More than Meets the Eye: A profile of Katie Park
How would you describe Katie Park? The things that initially come to mind might be that she’s a sophomore at Wheaton College, from Washington, plays tennis, works for The Wheaton Record, and has a calm, quiet demeanor. At first glance, all these things seem to describe Katie well, but a closer examination reveals that she is far more than what she seems.
Katie seems quiet and shy, but further examination reveals that she is confident, thoughtful and loving. During the interview, her answers were swift and thoughtful, and although her voice was quiet, it rang with intelligence and maturity. While she may seem quiet and reserved (and she certainly is at first), Katie is actually a much more talkative and outgoing than most realize, especially around people she knows very well. As is the case with most people, those who know Katie personally have a different understanding of her than people who know her impersonally. She admits to being an introvert, and slightly awkward around people she’s unfamiliar with, but once she breaks that ice, a whole other side of her emerges that would have gone unnoticed otherwise.
Katie was born in Seattle, and raised in the surrounding suburbs. She is the oldest child in her family, and has two younger sisters and one younger brother in addition to her and her parents, who both immigrated from Korea. They all lived outside Seattle until the summer after Katie’s senior year, when they all moved to Illinois where her parents had met for the first time, so the move there represented a sort of full circle for them, as they returned to the place where it all started.
Once she arrived at Wheaton, Katie joined the tennis team where she found a group of women who she really connected with. Despite this, Katie still struggled with a deep level of homesickness her freshman year, which caught her by surprise, given that her family now only lived an hour and a half away. This reaffirmed to Katie her identity as a people person, and showed her how much the love she and her family share really means to her. Despite all that, Katie still enjoys the independence college has given her to choose her own path, which to me shows that she is stronger and bolder than she might appear at first blush.
“I want to be known as someone who really cared, someone who invested in other people, and just invested in whatever I was doing” Katie said. Katie credits her love of people and relationships back to her family experiences, and being the oldest of four children. This taught her to be a protective figure, and a mentor and formed her into the caring person she is today.
Everyone has something they fear, a sort of worst case scenario for their life, and for Katie, that is being thought of as not being committed. She pitted this against her aforementioned desire to be remembered as loving. I think this juxtaposition describes Katie’s hopes, dreams and self-perception better than anything else. “People with a lot of talent who don’t work at something may not end up being nearly as successful as someone who may not start out with a lot of talent, but really works at it, and makes the most of it.” Katie says “That’s really important for whatever field people are in. If they work at it, they can get more out of it”. This quote shows how much Katie values stewardship, much like the good servants in the parable of the 10 talents, she wants to make the most out of what she’s been given, and she fears failing to live up to her potential more than anything else.
Katie draws her motivation from the knowledge that in life, nothing is easy, and anything worthwhile requires hard work, and dedication. This work ethic is what she credits with getting her out of bed in the morning, working at her daily tasks, and looking ahead to plan her future. Sometimes however, simple enjoyment can serve as an ample motivation for her. In tennis especially, she uses her love for the sport as fuel for a desire to grow better at it. “Of course when you enjoy something, you’re motivated to work at it” she says, showing that she works for more than just sheer obligation, but is rather motivated by trying to make her life better.
We all have role models that we look up to and try to imitate. For some of us, it’s a celebrity we’ve never met in our lives, for others it’s a close friend or mentor we know personally, but maybe not intimately. For Katie, it’s the person who probably knows her best, her father. As a father and daughter, the two naturally have a lot in common, but some things they share go beyond typical father daughter relationships. For instance, her father was the one who introduced her to tennis, and coached her in it from a young age. Her father has also serves as a sort of counselor for her life, as he is the first one she turns to when she has a question or problem, or is just struggling with some spiritual matter.
Katie has imitated her father in various other ways as well. Both tend to be peacemakers when it comes to conflict, which although it can be a valuable trait, it carries its own set of potential issues. While her non-confrontiveness can help smooth over tensions with others, it often can prompt her to bear unnecessary weight, which over time can accumulate to the point of becoming overwhelming.
Possibly the most formational part of Katie’s life so far, has been her transition to Wheaton. Before coming to Wheaton, Katie had never been in a predominantly Christian environment (family and church excepted), as she went to a public high school, and had primarily non-christian friends, so coming to an environment like Wheaton represented a complete reversal of what she was used to. In high school, her faith was a large part of her identity, because it set her apart from the crowd, but she was afraid that coming to Wheaton would cause her to lose that separateness, and she wondered how that would affect her spiritual life. She also feared the effect that coming to Wheaton would have on her evangelism. She had been surrounded by non-christians her whole life, so if she moved to an environment where everyone was Christian (or at least claimed to be) she feared that she would have a difficult time reaching out to the unsaved “How am I going to reach people and share my faith, if everyone already shares the faith?” she said. She talked to her Dad about this, and he reminded her that college isn’t the end of her journey, but is really training for the rest of life. This helped Katie realize, that by coming to Wheaton and studying her faith more deeply, she was actually preparing herself for a lifetime of outreach ahead, and making her witness even more effective, instead of weakening it as she’d feared. Katie has also found it very instructive to discuss her faith with others on campus who may have different viewpoints.
Since we first appeared on the earth, humans have been debating what the purpose of life is, and what is the most important thing to be in life. Some say life is about the pursuit of pleasure, others say it is the pursuit of peace, and some even say that life has no purpose at all. Katie thinks it is the pursuit of God’s will. “I think (the most important thing in life is) to be where God wants you to be, and to do what he wants you to do. I think if you’re earnestly seeking that you’ll be in a good place” When asked if Katie is where God wants her to be right now, she responded that she’s unsure, but she is trying to seek God’s will and figure out if she is.
I came into this interview with Katie knowing her only nominally, and while I still don’t claim to really know her, I think I understand her. She appears unassuming and subdued, but under her exterior lies a hard-working determined woman, who invests in others and expects little in return. She has a passion for outreach, and values Godliness over all else. I came in with perceptions of Katie as meek, humble and unassuming, and while she certainly can be all those things, she is also so much more. Katie really is more than meets the eye.