Chinese: 孝, xiào - A Confucian philosophy. A virtue of respect for one's parents, elders, and ancestors.*
A beautiful living room in Manhattan sheltering 3 different artists, one being me. The air is crisp, warm, and feels clean filtering through my lungs. The other two, comfortably and softly whisking through the room. In friendliness, we check in with one another. Then she asks... "So what do you want to do?" I, knowing and trusting what is on my mind, confess... Pour out my webs of confusion, anxiety, frustration, and anger. I talk about what I've done this last year, my journey moving to this city, how the current job is... Then the questions start barreling in my head, "What am I doing here?" Voices silently screaming with plaguing comparisons. I don't even encompass the passion that these two so obviously exude. I am ashamed of what I am to them, what I am to my friends, what I am to my brother, my sisters, my paren... And then it hits me. Knocks the wind right out of what was at the tip of my tongue. And inside my eyelids, out of the dust, so vividly in vision, my Mom walks through. I choke over words as my Dad follows right behind her. Refocusing in, with eyes wide open, I make a face. And I feel my toes settle down on the fringe of the carpet. The force I feel could launch me into the sky... Yet I fear the speed at which I could fall down.
Filial Piety. A block I have held onto for so so so so long. I may never shake this demon, but now that I know that it's here... In my noggin... I can live with it now.
Deep down, in the roots of the tree that is my life... I wanna make my parents, my siblings, the people I love, proud. I am the youngest of five. I was spoiled as a kid, but also the only American-born, and the youngest sibling after me is 10 years older than me so... Trying to prove myself felt, and still feels, like life or death. I didn't participate in extracurricular much through grade school, but I remember the importance and focus on getting good grades. Because of this, finding passion to cultivate into a career would later become difficult. I didn't know what I enjoyed and what to build on as a base for the rest of my life. At the time, I only liked one thing: Music.
"Music huh? Music takes a lot of courage, a lot of vulnerability. It is self-expression. It can be self-indulgent! The lifestyle is not practical, you have to be lucky to be successful!" Perfect. Music, was my getaway, my voice. And in a Chinese household, that was the worst choice for a career path. "So you should become a doctor, a computer engineer, a dentist. Something where people respect you!" F%#& that! Not for me. Music became, and still is, a sort of rebellion for me. And I, unfortunately, didn't get to truly explore my love for music till later in life... I was too busy feeling ashamed to even fathom the thought. But in College, I decided to major in Music hahah! I couldn't getaway from it. I received my Bachelor's in Vocal Performance and shortly after graduation, decided to move to New York City to further the journey. I have now lived here for 4 years and it has been an incredible learning experience, to say the least. But I've noticed that even when I studied Music in College, and in my exploration of Music now... I don't know if I've ever truly enjoyed it for myself. I've always had my parents sitting in the back of the house of each performance. And they've especially been in my head throughout this last year.
This last year, was difficult. I remember ignoring my mom's FaceTime calls because depression had hit pretty hard. I was afraid of what I might look like to her. She's my mom, she can see right through me. And the tentacles of Filial Piety had me tangled and strangled. I hadn't spent much of my time with the things I thought I truly enjoyed. And within the clouds of confusion, I felt the shame again. As if I needed permission to participate and exercise the muscles of song, dance, poetry, JUST art in general! Insecurity had led me to believe that I am not making ANYONE proud. But then it clicked!
Back to the question, "What do you want to do?" That question scares me. It terrifies me. My palms are sweating just typing it out!
Here's what I wanna do RIGHT NOW: I want to breathe deeply, sleep softly, hug firmly, kiss passionately, laugh loudly, clap lively, cry ugly, dance nightly, play video games, read books, write poems, write songs, sing with everything in my lungs, dance to Michael Jackson till my feet burn, play guitar till my fingers cramp, make a movie with people I love, direct a play, watch films, watch Netflix, watch basketball, eat the biggest bowl of Ramen... and live. Live.
Cue crying whilst writing this...
Because it isn't about what people want for you. It's about what you want for yourself. The best thing you can do for this world, is be present and lively. For so long, I haven't even been able to enjoy what I identify with: Music. I've always thought each performance was for my parents, my siblings, my loved ones. I've always had someone in my mind backing each performance, each song, each dance... Of course, that is great! That has value to it... But I wanna learn how to enjoy my passions... For me. And also acknowledging that I have A LOT of things that I wanna do! Why can't I do them all?
Okay! Lastly, we aren't just one thing. We aren't just our jobs, our gender, our sexuality, our race, our religion, our relationships. We are all those things. Those are all just pieces of the puzzle that make us the masterpiece that we are. And in my journey of self-discovery, I hope that I take the time to not only treat the people around me with kindness, but treat myself with kindness.
Here's to getting Closer To Kindness... Ah Hah! See what I did there? I love you all. In our adventure to make this world a better place, let's see if you can be kinder to yourself too.
Dramatic Life Questions/Thoughts:
What is it about us? On our day to day, we go through the motions. We walk the sidewalks, we breathe the air, we interact, we think, we feel... We have relationships. And we get lost. We question to the point of no return. We take things to heart, we don't feel enough. We live in extremes. We treat our emotional centers as states that we can't control. But we can.
I hate the idea of: "You don't know what you got till it's gone". Why live that way? Why cater yourself to something that doesn't favor you? I think it is a choice. It's a choice we make to excuse us from appreciation. If we can not enjoy the simple gestures and interactions in life, we miss out on life. I'm particularly concerned for our relationships. Our interactions to each other. Our hatred, our love.
So let me propose a routine for you: Let's bring back the power of compliments. Start small. Start with people you love. When a thought comes, express it! Strive to be genuine! Then try it with your everyday interactions. Try honesty. When you see someone walking down the street and you like their shirt, tell them! You see someone reading a book that you've read, maybe you can share your opinions. Keep it simple. Treat it as expressing yourself and leave expectation at the door. Also remember to respect people's space and respect your own in the process. We are not our emotions, our thoughts. We are complex, we are multi-layered. We are more than the boxes that the evils of social constructs confine us to. We are flawed. And we are perfect in those flaws. And we can better define ourselves by exercising an open heart. Be open.
Yes, being open means being vulnerable. Being open can ignite fear and resistance. But being open also warrants peace. It harnesses confidence and nourishes love. It celebrates health and it will always teach you about yourself. These are things that we can fuel inspiration with. And through inspiration, it is possible for the people we love to rise and join us.
I hope this finds you well.
"You don't need to lose to know that you had it good. No no!" - John Mayer Trio - Another Kind of Green