Very rarely do I watch anything anymore that makes fun of race, heritage or identity. But today I saw a movie that really made me furious.
Everyone knows the stereotypes. The model minority, the exotic Asian chick, the subservient woman to the man. But I am sick and tired of seeing any race portrayed negatively, for the sake of humor. Why should you make money off of what I look like? Why do you have to make offensive comments at my expense to perpetuate the “hilarity” of our identity in society?
I’m no angel and I may unintentionally speak certain stereotypes, but when such words are used with intent, albeit non-malicious, then the reaction I have is one of fuming rage.
I, as a simple human being, deserve better than to have my race made fun of. All of us do. I’m not sure why who I am or who anyone looks like is still a joking matter, especially with all the violence around us. And I am unsure of what action plan to take to help defy such socially accepted racially-based humor.
But all I know is that my race is not for sale. No one’s race should be. Not today, and not ever.
I live and breathe my work as a music teacher. It is so important to me, and it is completely okay to me (for now at least) the sheer amount of time I spend planning lessons, tuning instruments and building new ways for my students to access resources. I feel like I’m giving so much of my soul to my job, as most people are at my age, but I want so badly for my kids to be the best that they can be, to develop a love for music as deep as mine.
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”– Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne)
A few weeks ago I went to see Aziz Ansari perform live at Madison Square Garden. Opening for Aziz was another comedian whose name I don’t remember. It took roughly 3.25 minutes until this man went for the stereotypical, crude and racist jokes. While the audience laughed at most of the cheap shots he made, I sat there in silent fury. I couldn’t believe that this comedian who was having his “moment” in Madison Square Garden in New York City, was making these jokes for his debut! I was also in shock with the audience who just cracked up at each low blow. I’m no angel and while a few bits did make me smile, I could only feel guilty with my own reflexes at condoning it all. Immediately after his set I turned to my boyfriend and asked very adamantly:
Don’t we deserve better? Don’t our MINDS DESERVE BETTER?!
My peace-loving boyfriend didn’t have much to say in response, though I figure most of the audience would not have a response to my demanding question… So alright then. I had paid hard-earned money for the seat I was in but this comedian surely set Aziz up for failure and I was just have to deal with another 1+ hour of shameful comedy.
Boy/Girl, was I quick to judge! Aziz hit home on so many topics, and in a thoughtful way. My favorite bit was when Aziz talked a lot about his immigrant parents – especially about how they truly worked hard and sacrificed loads for his upbringing, because my parents did too. I’m no comedian, but I’m sure Aziz could have easily defaulted to the “model minority” myth in the form of jokes with his routine. He didn’t though. We should reject humor that jabs negatively at race. It is outdated and offensive, and no one’s skin color alone should be the subject to gain a few laughs. As a society, we need to reverse the norm that racial jokes are okay. They are not.
Aziz kept his standup current and humorously made commentary on our “first world problems” today. “But what hardships would I have to share with my children?” Aziz asked himself. Aziz then went on to imagine telling a story of how his iPad died on an airplane from NYC to LA but luckily there was on-flight entertainment, though he would still have to endure the twenty minutes total of takeoff and landing time when he couldn’t use any electronics. What. A. Problem. We, the audience, were all cracking up so hard – knowing that that is so real and probably will be a pitiful “hardship” of ours to share with the future generation.
Aziz made me ask the same question to myself. Some of my students don’t have homes or enough food to eat or money to spend on extraneous things, but what really do I have to go through? While I supposed I lead a relatively luxurious life when it comes to the things I own, the food I eat and the devices I use, my current generation suffers from selfie obsessive compulsive disorder and definitely misses living in the moment in order to capture it instead, often for the purposes of sharing with others and showing off our lives. That, is our generational hardship. Simply living in the moment.
As for me? Hmm… I’m still trying to define the word hardship in terms of my own life. But isn’t it a bit ridiculous? That I have to think so hard about a hardship in my life? A true hardship should just come to mind immediately, and I almost feel like nothing I’ve endured is a “real” hardship. My hardships should be harder – and maybe that in itself is my hardship.
Last week I started my second year of official full-time teaching. After a fun and restful summer, I was excited to get back into the swing of things and especially to see my returning students as well as meet 160+ new students I would be teaching this year.
I started off teaching this song called “Unlimited,” an absolutely fantastic back to school song. The first verse goes like this:
First day back
Here we go, here we go
I’ve got this new backpack
And this little part of me that wants to know
What am I gonna be?
What am I gonna do?
And will I fit inside this puzzle I’m about to walk into?
Am I gonna be alright?
Can I take a deep breath instead of only listening to the hundred million questions in my head?
First day back
Here we go… here we go…
Aside from literally talking about the first day back (to school, specifically), I thought about how appropriate it is for the month of September for everyone. When the hazy summer days start to drift away and instead comes the crisp autumn air and cool breezes, I feel like I, and many others I know, reset. It’s also an anxious time of starting anew with school, work, family – as marked by the changing season and environment.
With only four months left in the year it’s a great time to recalibrate one’s priorities and reconsider our usage of time. We often complain that we do not have enough time to do all that we want, but let’s take a moment to figure out how we can make time for everything we want to do. (Let’s not forget that time is human-made, malleable and only a marker of the day.) It’s a time to put a halt to all doubts getting in the way of success. It’s a season of “let’s do this” and committing to whatever “this” is. It’s a final push to accomplish anything that will satisfy the questions “Did I do my best this year?” and “Did I make the most of everything on my pathway to achieve?” It’s a chance to concentrate that inner drive and channel it into all that you do for yourself and for others, without any limitations. I taught my kids that being unlimited means that you can do ANYTHING.
I’m reaching up through the top of the sky today
I’m changing things till I finally find my place
Wanna go and get it
I’m gonna be unlimited
Turn up the sun let me see what it’s all about
Light up the stas till they dream away all the doubt
We’re just beginning
I’m gonna be unlimited
My kids will, too. Will you?
This past week I was finally able to vacation off to Orlando to end the summer. Why Orlando? I simply have been dying to go to Disneyworld since I was a kid, Seaworld to meet the dolphins, and, most recently, … Continue reading
Today marks the last day of my “summer vacation” as I head back to work tomorrow for professional development before embarking on my 2nd year of teaching. As I’m reflecting on my summer, I am reminded by my own advice that I gave last night.
Teaching a full school year has given me a whole new understanding of humility. I am so lucky to have grown up without ever having to worry about food, shelter and love. My parents have worked so hard to make that all of those realities for my brother and I, and for those things alone I have the utmost gratitude for them.
Experiencing education in a high-need, low income school really put things into perspective for me. Some of my students would only be able to eat a guaranteed meal during breakfast and lunch in the school cafeteria. Other kids went home to shelters and never brought backpacks to school because they couldn’t afford them.
Finally, most of my students had never seen an instrument in real life before. I realize this is the case for a lot of kids, high-need or not, especially in elementary school. But people I meet often ask me what it is that drives me to host fundraisers and keep getting more and more instruments for my kids. Knowing that I am the first “real” music teacher they have in life is a blessing that holds a lot of responsibility. Those of you readers who know me definitely can attest to my seriousness to my craft of music-making. But what’s even crazier for me to think and realize is the fact that through me, my students will get their first exposures to instruments. It is through me that they know the sound of the piano, violin, trumpet to name a few instruments. I can’t even describe how humbling the experience of being able to share the moment when they first see and hear an instrument and that sparkle in their eyes as well as their excitement in their voices genuinely is, when each of them are anxious to touch what had just produced the magical sound! I would venture to say that, alongside most of my peers, I don’t even remember what it is like to NOT know what an instrument looks or sounds like! This leads me to…
I am greedy. I am greedy for nothing less than the best. For. Real. Just as greedy as my students are to produce a beautiful sound once they have figured out the basics of something seemingly simple like playing the recorder, as I am to provide those resources for my kids to be able to explore music to the fullest extent possible.
But let me sidestep from my teaching for a moment. More than any summer before, I have realized how greedy and hungry I am for self-fulfillment. I want SO bad to be musically happy – and for me, that means expressing myself through different ways that push creativity in new directions. I am more thankful than ever before for being able to teach at a summer music camp where I am surrounded by young aspiring musicians looking up to me, KNOWING that they want to be musicians for their entire lives. These wonderful teenage musicians were such serious practitioners of their music that they only made me want to do more.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working on proposals for many creative projects involving stepping over the boundaries of music to more cross-art collaborations with myself and with others. It’s exciting for me to start embarking on this new journey I have somewhat paved for myself, because for the first time in what seems like a while I feel an incredible creative energy burst that is dying to erupt onto some sort of a stage for an audience.
But my greed for accomplishment, and accomplishment in my own eyes, cannot be possible without…
Aside from being grateful for my family, I am so very grateful to be surrounded by loving, caring role models of society. I whole-heartedly mean that. My teacher colleagues and specifically my music educator peers are all doing incredible things for the kids – selflessly. Teaching is not a profession of praise but just thinking about what we each do to make sure the next generation can access what they need to in order to be successful is straight up mind-boggling and out of this world.
I can never say thank you quite enough to my friends, but am pleasantly shocked and reminded by them when I look out to the audience during a performance. Your thumbs up and praise of what I do is plentiful and abundant, and perhaps even excessive, but I hope that I can at least inspire you to be moved by my mission to make a difference. I’d also like you all to know how inspiring it is to be surrounded by such driven friends who speak passionately about their careers, or for those who are in limbo at the moment, are carefully constructing maps to success. I am grateful for all of you sharing your time and thoughts with me.
I’m often asked how I juggle everything I do in my life, or reprimanded to take a break for once. Don’t worry, my body often tells me I’m doing just a bit too much when I get sick (which is way too often than I’d like to admit). But I just think to myself about what I am to this world.
I am one of over 7 billion people on this Earth, a pretty small part of the population trying to make their way through the daily trenches of life. But I firmly believe that I am meant to do great things. My piano teacher once told me that I have to believe that my music is important – that amongst all the music there is out their in the world, what I create is important.
Not only is what I create important though. I am important. I think we all are meant to achieve incredible things, and I certainly believe hard work can get you, me, or anyone there. Whatever these “incredible things” may be, they change throughout our lives. But to me, what’s important is making sure that you are making a commitment to self-fulfillment. Personally, that involves practicing humility, greed and gratefulness.
Cheers to making sure that you, whoever you are, are also on your path to self-fulfillment and, ultimately, GREATNESS. I don’t settle for any less. Neither should you.
Do you ever feel that you are bursting with potential? That you have so much within you that has yet to be uncovered or put to good use as far as ideas, intentions and projects go?
That’s how I feel right now. And I mean this in the humblest of ways because I don’t think I am by any means an incredible person. I always just tell people I have a lot to do, and I intend to do it, whatever “it” may be at the time or in the context. But I just have so many ideas at this moment in time, and I want to accomplish them all. Not because I want fame or recognition, but because I feel it is the best way to be who I want to be. The best way to put myself forward in the way I want to in order to change the world.
You may think that is quite a bold endeavor. I completely agree. It is. But I’ve finally had some time to myself to debrief on my life and what it is I currently spend my time on. While I think I do this more often than not, I feel like I’ve reached a new sense of clarity; it’s refreshing to say the least. I’m not particularly sure how to explain it, but I feel that I have all this creativity waiting to be cultivated, defined and precisely carved now. At the same time, I have to remember it is okay – COMPLETELY okay – to take a mental breather once in a while, or even scheduled into my life. I am obsessed with being kinetic, but only through moments of slow and careful consideration do I find myself facing still waters and looking intently at the reflections within my mind and body. Deep in those reflections I find that potential energy, waiting for me to do something about it.
My latest discoveries? I want so badly to change the world for the better through creation and education. I want my footprints not to be my own but for children of future generations to walk in as well as my peers to step into in order to understand who I am and who they are. I want to make things that people can relate to yet be physically, mentally and emotionally intrigued by and challenged by. I want to be the very best at being me I can be.
Like many others around the world, tonight I mourn the loss of Robin Williams, a creative soul who put his energy and care into all the different projects he embarked on and shared with us. To me, each portrayal of himself was raw, honest and refined simultaneously – a true depiction of the trials and tribulations of the human soul. Since finding out about his death, I have been watching interviews, standup segments, his Oscar award acceptance, and even his Sesame Street gigs.
With this recent renewal of mine to keep on working creatively, I look to him for inspiration and willpower and remember to keep at it – whatever it is that I am doing. The pursuit of the arts is something I will continue in perpetuity through all the changes in life I have. Similarly, I learn that the mistakes we make are to be embraced and not shunned, and to continue on with life understanding what they may mean for us. Or maybe even not to take them to seriously. But everything we experience builds who we are and adds to each new experience we find ourselves in.
I want to end with two quotes of his I will live by and I hope you can live by:
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it.”
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– Robin Williams
A big part of my teaching involves my worldly advice… of “you can do better.” One of the most frustrating things is when I see a student struggle with something because they are not practicing properly and being a lazy … Continue reading
(For an immersive experience, listen to Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Concerto, 2nd movement played by Shostakovich himself while reading) A few months ago I found out that my first piano teacher, who is over 90 years old, was losing her memory. … Continue reading