ve outgrown.

Job

I got promoted early this year and was entrusted to lead a small group of enginerds to kick-off a new project. Managing enginerds can be tricky especially when we worked together as a team for the first time. Adding fuel to the fire, we had to come up with a new project to work on. Everything felt new, fluid, and uncertain: my role as a leader, my teammates, and the project.

After a bumpy start, we decided to pursue a project that was completely different from what our lab typically had done in the past. We knew little to nothing about the field, and leading the pack to the unknown was uncomfortable and frightening at times. I felt an immense internal pressure to learn as much as I can and as quickly as I can. This involved spending many hours reading medical journals, memorizing jargons, and interacting with medical doctors who had vastly different research interests and incentives.

Although it took me a good six months to feel settled with the new set up, I still managed to publish two conference papers, breaking a long publication hiatus, and I am currently drafting one more. Reflecting on the past, I wish I could have done many things differently. However, I am thankful that I had many reasons to grow, skills to acquire, and new teammates at work, which can feel dreadfully boring for many people.

Church

I became a deacon at my church, and my primary role is to help manage church finances. With greater visibility into the church’s funds, I feel an increased responsibility to steward them effectively. While managing money certainly requires analytical skills and financial discipline, in my opinion, it’s more about wisdom, integrity, and character — all areas in which I need to grow.

Infant baptism at the church

Having an official title at the church means that the congregants found ‘some’ elements of my life are worthy of trust while inadvertently advocating many of my imperfections. I have become more conscious of the example I am setting in the church, and it has been a healthy challenge to deepen my walk with God, to love my neighbors, and to fight against my sins.

Fatherhood

My wife became pregnant early this year, and we welcomed our second son a few months ago. Thankfully, the pregnancy, the delivery, and the postpartum recovery went very smoothly. Both my second son and my wife are healthy, and our first son has adapted well to his role as an older brother. Needless to say, I am elated to finish this year as a family of four.

Haju and Hwiju

However, having a larger family comes with greater needs. In preparation for the new born, we moved to a bigger apartment, thus a bigger rent. We bought additional baby gears, including an extra crib, stroller, and car seat. Our once spacious SUV now feels crowded; we catch ourselves wanting to buy a bigger car.

Transitioning from a child to children has complicated logistics of childcare quite a bit. I still don’t know what to do when the first son urgently needs to use the bathroom while I am in the midst of changing a diaper for the second son. It is a tragic dilemma that happens surprisingly frequently. It’s been a fun, but challenging, adjustment.

A family of four

Family

My grandma, the last grandparent, passed away December 11th, 2023. Regrettably, I did not get to spend a lot of time with my grandma as she spent the last couple of years in an assisted living facility with strict COVID policies, which lingered much longer than the pandemic itself.

My grandma flew out to New Jersey when I was born. It was her first international trip without speaking a word of English. She was one of a few people that I have known my entire life, and now she is gone. I am sad and still grieving the loss.

The death of my grandma marks a new chapter for our immediate family. With both sets of grandparents now gone, my parents have assumed the roles of the eldest and de facto decision-makers for the family. I expect playing a more active role in family decisions, as my thoughts, opinions, and suggestions will carry greater weight.

Medium to Large

A few weeks after the birth of my son, I recognized many things to be grateful for: a healthy wife, a healthy son, and a safe home to welcome the newborn — an undeserved privilege that made painfully clear by recent armed conflicts around the globe. But I was fuming with frustration because I had a nasty case of sinusitis with high fever.

I had anticipated being available and attentive to take care of my sons while savoring the precious first few weeks of the newborn. Instead, I became a dead weight to my wife who already had so much on her plate. This cognitive dissonance, a sense of discontent despite numerous blessings, was a foretell sign of me donning a ‘Large’ life: greater demands and expectations, yet unmatched capacities to handle them all.

Even worse, I found myself expec things to be done in a certain way, catering to all of my needs because I am, somehow, more important than ever. This sense of entitlement, eroded my ability to be grateful. Unfortunately, I am learning firsthand that the lack of gratitude can devastate many loved ones.

One of my uncles, who was a primary caregiver of the grandma, decided to forgo a funeral and cremated the grandma without informing any one of us. We found out about her death a week after it occurred, leaving us shocked, angry, embarrassed, and ashamed that we couldn’t give a proper farewell to my grandma who sacrificed so much raising four kids in post-Korean War poverty.

Out of gratitude for her lifelong sacrifice, my uncle could have united our family to honor our late grandma, setting aside any past grievances he might have had. Unfortunately he chose a different path out of spitefulness. The aftermath of my grandma’s death is a solemn warning that I must grow in gratitude in proportion to the growing responsibilities I bear.

Large to Medium

Like all men, I will face inevitable declines in my stature, abilities, and influence. I presumed that I will eventually revert back to ‘Medium’ life . When that time comes, I hope to be adorned with an oversize gratitude, far surpassing the size of my life.

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