Perhaps I’m just feeling weary. But the burdens on my heart feel a little heavier today. And although things are generally going quite well and there’s progress and hope, there are things I’m priming myself to say that makes me miss being held and embraced by someone I love.

I hope that I have the wisdom to know how to love my children when I do have children. As for this present moment, I don’t feel like my parents know how to love me. I appreciate so much my mum’s generosity, her willingness to give and give, to sacrifice herself for others; but right now, I just want to be held. I appreciate so much my dad’s willingness to serve, to earn us a very decent living, to give advice and assist whenever he can; but right now, I wish he’d just sit and listen to the pains of my childhood, my past, our past, and the great pains I take to overcompensate in order to feel adequate enough.

This feeling of inadequacy began early on, partly because my dad was not very present in my life. I’d have 2 weeks with him during school holidays, then the director would say ‘cut’, and I would be back on my own, holding back tears and the piercing feeling of someone departing from me.

I remember weeping and grieving bitterly (ugly crying) in the presence of both two people I loved dearly in my past. One, because we were forced to not be together. The other, because of long-distance, and I just couldn’t bear to be apart from her. And I wonder if the immense hurt in my heart – like a knife scorching its way through my chest – is derived from all the times I had to suffer inwardly as I said goodbye to my dad. I had to return to being the ‘man of the house’, the brother, the ‘replacement husband’ and comforter of my mum, and still maintain my status as a good son.

It was unfair to lay these hurts and expectations unknowingly onto those I dated. But deep down, I was really hurting and I buried it deep. I found a mask to wear towards the end of high school. A mask that was social, extroverted – a jokester with big hair. And I worked hard to get good at school and obtain some of the best marks in the State.

In my prayer and meditation, it seems I’m gradually diving back into the depths of my past to uncover the reason perhaps why I take my relationships so seriously and wholeheartedly; and consequently, why it takes so long for me to move on. Not that that is wrong per se, but I was subconsciously yearning for someone, pining for a bond, hoping with all my heart that the one I love would not leave me.

Music helped me to express the inexplicable through sounds, harmonies, and beautiful melodies. But I needed to dig beyond the surface and find the mines of bruises and unhealed gashes that had been gleaned over.

And so, whenever I feel weary, these things come back up. And all I want is to retreat into the arms and the warmth of someone who would not leave.

As for now, I’ll just listen to The Lumineers and wait for sleep to wash over me.

Ask yourself: what outcome do you want?

Since I’ve last written here, a lot has changed. The competition was postponed till Feb 2023. I’ve made moves to scale VCHS, regular meetings with CS in our planning of the Creators’ Festival, met with EC – an angel investor and music tech entrepreneur, and I just returned from meeting with a trusted mentor and friend JB.

Without the imminent deadline of the competition, the floodgates burst wide open. Flooded with questions about when to leave, errands like tax, accounting, passport renewal, permit situations, potential concerts before I leave, Dad’s questionable arrival date – just to name a few (several), I became paralysed with the abundance of possible things I could do, not to even begin mentioning ministry.

I spent the last 2 weeks calibrating, planning, ticking things off the list, carrying on, adjusting, and slowly coming terms with the fact that I will leave here. Sadness of leaving family and potential homesickness aside, there’s really been too many things popping up that all seem like a good idea. It’d be good to do one more trip with family, it’d be good to get a Mercy Night in, it’d be nice to do another BBQ, it’d be good to do a retreat, it’d be good to do a concert for fundraising, get a suit/shirt tailored, etc.

Today, JB reminded me of something deeply important. In planning, I’ve got to ask myself: what is the outcome I want? What do I want to get out of this in the end? And in a larger sense, what is the outcome that best serves God and me in the long-term?

As tough as it will be, for my profession and work, I need to sort out my tax and accounts. I need to purchase an audio interface, get a shirt/suit tailored, and get some recordings done – in order to set myself up for later.

It’s the 23rd of Feb. In 2 months time, it’ll be the 23rd of April – about the time when I’d ideally do my last bunch of concerts before leaving.

In a month’s time, I would have submitted for the New Orleans Piano Competition and whatever else I decide to apply to. I will be looking to finish my submissions for Orford Music and perhaps even send the Orford Prize out too.

It’s still a mess in my head. Maybe it’s time for Anna and Kris’ Google Sheets to make a comeback. I think I need to see my months and year ahead more clearly.

May – Toronto and Montreal. Brainstorm with CS and play for teachers in prep for Beethoven 4 performance

June – performance in TX, Orford with JP, Orford with JS – rep: Shostakovich E minor, Brahms 1, Liszt Mazeppa, Faure Barcarolle… TBC

July – maybe New Orleans, otherwise – time with CS to get Festival things sorted. Meet with UG

August – birthday. Meet with UG? Sydney for J&T, H&D wedding? Classes with SDB

There’s probably a lot more to think about, to be honest, and this is mainly a bit of a brain dump. The main point is: what outcome do I want? I ought to focus on the outcomes before I leave, and then go backwards from there.

Outcomes I want:
1. To have performed the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 3
2. To have sorted out things with accounting, tax, and all that so I can earn and invest, and not have to worry
3. Passport, work permits, ESTA, everything to do with immigration sorted.
4. On track with work – VCHS and potentially with EC
5. Retreat
6. Family trip
7. Prepared for long term – equipment and shirts.

That’s better. More peace now. To envision an ideal where the future me has done all these things, and then work backwards to achieve that, live up to that, and enjoy that – I think that’s where I need to be when I plan. Alrighty, talk soon.

On Uncertainty

Part of surviving the last 2 years has been navigating the ever-changing waters of uncertainty, and it’s very much like trying to stay afloat on a surfboard whilst out in the open seas. I received news today that I was not admitted into the Van Cliburn Piano Competition screening auditions today, and although I had a sneaking suspicion that would be so, I was really hoping for some good news. A few days prior, there was news from the Takamatsu International Piano Competition (which I fortunately did get admitted into), that they would be considering postponing the competition in light of the situation in Japan.

With my departure from Sydney encroaching but never quite set in stone, it’s like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet the disc of light remains the same pale glow no matter how long you’ve been in the tunnel. How am I supposed to know how to plan out my future?

In preparing for the competition, I’ve set up a regiment of self-discipline and deliberate rest (more on that later after I’ve figured out myself a bit more), but now that days, weeks, and months seem to come and go like the crashing of waves – constant, uncontrollable, and unceasingly relentless, everything is feeling out of my grasp. Is this normal? Is it normal to feel like my career, my future, and my hopes and dreams to be seemingly out of my control?

And to be honest, I still don’t exactly know what it is that I will do. I’m 30 and I really have not figured it out. Part of it has to do with fear, insecurity, a lack of discipline, and distractions.

Let me give you an example. I have yet to pluck up the courage to post on instagram – the 100days of practice challenge. It’s not that bloody hard but I still haven’t gotten down to doing it.

Another example – and this is the one that’ll take some courage: approaching orchestras around NSW and beyond with my recordings, my CV, my bio, and asking to play with them.

What is it going to fucking take for me to slot out the time to actually get these things done?

Another example: PODCASTS. I’ve been rambling on and on about them, sharing the dream with the likes of dear friends, and I have still yet to get it done.

A wise friend once asked me: am I disappointed with myself? Honestly, no. I am not disappointed with what I have achieved so far but – and a REALLY huge ‘but’ is that, I KNOW I can do so much more. I know I am capable of so much more, and the desire, the hope, the intrinsic hunger to prove myself, to share things of beauty, goodness, and truth with the world, and the thirst to explore, delve, suffer, grind, and refine myself from a lump of Asian Australian coal to something remotely shiny – it’s there.

What will it take?

I keep trying to adopt disciplines, activities, and regiments. I keep trying to learn from the greats (reading this book called Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang), but the hours continue passing me by.

Writing helps – that much I know for sure. And I’m going to go back to practice now. But an image came to mind just now and I’ll try to illustrate it so that it becomes more highly defined.

The inevitable waves of uncertainty will continue to rock the boat (or board) that I’m on. Any pioneer must tread the waters of uncertainty, at times gasping for air, in any adventure. To expect any sort of adventure without uncertainty is to live much too comfortably. I must ride out these waves of uncertainty remembering that:

1. I don’t need to prove myself to anybody.
2. I must keep on keeping on.
3. Show up and do the bloody work.
4. I must find the time to look back on how far I’ve come and plan the journey ahead. Writing helps. Maybe that’s the discipline I must continue to adopt.

And to you, Witt – HBD. May waves of good fortune drift you gently but surely to the shores of fulfilment and peace.

Why I love opera

Every musical phrase starts with a breath. And with that breath, we paint the poetry of life’s joys and sorrows. Inevitably, some phrases reach a climax, a cadence. In that moment, just before the release, we hold our breath, in awe of how powerfully these words, these cries, these vibrations in the air, can pierce into the shell of our masked human-ness.

It strikes, it pierces, and then it evaporates. Comforting, enfolding, and surrounding us with warmth and strength of feeling as we exhale, foreshadowing and reminding us of the phrases within our very own existence.

Buffer time

I feel incredibly creative and motivated when I have buffer time. Buffer time includes train or bus rides where I have no choice but to sit and wait. Or when I was in quarantine. The parameters of buffer time include an unexpected or expected large X amount of time where they’re physically and logistically in limbo.

It allows for reading, listening to podcasts, reflecting and thinking, blogging, creating social media posts.

What buffer time, when used wisely – having a window seat helps immensely with creativity and joy – allows for the brain to feed. Often, our brains are geared towards output and processing, in the case of work and practice. Or the brain is involved in managing movement and mediating between the conflicts of pain prevention and pain absorption (as in the case of workouts). Or it’s forming language and articulating ideas, balancing various emotions and intuitive senses as one holds a conversation.

It’s not often the brain is left simply to eat in peace. The ever changing visual stimuli of being on a vehicle is unimportant and rudimentary. The brain feeds lightly on what is entering the brain through the speakers – yet it knows that it does not have to engage fully in response. Sometimes ideas can be observed in various perspectives like a glass prism. Other times, it can feed, sit back, soak in the sun, and chill out.

Surprisingly, this is when the brain is able to come up with pretty excellent ideas. It’s the force of not having to try too hard that allows for soft whispers of revelations in the breeze.

Thus, the crazy idea for today isn’t to give your brain any particular demand. Give it that train, bus, or plane ride (if possible), or even a leisurely walk. Sit by a window and watch people walk by. Being momentarily and intentionally unproductive can lead to some pretty interesting things!

How to breathe better

Breathing deeper and exhaling slowly activates the diaphragm, which sends messages to the vagus nerve to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. Once your body believes it’s in a more parasympathetic state (even if your mind is still trying to manage the stress), you’ll be calmer, more relaxed, and able to lower your heart rate.

This is vital for performance anxiety. Or any anxiety in general.

Inhale through your nose with your diaphragm (or your abdominal muscles), and gradually exhale. The more you’re able to train this diaphragm (a muscle that is essentially the lid on top of a cylindrical support for your spine, your posture will improve, your breath will be your anchor during times of stress, and your quality of life will improve.

Try it. Do the unusual.

How to be fearless

If I may venture to give advice, although I don’t believe I am qualified to as this is also something I’m in the process of working out fully, I think this may be one way to become fearless

It came to me whilst I was reading a 3-2-1 article by James Clear. Of satisfaction, he quoted author Ann Hastings on the availability of satisfaction:

“Satisfaction is always available. It is just not always looked for. If, when you enter any experience, you enter with curiosity, respect and interest you will emerge enriched and with awareness you have been enriched. Awareness of enrichment is what satisfaction is.” Ann Hastings.

It dawned upon me that fear should also be treated in the same way! If we can treat something we fear with curiosity, paint the task, person, or the event with respect, build interest and knowledge within that looming darkness, we twist the arm of that which we are afraid of. We become aware of this shadow in our lives via a different lens.

And this is perhaps how I’ll work on my procrastination and my fears.

Same Interview

This is not particularly radical but upon watching Billie Ellish’s Same Interview, I really do think it’s worthwhile for me to do the same. For my YouTube channel.

I’ve always been obsessed with having a record of my thoughts, my development, and my change throughout the years. At the more arrogant age of 20 or so, I thought I would be some famous person one day and someone would need these diary entries to write a biography about me.. ahahaha

But I think this is ultimately an amazing way for me to reflect on my life and provide a portrait of who I am, who I was, and who I’ve become.

On a slightly separate note, I’m still working out whether I make content for me or content for others. To sort this out would get to the crux of how I could stay inspired more consistently.

In any case, for my podcast, I think I might do the same for my friends who I interview.. a series of the same-ish questions I ask each time they come back on. Just to see how things are. I believe humans are intuitively hooked on observing change – thus sunsets, the sky, gardening, time lapses, and character development in entertainment intrigue us so much. I’m going to lean into that.