278. 回顧來時路 / 林天德 / Looking Back on My Past Journey

Looking Back My Past Journey

Author: Tender Lin 林天德

In April, 2014, I went back to Taiwan to participate in Centennial Celebration of Linbian Elementary School and the reunion of 1952 Class. I was thrilled and amazed to see a lady whom I wondered her whereabouts since we departed in a fish-catching activity while we were small. I felt that men were just like birds at the time.

Unexpectedly in February 4, 2015, I got a mail for Principal Liu. He told me that School Planning Committee was preparing to publish the Recollections of Centennial Outstanding Alumni. He asked me if I could contribute an article. I affirmatively replied to him, “Yes”. The following is what I wrote to him.

I did not claim that I was an outstanding alumnus. Certainly I did feel that I could write my own history. When a man starts to write his history, he is in fact looking at the very issue of his life’s coming and going. In the same token, any race, tribe, country, and society should has its own history too.

I am already 76 years old. I was amazed to hear Dr. Wen Kou’s campaign speech last year. He said that Taiwanese did not have sense of history. He even went further to say that Taiwanese did not know their own history. They were afraid to know and even had no desire to know. I was in touch with all these statements, as I was a Taiwanese but was taught to be Chinese. Dr. Kou further challenged his audience what sort of Taiwan they intended to leave for their off springs after they died? This question directly compelled me to answer too. I am now in United States. I am relieved to see that Taiwanese Americans here started to build their own Archives and my elementary school there also planned to publish recollections from outstanding alumni.

Anyone can write his own history. It is a shame that people do not write their own biography and let someone else do it for them. As a result, the published biography often turned into glorified masterpiece. I believe it would be more real, accurate, and meaningful if a biography was written by the person himself.

96 回顧來時路_1I have been psychologically trained in my profession. I should be able to go through my life history and came out with some life wisdoms to share. Take travelling experience as an example. Besides telling beautiful sceneries and ruins, I often came out some answers which could not be found in books. After I traveled to Egypt, India, China, and Japan, I found how the geographical environment shaped the creation of religions and languages at various part of the world. Today, I am here in the United States and I came from Taiwan. I ask myself what sorts of life wisdoms that I can share. For the past few years, I have written articles in this regard and I published an e-book in Amazon Kindle Store entitled, “Life Asks. I Answer. 命問我答” (Photo 1).

Obviously, I cannot stop my writing right here just by telling this book. I need to further elaborate on my life process if I am to satisfy Principal Liu’s request. Therefore, I love to give a further brief account of my life story below.

In 1939, I was born to a farming village, Jian Yuan, with twenty or so families. They lived peacefully and faithfully worshiped their God, Father Angun. I was a full-time student. I only worked in farm chores such as tending buffalo, weeping weeds, and harvesting crops during summer and winter breaks. In my leisure time, I played with neighbor kids in all sorts of activities such as kicking cans, flooding crickets, poking marbles, occupying bases, catching frogs, and flying kites.

Besides, I was comfortably situated in between brother and sisters in birth order. My father was strict but my mother was very kind and I felt that I had a great childhood life. From it, I learned that if I work hard, then I will get results. This just like a farmer will have harvest if he plants rices and vegetables accordingly. I know I will have peace if I am nice to others. It just likes all living creatures will have their shares of sunshine. I do acknowledge that frequent typhoons and earthquakes did teach me a lesson. Namely, there are uncertainties and unknowns in life. In sum, farming life makes me less susceptible to “no happiness” and more so to “no peace”.

My schooling life is rather long as I came to United States for further study. I started my school in an ungraded kindergarten at age 7. We studied Japanese with a private teacher. Surprisingly the next year, the schooling was completely upside down, as Japan retreated and Chinese Nationals took over. I started to study Chinese at Linbian Elementary School. At the time, Taiwanese teachers were not able to speak Chinese correctly by themselves. I still remember they pronounced “雄” incorrectly.

As I entered Junior High, I encountered some Chinese teachers having heavy accent in their dialects. One even called my name “德”as “爹”. As to English teaching that I received was terrible too. For example, I failed to differentiate the pronunciation between “l” and “r” and I was ridiculed by my two American kids later, Lonnie and Ronnie as a result. I was working as a house father in Los Angeles and I told them to go out and play. They immediately nodded their heads and prayed to Jesus Christ. In addition, I often found myself having hard time to get Americans understood my English purely because I did not have correct intonation.

The education I received in Taiwan was mostly focused on rote memory. During my 6th grade at elementary school, I almost remembered the whole textbook on “General Subjects”. In my junior high school years, I was required to memorize all formula. I was asked to remember all established sentences and slogans, and famous historical name and geographic cities. If there were standard answers for certain questions, they should be remembered by heart also. I knew if I do not pass the entrance examination, I will be dropped out of school and started hard labor work.

Apparently, Heavenly Father treated me nice. At the time of Entrance Examinations for junior high school level, we were given three opportunities, one for each provincial, private, and vocational school.  I studied hard and I passed them all and I finally chose to attend Pingtung Junior High. Later, at College Entrance Examination, we were not stratified for unknown reason. I passed the examination and entered the Education Department at Taiwan Normal University. At the time, that Department was highly reputable nationwide. The first ranked student at our Department was good enough to enter Engineering Departments at National Taiwan University. When it was stratified within Group B the year before and the year after us, our Department ranked first in Group B.

After I graduated from college, I taught at Linbian Junior High for one year and then followed by one year military service. In 1964, I passed Oversea Study Examination and came to United States. During that period, I also passed the Entrance Examination for Graduate Study at Taiwan Normal University and Culture University, but I chose not to attend.

96 回顧來時路_2What were the reasons that I chose not to pursue my graduate study in Taiwan? The reasons can be both complicated and simple. First reason, it was a popular idea to study oversea at the time, as if there was no scholarship, one could still labor his way out in United States; Second reason, the academic and living standards in United States were far superior to those in Taiwan; third reason, the political climate in Taiwan was highly oppressive and one could easily get persecuted.  I was disgusted with the bribery incidents in society too; Forth reason, I was single and felt free to move around.

During my last military service in Taiwan, I got a scholarship from Northeast Missouri State Teachers College which was small but enough to cover my tuition. Even though the college offered no doctoral programs, my mind was set to go regardless.

In preparing for my departure, my father started to sell off some of his assets and asked Mr. Chin Lee, a provincial assembly man, to render guarantee of my royalty to the country. Without passing this government red tape, all my efforts would just go down the drain. I carried only $700 in my pocket. On the day of departure, I and Mr. Sheng went to Taipei Travel, Inc.

We got no ticket as the sale man run away with our ticket money. All my family members were shocked at the airport too, as they heard the calling from the air broadcast but failed to see me.

My father immediately came to see me at the ticket office and he saw a name list of travelers of Kaohsiung Fruits Enterprise which he was acquainted with. He told the manager that he would appealed to all of them. Finally, the manager offered us to come back in two weeks for the ticket. All my family members including my father returned back to Linbian and only my brother was left in Taipei to see me off. I changed my original course via Tokyo. Instead, I flew to San Francisco via Mania and Hawaii. This brief stay in Taipei turned out to be the last time for me and my brother being together in life. Unexpectedly, my brother passed away at age 41. It was one month after I notified my family that I got my doctoral degree.

It was a great relief upon arriving in San Francisco, but I did not see a bright future ahead. Greyhound bus from San Francisco to Kirksville, Missouri took three days and three nights. On this long journey, I got to eat and sleep. When the bus rested at bus stop, it was time to eat. I looked at the menu and thought about my monthly salary in Taiwan was just $20, I was afraid to order. I found myself only ate some crumble eggs. I was half hungry and half sleepy all the way through.

As I arrived at Kirksville, I dragged my luggage to the dormitory. The next day, I started to work at dormitory cafeteria for 50 cents/hour. I literally changed from Taiwanese teacher to Taiwanese labor. However, I had no complaint but enjoyed myself. I knew that there was no way for me to study without money. I worked 20 hours a week. I took it as a way to balance my body and my mind. During school years, I worked at dorm and during summers, I rode greyhound bus to New York to work full time. Because I had good academic asset from Taiwan Normal University, I obtained my master degree in Guidance from NEMSTC in less than two years.

96 回顧來時路_3I came to United States to get my doctoral degree. Upon graduation from NEMSTC, I applied to various universities for a study in clinical psychology. I openly expressed that I needed scholarship or assistantship to study. I got no acceptance. I was anxious and rode Amtrak to Los Angeles.  I asked directly to psychology department chairman at UCLA which I did apply earlier. I was lucky to obtain a temporary admission with stipulation of taking undergraduate course in physics, chemistry, and biology.

However, I found myself no money to study and I decided to work for one more year. I worked three jobs a week and found myself changing pants inside the car. At last, I accumulated some money for study. Incidentally, Heavenly Father cared about me too. I used my job as housefather at an orphanage to apply for permanent residence status and I got without any hassle. I did not have to hire lawyer as such.

This permanent resident status helped me a lot as I would get tuition wavier when I returned to UCLA next year. I changed my major to counseling psychology. This time around, my life had dramatic change. I was no longer a Taiwanese labor but a teaching assistant. Whenever I walked on campus, I felt like walking ahead of the time.  I completed my study in 1970 (Photo 3) and I published my doctoral dissertation in Journal of Counseling Psychology, July, 1973.

As I ponder over my schooling, I am afraid to say what I get is exactly what my ability and talent lie at.  First, my study in Education Department at Taiwan Normal University was not my first choice; second, my major in counseling psychology at UCLA was my decision at reaching point of no return. In comparison to those having engineering or life science majors, counseling made me encounter more language and cultural barriers with American clients; Third, I am also good at computer programming, philosophy, speech, and math but I did not change my major. Besides, I also noticed that many of my friends changed their majors or occupations both in Taiwan and in United States. Even one gave up his career as professor and changed to run a factory. Therefore, I could directly feel that competitive educational system in Taiwan inevitably leaded to waste certain national resource and manpower.

96 回顧來時路_4I tried not to be victimized by the educational system in Taiwan. I found ways to survive and I found myself interested in writing. In 11th grade at high school, I published a poem entitled “Jin-ching, Here I Come “at school Jin-ching Journal. In my sophomore year in college, I published an article entitled ‘Beef Noodle “at Central Daily News. In my junior year, I earned the Buddhism Essay Contest with a treatise entitled “Buddhism and philosophy”. In my senior year, I published a treatise entitled “Educating through personality development “at Life Journal in Hong Kong and another one entitled “Human Nature and Education “at New World Journal in Taiwan. Even at the time I taught at various colleges in Taiwan, I published numerous studies either at Educational Study in NCCU or at Educational Resource and Study Journal at National Bureau of Education.

Upon finishing school, I started to have family and employment. I did think about returning back to Taiwan upon getting my doctoral degree. However, I met a very pretty Japanese girl. We loved each other and got married in 1968. I found her showing willingness to suffer and to enjoy life with me together. The journey of our marriage and career kept rolling. In my marriage, I raised one son and three daughters. My son is an Amgen senior scientist. My three daughters, one is Adobe marketing specialist and the other two are twins. One is a doctor at University of Colorado Medical School and the other is a computer scientist here at Apple Inc. I am so happy to have a highly achieved family (Photo 4).

In my careers, I started to work as assistant professor at Miami-Dade Junior College. Two years later, I got employed at South Carolina Department of Mental Health. At first, I worked as Research Director at Morris Village then I worked at South Carolina State Hospital as Clinical Psychologist. In 1989, I joined the National Construction Forum and started to teach at various colleges in Taiwan as visiting professor. In the meantime, I delivered speeches all over Taiwan including Linbian Elementary School and schools at outlying islands.

96 回顧來時路_5Out of my career life, the most I enjoyed is my “5-S Communication Line”.  5-S is my own terminology that I created to facilitate memorization. Taiwanese people like to use the word “爽 (song)”to express a good feeling and I see people in general also like to attribute sex to be the best feeling. Therefore, I use “S” to indicate good feeling. In addition, S is the first syllable in Specific Line, Single Line, Solid Line, Straight Line and Symmetric Line which I use to explain the nature of a good communication. I sum it up as “5-S Communication Line”. Any expression possessing all these five characteristics will result in gaining love and respect from the person in communication.

5-S communication line is my contribution to the profession. From it, I conducted Personal and Social Skills Training to my patients at South Carolina Department of Mental Health. I received public recognition from the South Carolina State Newspaper.  I also conducted Relationship Skills Training to my students in Taiwan. I got great satisfaction whenever a patient said to me, “Dr. Lin, I am a winner now” or a student said to me, “Dr. Lin, I wish I know you earlier.” From it, I also published four books in Taiwan: Winning between U and I, Leaving Fate and Yuan Alone, Abnormal Psychology, and Mind Healing.  I also published three eBooks in Amazon Kindle Store: Live to Win, Living from East to West, and Life Asks. I Answer.

96 回顧來時路_6I can stop writing here, but if I just telling my struggle in oversea study and American life without telling you one intriguing incident, it won’t be complete. That was in 1964; Mr. Cheng and I went for separate routes as we departed from San Francisco. Each one of us attended different universities at different states. We eventually lost contact with each other because of our own affairs. In 1975, my father took a trip to United States to see me. I was so pleased and wanted to pay my love and respect for my father. I took him for a long trip at East Coast. We traveled from the southern tip of Miami to the northern tip of Niagara Falls. In the midway, we stopped by Washington Zoo to see Panda, a new arrival at the Zoo.

It was totally out of my surprise that we met Mr. Cheng and his family at the Zoo and we all had two kids of our own (Photo 6). Was this an indication of American Saying “This is a small world” or Taiwanese Saying “It’s time to pay your due”?  I pondered myself. At the day, Mr. Sheng invited us to have meal with them at their house and we gladly accepted. On our way home, my father interpreted the whole incident this way. Since he asked for the return of air tickets for both of us in 1964, so Heavenly Grandfather wanted Mr. Sheng to pay his due by treating us a meal and that’s why we were brought together that day. I totally accepted his interpretation. It was so unfortunate and sorry that my father passed away two years after he returned back to Taiwan at age 70.

Translated from: 278. 回顧來時路 / 林天德 / 2015/05 by author

Posted 1/17/2021