More than a decade later...
December 31st, 2015 - January 1st, 2016
New year's eve. Staying in. Doing banking errands at home on my desktop, on new year's eve after turning down invitation to dinner gathering, has a surprisingly calming effect on the restless soul.
Banking done. Decided to do some filing. Condo maintenance bills, income tax papers, bank statements, signed contracts, insurance statements, etc.
I flipped right to the back of my contract folder, to look at all my old contracts, including my monthly salary slips from my day jobs. What a journey back in time, to refresh my mind of how many ringgit I was pulling in for Lee Shu Fun, as an executive, as a chorus girl, a new wedding singer, a supporting actor, as main actor, as "function singer", as 'Diva of the night"...
There was an invoice dated July 8, 2007 where I billed the American Embassy for a performance of Negaraku at the 231st anniversary of US Independence reception at the Marriott KL, held on July 5th, 2007. I remember having to go to the embassy office to sing Negaraku in an office, to audition for the job. I was such a nerve wreck I sang like a moron. Ellen, the sweet lady overseeing the process, let me send in another `audition tape' where I was able to sing properly. When I actually perform the song at the reception, the whole evening felt like a miracle - just two seconds before I stepped into place and sang Negaraku with the American navy band, the massive truckload of butterflies in my stomach disappeared and I sang with a grace that I didn't know I was capable of. I was proud to be a Malaysian who was picked to sing that night I guess. Later on, Datuk Sharizat complimented me on the performance.
Somewhere in the neat pile of old invoices and payment slips, I found a photocopied examination report from Trinity, signed by (I think) Harold James, on December 2nd, 2004. I scored 90 out of 100 for Performer's Certificate - Singing. The four songs for the exam were La Promessa by Rossini, Haydn's With Verdure Clad, Schubert's Liebesbotschaft and Sondheim's Green Finch And Linnet Bird from Sweeney Todd. I remember practising really hard for the exam. When I stepped into the tiny classroom at UM to face my first ever singing examiner, a stern looking white gentleman no less - there must have been a maturity in my spirit back then, much more than I think I possessed, of how I coped with that kind of stress. I'm impressed, just recalling this. Oh, I also did something that I think nobody in Malaysia has done before - I took off my underwear minutes before going into the room, because the silly dress that I wore for the exam (I believe I was the only one that day/afternoon wearing a formal evening dress. It was a form fitting black gown, something I imagine Holly Golightly and Audrey Hepburn would wear - that I bought at a Sydney flea market) was so bloody tight that my panty line was showing. And I thought it was bad taste to perform beautiful repertoire in a nice dress with VPL. My girlfriends from the classical singing circle would always laugh at me and think I did well because I didn't have my panties on.
Then there's a printed email dated May 14, 2003 from Sharanya Manivannan, to all the performers of a fundraiser for All Women's Action Society Malaysia, show titled "Crescendo: Raise Your Voice". The performance was at No Black Tie, held on May 18th, 2003. The other performers of the night included Bernice Chauly, Chacko Vadaketh, Harish Shankar (my pianist for the performance where I sang Hammerstein's Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man and Puccini's Quando Men'vo - god knows what was I thinking, to pick a Puccini), Jerome Kugan, Joanna Bassey, Markiza, Pete Teo, Saidah Rastam, Sharany of course, Shelley Leong, and Zedeck Siew. Holy cow, 13 years later and looking at the names, a star-studded cast list - I can't recall how I got in that line-up.
It still feels like an accidental fluke. How did I get from being a full time starstruck to being here?
Even though I'm glad to be here now, older and more confident; I will always reminisce my younger days' antics with fondness - when I walked up to Harith Iskander at Tower Records to tell him that I adore his work; that time after watching Gold Rain and Hailstone I asked for Jit Murad's signature and he planted a big kiss on my hand (am sure I didn't want to take a shower after that), when I chatted with Mew Chang Tsing on a bench outside of Actors Studio Theatre at Dataran...
I bet there were more happy moments like that if I read my old diaries.
I don't think I have the same balls I did when I was in my early twenties. I can't think of anything crazy I have done in the last 5 years, that compares to those above. Never been a big fan of being the most ambitious person on the block. Insecure and doubtful are more like me. Sure, I'm good at masking that now when I go on stage, I have had more than 10 years of getting good at faking it.
Walking on stage in the dark in a pair of Fion Poon stilettos next to an eleven-piece band at my own concert felt like walking on thin rope. Basking under beautiful lights on stage and belting out originals felt like dream. Taking a bow in front of full houses of audience felt like the best kind of birthday presents.
Now that I have done it and survived, I'm a little scared of what I have to achieve next. Naturally, I'm expected to top that.
Perhaps I will, or perhaps I will not. Que sera sera.
For now, I think I better take one thing at time. Gotta stop competing all the time, and live a little. 2016, more holidays and more calmness at work. I hope I find more wisdom.
Happy new year.