Author: Frankie NC Torres

A sitcom character trapped in the real world. Erstwhile Nabokovian nymphet. Self-proclaimed "renaissance girl." Naturally theatrical. Loves wordplay and witty comebacks, though lacks the ability to know when to use them to best effect. Has what seems to be a Wikipedia of weird and/or interesting facts stored in her head. Loves music, literature, and theatre. Writes, usually poetry, and usually about boys she's fallen in love with. Talks about herself in the third person sometimes. Her whole life is broadcasted on her Facebook timeline. Was misdiagnosed as having ADHD. Occasionally dresses up as a panda. (See what I mean by sitcom character?)

Yellow

Been listening to this specific version of Yellow lately, not because of the lyrics necessarily, but because of the moment in Crazy Rich Asians when it plays. As Director Jon Chu describes it:

“…there’s an intimate story [in CRA] of a girl becoming a woman. Learning that she’s good enough and deserves the world, no matter what she’s been taught or how she’s been treated…The last scene of the movie shows this realization as she heads to the airport to return home a different woman. It’s an empowering, emotional march and needs an anthem that lives up and beyond her inner triumph, which is where Yellow comes in.”

Jon M. Chu in his letter to Coldplay

I haven’t really talked about it, but about two years ago I tried to make the conscious decision to close myself off romantically. To intentionally not like anyone seriously, and shut down any attempts in that direction. I did this because for most of my young adult life, I’d based my self-worth on whether or not I was considered likeable, lovable, beautiful enough for someone to choose.

Suffice it to say, my attempt at closing myself off has failed a few times, with each failure being more painful than the last. I could not get past the internal narrative of “Of course (x) would pick someone else, like someone else. Why would anyone like me?”

The last time I liked someone was the worst. As it became clearer to me that they liked someone else–someone I knew who is, and I do not exaggerate, one of the nicest people in the world, and the most deserving of love–I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about how I had been so foolish to think for a second that person would want to be my friend, let alone “like-like” me, as the elementary school kids of my day used to say.

From there, I spiraled, thinking of all the ways I was unworthy: how I was prickly and antisocial to their bubbly and warm; how I was negative and cynical to their positivity; how I was worldly and dark compared to their–and I cringe at my using this word–purity. It didn’t help that these were things I’d heard said about me before: negative, dark cloud, why don’t you smile?

I didn’t belong with them, so why did I think that anyone would want me to belong to them?


I heard Yellow being played at a gig I attended recently.

When I first heard Coldplay’s live version, with its beautiful piano intro, I imagined this song would be played at my wedding. It’s a love song, after all: her skin, her bones, all beautiful, all yellow and glowing and you know I love you so much.

This time, though, when the artist started covering it, I thought of that scene in Crazy Rich Asians, when Rachel Chu decides she is worth it, even if she doesn’t look like Nick’s family, even if she doesn’t fit in at all.


So no, I’m not the nicest person in the world. I don’t smile easy, or often; my happiness looks more like manic neon lights than gentle, glowing sunshine. I may never really stop being slightly pessimistic, imagining the worst case scenario. It takes me a while to trust. For all of my purity ring-wearing, I don’t always think of my mind or my soul as particularly “pure.”

But I think that, at least to myself, I can think of my skin and bones as all beautiful, yellow. That, if no one will sing this to me, I can sing for myself, You know I love you so much.

值得去等候. This love, this slow journey to seeing myself has worthy, it has been worth waiting for. And as I learn, and fail, and learn again, it will still be worth it.


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Epiphany: a myth/origin story.

A/N: I found this in my Apple notes and decided to put it up so my blog wouldn’t be fully of “neggy vibes.” If you’re a fan of Kim Seokjin of BTS, enjoy. If not…I promise more content soon?

~*~

Kim Seokjin-oppa.

When you started this journey, a Konkuk University student (rumored 200:1 acceptance ratio for your course; that still means something) at barely-twenty, you had looks. You were the “Legend of Street Casting,” hunted down first by SM Entertainment and later by BigHit. You had money, too: rumored son of a CEO, a golden-spoon idol if there ever was one. And you had luck: there in the right place, at the right time. If you hadn’t taken that bus. If you hadn’t got off at that stop. Who knows? Who cares? What matters is the circumstances conspired to put you in the eye of someone with important eyes, and soon you were whisked away on a journey you never imagined for yourself. The boy who wanted to be a businessman, then later an actor, was going to become something else entirely: an idol.

So you had looks. And you had money. And you had luck. But, apparently, not enough, because in the eyes of the world, you didn’t luck out on enough “talent.” You weren’t talented, not to them. Just the visual. Someone to fill the ranks. A pretty face to put in front of the cameras, if the cameras ever made it his way. Invisible, because all you were meant for–at first, at least–was to be seen.

Here is what did not get seen: more than looks, more than money, more than luck, you had hunger. For actual food, of course–your appetite is legendary–but not just that. You had looks and money and luck and for other people that would be enough to coast on life but you didn’t. You could have been “just the visual”–many idols, after all, have gotten by on their stunning good looks–but that wasn’t enough for you.

You had to be good too.

And so you practiced singing, even in your sleep.You worked out to get better at dancing. You made instrumentals at 3AM for your voice coach, recorded yourself over them to show her look, see, I can do this now! Have I improved? What can I do better? You begged your producers for singing parts, bit down on every line they gave you even when–let’s all admit–the raspy, throaty growl they tried you out with was probably not the best initial choice. But you ran with it. You ran with it all. You ran full-tilt into this dream that wasn’t yours to begin with, but it had fallen into your lap and you were determined to chase it with all of who you were.

You balanced studies and the spotlight and never let anyone see you falter, not after that first show that caught you with your pants down.

And yet…the world kept saying that wasn’t enough. The world told you that you weren’t good enough. That you didn’t deserve to be where you were.

The world told you to hate yourself.

You could have, you know? You had looks and you had money and you had enough privilege that you could drop out and build a new dream elsewhere, if you wanted. But you didn’t. Instead–so you’ve told us–you stared at the mirror and decided loving yourself would be the thing you worked on next.

So you learned to call yourself handsome. You learned to blow kisses. You learned to pose for the cameras, learned to tell ridiculous jokes without flinching, learned to lie between your teeth that you thought you were the most beautiful man in the world, until if not for your red ears or embarrassed laughter, you could fool everyone, even yourself. You embraced your visual status, owned it, said yes, I may be a face, but what a face that is. Said you were acting young to look young. Said you were determined to live brightly.

Because that is what all of this was: determination.

And, underneath all that, you buried the pain, the long nights trapped in studios and practice rooms. The days-months-years of learning skills you—honestly—sucked at. The failures. The people who laughed at you, called you pig, were determined to erase you. That first television shoot–the first and only time the world would catch you with your pants down.

Then, finally, when you were given a shot, when the time was right, you dug that pain out with your two hands. You wrote it into a song, watched that song get shot down twenty times but you did. Not. Stop. Refused to stop. Demanded they give you one more shot, just one more shot.

Awake was born.

(Months later, across an ocean, a girl you will never meet heard it and read the lyrics and maybe, maybe it kept her alive long enough for her to save herself.)

After that, you kept going. You demanded the world take notice. You spoke up more. You got more lines. Your voice soared ever higher, the veins popping in your neck from the strain but you were determined. Little by little, people started to notice you more and more and had better things to say. You went from “the one who is only good for taking care of the others,” to “Worldwide Handsome.” To “heart man.” And maybe those are all gimmicks, but suddenly the world started watching, and when you knew they finally saw you, you showed them what you could do.

Triple high-notes. Harmonies. Put-your-lighters-up classic rock covers.

And so they let you kickstart this comeback. They let you take this intro, because it was rightfully your time and because, to be honest, you’ve earned it? And maybe you didn’t write the lyrics, but there’s something to be said for your company’s founder and its lead lyricist giving you these words:

I’m shaking and afraid but I keep going forward
I’m meeting the real you, hidden in the storm…

…I may be a bit blunt, I may lack some things
I may not have that shy glow around me
But this is me
My arms, my legs, my heart, my soul…

not so perfect, but so very beautiful.

You took your struggle and turned it into a voice. You took the hate from the world and turned it into self-love. You took your weakness and you turned it into a story. And so maybe you don’t have “natural talent,” but talent can be learned. Skill acquired. But character cannot be trained, only built, brick by brick, with long nights and bulletproof skin and a relentless desire to run, just a little bit longer. You can fake it till you make it with talent, but you can’t do that with heart.

You have looks. You have money. You have luck. And—after years of training and fighting—you have skill. But, on top of that, now you have something that is, perhaps, more valuable: you have a journey. And that journey will inspire long after the songs have ended and the stage lights are off and the crowds go home for the last time.

I know, because you kept–you keep–inspiring me.

~*~

Disclaimer: Obviously, while some of what I’ve mentioned are facts, this is a creative writing exercise, so a lot of it is emotional speculation, hence “origin story” or “myth.” Take it for what it is: not an authorized biography, but a reflection on what fans project onto their idols, and what those fans take away from that projection.

 

What’s Next?

I’ve been telling my friends that I plan to quit music school soon.

To be honest, I always knew I was going to drop out. A degree was never the objective. Instead, I enrolled because I wanted to learn…or at least, that’s the press release. The real answer needs deep introspection, and introspection needs time that’s probably better spent studying for Solfeggio or practicing Czerny.

Time. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons I’m planning to leave UST: music school takes up so much time. And I knew this, my piano teacher repeats to me when I show up to her studio looking run down the nth week in a row. And I did know this. I knew that school would take up time, effort, that I would lose Saturdays and sleep and a whole host of other things.

I also know what a parametric EQ does and how it works. But I still struggle to use it on Garageband.

There’s a lot of difference between knowing and knowing. The latter, I guess, you can only gain through experience. I’ve been in UST for nearly two full school years. If I stick to my plan—and I don’t know if I will—then I won’t last a third. I haven’t made up my mind to quit, but I’m nearly there. The only thing holding me back from definitively making that decision is that I am just as uncertain about why I should leave as I am about why I started in the first place.

I know why I should go. I should go because I keep turning down gigs for this. I should go because I don’t get to sleep much. I should go because there are ministry opportunities that I miss out on because I’m in school on Saturdays (and what nobler thing is there to leave the conservatory for than church?). I should go because, ironically, music is taking time away from music.

But is it really?

Someone asked me—I forget who; maybe it was a lot of someones—what I planned to do after I quit UST. I think the exact phrasing was, “What’s next?” At first, I found the question odd, but then I realise that I have always had something going on. I can’t remember the last time I had Saturdays free; probably back in university, but even then I’m convinced I was probably doing something. For an introvert homebody, I don’t like staying home: I always need to be doing. And, for at least six years and maybe more, that doing has had to do with music.

Back to the question of why I enrolled in music school to begin with. The easiest answer would be that I simply traded ST for UST. The band broke up the year I got in, and school conveniently took up all the hours I would spend rehearsing in Marikina, week after week. If I’m less kind to myself, maybe I’ll even admit that getting into the conservatory was me trying to prove a point: I got in on the strength of two songs I wrote and produced all on my own, no bandmates or audio engineers or “hitmakers.” In that last, horrible year, I remember constantly feeling like I had to prove I was worth the band staying together.

My ahia would say this sounds about right, but they don’t to me. I know they’re correct, somewhere, but like I said before there’s a difference between knowing and knowing. I know what I know isn’t quite it.
I plan to at least finish my four freshman AppMaj requirements (Solo, Duo, Trio, Quartet) and my piano minor before I go. If I go. When I go. To be honest, even now, with Saturday in just a few hours and my dread of it growing, I’m still not 100% sure if I should leave or if I should stay. My old university professor—also a musician, also a current music student—shared a post that went, “When you feel like stopping, think about why you started.”

But what if I don’t remember why I started? Or else, what if there’s nothing to remember? What if I never really had a reason, a real reason; I did this because it was a convenient “next,” because it felt like the logical thing to do, considering my “dreams.” I don’t even know what my dreams are anymore, but that’s something for another time. Or maybe it isn’t, because that’s why I’m writing this to begin with. Because I feel like I’ve lost my way, and now I don’t know where to go or what to do or why I’m even here.

Maybe the harshest truth is this: I knew what I was getting into, what I was going to give up. What I didn’t know then, that I might know now, is that maybe I wasn’t so willing to count that cost. The “self-care” and “self-love” posts on Facebook say that it’s okay to take time out for “mental health,” and I think they’re right, but when is it self-care and when is it just laziness? When is it me being soft on myself?

When do I face myself, look in the mirror and admit that maybe I just don’t have it in me?

I don’t know. All I know is that there are open mics I want to play, dance classes I want to join, ministry opportunities I want to take, and goals I still keep in view, even as I wonder if I’m ever going to hustle hard enough to reach them. There is a Google Keep account with an album’s worth of songs, and a constantly moving target for when I want to release them. There is a sound I keep chasing that I don’t ever know if I’ll be good enough to make.

There’s a weight in my chest I can’t shake, that keeps me awake even after my homework is done.

There’s a wish, faint but if I’m honest getting stronger by the day, to close my eyes and maybe never open them again.

There’s a difference between knowing and knowing. Perhaps that’s why I stay. Because for all of these things I know, I don’t know the answer what’s next.

And I don’t know if I ever will.