Those were the last of several lines of encouragement I received from an eccentric, yet extremely hospitable Mr. Davis (whose son just received his PhD… congrats!) before I left the odd, yet enlightening social gathering I was reluctant to attend (a story for another time). He admitted that he was crazy, and that’s what it takes to keep an individual sane. Had I been a few steps behind my current standing in life, I surely would not have agreed.
I think I’m definitely crazy. If I wasn’t, I would have no desire to express myself. The way I see it, every artist has a bit of madness in them; a chaos within the mind. Whether the platform is art, music, writing, or whatnot, I feel that this madness is the only constant. You know, I’ve tried a wide range of expression platforms. At first, I loved to draw. There’s something very organic and sensual about the visual expressiveness of drawing.
However, I never really felt that I was good, or even decent/average at drawing. After seeing the art of some of my friends, I was immediately humbled. At the time, I took an incredibly strong interest in anime and anime-style drawing. There was something about it that was so cool. I mean, it wasn’t just regular drawing… it was Asian drawing. Was it something I could be proud of? Perhaps. At the time, I never really gave it much thought. It wasn’t just art; it was anime. Asian anime. And because of that, it was cool. As you can imagine, I tried to learn how to draw anime. For some reason, however, I was never satisfied with my work. I never understood why my drawings were so… bleh. Was it because I lacked the talent? Or even worse – was I not Asian enough to draw anime? Some of my friends said I just needed practice. However, to be even more honest… I just didn’t think I was born with the artistic talent. My creative mind wasn’t programmed that way. Well, at least that’s what I tell myself. Regardless, I still feel inclined to do the occasional sketch, or perhaps even a full-fledged drawing, provided I ever happen to reach an extremely high level of boredom. Perhaps I’ll even get back into drawing anime. Who knows? While I’m not strongly into the anime style as I used to be, I still appreciate it, along with other reality-warping, stylized types of drawing. While I’m currently working on reworking my art style, there’s still much, much work ahead of me, assuming it ever gets done.
Music is a completely different story, however. I’ve been playing music since middle school (pretty late, compared to many of my peers). Up until the middle of high school, I never thought of playing music as any different than any other academic class – like English or math, for example. I had played clarinet back then. However, as I progressed, I realized that I was unable to consistently play high notes, as my fingers were too small to completely cover the air-holes. Eventually, I stopped playing. When I started high school, I enrolled in the orchestra. There, Mr. Crawford taught me how to play the violin. While difficult, it was intriguing. I wasn’t a good player, but I enjoyed playing with the orchestra, despite my lackluster contribution to our sound. However, it wasn’t until roughly sophomore year of high school that I utilized music for purposes of expressing myself; enter the guitar. I first picked up the guitar after I was grounded from video games by my dad for getting crappy grades. At the time, video games were my life blood, my escape from reality, my entertainment, my goal. I won’t deny it. Sometimes they still are. At the time, however, I had nothing else to do other than school work. Long story short, I eventually found an old acoustic in dad’s office room closet. I started playing it. I still remember the pain in my fingers after playing for the first month or so. I felt kind of like Will Smith in Men in Black, after he got his fingerprints erased. Oddly enough, despite the pain, I kept playing. I played and played and played and played. And then, I found The Pillows.
The Pillows were are awesome. They took me away from the classical, oldies, hip hop, and techno. They brought me rock. J-rock. I remember many of my peers thinking that the purpose of playing guitar was to get girls. This was not the case; not my case. The sound of rock was the audible frequency of rebellion. A solid “fuck you!” in E minor pentatonic. I loved it. In fact, I remember stashing my lunch money to save up for my own guitar. Not a sellout, cornball acoustic, might I add… no, no, no. I saved for an electric guitar. A white Squire Stratocaster. A rock guitar.
I’ve grown very, very much (musically), since those days. Now, I play many genres, learn the styles of many guitarists, and slowly but surely perfect my technique. However, while I may have several guitars, several amps, and several gigabytes of different music to learn and draw from, one thing remains constant. Expression.
While I love expressing myself through music, I have to be human. I have to be realistic. And I must say, I hate it. Let’s face it. I am not a rock star. I don’t make millions. I need to pay bills. I need to survive. Compromise is brutal sometimes, I think. I work a robotic job for robotic hours for a crappy wage. However, this routine keeps me fed, sheltered, and through filtered eyes, independent. However, I am not satisfied. The madness – the chaos in my mind, continues. Enter my old, yet new expression platform – writing.
I studied writing throughout most of my academic years. English classes yielded my highest grades in high school. I majored in English at both PCC and UCI. To me, English classes were about writing, and writing was strictly academic. However, if there was any academic subject or area of expertise that I possessed an affinity for, it was writing. In the context of school, however, I hated writing. It was lame. Being forced to write about stuff you don’t care about sucks. It’s boring. Writing to express yourself, however; now we’re on to something.
As much as I’d like to say all of my ideas are my own, I can’t. That’s a lie. My recent out-of-character, yet strangely sincere interest in writing was not an engendering of my own accord, however, but a(n) reaction inspiration by someone else’s – namely an inspiring individual named Angela Koh. Like I, Ms. Koh also earned a BA in English; another scholar of the liberal arts. However, there is a HUGE difference between her and I; she actually did something with it. Angela is an aspiring established writer, at least by my standards. Her words are well chosen, polished, and carry a characteristic of elegance, yet at the same time, she’s modest and never comes off as a literary elitist, despite her literary background and achievements. Through writing, she can express herself, both clearly and artistically, in a simultaneous fashion. She enjoys writing, yet it is what she does. She is a writer. In a modern world full of self-deceit, quick fixes, and lazy compromise, this is strange to me. It deserves my respect. Go ahead, call me a fanboy. You’re just jealous. I mean, I know I am. Edward Bulwer-Lytton once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” If this is indeed the case, Ms. Koh is very well armed.
I’m willing to work for a taste of that power. I owe my friends and family that much.