Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A milestone recalled

I celebrated my golden year of life in February. Turning 50 is a milestone that certain cultures feel it is worth celebrating. But supposedly for Chinese, they do not celebrate at 50 but at 49. A colleague reminded me of this days before my birthday. This is supposedly related to the good 'feng shui' of ages that end with the number "9". According to him, one should be extra careful at those ages. He knows of different people who passed away at 59, 69, etc. It wasn't a very good thing to be reminded of! LOL

Nevertheless, I considered it a milestone. And rather than just have the usual party, I decided to checked of one on my bucket list - hold a personal concert.

I had to have a platform to show off all that voice training. I needed to build my confidence in singing. No, I do not have a fantastic voice. I can carry a tune. I also wanted to challenge myself to learn how to sing classically. After about 4 years (?) of voice lessons, I just had to do this.

What better time than during my 50th birthday? I am going to have a party anyway. I might as well subject my guests to torture first before receiving the reward of food. LOL

The plan was hatched in November 2015. I wanted to sing with a sunset as a backdrop. I was able to find a function room that had just that. I wanted February 27 but it was booked. So it had to be on the birthday itself, which fell on a Sunday.

I engaged my voice teacher for more lessons than usual, starting December. I started working on my set list. But it needed a theme. I'm glad to have thought of the theme - 5milest0nes, cleverly embedding "50" while also thinking of the different milestones of my life that made me smile. (Of course some people would continue to read it as 5 milestones. Sigh.)

I ended with the following segments as 5milest0nes of my life: My faith, Work, Failed relationships (Lost Loves), Current Relationship (Love Found, hehe), Family and Friends, Aspiration. I put in songs that reflected the theme and pushed me to have that 'tenor' voice range, yes, birit as tenors would do it.

By the numbers - 3 prayers, 3 cross-overs (2 Grobans and 1 Bocelli), 2 kundimans, 2 Broadway musical numbers, 3 oldies/classic Arias and 50 guests. LOL

The rehearsals were grueling. Although I have been singing some of those songs, trying to sing them as faithful as the way the music sheets were written proved to be more difficult. A few of those songs I had to learn from scratch.

Then I had to get a pianist even as I started finalizing the details of the menu, the program. I had to set the rehearsal schedules with both pianist and voice coach. Then the technical details had to be layered in. Sound system? Lights? The digital piano? OMG

And my voice wasn't consistently cooperating either. There were times I felt I sounded fine and I hit those notes effortlessly. Then there were the other times. Or if it's not the notes, it's the lyrics, or the beat.

Then I had to time all this in for the sunset. Ultimately, I had to drop the sunset-backdrop, as a one-hour program would include a time when the sun's glare would still be too much.

A week before, I was having fever. Two nights before, I had insomnia. And I felt I was developing sore throat. All doubts started setting in. Why am I even doing this? Why am I the type to always have to push myself out of my comfort zone?

On the day itself, it was all cloudy. Then it started to rain. And even when the set-up was being done, it was obvious that there wouldn't be any sunset. But the 'show must go on'. The rehearsals before the program started as a disaster. My voice was cracking. I was missing them notes. Well, if I make a fool of myself, it would be to family and friends who would (or should) continue to love me anyway. Hahaha. All they had to do was endure the program and they'll get their reward.

But as I started to forcibly relax myself (that sounds wrong, right?), I got to be a bit more comfortable. And I realized now that the most important lesson I learned from my voice teacher is the control of my 'instrument', my voice box, my diaphragm and all other support systems so that despite whatever stress or circumstances, I could still perform. That was what I had to learn.

Then I got on that stage and started singing. The more I sang, the more relaxed I got. Making the audience smile and laugh helped me, too. I felt I did fine. Not perfect but not grossly out of tune or out of beat, methinks. I was able to relax even as I was singing, even when I have sung quite a number of songs already.

I remember the quote "They may say that I can't sing. But they cannot say I didn't sing." This was from this American heiress, Florence Foster Jenkins, who similarly staged a personal concert. Incidentally, that movie came out in May, starring no less than Meryl Streep.

And when the concert finished, I was just on cloud nine! Yes, the weather did not cooperate. I did not end up 'singing to the sunset' but it was fine. The venue came out nice, the program flowed smoothly, and the food was served well. C3, my fag hag, my family all helped me pull it off.

The lessons here:

Only you know what your comfort zones are. So only you would know what will push you away from those zones. And from time to time, you just have to do it. Some people run marathons. Some people make career changes midlife. You do it because your 'self' needs to be stretched to a new form. The world is changing. Your new form will allow you to adapt to those changes.

Sometimes, it is the unlearning more than the learning. I have picked up some singing habits that do not allow me to tap into my voice. I have adaptation mechanisms that make singing actually more effortful and stressful.

There is this three-dimensional axis of talent, training with performance as the dependent variable. Some people, by sheer talent, will perform well, but these are outliers. Some people will Not be able to perform, no matter what training is given. These are also outliers. But most of us, with some measure of talent, and lots of training and hard work, will be able to perform, perhaps even perform well. So it is the combination that allows for peak performance.

And finally, it matters less what people will say and feel about it but what you feel about it. You may receive mixed reviews but that doesn't matter as much as how you felt during and after.

After singing that last note, I was on a high. I did it. I survived. I saw happy faces greeting me, even congratulating me. I was just giddy after, drinking and eating with all my family and friends. It just felt so wonderful.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shemitah complete

With May's ending came the end of my 'Shemitah year'. Funny that it coincides with the proclamation of the new president, riding on a campaign of coming change. The changes in major aspects of my life have come to pass as I celebrate 50 years of life.

It is weird state to be in. It is 'business as usual' but also very different. Haha. I am now transitioning to the new order. I think of two machines, one huge and another small, both with many moving parts slowly integrating midstream. The gears and wheels of both are turning rapidly yet will have to seamlessly lock-in at certain points to become one huge machine.

I am excited. I thought that at 50 years old, I was going to prepare for retirement. It was going to be an academic life for me, and maybe a business on the side, consultancies, too. All that would have to be postponed for now as I look at the prospects. The challenges remain daunting but there is now some measure of relief in sight. I was about to hang up all those ideas, all those initiatives but now, maybe, I can actually test some of them. That excites me.

But it also weighs me down. Sometimes I don't know if I could still take the load and the stress that comes with it. This body is old and creaking at the joints. Again, a mix of emotions is at play.

On the lighter side of things, though, I feel good about how 'this old body' is still able to maintain itself. I may actually be in a better fitness level than before. It may be my best ever. I think I have finally gotten the right recipe of diet and exercise and willpower to lower my body fat percentages. It doesn't show as much but I try not to fret as much, too. It ain't looking great but it ain't so bad either.

As a whole, things are looking up.

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