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The Christian Walk: A Warm Summer Holiday?

I was brimming with excitement when I finalized my bookings for my big trip to Europe last year. Having forked out a significant amount of money for both my air tickets and a new camera, I was certain my first trip to UK and France would be a complete blast.

I could barely wait to share in my friends’ experiences, having heard stories and seen Instagram pictures of those doing their overseas experience on the antipodes. I dreamed of the endless bookshops I could visit in London, admiring my literary heroes, both past and present. In particular, I couldn’t wait to see Shakespeare and Company—the “small, crumbling bookshop on Paris’s Left Bank” that UK newspaper The Independent described as possibly “the most famous bookstore in the world”. I also looked forward to Parisian chic, croissants, beautiful apartments, breath-taking architecture and mustached-men playing their accordions around the cafes and sidewalk.

I fantasized of a warm summer holiday swanning around in cute summer dresses (bye-bye, boring black winter stockings), and looking forward to showing off my arms, which I had been working on at the gym. My thoughts were filled with taking pretty photos on my new camera, filling my Instagram account with envy-worthy photos, and walking Paris’ Champs-Élysées under a starlit night.

What hadn’t been part of the itinerary was falling sick during my three-week vacation.

It could have been the hectic schedule or the change in weather (it was winter in New Zealand but summer in the northern hemisphere), but my body wasn’t playing ball. What started as a bit of a sneeze and an itchy throat soon morphed into something else entirely in Europe.

There was a point when I completely lost my voice, managing only a croak. To make matters worse, my body decided to reject every kind of food. I was throwing up after every meal and my nose would start bleeding without rhyme or reason.

On one traumatic morning in Brixton, London, my friend and I were running as fast as we could, with our backpacks, to catch an Uber ride to the train station for our flight to France. That’s when I felt a sickly drip down my nose, and my suspicion was confirmed the minute I wiped my nose with a tissue. With blood dripping down my face, I must have looked like I was running away from a fight (or for my life).

In France, I visited the pharmacy so many times you’d be forgiven for thinking I had it down as a must-see tourist destination. Then my nose started acting up again, just before we made our way to the Shakespeare and Company. I was so terrified I would start bleeding all over the nice, new books that I made sure to have a wad of tissues near me. My backpack soon morphed into a first-aid kit: I had a bottle of cough syrup, cough drops, paracetamol, and packs of tissues.

I woke up each morning with dread. Would my nose behave today? Would I be able to hold my meal in or would today see me bent over the bathroom sink while my guts tried to make their escape?

Funnily enough, my holiday-gone-wrong had me thinking about my Christian walk: how expectation didn’t always match reality.

It was at a church play that I answered the altar call at the age of 12. While I cannot recall the play in full detail, I do remember the title was Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames, and it had scenes featuring a non-believer and a believer. In each scene, there was a tragedy, and the non-believer was sent away to somewhere rather hot and fiery. I certainly didn’t want to go there, so giving my life to God seemed like a get-out-of-jail-free card to escape the fiery furnace. I figured all I had to do was accept Jesus as my Savior and He would swoop me out of hell.

As I grew up, I began to hear altar calls that went along the lines of how accepting Jesus into your life was the “best thing you can ever do”. “And from now on, your new life begins . . .” was another often repeated phrase.

For me, it conjured up a life without pain, where Jesus would sweep down from Heaven to catch us before we scrape our knees. Jesus would also save me from making silly mistakes in my exams and prepare a cool crowd of friends for me.

However, none of that happened, and at one point, I was angry at Jesus my forever friend, who I felt had ditched me during my most crucial moments. For example, I remember scoring a C on a Math test and fuming at Him. Not just that, how could He allow boys to dump me? And why did I receive email after email of rejection when I was desperately seeking employment?

You see, I had fallen into trap after being sold the idea that being with Jesus is the “best thing of my life”. But Jesus didn’t guarantee that a life with Him will be free of tribulations. The Bible tells of a blameless and upright man named Job, who feared God and “abstained from and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was also a rich landowner who was blessed with a big family and a large stock of animals. But Job went through some real tough situations. He lost his family and all of his animals in one day, suffered from sicknesses, and at one point, wished he was never born.

Reading Job’s story made me realize that following God doesn’t necessarily spell a smooth ride. There will be times where I will be tested or left clinging onto my faith. But Job’s story has also showed how faithful God is, and I took comfort knowing Job’s life had a happy ending, where in the end, God restored everything he had lost.

Even though my own Christian walk has been filled with ups and downs—nothing like Job’s thankfully—I can sincerely say I don’t regret answering the altar call as a 12-year-old. With God, I know He is just one call away. I have lost count of the times God has answered my prayers and I love resting in the deep, unconditional love He has for me.

I also take heart in knowing when my life ends on Earth, I’ll begin a perfect one with Him in Heaven. The Bible says Heaven will be a place where God will wipe every tear from our eyes, a perfect place where there will be no more death, or crying, or mourning or pain, for the old order of things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

This perfect place may sound like a fantasy, but unlike the fantasy I had of my holiday (where nothing went as planned), I know this promise will not disappoint. That makes all the present suffering worthwhile!

James Fazio: Changing Lives after a Near Death Experience

James Fazio knows what it’s like to be at death’s door, but he’s not one to let a harrowing experience stop him from grabbing life by the reins. He’s now using his love for surfing and filmmaking to help turn around the lives of troubled teenagers, giving them their own story of a second chance in life.

The 27-year-old American pro-surfer, filmmaker, and father of two, has just completed his first documentary, Time Well Spent, about four teenage boys from different parts of the world who each have a unique story of pain and hardship but are bound by a common love for surfing. He hopes to release the documentary in the boys’ home countries, followed by the US.

In the 1½-hour long documentary, viewers follow Kross Brodersen from Hawaii, Henry McAlvany from Indonesia, Declan Bradley from Australia, and Yeferson Bellido from Peru on a surfing journey that culminates in a discovery of their value, worth, and place in life.

It’s a project that has cost James heavily in terms of energy, money, and time—it took him close to three years to put this documentary together—but it’s been worth every cent, second, and inch of effort. To James, this is simply his way of giving back to God after being given a second chance.

 

God’s Plan for James

The documentary’s tagline, “Your past does not define your future”, reflects James’s own life journey. The surfer almost died at the tender age of 13 after he contracted Kawasaki disease, a rare auto-immune disease that causes blood inflammation. For months, high fevers raged in his body, causing skin to peel away from his hands, feet, and around his mouth and throat. The last bit was the worst, as it left his throat sore and unable to eat. He needed 16 aspirin tablets every day just to keep his temperature down and the inflammation at bay.

“They had to shove Go-gert (yogurt in a tube) down my throat just to take the aspirins,” he recalls. To make matters worse, he was resistant to every medical cure. The prognosis was grim: James was likely to die from the disease. “I was pretty bummed thinking I would die without really doing anything,” he says.

And even if he did survive, he was told, he would suffer from heart problems for the rest of his life, making it impossible to lead an active lifestyle. That was heart-breaking news to the young boy, who loved surfing and soccer.

But God had plans for James. Through a prayer chain at church, his story came to the attention of a woman who had heard of a new experimental procedure. James was put on Remicade, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis or severe plaque psoriasis. “My parents signed document after document, giving consent for me to take this medicine,” he says.

Young James was only the second person to undergo this experimental procedure. To the surprise of the doctors, it worked. “They were shocked by my case—that I was one of the most resistant cases, yet walked away with no long-term side effects or heart troubles,” he says. James’s case was even reported in a medical journal.

Six months later, James was back playing sports and catching his first waves, doing nearly everything that seemed so impossible just months before. “It was truly a miracle,” he says. “I should not have made it. I should have not ever been able to play sports again, and I most definitely should have had major heart problems for the rest of my life.”

Convinced that divine intervention saved his life, James resolved to change his perspective towards life. “God saved my life at 13 years’ old and I knew I wanted to live my second chance the best I possibly could. I wanted to know this amazing God who saved me and I wanted to live a life for Him,” he shares.
 

 

Photo taken by Eillot Gray

 

Giving Back to God

From then on, James desired to give to others the way God had given to him.

As soon as he completed high school at the age of 19, he went to Chile to volunteer and eventually landed in an orphanage in Perú, Casa Generacion. There, he met Yeferson Bellido, a 17-year-old who was the oldest boy in the orphanage and also its longest resident. The duo became firm friends and would go surfing every day. Once James heard about Yeferson’s life story, he was determined to share it with the world.

“He went from living on the streets and living with abuse of all sorts, to moving into an orphanage, and becoming one of the top surfers in Peru. And he was studying to be an architect at university,” he says. “Most of the people I know from privileged life circumstances can’t even accomplish half of what Yeferson did.”

James was not a filmmaker at that point, but Yeferson’s story gave him a strong desire to be one. “I had a dream one night,” he says. “God spoke to me and said to use filmmaking to show people His love and character.” This was confirmed by three people who told James he would be making movies one day.

James met the rest of the boys—Kross, Henry and Declan—through his travels, family members and colleagues. “We chose these boys because they had been through so much in their lives, and their common factor was that they turned to the ocean as their refuge,” he says. The ocean, he explains, was a safe place for them to get away from their problems and frustrations. And despite having gone through abuse and homelessness—one also losing his parent through suicide—they still had “amazing hearts” and wanted to do more with their lives.

 

Yeferson Bellido | Photo taken by Elliot Gray

 

Declan Bradley | Photo taken by Eillot Gray

 

A Rocky Journey to the Waters

While God placed their hearts to bring the boys on an amazing trip, it was not all smooth sailing. Apart from finding the money to finish the documentary and facing disapproval from friends and acquaintances, James and his team also had to deal with the paperwork to get passports and visas for the boys.

With no official sponsors or backing, money was often tight. Friends could not understand why James wanted to devote so much time, energy, and money to the documentary. “We received a good amount of flak of taking this project on,” he recalls. “But every time we were about to give up because we had no money, or something wasn’t coming together, God worked it all out and provided for everything through incredibly generous people.”

The team received funds through a small crowd-funding campaign and from friends and a non-profit sports organization, More Than Sport. But the backbone of the support was Kross’ and Declan’s communities back home—they came out in full force to support the boys’ fund-raising.

Looking back, James says it’s still impossible to comprehend how everything came together. “It was truly nothing special we did, but all Him,” he says. “One huge undertaking was the boys’ legal paperwork: we had to track down birth certificates, get social security cards, identification cards and finally passports. It was incredible it all came together on time.”

And it was all worth it. James recalls a particularly touching moment where Kross handed the keys to a house he and the team had “worked their butts off” to build, under the blazing Panama sun, for a local family.

Photo taken by Eillot Gray

Kross had spent a large part of his childhood homeless or couch hopping, so the gesture was especially touching. It was also at that moment that Kross realized he was no longer just a homeless kid, but an “amazing young man” who had the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life, James says. “He was crying, all the other boys were crying, and our whole crew was crying while trying to hold the camera steady. It was a special moment to be part of.”

Kross Brodersen | Photo taken by Eillot Gray

 

Henry McAlvany | Photo taken by Elliot Gray

 

More Stories to Be Told

While James is relieved that the project is finally completed, he is slightly nervous about how the film might be received. “For me, this being my first big personal project, now comes the thought, ‘What will people think about my work?’ ” James says. He plans to submit the documentary to various film festivals before looking for a proper distribution channel. “I am also very excited for the four boys, for their stories to be heard, for them to feel proud and even hopefully get discovered by companies for their incredible stories and surfing.”

Ultimately, says James, the documentary is about inspiring people to see that they are “worth so much more than they choose to believe”. “I want others that are in a similar situation to see hope in the boys’ stories and choose not to give up,” he adds.

As for his future plans, James is thinking of doing a few more documentaries. He plans to do a feature on Yeferson as well as document the story of the woman who started the Casa Generacion orphanage.

Ask James why he does what he does, and this is his reply: “God saved my life, changed my heart and gave me a purpose to live. I do what I do because I want the broken and the lost to feel the hope again. To feel they’re worth something. To be inspired to live a fulfilling life. And to show them the gracious love that God has shown me and that they have a Father in Heaven who is there for them.”

Photo taken by Eillot Gray

 

To find out more about the documentary, click here

My Identity Crisis: All I Wanted Was to Fit In

I spent a large part of my adolescence searching for my identity as if it were a lost item to be found.

I suppose it was because a large part of my childhood and early teenage years was spent moving between various states in Malaysia before settling in Auckland, New Zealand. My dad’s former job required him to move whenever a new position arose, and we would move with him.

By the time I was 15, I had been to three different kindergartens, three primary schools, and two high schools. To be fair, some of my friends zipped through even more schools, so I can’t really complain. But the constant state of motion meant that I was always searching for a new identity just so I could fit into my new environment. I didn’t want to be seen as an outsider, so I found myself always trying to meet the status quo.

For example, when a friend told me that someone had labeled me as an outdated individual due to my taste in music, I made up my mind to learn all there was to each new pop group. I would pester my dad to buy me the latest albums and music magazines, and would collect posters of each band.

Trying to fit in also extended to the extracurricular activities I took part in. When I was in primary school in Malaysia, I signed up for Taekwondo as it was the coolest club, and worked my way to a brown belt. But when I moved to junior high school, Taekwondo lost its appeal and was replaced by Scouts.

The first few months of Scouting went relatively well, despite having to put up with the heat in Malaysia and the relentless mosquitoes that swarmed around us in the humid evenings when we were camping. For me, it was a chance to do something cool, with hopes that I’d be accepted into the “in” crowd. I mean, all the camping, tramping, and hiking would surely result in good camaraderie between teammates right?

But an incident that happened during one camping trip cemented the fact that I was never going to be part of the popular crowd. I was putting away my teammates’ mess tins, which we had all washed and dried, onto a makeshift tripod—which was made out of bamboo sticks and held together by the different knots a Scout is supposed to learn and know—when it tipped over. Immediately, a chorus of groans went up, with voices demanding to know how I could have been so careless. It was all arms and elbows as everyone pitched in to rinse the dishes again and steady the tripod.

As the evening wore on, another girl managed to upend the tripod after supper. She was pretty, older than most of us, and hung out with the right crowd. Instead of angry voices demanding to know why she was so careless, there was only laughter. All she got was a joking remonstration, “Oh, you’re so careless!” I went home sad and miserable, gave up Scouting, and shied away from all outdoor activities thereafter.

My early secondary school life in Malaysia was a drag—my academic results were less than stellar, and at one point, I was failing just about every subject there was under the sun. But society saw Science stream students as the smarter bunch, so I had to continue studying subjects I was weak in because I didn’t want to be seen as anything less.

When my parents announced we were moving to New Zealand, I breathed a sigh of relief. Don’t get me wrong: I was reluctant to leave my friends behind. But I realized starting school in a new country would give me a fresh start—and a level of anonymity.

To the rest of my Kiwi classmates, I was just one of the many Asian students at high school. Granted, there were the usual stereotypes of Asians excelling in math and science, but I was also given the opportunity to study the subjects I was interested in. I also felt that it hardly mattered if my clothes were of the correct label or not, because most international students bought clothes from their home country anyway.

Furthermore, my teachers were far more interested in nurturing my strengths—such as English and writing—so the pressure to excel in certain subjects fell away. As a result, I enjoyed school tremendously, and went on to do the same subjects I loved at university.

But if you think that solved my identity crisis, you’re wrong. I disliked the fact that I was poor in math and that accounting wasn’t really my cup of tea. And I wondered why God would have me excel in English and not biology. On top of that, my parents’ friends would question my decision to pursue an English major in university. “But why?” was the most common question. “You can speak English, can’t you?”

So, by the time I was ready to graduate from university, I was still floating in the big world with no identity to anchor myself on.

It wasn’t until I attended a workshop at my church, that I learned about where my real identity comes from—and it certainly isn’t about being like other people.

At the workshop, we were given a list of affirmations of who we are in Christ, followed with Scriptures to back them up. The list had items such as, “I am a child of God” (John 1:12), “I am a friend of Jesus” (John 15:15)—and one that hit me like a ton of bricks: “I have been accepted by Christ” (Romans 15:7). You see, for years I had tried to gain the acceptance of others, but here was a verse that told me that Jesus accepted me—even when I was the uncool individual who listened to bad music before I joined Taekwondo and Scouts. That verse told me God saw me for who I was (with all my flaws) and yet still said: I accept her for who she is.

I also learned how I’m God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), and that I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7, Ephesians 2:4, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

Intrigued, I read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, which said: “God never does anything accidentally, and He never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything He creates. Every plant and every animal was planned by God, and every person was designed with a purpose in mind.”

You see, not only did I have to contend with an identity crisis, but there were also times when I wondered if God had made a mistake when He made me. After all, I was hardly Miss Influential and some of my schoolmates treated me like as if I were an insect. As my insecurities melted away, however, I started to see how silly I had been in looking to my peers for an affirmation of my identity. I realized that God is not bothered with the bands that I follow, the clothes that I wear, or what outdoor interests I pursue. Discovering (and making peace) with my identity also gave me a sense of purpose, which I believe is an important factor when it comes to fighting off insecurities, comparisons, and jealousies.

When I realized that one of my life’s purposes was to write for God, I started to view it as something sacred because it’s a gift from God, instead of a thing to be wished away. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed writing, but when I was growing up, adults around me made me feel it wasn’t a valuable skill set. What is the use of being able to write if your math and science is falling behind? Have you ever heard of a poor accountant? Those comments certainly had a way of making me feel inferior. However, when I learned to accept who I was, I stopped trying to be someone else, and begin to develop my skills and talents instead.

My newfound identity in Christ has given me the freedom to pursue my hobbies like writing and swimming wholeheartedly. It has also made me braver in pursuing new adventures. For example, never in a million years would I have dreamed of training to be a surf lifeguard, but I’ll be spending a huge amount of time this year training in the pool and open water to qualify as one.

You may be struggling with finding your own identity, and at times, it can seem like you’re drowning in an ocean of voices telling you to be this or that. But let me encourage you: Take the time to read about what God says about you, and you’ll find out that your identity can be found in Him. Because in God, we have an identity so strong and solid that it will never be eroded by popular culture or the latest trend.

When My Parents Didn’t Like My Date

With my Facebook newsfeed dominated by status updates of engagements, weddings, and babies, I thought it was best I got my act together or risk growing old alone.

I had long given up hope of meeting anyone at work, and even though I do sporting activities like swimming, it is such an individual sport that it is almost impossible to meet anyone. Besides, the swim squad that I am with comprises mostly students and their parents.

So, I did what I assumed most single Millennials would do: I signed up on a few online dating sites. I figured since we spend so much of our time online—from following our favourite bloggers to shopping—it made sense to also meet potential dates online.

After taking a few recommendations from a friend, I duly created an account for each of the sites, filled out my profile, and took extra care to answer the various questionnaires. You see, I didn’t want to jinx my chances of meeting the right person, so I made sure my answers were honest enough, but I was careful not to give too much away, to protect my identity.

But boy did the weirdos roll in. One asked if I would move to Christchurch, New Zealand, if we “clicked”—I live in Auckland—after we had exchanged all of two chat messages. He said he wasn’t looking to waste his time, and if I couldn’t promise that I’d move to another town for him, then he’d like to move on.

Another said he liked Asian women because they were “kind, obedient, and had a nice figure”. Needless to say, I blocked him as fast as I could. And don’t get me started on one of the other dates, who turned out to be really gross. Besides making highly inappropriate comments, he seemed to fail to grasp the concept of personal space—he kept pressing in close to me. I had to make up excuses to flee within half an hour of meeting him. Fortunately, we had met at a cafe that was only a five-minute drive from my house, which made it easy for me to execute my exit.

I did meet a few decent guys online, but nothing serious came out of those encounters. There was a paramedic who was really nice, but conversations were stilted. I also connected with a Canadian, who happened to be in New Zealand for a short cycling tour. But while we got on relatively well, there was no telling when he would be back in this part of town again. Needless to say, that one died a natural death.

So imagine my delight when I eventually found someone whom I connected with. On paper, he seemed eligible enough; he was an engineer who also enjoyed reading and surfing. We started chatting online, and I thought, “Perfect! My patience has paid off!” After a few weeks of exchanging text messages, we decided to meet in person to see if we’d enjoy each other’s company.

Our first date, at a nearby cafe, went on for four hours, which I thought was a good sign. Previous dates had me checking my watch every second, hoping for the hour to be up.

Naturally, when he asked if we could hang out again, I agreed. A few more dates followed, and soon I was texting my friends to tell them how much fun I was having. When he bought a bouquet of flowers from the supermarket, I thought, “How cute!”

So all in all, it looked like things had fallen into place and we decided we would make the relationship “Facebook official”. When friends and acquaintances commented on how cute we both looked together (when they saw our photo on Facebook), I replied, “I know, right? He’s great!”

At that stage, we had been going out for only a month. But when he asked if he could meet my parents, I didn’t think twice about it. You see, having heard stories from friends with partners who wouldn’t commit despite being together for years, I thought it was sweet of my date to make that effort. “After all, I would have to meet them eventually,” he said. Furthermore, his parents, who lived in the UK, were making plans to meet up when they heard I would be visiting the country later. As for my date, he had moved to New Zealand about three years ago after he was made redundant back in the UK.

When I told my dad that my date wanted to meet them over lunch, he accepted the invite. When the day rolled round, I was nervous about how the lunch would go, and hoped my parents would like him.

Alas, they didn’t.

I was devastated. “But why?” I asked. There were tears and long conversations with my sister and my dad. Eventually, my dad said he felt there was something “not quite right” with the guy, and his instincts were telling him that this man wasn’t the one for me. Next came the blow: I had to break up with him because my dad didn’t think anything good would come out of it.

“But it’s so hard to meet someone that I can get along with,” I said, dismayed. I was ready to argue that it was impossible to suss out the character traits of someone over lunch, so how would my dad know “something was not right”? There were times when I made a rash judgment about someone, only to find out later how nice and kind the person really was.

But my dad is a good judge of character. Later, he told me that he suspected that there was more to my date than he had let on, and that his body language had given him away. On hindsight, I should have picked up on the red flags. For one, he wasn’t a Christian. Second, I remembered how agitated he had become when a tour guide was a few minutes late picking us up for a tour. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but he kept prancing down the hallway, checking his watch, while muttering about how late the tour guide was (the guide showed up five minutes past the hour). There was also the time, when we were out on a double-date with my sister, where he helped himself to most of the food on the table without offering any to others.

And then there were the many nights when he’d have me hanging out with him until quite late, forgetting that I had to wake up early for work. I hadn’t thought that this would be an issue, but as my dad said, being considerate of other people’s needs never goes out of style.

So, I did what I had to do and called it quits with the guy. Needless to say, he didn’t take the news very well, and within 24 hours, deleted me from his Facebook friend list. Later, he sent me a private message to say he was sorry for the “knee jerk reaction” but as he was “falling in love” with me, he was hurt by my decision to break up with him.

While some of my friends understood my reason for heeding my dad’s advice, a few were shocked at my decision. “But you were so happy with him!” they said, “And it’s not for your parents to say if you can or can’t see someone.” It wasn’t easy, but I knew that in these circumstances, I had to listen to my parents because they were a lot wiser than I am in terms of relationships.

Movies will have us believe it’s a lot more romantic to follow our hearts and to run away with our beloved—and tough luck to our parents and their fuddy-duddy advice.

However, I have seen friends who refused to take their parents’ advice, and are finding themselves in difficult marriages (I have also seen the opposite, but more on this another time). Seeing these real-life examples help me better appreciate the verses like Proverbs 1:8-9, which liken the advice of our parents to a garland to grace our head and a chain to adorn our neck. There is value and beauty in our parents’ well-intended advice; they do have our best interests at heart.

American pastor Gary Thomas and author of The Sacred Search wrote, “Your parents know you better than you may realize, and even if they aren’t believers (Christians), they still usually want the best for you. At least consider their opinions . . . Also, talk to your pastor and other godly people you respect: ‘Does this relationship seem like a ‘fit’ to you? Are there any areas you’re concerned about?’ ”

Sure, no one is perfect. I wasn’t looking for Mr Perfect and I am far from Miss Perfect. But it was the culmination of all these things which made me realize, looking back, that breaking up with him was probably a good thing. Sometimes we make excuses for our date’s bad behaviour, thinking the person would change once we tie the knot. But more often than not, that doesn’t happen. I was deeply unhappy about it in the beginning, but I had made up my mind and there was no turning back.

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation where the person you’re dating hasn’t been given your parents’ stamp of approval, and you think your parents are a killjoy. Whatever the reason might be, I’d like to encourage you to listen to your parents, and seek out their reasons behind their objections. It doesn’t mean that we must always take in everything they say, but at the very least, we should give their advice some thought.

Though it might be a little hard to swallow, I believe that it will be worth your while in the long run, just as it was for me. A wise friend said, “There are worse things than being alone.”