Crossing the Bridge (2012-2013): Looking Back & Ahead

The original plan was to write a cliched New Year resolution, but I decided it’s more prudent I have a reflection upon 2012. And what point is there really in pushing on headlong into the future without reviewing where I am and where I’ve been? 2012 was really a milestone in my life. So much happened – so much action, so much suspense, so much drama! Ugh, there’s just so much. I’d like to go through things chronologically but I have no idea how to make the whole thing readably short – with all my rantings still attached.

“I deserve better!” That was a dominant thought all through 2012. Travelling on through a town with a decent college I could’ve applied to but didn’t triggered something in my brain. I hadn’t been very happy being at my school the first semester for reasons I couldn’t understand, so I began my search for a new, better, more suitable school for me. 2 failed attempts so far and my idea of a “perfect” school has evolved and I’m more ready for a third try. It’s a very hard time for me since I departed on this quest for the perfect college. But it’s been beneficial in that I have slowly discovered what I wanna do with my life professionally, what I want to dedicate my life to and, more importantly, what I want out of my undergraduate college experience. Around the time I came out, I became aware of the undying need for social justice and equality throughout the world by the virtues of feminism. And I didn’t get very serious about pursuing a career in music until I took a class on feminist musicology and discovered how rampant sexism is. One progressive thought went through my head: “Women are quite literally half of humanity – assuming there are only 2 genders – and if they can’t be liberated, all the strive for other social freedom means nothing.” But of course, we must fight for all forms of social freedom but we must not forget about the ones who still get oppressed despite being neither a majority or a minority.

Since I’d discovered American (pop) radio stations, I’ve been getting tired of pop music – new pop music. They overplay everything, oh gosh! And I’ve become fascinated by Western classical music as I started vocal training. I went on to discover there’s only so much a performer – a voice or an instrument – can do when performing. The composer is the shit in classical music. The performers play in the spotlight, yes, but that light comes from the composer. Remember that time when I was on stage-managing duty for a Shakespearean play at school. What I really wanted to do/be for that production: be William Shakespeare. So, yup, you guessed it! I naturally decided to become a composer. Not that I’ve written any new complete pieces – even little ones – since before I came out.

And I went on to discover I don’t enjoy instrumental music. I’m sorry but the idea of “absolute music” is just ridiculous to me. I can only put it bluntly like that. I need some sort of context to my music. Language is a language to me – NOT the universal language, by the way. You have to be able to learn it and use it. There’s no point in it just being plain sound. I believe in Gesamtkuntswerk – the incorporating  of various art forms to create a holistic absolute piece. So what better way is there to contextualize music with theatre – with dance, action, words, props, sets and lights? Since I’ve always been a singer for about half of my life, I dived right into opera. Broadway, to me, is just pop opera – or rather, a degraded form of opera made accessible to the general public. It does not impress me that much, although I do enjoy some musicals from time to time. So I decided to compose opera – and ballet, if it turns out to intrigue me. Venturing into the theatre department at school (for a second or third time, this time for a big main stage production), however, didn’t turn out to be a very pleasant experience. I’d expected it to be very welcoming, inclusive and inclusive, but it turned out not quite so. The professors were great. Just some people I had to work with threw me over the edge.

2012 [movie poster]

There were times when I genuinely wished for the world to end on Dec 21, 2012 coz suicide would have been a horrible way to go. Apocalypse, now that’s classy: I get to go and I get to see others die, too. Then I saw NYC and got all cheery and stuff.

I ended up in New York City for this recent winter break. I had a problem finding a place to stay and my other options were Seattle and Chicago. But I made it there anyway, just because the Metropolitan Opera was staging Berlioz’s “Les Troyens” (The Trojans). I’ll tell you why: the opera is based on Virgil’s “Aeneid“, Aeneas’s journey from Troy to Rome, which I consider  to be symbolic of my life. I’m not gonna tell you how it’s symbolic though, coz you’re either not gonna get it or call me silly – the latter of which I don’t really care. Seeing an opera (for the first time) was the highlight of the holiday. I ended up seeing 2 operas actually, coz Broadway ticket prices are sky high and I’d rather go for quality than variety. Also, I ended up seeing the NYC Ballet perform the holiday classic “The Nutcracker” but it somewhat upset me that George Balanchine, the choreographer, was a more integral part of the production than Pyotr Tchaikovsky, the composer (who also happens to be my boyfriend from another life). So I decided that if I’m writing an ballets, I’d only write 1 ballet for every 5 operas or so. I can’t have a choreographer dim my shine quite so often, hmph!

Seeing New York was the best part of 2012. I concluded that turbulent year with a smile on my face. That’s my city. I will live there one day. Move the moat and fortress from Mandalay (my hometown) and the Shwedagon fron Yangon to New York and there I have everything I could ask for in a city. I was there for 15 days and I ate Burmese food, Chinese (Szechuan) food, Thai food, Korean food, Turkish food, Greek food, Mexican food and there’s more I didn’t get to try coz I couldn’t afford. I didn’t even end up visiting all the big tourist sites. I only observed them from a distance. But I walked around the city a lot just to soak in its aura. And it was rejuvenating. I have a new and more determined plan for my life now: I’m doing undergraduate studies somewhere on the east coast, master’s in France or Switzerland and getting my PhD in Eastern Europe; I’m settling down in New York with my husband and our 3 kids (at least a daughter and a son); I’m writing operas and ballets for the Met and NYC Ballet and I’d travel a lot working for different musical venues around the world; and one day when I retire, I’ll return to Burma – alone or with my husband – and start a performing arts school. For somebody who’s obsessed with children, I don’t have much of a plan for my children yet. But then again, it’s not like I’ve ever dated a guy. And I must confess: after seeing New York, I’m not that anti-America anymore. Bit cities do things to me, but I like them, haha.

Also, a reflection on 2012 wouldn’t be complete without looking back on my interpersonal relationships during the year. I had a fallout with my roommate in the middle of second semester last year. We were jerks to each other and there was a lot of misunderstanding going on. He moved out of the room, which was very hurtful to me. I could say it was traumatic and the rest of my freshman year was just miserable. School officials put me through counselling, which I didn’t want and which didn’t help much, even though I still am seeing a professional. The officials weren’t any help really in helping out with our problems. They kinda just separated us. We had to sort things out ourselves over the summer. We wrote to each other, we chatted on Facebook, we exchanged emails. It’s actually amazing how we’ve come to accept and forgive each other. I can say he’s one of my closest and best friends now – which was a surprising switch after our fallout. He actually came down to New York from Rhode Island to watch Les Troyens with me at the Met.

Going back home was tough and I’ve probably talked about this. Everybody knew about my sexuality but dared not raise an argument against me – as much as they’d wanted to – coz they all wanted to be preachy and I wouldn’t take crap from anybody. I talked about it with my family over breakfast one morning and we just barely ever touched on the topic again. I lost contact with a lot of high school friends although I was back in town for an extended period of time. Many didn’t reply my calls and I just shunned others. I just stayed in a lot, despite my mom’s wish for me to go out and visit my extended family.

Getting back to the same old school for my sophomore year, I had expected that I’d feel more at home on campus because I’d been there one whole academic year and I know where’s what at. I tried to not be sophomoric and befriended a lot of the new incoming students. Wrong! I found myself drifting away from people I’d been close to – either because of class or living space – and readjusting in a new dorm. People are discovering what they wanna do in college as they become upperclassmen so I’ll assume it’s natural. Freshmen are either like, “This guy’s a creep. Why’s he talking to us?” or I don’t fit into their interest groups. Some freshmen have even learnt to disrespect me thoroughly. Shame! There’s like a generation gap that shouldn’t be there. Also, on the bright side, I started to be selective about who I hang out with: I try to stick together with people who make me smile and laugh and whom I can make laugh and smile. I value and respect a lot friends who are liberal and feminist, and I realized you don’t have to be a College Democrat or a GSA member or be part of a feminist resource group to be those things I admire. In fact, some liberalists and feminists can be even more kickass than those who participate in institutionalized ideologies. And I’ve kinda formed a clique around myself as much as I have despised cliques, which are a prominent feature of my school. I met this freshman boy from the Northwest – an awkward prude, very Christian, very liberal and feminist. No, those words aren’t mutually exclusive! I got to know some more girl friends through him, and the funniest thing is that he got a girlfriend and both of them started hanging out more with me (although less with other friends). I call him my little brother. I love him. And I have my Indian girl friend with whom I tell inappropriate jokes in public and laugh hysterically at them. My sassiest black girl friend went to study in Korea the past semester and I’ll be seeing her again on campus this semester before she graduates. I can say at this point that I have my own clique. Well, excluding people is still more fun than being excluded by people so I might as well do it.

Ok, now, I sound dreary and absolutely miserable. It was not quite so overall, although an astrologer told my mom 2012 is one of my worst years in my early life. Well … what good things happened? I started this blog, and I can’t tell you how grateful I’m able to do this, y’all. I don’t know the extent to which this blog helps others but I know I have regular readers – probably because I write rather scandalously but as if I care … It’s a great outlet for my frustration in life – which actually sounds like a terrible reason for blogging. Really how it works is, as I write about my problems, I automatically think about plausible solutions and I can just follow any one of them through. As much as I hang out with quite a number of people, I don’t think I get out of my mouth a lot of what I want to say. And if I do, it’s barely in a orderly or organized manner. Even though I never proofread or edit my blog posts before publishing, they have a certain structure and multiple critical points in them even when they’re just endless rants. My writing skills have improved more or less through blogging. I have become more firm with my political, spiritual and other personal beliefs and, rather than learning to moderate what I write or say because this blog is open to the public, I’ve become bolder and upfront in making statements and even went from assertive to somewhat aggressive. What’s even more valuable about blogging is how I get unconsciously connected to fellow members of the queer community and our allies. I’ve discussed this before so I’m not gonna go into any details.

What else was great about 2012? Oh, there was a failed attempt at getting a relationship. I was in love with this guy for a moment. I’m actually very happy that that feeling of love and romance manifested in my heart for a while. I rushed in asking him out when he wasn’t ready yet to pursue a relationship, which kinda made us clash. Looking back, he hates children and is a vegetarian and I can’t have either of those in my life, uh! But, he’s a good person though – well, almost a good person coz he doesn’t like children. I will knock the shit out of you if you ever disrespect or discredit children in my presence! but really, I don’t think I was a datable person all through 2012. I always complained about being alone but, had I gotten into a relationship with anyone, I’d such the happiness out of their lives and we’d be 2 halves of a living hell. Well, it wouldn’t be that bad even figuratively but it wouldn’t go well or end well, that’s what I mean.

And I started singing in choir, finally. I’ve always sung in the baritone range and – snap – both the choir director and my voice instructor tell me I’m a tenor. I’m like, “O … k … ?” My instructor tells me I’m not gonna get paid to sing low so I’m gonna have to work on my upper range A LOT, coz it barely exists at this point. I’m getting better at interpreting music and I’m becoming more technical with my music, so I’m  happy with the progress.

Ouch, almost forgot: I started experimenting with gender expressions of the opposite/female gender. I am fascinated with androgyny. I have had lots of hand-me-downs in my life, but I’m the eldest in the family and mine came from my mom. I’ve had lots of fancy women’s shirts since I was little. My mom actually “regrets making me gay“. I started wearing heels on campus and in my little college town. I’ve been in drag a couple of times, and I love having eyeliner and lipstick on my face.

That’s pretty much 2012 for me. Had some good times in the midst of all this hullabaloo. Felt suicidal like 3 times and went to counselling twice. I’m still supposed to be meeting the counsellor on a regular basis – even if not frequently – but, nah, I’ll be fine without her. So, the big question: what’s in store for me in 2013? Ooh!

I inevitably have to spend one more semester at this school. I believe I know how to survive, since I’ve done it like twice already. I will laugh hard, I will play hard, I will ball hard and I will survive. There’s not gonna be any waltzing through this upcoming semester, I know. I have to get my GPA to above 3.5 so that I can have a good impression when applying for schools (again). I’ve spent 2 years in a liberal arts school and I know pretty darn well at this point what I wanna study and what I want out of my undergraduate college experience – like I’d said earlier. I’m gonna go for a music program – with a little bit of theatre on the side – at a university in a big city. Public school, commuter school, in a blue state, in a swing state, I don’t care anymore, not that much. With women’s/gender/sexuality studies, I believe I can continue my studies by myself since I do not intend to pursue a career on feminist works. I just want my art to harbour feminist thought or progressive thought for social justice and social equality. This summer, I want to do an internship – I’m not sure in what coz I haven’t acquired any special/specialized skills at school – or attend summer school. If it’s summer school, I wanna study either world music or theatre and drama. Feminist studies would be cool, too.

I will keep exploring my artistic interests and artistic talents, and create as many new works as possible. If a lot of them turn out to be crappy (which is a very high possibility), I will consider the effort as for the sake of practice. I will blog more randomly. By that, I mean if a thought pops up in my mind, I’ll write it down and post it. I won’t wait till it develops into a big bulk of superfluous information (like this post is turning out to be). I’ve been posting on a regular basis, really, but it’s not very frequent and the posts are very long and their subject is not very clearly defined.

Since I got back to America for a second time, I have been able to witness more of the real American life. It’s sophomore year and some friends have dropped out of school, and through them, I hear stories about folks who don’t go to college or finish high school. Seniors from my freshman year had graduated and I hear about their post-graduate struggles with work, continuing education and starting a family. As I become closer to some friends around me, I get to hear about their families and their lives. As my social network expanded, I also get to learn about the Burmese immigrant community in the US – how they got here, what they’re doing, what they really wanna do, how they see their native land at this point, etc. It’s very fascinating. Visiting New York was just mind-blowing. I get to wonder about the life stories of people from different walks of life and how mine would turn out to be:

  • homeless people begging for money in street corners
  • shoplifters caught by the police in the subway station
  • cashiers who work late in 24-hour dehlis and cafes
  • the Korean families who run large restaurants without even speaking English very well
  • the Punjab taxi driver for whom I had to write down my address because he couldn’t understand my English speaking
  • the Islamic men who run the Halal food carts in Manhattan
  • (male) mimes dressed up as Lady Liberty in Times Square
  • Deborah Voigt still being a big diva at the Metropolitan Opera even after losing the volume of her voice due to the weight loss relating to her gastric bypass surgery
  • the dancer of NYC Ballet who fell after a jump during his big solo in “The Nutcracker
  • Burmese immigrants there – who rented out a room in her house to me; my nextdoor neighbour who came to the US coz she won the DV lottery; the couple who used to live in New Jersey but worked at the UN in New York, and moved to Queens after having a baby because they needed to spend more time with the baby rather than take too long commuting to work
  • other international students visiting the city also
  • the Italian couple whom I met outside Marble Church were wandering around the city by themselves without knowing English to a functional degree
  • and so many more …

Taking the Sociology 101 class was very beneficial. I could academically observe social structures and social norms. And also stepping more into real life, outside the cocoon of the college campus, I finally understand better how some people can be such assholes and how others can be really nice.

Brooklyn Bridge at night

I’m just putting this picture here coz I need something in the post that fits the title … And this bridge is symbolic of New York and the city literally put a smile on my face toward the end of 2012.

For 2013, I wouldn’t say it’s all a new beginning coz it’s not. But there’s a lot of good things coming my way, or at least I’m inviting them with open arms. Even looking back at 2012, 2011 was a big part. The events of 2011 led up to 2012, more or less. And those of 2012 will carry on to 2013. But how do I make my life experience better? I’m not letting go of the “I deserve better” notion, coz I do deserve better. But I’m not gonna get what I deserve if I don’t know how to get it. I had previously been waiting for what I deserve by just sitting around and waiting for it to come. Now, here’s an additional thought: “I will work for it.”

This year, I will take care of myself, my physical and mental health. I will love and I will fall in love. Yes, my only official resolution for 2013 is to make myself datable. I will redirect my educational path toward my personal interests and professional pursuits. I will keep experimenting and having adventures. I will explore, in better depth, my beliefs and my identity. I will be wild and bold and myself. Last but not least, I will keep the promise I’d made to myself at the beginning of 2012, one I had been unable to keep because I was afraid of the consequences: I will present myself genuinely at all times.

P.S. I met both Obama and Romney weeks before the election happened. Not that big of a deal for me though, as political as I am.

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