August 5, 2020

ELI Student Writing Series: An Essay by So Joung Kim

By So Joung Kim

So Joung Kim took classes in ELI’s Comprehensive English Program (CEP) in the Spring and Summer I semesters of 2020. She plans to return this Fall in the hopes of being more fluent. She wants to start her own business some day. So Joung wrote the following essay in Philip Herter’s Reading and Writing class in CEP.   

Patience and Fortitude: Lionly Virtues for Our Time

by So Joung Kim

In his essay “In Honor of a Century of Patience and Fortitude,” James Barron explains that the lions in front of the New York Public Library were placed there in 1913 and were made of marble by sculptor Edward Clarke Potter. Barron believes that lions have strength, dignity, and serenity. During the Depression, they were given the names Patience and Fortitude to help New Yorkers through hard times. They were even given a bath to get rid of the effects of pollution, and in 1975 they wore baseball caps for the World Series. The author ends his essay by saying that these lions require patience and fortitude from New Yorkers to ensure that they can be preserved for another 100 years.

One of the large lions outside the New York Public Library
One of the large lions outside the New York Public Library
So Joung Kim
So Joung Kim

James Barron discusses two things: Patience and Fortitude. During this current pandemic situation, I choose to focus on fortitude to show how it has helped me.

Fortitude is an active behavior whereas patience is a passive one. During the current quarantine, I exercise everyday in my apartment to manage my physical and mental health. In addition, I contact friends through Zoom or the phone not to feel lonely. But things were not always so easy.

About six weeks ago, I was finally able to go outside of my apartment building. I thought I could easily get through this tough time. I didn’t expect that this situation would have taken so long. I thought I could go to school and meet my friends. However, it became a vague expectation and fantasy for me.

As time went by, I became more sensitive and my mood swings got worse. Sometimes I suddenly cried and felt stuffy in my chest, and took a nap often. I took headache pills frequently and felt I was in prison. In fact, I felt very confined even though there were large floor-to-ceiling windows in the corner of my living room. Only when I opened the window was I able to breathe the air outside.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library

As time passed, I began going to the lobby every ten days to pick up the mail, and I was glad to see Doorman Daniel after a long time. Recently, one his family members and one friend passed away from the Corona virus. I was so sad. He was wearing a not-so-great quality mask so I gave him one of my precious KF94 masks because I was worried about him. For his job, he has to meet many people every day, so he is also at great risk for the virus. He said thank you in Korean to me. In fact, my family couldn’t send the mask directly from Korea to the United States, so I received it through Shanghai. Through all of this, I have realized how I need the psychological flexibility that is found in fortitude. I think sharing in difficult times is a real strength.

“Bigger Trees Near Water” by David Hockney
“Bigger Trees Near Water” by David Hockney

These days I search for new art works like the paintings of David Hockney that can heal my mind. One of my favorites among his paintings is “Bigger Trees near Water.” Whenever I see the painting, I feel as if I am taking a walk on that wooden path. I imagine that I am walking between the trees now with freedom. I realize that real freedom lives in my mind.

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So Joung Kim is from Korea and has taken classes in ELI’s Comprehensive English Program. She will continue studying at ELI in Fall 2020.


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