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My Unexpected Positive Closure

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

May 27, 2022


“Visualize a peak moment in your life,” guided my dear friend Imani as we sat together in the living room of her restful Washington haven, Huru. As raindrops gently splashed against the windows, she continued to hold me in safe space. “While you envision this moment, notice all of its details - the sounds, the smells, any and all sensory evoked, the feelings that come with... What do you see?”



As my eyes closed and heart calmed, a bright energy filled me up in mere seconds; for it was just a week ago that I had experienced this embodied joy.

Relaxing into my mind’s eye, I was brought back to the grand space of Billie Jean King National Court Stadium situated in Queens, New York. On this sunny May Day, thousands of Columbia University Masters students excitably sat with their colleagues as notable professors and special presenters shared their life wisdom for what’s to come after graduation. Adoring fans filled the auditorium, cheering and snapping photos and videos of their son or daughter, partner or friend, parent and adoring grandparent. Scanning across the baby blue crowd, there I was, 6th row from the stage, heavily jet-lagged, high off of caffeine and surrealism, smiling uncontrollably as I awaited my big moment on stage.



While "surreal" may seem like an overstatement to some, it was just days ago that my whole family and I were dealing with weeks-on-end of COVID nightmare. The thought of even stepping foot out our front door seemed preposterous, let alone adventuring on a month-long family world-tour across continents. But somehow, COVID became the exact reason this impossible plan became possible when my kids’ schools suddenly shifted online. Thanks to my husband’s immaculate travel planning skills and persuasiveness, we somehow made it to New York safe and sound, arriving on the day-of my convocation!


Thus, standing inside the impressive stadium, alongside my dear SMBI colleagues, in the presence of my loved ones, felt like a dream come true.

 

2016-2018


At the age of 34, I took a voluntary sabbatical from my day-to-day as Co-Founder / Chief Marketing Officer / Store Manager of our family business - Glory Days Sports. After 8 long years of trying to balance work, marriage, and parenting, not only were we going through a rough patch in our business, I was also mentally and emotionally burnt out to the core. While nobody could tell from the outside, I was exhausted with life. This exhaustion equated to a feeling of complete failure: in my social circle where my mom friends had brought their kids to our programs and stores; in my professional path which I had worked so hard for since high school; in my marriage where we went from lovers to no-nonsense business partners; and in parenthood, where I constantly battled with the inner guilt of not being there more for my young kids.


In my toxic mind, I had failed in all areas of my life.


If given the opportunity, the me-now would tell the me-then that I could never be a failure. What I felt was a burnout, and burnouts do not equate to one’s worth. Instead, it’s our body’s extreme way of telling us that we have overextended ourselves in ways that de-prioritized our health, denied our basic human needs, and in turn, derailed us from our true purpose.

So in a desperate attempt to "fix" me, I threw myself into various soul-searching programs with trusted spiritual mentors. Week after week, I attempted to solve the same existential question: What is my true purpose? While that version of me seemed so long gone today, back then I just couldn't snap myself out of this mental toxicity that I was never going to amount to my potential, figure out who I was, or realize my true purpose.


Then one day, it dawned upon me that even though I was no longer working at an office/store, I was still overworking myself in other ways. I never even gave myself the proper break I needed. To break the cycle, my guides suggested for me to try something different, something new, perhaps even something fun. Now that I finally had some "me" time, I could consider doing things that actually made me happy, things that I've always wanted to do but never did.

So, I decided to learn.


For learning occurred in systems in which I knew what to expect and what to move towards. Learning had purpose and goals. It felt safe to go on a journey with a beginning, middle, and end. It felt good to go in with a beginner’s mind rather than trying to fix everything. It felt nice to just be 1 out of 30 random students. It felt inspiring to be back in organized systems that promoted creativity, freedom, discipline, and fun - and the learned outcome was extra bonus!






After years of learning - and not trying to find my purpose - I reawakened to my heart's true desire: I am now ready to go back to grad school!


Going back to school was a dream that I had always kept quiet and stored away as a secret wish. As life moved on, so did my wish. In reconnecting with myself once more, I reinstated parts of myself that I thought was long gone. So with this clear intention sealed in my mind, body and soul, the universe promptly delivered! While researching for Masters programs, Columbia University’s Spirituality and Mind-Body Institute popped up. I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only would I get to learn about spirituality through the lens of an ivy-league psychology program, I would also be able to learn online from Taiwan while visiting New York ever so often.


So right before my 34th birthday, I decided to go for it. I applied to this and only this Masters program without any expectations. Lord and behold, you can only imagine how much was felt when I received my acceptance letter at four in the morning one April day.

From 2019 onwards, I traveled 3 times between Taipei and New York. I took mind-blowing classes at odd hours of the night with great minds from all around the world. I learned how spirituality acted as a preventative measure for teen depressions, how educational systems benefited from spiritually-integrated curriculums, how spirituality can be used as a key component to psychotherapy, and how businesses can be founded upon spiritual values. I even took a children’s writing class one summer just for the fun of it!


By year two, via the guidance of my professors and colleagues, I uncovered my deep desire to help girls, women, especially mothers in detecting and working with mental health situations that are often beyond their doing. Little did I know that I was unconsciously laying the foundations to The Lotus Pond.




May 23, 2022


"Jessica Kay Lee."


My heart skipped a beat as my name echoed across the stadium.


With pounding excitement, any and all lingering childhood stage fright dissipated as I skipped up the steel staircase. Before taking my next step, I closed my eyes one last time to soak in the reality of the moment. To think that 7 days earlier, I was still at home in Taiwan debating about this once-in-a-lifetime event. Should I or should I not? So glad it was a heck yes! Steadily, I took mindful steps onto this grand stage, soaking in each and every sweet moment that belonged to me. Proudly, I waved my arms toward the crowd as my classmates cheered me on. Far off, I see the faint silhouettes of the three most important men in my life waving back at me, jumping, shouting, smiling gigantic smiles. Despite the distance between us, I felt their presence right there with me on the stage, sharing this unforgettable moment together.


Without them, without my people, I would've never achieved this dream. This joy will stay with me for eternity and lifetimes to come. This is why I am here. A joy is no joy if it cannot be shared with the people you love.


I'd say my biggest accomplishment throughout my journey of learning is undoubtedly being able to show my two sons that nothing can stop mama from following her heart - even in the face of weakness, uncertainty, and self-doubts along the way. We all deserve to live out our best life. We all deserve to believe in our best self. We all deserve to be supported. We all deserve to chase after our dreams.


As the ceremony came to an end and us graduates danced our way out the exiting doors, I caught my sons and my husband just in time as they leaned over the seated balcony to hand me a beautiful bouquet of graduation roses. Their eyes glistening with pride - they need not to say one word.



I am forever grateful towards the founder of Spirituality Mind Body Institute, Dr. Lisa Miller, for actualizing a revolutionary vision before her time. I am forever inspired by each and everyone of my brilliant and brave professors who continue to challenge traditional systems and pass down their inherent knowledge via academia. I am forever honored to have crossed paths with my cohort members whom will always feel like family from another lifetime. I am forever grateful to Terre Blair for her uncanny prophecies and hilarious accompaniment. I am forever grateful to Professor Lantieri who showed me what embodied teaching presence looked like, Dr. Aurélie Athan for her revolutionary and inspiring work in the field of reproductive and maternal health, and Dr. Traci Stein whose altruistic nature is second to none and that which got me through my final days of grad school as she supported me on my integrative project. Thank you all so much for this unforgettable learning experience. I am forever changed for the better.


My little one during our first visit to Columbia in 2019.




May 27, 2022


As I slowly opened my eyes from this beautiful visualization, I couldn’t help but feel utter gratitude toward Imani, another brilliant SMBI colleague and champion of rest, for her safe, reflective guidance. That afternoon, we sat quietly in each others’ presence, warm cup in my hand, warm love in my heart. She, along with so many of my colleagues, is yet another example of the unspoken gifts I received from my years at school.


August 3, 2022


Professor Linda Lantieri, ambassador of spiritual education, had a knack in delivering the most powerful and meaningful class experiences. Aside from her unsurpassable teacher presence, she would always start off her classes with welcoming opening rituals, followed by interactive and engaging activities, while ending each session with the perfect optimistic closure made for reflection and hope.


As I close this "purposeful" chapter of my life, my last three years of graduate school mirrored Lantieri's perfectly wholesome classes. I had one heck of a beginning as I shared in-person intensives with my SMBI family. I then went through a variety of inspirational and experiential psychology and counseling courses throughout the in-between years that left me searching for more. I then ended this ride with the most unexpected but most worthy of positive closures at the 2021-2022 Convocation.


I am now an official Spiritual Psychology M.A. graduate of Columbia University with a Maternal Wellbeing Advanced Certificate.


I feel purposeful. I feel whole. I feel joy.


Goodbye, Columbia. It's been a remarkable ride. Till next time :)





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Guest
Aug 13, 2022

what an amazing heroin’s journey! so inspiring and made me emotional reading it.

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Guest
Aug 13, 2022

congratulations!!!

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