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2018 gave me the gift of a row of blown pixels on my laptop. On New Year's Day evening, I was watching iZombie and making paper flowers alone (like a normal person...). I looked up from my flowers, and there was a row of flickering pixels all along the bottom of my screen. I immediately tried to fix it with a pixel-fixer app, but that did nothing except hurt my eyes and give me a headache. So, it was off to Best Buy the next day, where a "geek" told me that it would cost upwards of $300 to fix. Well, I didn't have $300 sitting around to fix my one-year-old computer, so I called my accident insurance and was told that they only cover accidents. So basically, I would have been better off spilling a Coke on it. Frustrated, I looked back and found that I bought my laptop on January 2nd, 2017. Perfect! The manufacture's warranty still applied! I called Microsoft and, 3 hours and 2 call-backs later, my laptop was dropped off at FedEx to be traded in for a brand new one. All this to explain how I was without a laptop for 10 days. "Big deal!" you say. "It's just 10 days. How dependent are you on your laptop?" Very, is the answer it turns out. So, here are some things I learned from this experience.
1. Sometimes you need a bigger screen. Like most people, I have a super computer on hand at all times - I'm talking about my phone. While that's perfect for browsing Facebook and reading creepy pastas, it's harder to do actual business on it. For example, looking through Backstage.com is much more difficult on a phone than on a proper computer.
2. You can't multitask. I'm the kind of person who likes having noise on at all times. The silence freaks me out. (Also, white noise freaks me out because I start hearing voices in it. Must be those creepy pastas.) When I have a computer, I can have a show on in the background while I answer emails and/or surf the web. That's much more difficult to do with just a phone.
3. A real keyboard is 1000 times better than a tiny one. I have a Blackberry phone that runs on Android and I love it because of its physical keyboard. It's easy to use and more accurate in my experience than any digital keyboard out there. However, when I'm typing a blog post, I'd rather have a full-size keyboard. It's SO MUCH EASIER! Also, you won't get a thumb cramp, which is important (for health reasons?)
4. Everything you own is on the computer. My resume, headshots, dog pictures, important documents - all of them were on my laptop. I didn't realize how many documents I had on that thing! Not to mention all my sheet music, character analysis, calendar, you name it.
5. You need a computer to print things. I mean, I guess you can print things from your phone now because technology is so advanced, but I never got that far. I still plug in my printer to my laptop to print everything. So, because I'm behind on the tech game, I read sheet music off of my tiny phone screen for 10 days straight. That was fun...
6. It made me switch over to paper. I started putting everything I needed to do in my planner all the time. Because of this, I actually didn't need to look at the planner as much because the act of writing it down helped me remember it. I hope this habit will stick and I won't have to rely on reminders anymore. We'll see what happens.
7. The stigma is real (in my head). I feel like when you're on your computer, you're "working." But when you're on your phone, you're "messing around." Nobody actually talked to me about this, but it's just something I've noticed. I realized I apologized more for using my phone and had to justify it by explaining that I'm doing work. It made me realize the different main usages of these devices.
I have my computer back now, thankfully. This total first-world experience made me more aware of the benefit of putting pen to paper and, also, just how reliant on my laptop I was. To everyone I've ever said that "my life is on my phone," I take that back. My life is on my computer. But now, hopefully, less of it will be.
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When I announced to my parents I wanted to major in voice at the end of my freshman year of high school, they thought it was a joke. And they laughed about it and told me it was funny. It took a year for it to sink in that I was serious. I don't blame them. I've had many hobbies in the past - ice skating, ballet, art, math olympiad - and none of it lasted long. They had no reason to trust a 15-year-old with the attention span of a squirrel to actually carry through on the "whole singing thing." Back when I told them of my newly-found dream, I had just completed my first year of choir and a total of 4 months of voice training. During that time, I had, somehow, gotten into both sectional- and regional honor choir and spend two glorious weekends rehearsing and performing. I was hooked.
My parents, though lax compared to most other Chinese parents, had their eyes set on something more practical for me: business. I'd always been good at math and science. And, what's more, I genuinely enjoyed it. Though I told people that I was taking AP Chem just to get the GPA bump, the truth was I loved every minute of it. But music became a big part of my life. I looked forward to choir and band more than anything else. I loved belting out show tunes in my room and annoying the neighbors. And, during those rare honor choir weekends, I would pretend that this is what I did for a living and sang like I was being paid for it. For my last two years of high school, I commuted an hour each way to my voice lesson every week, sometimes twice a week. I was in love with singing. I couldn't imagine not doing it for a living.
And then college application time rolled around. My parents were worried that I'd started too late to get into a performance program. Plus, even if I did, what are the chances I'd have a stable career? They picked seven schools for me, all for music education, music business, and general arts degrees. I got to pick three that I actually wanted to go to, but also for music education. I didn't care at the time. As long as I got into a music program, I was happy.
One crazy year later, I was starting as a music education major at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the best schools for music educators in the country. I went to the mandatory music ed meeting during orientation, and promptly changed my BM in Ed to a BA in Music the first week of school. My argument, which I still 100% agree with: the world doesn't need another bad music teacher. See, I've been blessed with so many good music teachers. But I've also seen my fair share of teachers who would rather be doing something else. I didn't want to be one of those teachers who would rather be performing and blame their students for their current position.
My first voice lesson went something like this:
Me: I want to be a voice performance major.
My teacher: What major are you now?
Me: Music ed. But I don't really want to do the whole... teaching thing...
My teacher: Well, I have to hear you sing, but you can audition into it.
Me: Oh great! When can I do that?
Cut to me unable to do any simple vocalizes because of my unhealthy belt habit and my split register. Really though, I had a gigantic hole in my middle voice.
For the next two years, I would ask my teacher every other lesson when I would be ready to audition into voice performance. I'm not exaggerating when I say I have the best voice teacher in the world. She was patient, kind, insightful, and gave me all the courage to keep trying. After two years of hard work, but also multiple break downs and a brief period as a voice and piano double major (wow did that end quickly), I was finally declared ready to go for it. (Of course, that was also the last chance for me to try. We literally waited until the last possible moment.) Three songs and multiple questions later, I was accepted. I cried tears of happiness and began preparing for my now-mandatory junior recital.
The rest of my college career passed in a blur. I almost failed my level three jury, but somehow got through by the skin of my teeth. After that, I went to Florence, Italy to study Italian opera. I took lessons in the city twice a week. I sang my senior recital without forgetting a word. I got to be a part of the group that sang at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. I graduated a semester earlier than expected. And I got cast in my first show since high school.
I look back at that 15-year-old girl who has barely started and I see how far I've come. I am thankful for every one of my educators, and especially my current voice teacher for believing in me and giving me a chance. I am thankful for my parents who took some convincing and a few years to come around, but are now fully supportive of my dream.
I had just become truly comfortable at school, and now I'm out of it. I'll go to a bigger pond, where I'm the smallest fish once again. It's a scary though. New York City is a big place. But hopefully, seven years down the road, I'll look back at me now - 22, just out of college, full of fear and anticipation - and I'll think to myself: I've come so far.