Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Pain in the Heart

In my blue uniform, standing outside my primary school gate, I looked down at my white pair of shoes; my vision gets blurry, my hands cold, my heart thumping as I quivered, "Where am I?"

I've just turned 11 years old and long distance traveling has already become a part of my life, flying between Singapore and China for my intensive training and competing in international competitions. My body suffered under injuries sustained from training, my mind confused as to which part of the world I was in, and my heart was in pain as I felt lost in a world so huge, that only a child would feel insecure in.

Traveling as a young gymnast

In the past few weeks, people have commented that my songs and writings revealed some kind of sadness. An image comes to mind--a white canvas sploshed to the brim with black-grey coarse paint, and from a distance stands a lonely girl. My growing up years were spent in China where I could go one week without saying a word, shut out from the society with no form of communications. I did however have my cassette player with my favourite songs that keep me company in my cold bed at night.

Where I lived in China

However, there was a lifeline, a goal that was to become better at my sport. It was like a comforting guiding light for me; the pain in the heart can sometimes be unbearable, which felt like someone giving it a tight choking squeeze till it stops beating, but overtime, I've learnt to mask that unpleasant feeling as I knew time would pass and situations would improve, as long as I follow that light.

The news of the passing of Huang Wenyong, a well-respected MediaCorp actor best known for his roles in the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation like "The Awakening" and "Samsui Women", has brought tears to many. When I was five years old, my mom and I were extras in the filming of "The Awakening". I recalled how he and his co-actress, Xiang Yun, would walk around during break time to ask if we were alright. Humble, polite, generous, I was in awe of them! I was learning gymnastics then; my mom asked me to perform a cartwheel for them and in front of a crowd of video crew and other actors and actresses. I was painfully shy at that point in time, I never did it and would never be possible to perform one for him now. 

The night that I agreed to play the Huang Wenyong tribute segment at the Star Awards 2013, I felt the pain in the heart again, similar to the sense of grief for someone you love. Instead of ignoring it, I soaked myself in this deep sorrow to experience the sensation further, knowing that the moment on stage would be an emotional one: my heart was as heavy as the statue of liberty, my blood was as viscous as volcano lava, and I could hardly breathe properly--tears welled-up in my eyes. How would the audience feel when they are faced with the visual of the video montage, voice of Xiang Yun and the sound of the violin in the quiet theatre? 

As I stood on stage with Xiang Yun, there was no doubt I felt nervous, but an inner voice told me this, "Let every note be a tribute to Wenyong; play for him so that memories of his good art remain in the hearts of people forever." I played my first long note, like entering a twilight zone, touching stories of sports person, artists and professionals unfold in front of my eyes--the million hours of hard work to learn and master a new skill, the endurance to sustain positive energy when faced with great challenges and opposing views, and the passion to continue with one's love even when finance liquidates.

The Tribute to Huang Wenyong video at the Star Awards 2013:

Everyone has a past and a story to tell. Huang Wenyong's daughter, Huang Mei En, who received the Honorary TV Award on his behalf, said the following during the acceptance speech, "My father had come to Singapore from Malaysia in the 1970s with only two shirts, two pairs of pants and $50...I'm sure everyone has his own take on how good my father was. As family members, we have even more good things to say about him." We go through challenging times in our lives, some may be hard to bear, but we learn to remaipositive, overcome difficulties, stay focused at our goals, and follow our light.

Follow your light and all will be alright

I teach improvisation in my violin classes as I believe it draws out the inner feelings of the players. Within a structured guideline, students of different backgrounds play differently--some play at an upbeat tempo, some play slower making sure that they do not bow the wrong notes, some play with more legato emotions. Joshua has a passionate feel: every bow he makes tells a little story. Slowly, his music would paint a lyrical picture that pulls on heartstrings.

Joshua plays with passion

A new live loop, "Pain in the Heart" played on my rig, with electric violin and vocals.

~ Teach a Life, for Life ~

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