rambling

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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“What’s on your mind?”: frantic, overshare-y thoughts on me vs. my facebook feed

Here’s a confession: every time I add a new Facebook friend, especially one who I’m keen to impress for whatever reason, I am seized by a sudden fear that my feed–filled with selfies, KPop, classical music memes, and makeup–presents a picture of a vapid, self-absorbed, “me”-llennial (as the Gen-X and Boomer thinkpiece-writing keyboard warriors like to call us).

I mean, it’s not an entirely inaccurate picture: I curate my Instagram; take tons of photos of myself, healthy drinks, and quinoa bowls (or a combination of all three); and don’t exactly have anything on my feed about saving the world, or being profound, unless it’s posts about how profoundly dumb I am at my job.

Sometimes.

(Long-time friends and co-workers, I know that because you are loving, caring people, you don’t like it when I call myself “dumb” but:

1. You haven’t heard my so-called “inputs” during video-call meetings with our Facebook account manager and, 

B. Let me have this moment. It is the closest I will ever come to being a standup comedian.)

Recently, I accepted a (surprise!) Facebook friend request from someone that I was extremely keen to impress (for reasons I do not think I can ethically discuss), and was overcome with the existential dread that comes with realizing that, outside of occasional “conversations” where I make two to three awkward, nervous jokes (tops!), said person’s idea of who I was, as a person, would be based on this narrow field called a Facebook timeline. A field, which, I’m going to be honest, is less about what fuels my introspection and more of whatever floats my boat when I’m not having an existential crisis about work or turning twenty-six in a few days or whether or not I have been setup for massive failure and anxiety because, when I was younger, I was told I was “destined for great things,” but now here I am at ALMOST THIRTY still living with my mum and auditioning for KPop reality TV.

Oh, hello existential crisis. Let’s pretend I didn’t see you coming.

Thing is, if you meet me in meatspace and maybe give me five minutes of your time, you’ll know that despite the fact that I have the rapid-fire, awkward yappiness of a toy-sized dog with a bladder problem, I’m not just shallow, self-absorbed, and frivolous. I have deep opinions on things other than the necessity of sunscreen (though if you say you don’t need to use SPF I will fight you) or whether or not Kim Seokjin has secret abs. And I know that’s not just me: some of the most articulate, interesting, and profound people I know have the feeds of bored thirteen year old memelords. Because, yes, at heart, they are bored, thirteen year old memelords…but that’s not all they are.

I don’t know if this post had a point when I started it, but in writing it, I’ve kind of, like, realized stuff. (Yes, that was a Kylie Jenner quote. And yes, that was a shameless bid to look #relevant.) Specifically, in a culture where we pre-screen acquaintances via Facebook “stalking” (in the words of an acquaintance, “It’s not stalking if it’s public information.” And no, that acquaintance was not Joe Goldberg.), maybe we should take feeds** with a grain of salt. Facebook–Messenger or the main page–can’t really take the place of an IRL dinner and sangria (or coffee and donuts, whatever) when it comes to figuring out who a person really is, what they’re interested in, and whether or not they’re actually interesting.

Which is to say, at twenty-six, maybe instead of mooning over green lights on my Facebook contacts list, I should actually give people a chance to get to know me in person, and to get to know them in person too.

Maybe 2k19 is the year I decide to get out more. 

Maybe.

(Fat chance.)

~ F.

**No promises about profile photos and captions, though.

I don’t think this is how stars work…

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One of my very good friends, John, has made it a habit to check up on me from time to time. “Hey, you okay?” he messages at random hours, on random days.

Unless things are really bad, I usually tell him I’m fine, not to worry, because to be honest, I am either sunflower or stormcloud. There is no in between, at least for now, so “okay” can mean either of the two, because either of the two is “normal.”

I catastrophize a lot. It means I tend to think of the worst case scenario and blow it out of proportion. My friend Esther once told me that I like being miserable. I recoiled from that statement then, but now, older and maybe a bit more self-aware, I realize that miserable–maybe that’s too strong a word; we’ll go with melancholy–is almost comforting in its familiarity. Over the past few years, I have learned to understand being sad better than being happy.

I don’t trust what isn’t familiar. It often slips away just as I get used to it. Maybe that’s why melancholy, in a weird way, is “okay” to me: it’s somewhat consistent, predictable, reliable in a twisted way, else why would my Facebook memories show me that one year ago today, two years ago today, I was posting sad posts?

(I think this time of year, lots of people tend to get sad?)

But back to John. The last time he messaged, asking me if I was okay, I did the usual thing I always do: deflected. I told him I was managing, that I was stressed but it was nothing serious. I told him not to worry, because I don’t like people worrying.

“I’ll always worry.” He messaged back. There was a smiling emoji, which in internet-speak I think means the fact didn’t bother him. And for a moment–or, okay, longer than a moment, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this–it felt good to know that there were people out there who weren’t bothered by the fact that they worried about me from time to time. Because, and maybe I’m extrapolating a bit too far here, it means that I’m worth worrying about.

I’m really thankful for the people who think I’m worth worrying about. I still don’t like it when they worry, though, so I’m working hard on–because, guys, it really is work; life requires effort–being okay, really. Okay isn’t good. It isn’t even fine.

It’s just: I’ll get through this day. I won’t fall apart. You don’t have to worry.

But I’m thankful that you do.