quarter life

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.

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Birthday Wishlist – Turning 24

Is it a sign of “growing up” that you begin to feel dread about an impending birthday, instead of excitement? That’s where I am right now. Twenty-three felt optimistic, but twenty-four feels like a rubicon that I have no choice but to cross.

The only “good” thing about aging up a year, perhaps, is that I want fewer tangible things. I used to do birthday wishlists every year–long and comprehensive lists of “demands”–but now that I’m able to buy my own stuff…I find myself wanting to want less stuff (please, save me from consumerism and online makeup shopping). Of course, this doesn’t mean I want less–I think wanting is part of human nature–just that the things I do want aren’t necessarily things you can get in a store.

It’s midnight, though, and I’m too sleepy to continue waxing poetic. The following list is a mix of those tangible and intangible wants for my twenty-fourth year. Some can be bought. Some, I suppose, I’ll have to work for.

In no particular order, my birthday wishlist:

  1. To get over my fear of driving. (I’m going to inquire about enrolling at Honda Driving School on March 11th. You all hold me to that.)
  2. To learn to stick to a budget. (No, I don’t actually need that new lipstick/dress/book.)
  3. Anti-Marcos Social Club/Never Again Shirt (Don’t know where you can get the former, but the latter is available from Awear.ph).
  4. “Chubs” green crop box tee. (Can’t remember what online store had this, but it’s an online store. Also, yes, this is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo fan merch.)
  5. To sit in on a roundtable discussion/mentoring session with a veteran producer and veteran songwriter. (To see what I mean, please see this Buzzfeed video.)
  6. An out-of-town gig. (One for Ellie and The Elephant would be cool, but one for The Elinor Project (w/ Marvs Fabular and Dean Carayag) would be awesome also. Or one for Stories Told, of course.)
  7. To go up to Baguio with Dani, especially when it would be cold.
  8. Pop piano lessons. (As far as I know, The Music School of Ryan Cayabyab offers this. I just need to make time.)
  9. Coco Cabana swimsuit. (Most likely a high-waisted, bra-type bikini set, or else a one-piece. Ideally in black or navy blue.)
  10. Formal guitar lessons.
  11. A Zoom portable recorder (I can’t kidnap AJ’s stuff forever.).
  12. An editorial-style photoshoot. (This one’s frankly self-indulgent, but it was the only thing I wanted for my debut, and I never got a debut…so yeah. Shameless vanity. As if I don’t hold unofficial versions of this every time I figure out a new K-Beauty/J-Beauty trick.)
  13. A Samson condenser mic (or whatever brand Jian/Marvs/Dean would recommend that’s within my budget; the Apogee is okay but it’s not as crisp as I’d like it to be).
  14. To figure out how to use a loop pedal. Or loops in general.
  15. Not to be so scared of growing up.

~aRT~