May 1

May 1, 2018. Labor Day. May Day. The day we lost my father sixteen years ago.

I’m unsure how to write this post so I’ll just begin. It’s been twelve years yet I feel like in a weird way I am only now accepting that he is no longer with us. It’s definitely been a long journey. But I am ready, open to grieving and sharing more. Speaking about him, telling stories, this is how we keep the memory of our loved ones we’ve lost alive.

There are still many corners within me unexplored, and I do feel like a large part of my journey is to heal that. There are many more tears to be shed, be they happy or sad, but I have begun, and that’s what’s important.

Here’s a song I wrote for my dear father, called River Flow. Surrounded by the lush green of Bali, surrounded by love, there was nothing I could do but to look inward and begin my healing process.

Enjoy –

Loving you eternally dad.

J

Michicant

Filmed a cover while in Bali… which I will write about at some point soon.

Here is Bon Iver’s Michicant, a beauty of a song matched by the beauty of my surroundings singing it.

For best audio, use headphones. Thank you to my lovely videographer Juliet for all her help! Enjoy x

xo

J

Girl from Ipanema

Have been really enjoying singing and posting videos on YouTube lately.

There’s a sense of zen I feel when I sing. It’s wonderful.

Sharing my cover of “The Girl from Ipanema” by Frank Sinatra. Did not realize the original song had Portuguese in it so was fun learning to sing that part – I’ve always found Portuguese to be a beautiful language. Also altered the lyrics a bit to suit my gender.

Enjoy! x

xo

J

Falling Slowly (Happy Love Day!)

A bit belated, but Happy Love Day.

Recorded a cover of “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, from the film Once.

Enjoy x

Notes:

– I am playing the piano in this video although you cannot see 🙂
– Outtakes video here: https://youtu.be/eGHh4vT07Ps
– Decided to separate song from outtakes this time since combined would make quite a long video
*I spelled Marketa Irglova differently in title – oops!

xo

J

We’ll Be Okay

Recorded my first song cover and posted it on YouTube.

Quite new for me to put myself out there in this way, but it feels good. It feels right. It feels time to be seen.

I first encountered this song, “We’ll Be Okay”, by the ever so lovely Imaginary Future & Kina Grannis a few days ago (Original can be found here). Fell in love immediately. Whereas theirs was a love song for each other, I saw in it a love song for my dad.

So here you go. We’ll be Okay.

xo

J

What I Learned Spending New Year’s Solo

Wanted to write a bit about how I spent my New Year’s, and what it’s taught me.

I spent this New Year’s in India. After attending the Learning Societies’ unConference, I went to the countryside a few hours outside Bangalore with my friends A and B. They had planned well in advance to stay in a beautiful treehouse in the jungle for New Year’s. I had tried to arrange to stay in the same area as them, but by the time I was inquiring (just two weeks before New Year’s), their resort was understandably already full. I ended up booking to stay at a forest lodge 18 km away.

I had no idea what to expect. 1) It was my first time in a jungle in India; 2) It was my first time in India period; and 3) As B lovingly welcomed me into his home for the first part of my stay, this would be my first time on my own in a country that, despite having been welcoming to me thus far, was still foreign to me. After a snafu that occurred the day we arrived in the area due to a misunderstanding over not being able to drive through the jungle after sundown (turns out tigers rule jungle territory at night), A and B dropped me off at my lodging the next day.

Here are 3 Lessons I Learned Spending New Year’s Alone in a Foreign Country:

1) Give people the benefit of the doubt. Be wary, but also be open. The way you treat others will be mirrored in the way you feel you are treated.

When I first arrived at my lodge, I was wearing a sweater and leggings. I had just bought the leggings a few days prior and found them to be one of, if not the, most comfortable pair of leggings I’ve ever worn. They are made of a sheer material but I wore them that day solely for comfort. After checking in, I noticed one of the male lodge staff staring and looking me up and down slowly. I felt very uncomfortable, and quickly went into my room to change into pants. I had heard about the male culture in India, and the horrific abuses that can happen to girls. I worried a little about whether I would be safe on my own at night, but remembered B saying he had stayed at the lodge before and that it was a trusted establishment.

That ended up being the only uncomfortable moment during my entire stay. All the other staff were nothing short of friendly and accommodating throughout my stay, answering any questions I had. Once I became aware of my surroundings and the cultural expectations of those around me, and once I let go of my fear and genuinely became curious to learn more about the lodge, its staff, the jungle and animals, my experience changed from one where I could have felt frightened and closed-off the entire time to a smooth, peaceful one filled with wonder.

2) There is no shame in being on your own.

When I was in Middle School, I remember more than a few times sitting alone in the cafeteria after school just having a bite to eat or doing homework. I was completely comfortable doing it. At some point I recall my sister telling me she herself wouldn’t sit at a table on her own, and I started to wonder if it was something others looked down on. Interestingly, when I was a bit older my mom also told me separately that if she was out on her own, she would rather return home to eat than go to a restaurant and sit at a table alone. So perhaps it is an attitude that runs in the family (?). Anyway, since Middle School, I have still had meals on my own in public every now and then. I’ve become more self-conscious during these meals, often looking around to check if I am the only one on my own, but am learning to be more comfortable with it as I do naturally enjoy my own company.

Back to India – At the jungle lodge, all the guests were to follow the same schedule. Meal times were scheduled and buffet style; safari times were scheduled twice a day; even snacks were scheduled to be given at certain times to ensure we didn’t get hungry. Over the course of my stay at the lodge, I had a number of meals on my own in the little dining pagoda that fit all 20 or so of us guests. I became quite conscious of the fact that I was the only one there on my own (others were there as a couple or family), but did my best to enjoy my meals leisurely. On New Year’s Eve, a campfire was set up next to the pagoda. I joined a group at the fire after dinner to warm up from the chill of the night. They turned out to be there as a family and welcomed me into their circle. They asked me where I was from and why I was there alone. I explained my situation – how I had wanted to stay with two friends elsewhere but had booked late. They understood, and we chatted and spent some more time together before the lodge closed up the area by 10pm and we all headed off to bed.

 Full moon on New Year's Eve Full moon on New Year’s Eve

I was quite proud of myself. I don’t typically throw myself into a group of strangers, but I learned that night that, as long as (again) I stay open and true to myself, and, importantly, as long as I don’t judge and reject myself, I won’t experience rejection from others. Thinking back, I wonder if I would have had the same experience that night if I had been there on my own intentionally. If I had decided to go to India on a solo trip and adventure into the jungle for New Year’s. I think if I explained that I was there alone because I wanted to have a solo adventure, they would have probably respected that as well. (And anyway, my newfound perspective is that if they did judge me, it shouldn’t matter as long as I myself was happy with what I was doing.)

3) Without distractions, you are free to think clearly and be creative.

There is value in quiet and peace. There’s a reason writers, artists, and creatives of the past would retreat away to their chosen sanctuary – typically a quiet and secluded space – where they could think and create without disturbance.

I had been toying around with the idea of trying to write a song for a few days before arriving at the lodge. Prior to going to India I had only ever written one song, which happened when I was in Costa Rica, funnily enough also in a jungle. I must have a special connection with jungles, because on New Year’s Eve, I started scribbling the beginnings of a song. During the morning safari the next day, inspiration continued to strike and I came up with the title of my song – “The Road Less Traveled”. Related to the poem by Robert Frost, which my father loved and taught me and my sister when we were young; related to the beautiful paths we were driving down in the forest; related to this Road Less Traveled I wish to continue traveling down this year. I’ve finished the song and may share it at some point.

 Two roads diverge in a wood Two roads diverge in a wood  Sighted fresh tiger paw prints on the morning safari! Sighted fresh tiger paw prints on the morning safari!  With our safari guide and jungle expert With our safari guide and jungle expert  Safari selfie while waiting at a watering hole Safari selfie while waiting at a watering hole

What I hope you take from all of this is that it’s okay to do things in an unconventional way even though you feel others may judge. As long as it’s what you want to do and you are happy with your decision, don’t let anyone else make you feel any differently.

Here’s to cultivating more compassion, strength, and freedom in 2018!

xo

J

Finding My Voice

I once loved to sing. When I was in elementary school, I joined the choir and performed in the school play a number of times. Although only a member of the ensemble, I still enjoyed being part of the productions and singing songs. In middle school, I joined the choir for a year before choosing orchestra as my music class.

 Here I am at 9 years old, being silly with my sister. At this point of my life I very much still believed I could sing! Here I am at 9 years old, being silly with my sister. At this point of my life I very much still believed I could sing!

In 6th grade, I remember loving choir class. One day we were given an assignment. We were each to choose a song that we would sing solo to the class. I was very excited. I think at that point I still had the mindset that anything was possible, which may have included my potential career as a singer. Anyway, I distinctly remember the song I chose while driving to work today – it was “A Song For Mama” by Boyz II Men. I must have chosen it because it doesn’t contain any difficult, high-pitched notes (even though I was a Soprano back then). Funnily enough, the song’s tonal range actually quite suits my current voice range, which is lower than what it was at the age of 11.

I remember the afternoon distinctly. I had come home from school, and was practicing “A Song For Mama” at the dining table at home. My mom heard me singing and asked what I was doing. I said I was practicing a song to perform in choir. She chuckled and said, “Don’t think about becoming a singer as your profession.”

It may have been just a quick side comment that she let slip, but I very recently realized that that phrase has stayed with me up until now. Since that day, my confidence in singing slowly waned, and I rarely sang in public in a performance setting. I only ever sang in the shower or around friends for fun.

There were a few short periods of time throughout my young adult life when I reconnected with singing, especially with accompaniment of my ukulele, but I always harbored the idea that I didn’t sing well. I could sing with correct pitch, but other than that, I found my singing voice to be nothing special. I am trying to reverse this misguided notion now. I am learning slowly that while my voice may not be able to reach the widest tonal range, there is a range that I am able to sing in, and my voice has a special warm quality to it when I sing in that range.

I’m starting to share my singing voice more. I may post some more covers/songs on YouTube if I muster up the courage. I watched a TEDx video recently that said that singing soothes one’s body in many ways. The vibrations lead one to feel good, and has even been proven in some studies to improve certain ailments. I also believe using one’s voice to sing is related to using one’s voice to speak up. The more comfortable you are singing around others, the more comfortable you will be speaking your truth. Which, if you haven’t picked up by now, I find paramount.

Moral of the story is, I’m sure we’ve all had comments made to us when we were younger that have stuck with us in one way or another. Whether justifiably or not. But I nudge you to remember that those comments were likely a one-time occurrence, made by someone who wasn’t aware of the consequences of their words. Someone who probably did not intend to cause much serious harm. Try not to let it affect you. You may not even be aware of it, as I was unaware of the effect of my mother’s words to the joy I once had and am now rediscovering in singing. Remember that the only person who gets to determine your experience of life is yourself. Be unapologetic, be bold, be freely yourself. After all, you are the only one who can guarantee your own true happiness.

xo

J