Spectator - Chapter 6: Great Teach Young-Ho
He entered the teacher’s break room violently and sat on his chair. He wanted to say something, but it seemed that his thoughts were not well organized.
He sat there thinking for sometime before finally speaking.
“You want to drop out?”
“Even if you don’t have parents, your custody still lies with your aunt. Did you ask for her permission?”
“Not yet. However, I am here because I want you to understand that it’s my personal choice. My aunt has not influenced or pressured me into this and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
He smiled sarcastically.
“Ohh. Hiding behind your parents death and asking for this~ you think you are old enough to make your own decisions, right? Trying to act all grown up?”
“I think I am old enough to decide whether or not I want to drop out.”
Gong Young-ho distorted his eyebrows.
Why did he react in that way? Was he not expecting such a response?
“Look at this child…”
He looked at me with a dreadful face and said.
“Do you hate studying? Does it have anything to do with your parent’s accident?”
He has a sincere look in his eyes. Something I hadn’t seen in a long time and it made me feel uncomfortable. It felt like a punch I did not see coming.
I expected our conversation to end with a rough talk or mutual screaming. But, here he is trying to teach and correct me?
Seeing this, I decided to show my true intentions.
I did not avoid his gaze. It is polite to talk with each other while maintaining eye contact in most places, but in Korea, it is considered to be rude.
Nevertheless, I looked him in the eyes. I expressed that I did not decide to drop out to escape, but because I had a firm will.
“As my situation changed, I saw a different path. As I thought about it, I didn’t see any reason to get stuck in school.”
This reasoning was met with outburst of laughter from his side.
“Do you want to spend the money and play around? Is that because you think you can do everything with that money? It’s a good thing that you have it but don’t forget you got that money for the blood of your parents, and you, who they called their son, want to drop out of school right away?”
I bit my tongue. Before I could respond he continued.
“I know the situation roughly. Even if the incoming money is not enough, it will be 1.7 billion, right? Billions of people have to save a lifetime to get that much.”
The voice gets louder.
“Do you think you can do it all? You think you can handle it all! You’re inexperienced but well-off. What more, Adults are not stupid. What do you think they will do when they come to know that you are loaded with money and have no parents to guide you?!”
– “…Was he this kind of a person.”
Gong Young-ho, who shouted sincerely, I had no choice but to be amazed by him.
-“It was amazing.”
In my memory, he was obviously an ordinary teacher, who said that it would make life easier if I studied hard and went to a good college. He was by no means a person who would show enthusiasm as he is now.
The clear difference made me feel good. He had become a mirror version of himself, a better reflection.
Even in the situation where I deviated, a life I had never thought of unfolded.
I said, “Do you think that dropping out means giving up life? Do you think it is a happy life just graduating with good grades and going to a good college to find a good job? What I want is happiness, not success.”
“You are right. Success and happiness are not directly connected. Moreover, it cannot be concluded that a good college and a job guarantee success. However, it is clear that even in school, a person who has fallen behind cannot succeed in society.”
“It’s a clear agreement that a guy who doesn’t know how to endure lives a life of failure.”
There is no need for further objections. Yet he-
“Are you sure that your ‘good plan’ is not the result of grief? There is time to study. If you miss this precious opportunity now, when can you do it?”
-’He will tell me not to be foolish.’
“I can study even when I’m an adult or out of school. But don’t forget that when I become an adult, I need to take responsibility for myself.”
I won’t be able to do that if I only study all day long and not pay attention to other things. I will still be lacking as an adult. As for studying, there will always be an opportunity and time to learn.”
I went on.
“I don’t want to be like a filthy old man who wanted to find a dream and succeed.”
“The guy who sits and reads books without doing anything but whining about things being hard and running away when the going gets tough. What kind of success does such a guy achieve?”
That finally provoked him it seems. He hit the desk in anger. His face only got redder when I wasn’t even fazed. Maybe he wanted to scare me away with that.
At that time, I heard whispering from the other side of the door as if someone was eavesdropping behind it. Still, Young-ho didn’t care.
It’s because he focused all his attention on me. To convince me.
He was truly a great teacher.
“Through this accident I came to understand the meaning of happiness, the happiness that I yearn for… which I didn’t know before.
“Also, time is not infinite. The happiness I want cannot be found within a standardized framework, through schools and universities. I don’t want to waste any more time. My parents death was enough to make me realize it and I don’t want regret later by wasting time now.”
He stared at me, and shook his head with the feelings of dismay.
“What on earth do you think happiness is?”
“It’s about getting people you can trust and trust anytime.”
“Then you have to go to school even more. Excluding the previous grades, currently there are 31 students in your class. Is there a place other than school where you can easily meet and make friends your age?”
I Shrugged my shoulders and replied.
“When I have nothing, there seems to be no one wanting to stick around.”
“Do you think that?”
“The experience of losing something precious, no one seems to understand something like that.”
“…Do you have any plans on how you want to live your life?”
“I plan on saving the money and start anew with the experience. I’m still young and I don’t have much use of this much money.”
“Huh- That, is.”
Suddenly Mr. Young-ho jumped up and opened the door of the break room vigorously.
A brief scream. Two female students walk down the hall.
The girls who saw how scary Gong Young-ho looked , screamed “We are sorry,” and rushed to their classroom.
Mr. Young-ho shoos the eavesdroppers away, then bangs the door close and sits down again.
“Acting like children. What is wrong with them?! Behaving like that?!”
He was speaking harshly.
His harsh tone relaxed a bit as he took a drink from the refrigerator in the break room and handed it to me.
“It’s not cold enough, I hope you don’t mind.”
“If you’re so stubborn, you can easily convince your aunt. Good. Actually, dropping out is seen as a taboo, but the process itself isn’t complicated or takes too long. Bring your aunt and sign the consent form, and it will be processed in roughly two days. If you felt scared by my yelling, you won’t be successful anywhere… Well, in that aspect, you pass. By the way, it sounds a bit odd. Happiness, not success. I don’t completely understand it.”
“My happiness is at School, a place where I can give people knowledge and experience so that they don’t need to experience failure themselves.
“Those who have already decided on a separate path will find my ways frustrating. They want to venture out on their own and experiment with their own ideas.”
Saying so he drank the entire 200mL drink in a single go. All that screaming must have dried up his throat.
“When I look in your eyes, I feel like you have a firm heart and you have decided on a path. But I mean, Sanghyun. You said you were looking for people? But don’t forget to be careful with people. You shouldn’t make the mistake of believing people hastily.”
I nodded my head, indeed. I had realized the consequences of believing people too easily already, in a very painful way.
“You may not have realized it yet, but you have to be really careful. Koreans are weak against affection. So, there are a lot of people who will try to take advantage of you by showing fake affection and love.
“It’s worse if you have too much money. If your friends or relatives, or someone who desperately asks you to lend them some money, can you refuse? I mean, can you just straightforwardly tell them that you don’t care if they live or die?”
He shook his head.
“It will be difficult. Actually, living selfishly, turns you into a garbage pile of a person. But harming yourself to help others is a fool’s errand.”
“Saying that what you are looking for is a real person, means you will go through a lot of trial and error. Then there are betrayals that leave wounds so severe that they become scars and are never erased. So think of it as advice from a senior, and an order as a school teacher.”
“All that aside, there is something you should know, if you can’t complete all of your assignments, I will not let you drop out. No matter how many times your aunt comes, I will meet you and stop it.”
He brought multiple sheets of A4 paper and showed me writing work.
“To help others while expecting nothing in return. A very noble way of life, but anyone that follows it to the letter ends up on the streets.
“Yet, those who selfishly ignore people when they need help desperately, despite having the means to help them, are trash in human skin.”
“So help people, but don’t do it blindly.”
Mr. Young-ho handed me the assignment papers and said.
“This is a thousand sheets of paper. Whether it’s a practice book or a notebook, write it down and fill these thousand pages. Look on the internet and look for answers if you need to.
There are 200 sheets in five different subjects. Okay? No dropping out before you are done and I have approved all of your paperwork.”
He got up and stepped out.
I stared at the door until the moment it closed; holding the paper he gave me in my hand.
A repressed laughter came out.
“Ah… Damn it.”
I folded the paper I was holding in half and put it in my school uniform pocket.
“When will I finish using a thousand sheets of paper? Damn.”
I swear and drink water at the same time; almost choking.
-“Fuck. Ok, I think I’ll print it out on a computer and photocopy it.”
It seems that the lump in my chest has been released.
It wasn’t a bad feeling.
Then there was a rumbling noise up the hallway outside the classroom. There are close to 60 students in the other class. I squeezed in and sat down by the window.
On the other side, there were several students and Taejin who were struggling with one seat.
“Wow. Is that really?”
“That’s right. I didn’t know that Taejin also learned martial arts. He suppressed that bum at once…”
“Oh, that’s so cool.”
It was about this morning’s action.
The main character was still pretty busy, but the story was hot because of people still gossiping about it.
The guy who overpowered a maniac and escorted his sister to safety. That scene made Taejin into some kind of an action hero. And his legend kept spreading.
-“The entire sequence of history had changed in the blink of an eye.”
It was the difference between heaven and earth; before the return when he couldn’t act at the right moment, compared to now.
Without pretending to be really strong, Taejin’s graceful humility, saying “It was not a big deal” fits really well.
-“Bravo, Taejin Kim.”