“It was in the free fall, actually, when I jumped out of the plane, and I thought, ‘Wow, I am a tiny thing in this universe—why do I have to really struggle with my job and happiness?”



I grew up in South Korea, and for nine years I worked for Samsung as a semi-conductor engineer. It’s like an Intel chip, CPU kind of thing. Samsung was the greatest company in Korea, and my job was the one that everyone wanted.

We called the place I worked a clean room. It’s high pressure because they don’t want to get any dust in the room that would ruin the product. If you ever saw the Intel commercials where they’re all in white suits and you can only see their eyes, then you basically know where I worked. And I didn’t like it.

To keep happy, I had a few hobbies, like riding a motorcycle, scuba diving, and skydiving. At the company, we would get a certain amount of days off per month, but I would never use them. I would save up all of my days and in the summertime I would take two or three weeks off all at once. I did this every summer.

This one time, I was skydiving in Australia, just normal, nothing special. The free fall is only about fifty seconds, maybe less, but I had all of these ideas as I looked down at the ground.

I thought, “Wow, I’m just a little, tiny thing of this Earth, in the universe. Why do I have to struggle at my job? Why do I have to compete with all these other people? Why do I have to live like that?”

In that fifty seconds, I had a lot of thoughts, and then after I came down, I started thinking about it more and more. That made me decide to change. I didn’t exactly plan what to do next, but I could only think of one thing: I need to do something I like to do.

It was easy to make the decision to quit my job, but hard to actually put it into action because it’s not easy to give up that kind of job. In Korea, it’s really hard to quit a job because it’s hard to find jobs in general. Plus I was working at Samsung, an important and well-known company, which made it harder for me to quit. Every single person wants to work for them because they actually pay well and their benefits are good. And whenever you say you work for Samsung, you’re pretty much almost guaranteed to get a good marriage and stuff like that. So why would anyone want to leave?

So for about a month, I thought about it: “Do I really have to give up this job?” I asked my older sister about it, because her opinion is important to me. She was on my side; she told me to do it. She said, “Yeah, that’s a hard decision, but you have to do what you want to do.” Thinking back now, if she wouldn’t have supported my decision, I may not have decided to leave Korea.

Not everyone was as supportive as my sister. Most people thought it was a bad decision. They didn’t understand that I was going to go do something that I love. My plan was to be a scuba diving instructor. One of my friends runs a scuba diving shop in the Philippines, so I was going to go and work there.

My friends and family didn’t understand the idea of someone having a hobby. They don’t have those kinds of interests. In the Korean culture, somebody who is trying to live off of activities like scuba diving is participating in nonsense. They think you’re crazy for pursuing that kind of lifestyle; they don’t even know that an activity like that could be a profession. During that time, I heard a lot of that sort of backlash from people I knew. But I was okay with my decision. I had no regrets, so I didn’t care what people said.

I had one month off before going to the Philippines to start my new job at my friend’s scuba shop, so I just decided to give myself a vacation before I start this new chapter. And so, I went to the United States for a skydiving trip.

I had no plans to stay in California. I didn’t even know any words other than “yes” and “no” in English.

I was just taking this trip to not be stressed and just have fun. While I was in California, I was with my friend and we were doing what we called “fun jumps”, which literally means just going skydiving for fun. So my friend then introduces me to the president of the United States Parachute Association. We became good friends and had a good relationship during my visit. We would go on fun jumps and he liked me. He liked me so much that he offered me a job as a skydiving instructor. So I took it.

When I first came to America, I wasn’t speaking very good English–as in I wasn’t speaking any English–so a lot of people actually made fun of me. It took me about a year and a half to learn English to the point where I could actually go somewhere and order food without being shy. To learn the language, I would watch movies with the Korean subtitles, and while I watched the films, I could hear what it sounded like in English and know what that meant from the Korean subtitles. That’s how I tried to memorize English sentences.

Not knowing how to speak the language has been the greatest challenge for me in moving to my new country. My English is still poor, I believe, and I don’t know how to react when people think my English is good. The amount of words I can use are limited. I still need to be better, but I feel good about my progress. Now I tell jokes, which helps me meet new friends. I feel the same as other people.

It’s hard to make a bold move to act, but now I am living my passion everyday.

Most people go to work just to pay bills, but I’m not like that. I’m actually happy to go to work. My job as a skydiving instructor is definitely different from the normal jobs other people have, like my previous job at Samsung. Skydiving is a happy place. Compared to a police station or a hospital where there are criminals or sick people, skydiving only has people who are happy, people who come there to have fun. I love my job so much that sometimes when it’s my day off, I still go to work to hang out with my coworkers.

Since moving to the US twelve years ago, I’ve moved around a lot — first California for two years, then Indiana for a couple of years, then Texas and Georgia, and then I returned to California in 2016. Now I have a wife and a baby and I love being a dad. Life has been an adventure. And I have a new goal, a dream. It’s going to be hard to reach, especially because I have to provide for my family, but I have a dream to have my own small business. I don’t care about the size of the business, but I want to have my own small skydiving place, my own place of happiness.