So my last update was about bed bugs and starting life in New York.
Ironically it’s one year later, I’ve written no blog posts and I’ve recently had fleas. Drats. I guess bug bites signify the alpha and omega of my life.
To be honest, one of the real reasons I’ve really put off writing a reflective blogpost is because reflecting and meditating on this past year takes so much mental work. I mean, even as I write this current sentence, I’m trying to distract myself with Facebook and text message so that I can put off … put off forcing myself to think about this past year. On top of this, this blogpost is technically two months late. I was supposed to write this at the end of May, but now it’s the end of July.* (I lied. I never finished this. It’s now August and I’m in New York writing about the end of last year… so this will be posted right before my resolutions lol.) Whoops! Well, better late than never right?
My year could essentially be boiled down to three things:
- Having circumstances that made it hard to discern whether God actually wanted me to come to Stony Brook or not; tusting in His Sovereign plan for me.
- My struggle with the fear of man and how it seeped into becoming a bad testimony to those around me.
- Reminding myself that I am not self-sufficient. I need fellowship. I need accountability. I need the church, and I need God’s Word.
Coming to New York felt surreal. Truly an out of body experience. I applied to grad school on a whim, not really wanting to go through more school (or even knowing if I would get in since I really didn’t practice during undergrad), but knowing that if I wanted to pursue music, I would need a Master’s to be taken seriously…at least in the Classical world anyway. So my teacher and parents told me to apply, and I applied. Originally I only auditioned for schools in LA, SF, Boston and NYC, because I really wanted to be in an urban environment – but God had a funny sense of humor. The only school I applied to that wasn’t in a city was Stony Brook! And And lo and behold, here I am.
I still remember the night before I signed my lease – I was on the floor of my Airbnb and my mom was honestly telling me that it was okay to just come home and not do grad school – and I was seriously considering it! Looking back, life in California just seemed so comfortable – I would get to hang out with my friends and family, eat good food and coffee, and maybe even start dating! It was a lot to give up.
But back to my circumstances! Upon coming here, I tried to figure out how my scholarship would work. I was told that I would have to wait a couple of weeks for the financial situation to process; but after a couple of weeks with no new results, I figured it was time to confront the office again. When I talked to the lady in charge and showed her my scholarship letter, she kindly informed me that I was not on the scholarship list. In fact, I had gotten my scholarship by accident! It seems that they made a mistake and copied and pasted the wrong letter.
When I heard this, my heart sank.
Although it was nice of them (and in some way, it makes sense) to honor the scholarship, I still felt uneasy. It was the feeling that somehow this was all a big mistake. I wasn’t supposed to come to New York and the school didn’t actually want me (or they didn’t want me badly enough to give me a full ride). When you bank the next two years of your future and move across the entire country more or less on a lie, anxiety and worry can’t help but start to flood your mind. In essence, I felt unwanted. And it didn’t feel good.
I had already come into grad school feeling inadequate about my abilities. In fact, I was more confident going from high school to college than I was from college to grad school. And so hearing that my scholarship was a mistake furthered my fears. Now, I felt like I had to somehow prove myself to my teachers and peers. And so when I was constantly being singled out in my chamber group for making mistakes by multiple teachers, I really started to question whether or not I had made the right choice. I remember after one particular coaching with David Finckel, I was sitting in my car with the music on for an hour and a half, because half of the coaching was spent on the piano intro of the Dvorak Piano Quintet. I remember my hands were shaking and my heart was beating so fast that I missed almost half of the notes.
I really was on the verge of coming home. Going back for Thanksgiving and Christmas break only made it worse. It only reminded me of everything I couldn’t have. This brings me to my second and third struggles:
My fear of man constantly grew and grew in my heart, quiet and slowly like a cancerous disease. But all the while I didn’t realize it (skip to later paragraph; struggle 3). It started to affect my every thought and permeated almost every aspect of my life – the constant worrying and anxiety of not being prepared enough, not practicing enough, not being good enough- these fears completely engrossed me to the point where I was visibly upset all the time.
The moment I realized all this was when my recital got cancelled. And when I say “got cancelled,” it was actually my decision to cancel it. This part my be confusing, but I’ll spare the details. Ultimately, everyone didn’t think it was a big deal that the recital got cancelled (or got over it quickly) except me. Here I was moping and whining in the corner, secretly worrying that people would think that I was a failure. “He’s the guy who couldn’t even do a recital after a whole year! What kind of Master’s student is he? Dude, I bet he sucks at piano.” For the next week or so, these negative thoughts spiraled around and around in my head as I tried to search for some way to console myself; some way to tell myself that everything was fine. I remember driving my friend home and unloading all my worries onto her, just speaking my mind as I normally do with close friends. When I got home, she texted me an inspirational quote and affirmed my piano abilities.
It was at this point that I saw how damaging my fears were to the testimony of Christ. Of course, I appreciated the care and concern; please don’t mistake the tone of this paragraph for indifference towards my friend trying to encourage me. But the inspirational story that she gave did not fill the emptiness in my heart. In fact, it comes nowhere close to the satisfaction and grounding of having Scripture soothe your soul. As a Christian, what will bring you peace? Telling yourself you’re going to be okay and trying to fill the abyss with food, friends, and entertainment? Or taking heart in the fact that the Eternal God, Creator of the universe, omnipotent, omnipresent and all-knowing, is your heavenly Father and has a Sovereign plan for your good? I had thought that being a good testimony meant serving them in humility and looking for opportunities for the Gospel, but didn’t realize how this sin would be simultaneously hurting my testimony.
Part of the reason my second struggle went so far was because of the third struggle. Going from a place where I have accountability and fellowship on the daily, to a place where I am completely removed from any Christian interactions really choked my spiritual growth. When I realized what a bad testimony I was giving to my friends, I also realized that it really showed how stagnant my spiritual life was. I wasn’t in the Word. I wasn’t in daily prayer. I didn’t have the fellowship or accountability of a church body.
I was giving in to my fears, bringing a bad testimony to my friends, all the while not having any support.
Part 1 of 2. See next post for summer reflections!