Saturday, April 12, 2008
Two weeks of classes remain. Three weeks to graduation. Five weeks to a one-way ticket home. And for what it's worth, it's been four weeks since I last blogged - a record of MIAing as far as I can remember.
It's been an extremely challenging time - this semester in particular - the center of which has been some bone contusions on my wrists for the past month and a half. I'm on a painkiller called Naproxen to allow me to complete the semester.
Interestingly enough I've come to find that "looking on the bright side" is as much a choice of action as it is an attitude. As an attitude, it's a relief that the situation isn't one of many other far dire possibilities - tendinitis, carpal tunnel, fracture or arthritis. As a choice of action, the relatively short amounts of time I have on the viola has pushed me to produce far more effective and efficient practice methods - I've finally got the hang of hearing the next bar or phrase of the music in my head while playing, memorizing music back to front, and the whole deal of intellectual and academic preparation well before the instrument comes out of the case. All in all, making practice a far more mental activity than physical workouts.
Heck, any one who wants to be a career musician has to be seriously mental.
I've booked a ticket home on May 20 - getting a particularly good deal with Singapore Airlines, and with relatively short layovers. Meaning not having to sleep overnight in Changi Airport and being woken up by a guy with an AK47 wanting to check your passport at 3 in the morning. I'm looking forward to 4-6 weeks of wrist recovery (through which I fully intend to revive a bountiful relationship with satellite television).
Preparing to leave yet another country has been an interesting experience. Some of the things are similar - the recognition that plenty of stuff has to go being the foremost (though somewhat less than the last time - it's good to know I'm learning something about the temptation of frequent uprooting: the more you bounce from one place to another, the greater the urge to hoarde in order to create a sense of belonging). The sense of time-to-move-to-the-next-step is also familiar, though since a lot of my good friends graduated and left last year, there's less of difficulty in detachment from where I am now. I think I'll miss the office staff the most. The character of most institutions seem to be the staff far more than the faculty... the real structure around how everything else revolves.
There are two things that I find far different, though. First is a clearer realization of how anticipation of an event changes the present. Looking forward to moving onwards is one thing - but that it should alter the perception of present events... it has a strange, almost illogical, power of its own. By that I mean that my present hasn't changed - whether it's the stress of the workload towards the end of the semester or the medical complications and what not. I can find it logical that the past should influence attitude - nearing the end of the master's program and the accomplishments and lessons along the way. But as-yet unrealized future event? I suppose I just find it odd that what hasn't happened can influence what is happening - though in a certain sense it's no different than hearing the next phrase while playing.
The other thing is the meaning of education. I have to admit that when I came here the main goal has been to get a couple of extra letters at the end of my name. And yes, on some level to be able to play the viola better. But as graduation nears I've found that the real value is what you carry in your head from day to day - a larger musical imagination, a more discriminating voice, maybe even knowing more about how much there is yet to know, but clearest in hearing things in music I've been around for years and not realized (like a possible quotations of Bach's Air on the G string in the middle of Les Misérables). It's making this final lap a most curious event.