“Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for You are at my side.” – Ps. 23:4

One of my greatest fears growing up was the idea of being alone. Even though I was an only child, I could not stand being alone. When I was younger, I always had to have something playing on the television or stereo because I hated quiet. If not, I’d go out with friends after classes or found ways to busy myself in various organizations because I did not want to be by myself.

I hated being alone. I hated being by myself because it sometimes led me down a dark rabbit hole. I’d hear my own thoughts in the darkness: a voice of belittlement, telling me I was unworthy, picking at my most egregious mistakes. It berated me. Insult after insult, it hurled words at me until I broke down or turned to hurting myself to make it stop.

It took a long time for me to embrace solitude. As a cradle Catholic, I grew up being told all the time how God is by my side. It took me years, however, and a lot of patience, retreats, and help before I truly embraced it. It may still be difficult at times, but I firmly believe God is always by my side, waiting for me to reach out. When I do, I am never disappointed. I’ve learned to now enjoy being “alone” because it opens me to all the opportunities He has waiting for me with Him at my side.

Lately, I’ve been bit by the travel bug. This past month, I went on a trip to Korea for my part-time MBA program, and afterwards, I went to Japan separate from the program for a little trip of my own. I spent the most part of six days alone, exploring the sights, eating the food, experiencing the culture of a place I had never been to and barely spoke the language of. Despite that, I never felt alone. God would pull me when I least expected it, showing me sights I never could have planned for.

One such time, after a filling breakfast, I had an hour to explore before my next planned adventure. Looking at my map, I decided to go to a nearby park to walk around to pass the time. What met me, however, was the beautiful sight of a sakura (cherry blossom) tree. When planning this trip, I thought I would be too early to catch these flowers blooming, but there it was, clear as day. Clouds of pink and white on trees, families gathered underneath the trees, children laughing and running around playing tag. When I saw that, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sight and thank God. He was there. He led me to this place, outside of my plans. He lovingly created each petal and branch, parent and child. It is moments like that where I am reminded God is with me, guiding me on all my journeys. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I am not alone. I have nothing to fear for He is by my side.

When have I ever felt alone or down? Can I allow myself to open the door to my heart and reach out to my loving God, who is always there waiting for me?

Kevin Nguyen