19 March 2014

Anyway here's not Wonderwall

For about a month and a half, I took a songwriting class from the Berklee College of Music on Coursera. I was actually looking for some media studies / journalism classes I could take as refreshers for work and (possibly) school when I saw that a songwriting class was starting soon.

Why not? I wanted to write but didn't like the idea of my own writing — what little I'd done, what I'd failed to finish, what I felt too inadequate to start. There were some issues I wanted to process into some tidy paragraphs, but diary entries and a dozen drafted posts couldn't help me, for some reason. It got to the point that I looked at my diary and my blog URL with dread. Maybe what I needed was to try writing something else.

I had written lyrics before: the words to my high school class's cheesy graduation song, and two or three just-as-cheesy love songs as a college freshman, before actual schoolwork took over. I think I never tried songwriting again, partly because I didn't know piano or guitar chords, but mostly because college life — and later, post-college life — was just so full of things to do.

So, anyway, here was this class on the Coursera lineup, with the description claiming I wouldn't have to have any great musical background to be able to take it. And here was I, in a rut and casting about for something creative to do. Again, why not?

The songwriting process ended up fixing the emotional leaks I'd been trying to plug. Just in the first week, we were shown how to take a song idea through three stages, making sure that the chorus or refrain gains weight at each stage so that the repetition at the end of the song has the most weight.

I soon found that my tendency to repeat myself in my personal writing has its uses in song. More importantly, though, while taking my own song ideas — all based on issues I'd been carrying around — through those three stages, I ended up resolving stuff that had been bothering me for months:

Idea 1: My life is great, but it doesn't feel secure. It doesn't help that my friends are complaining about how everyone on Facebook is getting married.

Idea 2: I'm no longer mad at this person, but I don't want to be friends. I wish I could stop feeling bad about not wanting to be friends.

Idea 3: There are all these little, ordinary-seeming things about being with Cris that make life awesome. How can I tell him that in a way I haven't already, and without dulling the secret magic of those little things?

Here is the song I wrote for Idea 1. Like all great songs, it was recorded on my phone in the bathroom, with an exhaust fan going in the background. It was the first song I completed, early in the class, and so is the simplest; it doesn't incorporate any of the stuff I learned in the later weeks — phrasing, language shaping, rhyme schemes, the use of bridges, etc. But, it's the one I feel least shy about sharing.

Here's to more projects for happiness. Here's a link to the class, in case anyone's interested. And, here's an old video of the teacher.

17 March 2014

These days.

These days, I’m just waiting. While everyone around me seems to be getting on with their lives, I’m waiting.

It’s not like I’m waiting for nothing. I applied to a grad school. Results don’t come out until July. If I get in, I’ll get to live in another country for at least a year and study some things I believe a regular job in this country wouldn’t show me. If I don’t, I’ve got a long list of Plan-B things to do.

In the meantime, though, the frustrations pile up. A few weeks ago, Cris and I visited an animal shelter and saw so many dogs in need of a home. We could give one or two a home, but that requires a basic certainty or permanence that our lives don’t really have right now. Dogs, according to our favorite show on Animal Planet, are, at most, a 15-year investment. You can’t take home a dog — previously abandoned, at that — and then give it back after four months because grad school’s come a-callin’ (Cris has applied, too).

My apartment still looks like I just moved in. I put up my shelves and unpacked the books, but I don’t see the point of getting everything set up given the possibility that I might have to leave again. It isn’t like my old apartment, the one with the treetop view that I loved, where I thought I’d live for a few years. I’d planned decor, I was going to get a proper couch, and I was going to replace all the dorm-era bedsheets I was still using. Then, I applied to grad school. And then, I took this job and had to move closer to work.

My dad offered to finance a trip to Europe, particularly so I can go with him and Mon to visit Mikko in Barcelona. The time he set for the trip was the Easter weekend plus two weeks, which is when Mikko is on holiday from school and can tramp around Spain and maybe Paris with us. But because of some changes at work and my fairness thing that other people say I should ignore, I didn’t ask for leave and didn’t apply for a visa.

That fairness thing: Since I went on leave at Christmas while our complement was already understaffed and overworked, I feel someone else should get to go on leave at Easter. This is not actually a rule at work but one of those conscience things. It now looks like nobody is actually going to file for leave, but it’s too late for me to do that now, since visa appointments have to be scheduled months in advance.

Meanwhile, my friends are traveling, or planning to travel, to places nearer than Europe but still some great distance from here. I want to do the same but hold back because I might need the money for school.

I have one more shot to see Barcelona this year, but again, it depends on whether I get into school. My dad says that, if I get in, he’d give me the money that would have gone into my trip to set myself up as a grad student in that other country instead. If I don’t get in, I can go to Spain with my mom, when she visits Mikko in November.

I almost don’t know if I still want to go to school at this point.

If I don’t get in, I get to move to a different place, somewhere with a lower noise level and a pet-friendly landlord. Maybe I can get a new bike, an electric one. Maybe I can look into long-term projects at work. I’ll definitely plan a trip, not just one to Europe, but to all the other places I want to visit.

If I do get in, I get to move to a different place, somewhere with decent public transport and city parks larger than a half-block or a road island. I get to study, feel horribly inferior to my more experienced and more talented classmates, and remind myself that I’m lucky that I even get to be there, learning. Maybe I can get a bike, a second-hand one, handed down by a previous batch of dormers. I’ll bike around the city without fear of getting catcalled or run off the road by jeepney, truck, and cab drivers.

Waiting is the pits. It’s a weird uncertainty where the ifs are a lot sunnier than the but really right nows.

Eh. It’s just a couple more months.