Like an old Sabbath

A few weeks back, I was invited to do special music for the church I’ve been attending since I arrived in Houston. Given that I really had not other performance opportunities in sight, I accepted.

I haven’t played much, and I have honestly felt the void. On Monday, I had an excellent practice session. It was productive and fun—one of those you don’t get all the time. Then on Wednesday, while preparing the piece for Sabbath, I hated my guts because my altissimo register just plain sucked (that’s what practicing is more like on a daily basis).

So even though I generally don’t play music outside of the classical genre, I looked forward to performing once more, to feeling those nerves and the adrenaline, to enjoy being shaken by the beauty of music.

My faith has been faltering; my spirit has struggled with finding purpose, my self-esteem with the ever-challenging demands and expectations of a PhD program. But today, playing for the worship service at the West Houston Seventh-day Adventist Church, I felt fulfilled. Making music, participating in worship, if only for a moment, I was home.

The Sabbath closes and I thank God for a much-needed reminder of who He is even as I am overwhelmed with, not doubt, but questions. And I am grateful for another chance to make and share music. I needed it.

Making a decision

We make decisions all the time: spending five more minutes in bed (or 30, who knows), taking a shower, putting off shaving one more day, heating up a slice of pizza instead of making an omelette, listening to On The Media rather than The Axe Files. I think you get the point.

Some decisions matter more than others, of course. Whether you decide to have pancakes or cereal—or both—for breakfast will be probably less consequential than marrying the struggling freelance musician—just talking about me here—or the Ivy League-educated, med school-bound white boy coming back from a year of self-discovery in Italy.

It’s difficult to know exactly where a decision will take you. You can make all the plans you want and take care of your part just fine. I didn’t know my resolution to apply for OPT—basically a limited work permit for those with F1 status—would result in the worst six months of my life.

All situations, though, come with myriad opportunities to make choices. Not the kind that will necessarily turn out good or change anything at all, but sometimes it’s not so bad to delude yourself into thinking something can be done—because sometimes, something, in fact, can be done.

My daydreaming has inspired many stupid ideas, and the idealist in me has forced me to put them into action before their novelty wears off. That’s how this and my new podcast startedThat’s also the way one of my top 10 “Stupid ideas I should not pursue but will anyway” came to happen: I decided that without a single political science course in my college transcript—one with a 3.9 GPA, mind you—I’d apply to several top-notch Ph.D. programs in political science.

In a turn of events I cannot quite comprehend, I was offered admission with fellowship to the program at Rice University in Houston, Tex. Maybe someone decided to see where one of their top “Stupid ideas I should not pursue but will anyway” would lead: what happens if we let a music major into our Ph.D. program?

Thanks to one decision, the steps I took to follow through, and who knows what kind of other weird factors,* I will be answering that hypothetical professor’s question for—hopefully—the next five years (unless I fail before then).

Lastly, I made a choice to go to Target and get some milk. I guess that choice will lead me to have cereal for breakfast tomorrow.


*God, too, of course. Hold your horses!

Blogging, honest sharing

I have not written in a while. Usually, every Sabbath I would make time to write. For some months, I had been quite consistent I was even surprising myself I had been able to keep up with the blog and the podcast. All that fell apart in the last month, though.

As grad school applications deadlines got closer and the end of the semester approached, I was overwhelmed with all the work that needed to get done. Every week when Sabbath came, I didn’t feel like writing. I was burned out, both physically and emotionally.

I definitely thought about writing, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything that wasn’t about all the work I had. Sure, I started some drafts on some interesting thoughts I still plan to share, but at the moment it felt like to much work. I first had to work some things out in my life before I could write about these other topics.

Even now that the semester is over, I still feel like finishing those drafts require a little bit of lying to myself. It doesn’t make a lot of sense since I still think about those things quite often. Yet, it makes sense when I open my computer and try typing. It feels dishonest.

All this talk leads me to the purpose of this blog. I want to be honest, but how honest can I be? On his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” Stephen King wrote, “If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

Is that really the condition for truthful writing? I’m not ready to give up my membership for the polite society, but I do want honesty.

I don’t want to talk about myself, but I sometimes need to before I can move on to things that are worth your time.

I want to question love in a serious way. I want to ask whether we lie to ourselves and other when we say we can do whatever we put our minds to. I want to point out the shortcomings of the groups I consider myself part of (at least kind of sympathize with) such as Christianity, Seventh-day Adventism, and the left with all its oft-petty activism.

I want to call you ignorant and close-minded when you behave like a jerk, asshole, or prick—depends on which one offends you the most.

And I want you to hold me to the same standards, because, as anyone who knows me knows, I can be all those things thanks to a superiority complex I can’t seem to get rid of.

If this doesn’t make much sense, I’m sorry. I guess I’m recovering from a tough semester.

God keeps blessing

Despite how inconsistent I am in my relationship with God, He keeps blessing. I don’t understand. No matter how many days I go without opening my Bible or how often my prayers are a repetition in what has become a ritual I must perform before I eat to not feel guilt.

God, on the other hand, is consistent. He’s been blessing me all this time even when I don’t recognize it. Sometimes the blessings are small; other times, they are so significant that I instantly thank Him for his goodness.

The biggest blessing God has given me are people who support and encourage me. As you can learn from previous posts, I have not had such a terrific time since school started in August. Just thinking about life after college is overwhelming.

However, whenever I am despondent (which is quite often), there is always someone who reminds me God cares. They don’t always mention God or even believe He exists, but their involvement in my life is definitely a blessing from Him.

One thing I’ve noticed is that although most people don’t tell me I will become a conductor, they do believe I will get to a meaningful place. They know I might end up in a completely different place from what I currently want and help me see more possibilities. They might offer some help with my grad school applications or simply let me know they believe in my abilities through their constant encouragement.

I don’t know where God is going to take me, but I’m sure He’ll continue to bless me. He has brought me to a place where I’ve met great people who have helped me grow intellectually and spiritually.

God has blessed even through my inconsistencies. I keep working on developing discipline in my relationship with Him. Hopefully, I can be a blessing to others just as He has used others to bless me.