Category Archives: Identity

second grade adoptee

The smell of coffee drifts down the hallway to the back of the house, into my bedroom. It is a familiar smell and signals that morning is nigh. I burrow beneath the warmth of my covers, not wanting to get up. It is a cold, wet winter in Louisiana. Daddy’s alarm went off some minutes ago. What dreadful song woke me this morning? Sneaky Snake goes dancing wiggling and a-hissing…Ahh. That stupid Sneaky Snake song. Oh, how I hate that song and KRMD country radio. Daddy likes waking up to music rather than beeping. In the distance, the rev of B-52s pierces the air. Now that is a more tolerable sound. Barksdale Air Force base is just miles from our home, right down Barksdale Boulevard. Sometimes the engines sound like a loud crack, whipping across the sky, but mostly, it’s like a slow, steady growl. Daddy once flew B-52s. That was before the aneurysm. There are big pictures of them framed and hanging down our hallway. He was a pilot in the Air Force. I don’t know much about that, except I like looking at the giant missile that greets you as you enter the air base and shopping with Mom at the BX. Occasionally, the echoing horn of a train passes through the morning. These are the sounds I’ve grown accustomed to.

Mom peeks into my bedroom, dressed and ready for work. “Time to get up,” she chimes. This occurs a few more times until I begrudgingly slide out of bed. I dread school. At least this morning, a neighbor will drive me and her daughter to Sun City Elementary, and I won’t have to walk. I hate walking to school in the cold. Occasionally, my parents remind me how easy I have it because, apparently, they walked 20 miles to school everyday in the ice and snow. Humph.

I crunch on Frosty Flakes for breakfast. Sometimes when Daddy is getting me ready for school, he lets me eat ice cream. When it comes time to leave, Mom zips up my bulky, winter jacket. Her breath smells like cigarettes and coffee, but I hold perfectly still as she ties the strings of my winter beanie tightly beneath my chin. I feel like a rollie pollie. I’m sure I look like one, too. Finally, I put on my woolly mittens and trudge down the street to our neighbor’s. The cold air tears at my face, and I watch the misty vapor of my breath curl slowly upward.

The neighbor’s home is warm. I sit on the couch in the dimly lit living room as the family flurries about. I feel tired and eek out a yawn. The Frosty Flakes are starting to sour in my tummy. I wish I could just stay home. Finally, we pile into the neighbor’s car. Sun City Elementary is just a few blocks away. It is a small, pinkish-red brick building with a big playground right next to Parkway High School. An American flag is hoisted up a tall metal pole and waves in the wind. Upon entering the building, it is hard not to miss Mr. Varnell’s big, wooden paddle displayed on the wall for all to see, just beyond the glass panes of the front office window. Mr. Varnell is the school principal. He always wears a tie.

I walk to home room in Ms. Dent’s class. My stomach doesn’t feel good. I feel as though I might get sick. Fear presses down on me, and I ask Ms. Dent if she can have the office call my mom to come get me. She looks at me, brows furrowed. She is very pretty, but her eyes say “not again.” She wonders if I’m faking it. “Go back to your seat, and let’s see if you feel better in a little while.” She pushes me gently towards my desk. I comply, but feel my stomach turn flips, and my head is spinning. I sit at my desk, my eyes filling with tears. I do my best to hide them.

It’s time to change classes. I guess Mom will not be coming to get me today. I feel heavy and invisible at the same time. I walk to Mrs. Earp’s Math class. There is nothing more I hate about school than math class besides feeling like I’m different from everyone else. Learning five’s and ten’s using those stupid popsicle sticks never makes any sense, and equations are confusing, far beyond my understanding. Mrs. Earp’s marker squeaks across the screen of the overhead projector as she draws numbers and symbols. The sound always fills me with anxiety. I drift in and out, afraid to raise my hand to ask Mrs. Earp to explain the equations. I cannot wait for class to be over.

Down the hall to Language Arts. I like reading and writing and very quickly learn that I excel at similes and metaphors. After finishing my handwriting assignment, I ask my teacher to work on similes and metaphors for extra credit. There is a table set off in the front of the classroom. Atop it is a box filled with cardboard activity cards. I pull one out and start working. “My dog is as smelly as dirty socks.” Simile. Completing these activities is like a game, and I always score perfectly. I don’t see many other kids ask to work on similes and metaphors.

It is now time for Music class. I wish that Music class met everyday. Ms. McConnell, the music teacher, is nice to me, but she sure does get mad at students who misbehave. What a lovely singing voice she has. “Sing, sing a song. Sing out loud, sing out strong...” We all sing in unison with Ms. McConnell as she strums her guitar. Singing is the only time I raise my voice voluntarily in class. In Reading earlier in the day, I stumbled while reading out loud, “Run, Jane…r-r-r-u-n. S-e-e-e J-a-ne r-r-un.” I felt embarrassed. I know that I can read perfectly fine. My teacher did not utter a word when I was done. She called on Tony and praised him for reading with such inflection. Why can’t I get it right? I am different. I am not as smart. I am the quiet one who gets sick to her stomach everyday. I am a ghost existing in world when no one understands me.

At the end of the school day, I walk home, rather unhappily and numb. It is still cold, but slightly warmer than the chilly morning. The sky is a stormy gray, but the sidewalks are dry now. I walk straight home, anticipating a cozy fire to warm up to. Mom is home, still dressed in her white nursing uniform. I am home at last, unbothered by people, sights and sounds. Mom makes me a Natchitoches meat pie before I start in on homework. The smell of hot oil and fried things makes my tummy growl. I am happy to be home. I sit quietly at the table, relishing my savory meat pie. It is the best thing that has happened all day.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

piano

Although I don’t know much about my early beginnings, I do know that music has shaped my life in profound ways from as far back as I can remember. My biological sisters told me when I met them in Taiwan that our mother loved classical music. My sisters, too, share a love of music, so it’s not surprising that it would get passed down to me.

piano 1

May 1977

My adoptive parents rented a small upright piano after I came home one day from a friend’s house saying that I wanted to take piano lessons.  I was just fascinated by how she could play the piano. I picked up melodies easily by ear, and once my parents saw how much I loved playing, they bought a baby grand of which I still have in my possession. I’m sure that my parents spent what was considered a lot of money in those days on the purchase of that piano. I remember first sitting down and marveling at the feel of the ivory keys beneath my fingers. The keys were much heavier, and I loved how much richer the bass sound was. I studied classical piano through college, although around my sophomore year, I became interested in acting and dancing as well, which competed with my practice time at the piano. I spent three-four hours practicing piano daily in college, as I was a performance major (I chose a performance degree so that I didn’t have to take any math classes). I loved being a music major. Listening to music, playing music, studying music. To be surrounded by music was just about the best thing ever. I was a decent pianist, not super talented, but played well enough to get through a college degree in piano performance.

piano 2

June 1976

I have often asked myself why I quit playing after graduating. I think part of it was that my mom “made” me keep taking lessons when I wanted to quit, as many students eventually do. But it wasn’t just piano. There were so many other things that my mom insisted upon that, had I been less compliant, would have strained our relationship even further. She wanted me to eventually teach piano privately and stay in Louisiana. Both ideas were about the worst thing I could have imagined. I actually did teach briefly after graduation, but didn’t like it. After our daughter was born in California, I went back to teaching on and off for about ten years so that I could be at home with her. I understand my mom and why she did the things she did much better as an adult who has lived life a little. Although I don’t agree with the way she parented, she was doing the best she could. There are times when I wish that I could tell her that because I know that she loved me, and it was a tough job raising an internationally adopted kid without any kind of support or training. She also loved music and played the organ.

I cannot imagine a world without music. Playing the piano was a way to express myself, although I really had no idea that that was what I was doing back then. I thank both my moms for giving me a love of music. I don’t play as often as I’d like, but I do have some ideas for a new creative project at the piano that I hope to start soon. We’ll see what comes of it in the days and months ahead. Hoping that you, too, make space for  creativity in whatever shape suits you.

fame

MjWhen I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a famous actress. I had this little silver crown that my mom brought home from a New Year’s Eve party, and I’d set that atop my head, put on my little white crocheted poncho and pretend that I was being interviewed. My mom would peer into my bedroom and ask who I was talking to. I was inspired by old musicals. My favorites were The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and An American in Paris. There was also a young girl whom I idolized, the daughter of my second piano teacher. The girl was very pretty and participated in lots of beauty pageants. I mean, this kid had a display of trophies that filled half her bedroom. I remember seeing her perform in a play with my Brownie troop and thinking, “I could do that.” I was far too shy though to really pursue acting. In college, however, I auditioned for a small part in a play called Open Admissions by Shirley Lauro. It was during my sophomore year. The role was for a a character named Kitty Shim, an 18-year old Korean college student. I was a shoe in, as I was the only Asian, female or male, in my entire college. I learned an accent by going to a local Chinese restaurant and talking to a waitress. I even recorded our conversation on cassette tape. Isn’t that funny. The student who played Ginny, one of the leads in the play, was very kind and later told me  that she thought I  had talent. She was in a number of plays performed at Centenary College’s Marjorie Lyons Playhouse. I held onto that compliment, and it opened up a whole new fascination that I wanted to explore.

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” – Jim Carrey

Oaplaybillcover-originalWe took Open Admissions to Regionals that year, and I received a small, but positive review for my role. Later, I participated in a theater student’s class assignment, playing the role of Lady Roxane in a scene from Cyrano de Bergerac. It was just me and a guy in the scene. I was told that the theater department director gave me positive remarks. I remember feeling so nervous about that and relieved by the words of encouragement. I was bitten by the acting bug and eventually auditioned for other plays. Performing on stage was euphoric. Unlike a piano performance, I didn’t feel pressure to perform perfectly. Any mistakes or memory lapses at the keyboard meant failure. Perhaps that’s why to this day, I struggle with performance anxiety. I never landed any leading roles, just minor parts, I think primarily because I didn’t know anything about acting and probably wasn’t that skilled. Furthermore, I was terribly insecure, and did I mention shy? I wasn’t capable of showing very much emotion. Most of that came from deep-rooted identity issues that I was not even conscious of at the time. I hardly felt comfortable in my own skin.

After college, I taught piano for awhile in a couple of after-school programs at St. Mark’s Episcopal and a Baptist church in Shreveport. A year later, I moved to Florida where I began taking acting classes. It was such a fun, reckless period in my life. I had a college degree in music, yet was waiting tables at Friday’s. And, I was really the worst waitress ever. It’s almost embarrassing how bad I was. I auditioned for commercials, community theater and dancing roles at Disneyland. Eventually, I auditioned for a Studio Tour Guide position at Universal Studios Orlando, which was just being built at the time. There was a grand opening with lots of celebrities weeks later. I was so excited when I got the position. Then came memorizing a very large script. My peers and I spent hours performing, improvising and critiquing each other in preparation for giving studio tram tours. I was in a group of other “want-to-be” actors and became friends with many of them. We had such a blast working together. I was an idealistic, naive young woman with a lot of ambition, but not a lot of smarts. And it was a time of great freedom. I was landing roles in commercials and community theater, waiting for my “big break.” That arrived when I got a bit part in a made-for-television movie, which earned me my SAG card. No, I never saw the movie and am not sure that it ever aired. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Los Angeles to further pursue acting. I did not get very far. My priorities changed after getting involved in a church and meeting my husband. For someone Asian with little experience and few substantial acting credits, it was difficult to get a callback amidst all the competition.

Sometimes I regret spending so much time chasing a dream that was way beyond my reach. “I should have just continued to teach piano. I should have continued my music studies,” I tell myself. I’ve come to realize that the desire to act stemmed from a need to be seen and heard. On stage, people see and listen to you. You’re literally center stage. And, you get immediate feedback from the audience – that connection was like a high. To cause someone to laugh or to feel something was extremely gratifying. I also loved the camaraderie that came from being part of a cast, a not so dysfunctional family. Growing up adopted, I did not have a voice. I didn’t know how to find my voice nor did I have the ability to identify my feelings or the trauma that caused some of my insecurities. I did not know how to connect with others in a meaningful way. I believed that acting would somehow give me the voice I lacked. I craved adulation, but what I really needed was self-acceptance. It would take years to grow that and a voice.

Although I’m much more comfortable with who I am and what I’m about, I’m still haunted by my own insecurities. To this day, I struggle with anxiety, disordered thinking around food and body image and self doubt. I’m a perfectionist and an overachiever. What I’ve learned is that the very things I sought in the past – status, achievement, beauty, a bigger paycheck, are the things that bring me the least amount of joy. It’s just taken me a Very long time to figure that out, and sometimes, it’s difficult to strike a healthy balance. Like you, I’m a work in progress. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll go back and audition for some community theater 🙂

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

 

 

extraordinarily ordinary life

I’ve been a little under the weather this week and out of the office. It’s nice to just laze around watching Netflix, drinking lots of hot tea. There is much value in slowing down, although I don’t recommend getting sick in order to do so. When I do get some down time, I often realize how fast life is going and that I’m spinning out of control. Do you ever have those moments? It’s at that time when I try to slow down and bring in things that are comforting. This morning, I tuned into the NPR All Songs Considered Podcast. Wow, so soul-inspiring and just what I needed. The song list included: 1) John Denver: “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” 2) Tom Adams: “In Darkness,” 3) Sharon Van Etten: “Come Back Kid,” 4: SOAK: “Everybody Loves You,” 5: Miya Folick: “THingaming,” 6) Jason Lytle: “Color of Dirt,” 7) J.S. Ondara: “American Dream.” I loved all of the songs, but the song that struck me most was John Denver’s.

Poems, Prayers and Promises” resonated with me deeply. Perhaps it has to do with getting older, but lately I’ve been giving much thought to the days of old, reflecting on motherhood, going to graduate school and even further back to high school and college. Reminiscing about what felt like easier times. When my daughter was growing up, I taught piano, primarily to young kids and a few adults, so I could be home with her. I often felt pressure to get a full-time job to supplement our household income, but I’m glad I didn’t. Life seemed slower, as being a mom was my primary role. My most favorite role ever. My daughter is now in college; I’m working full-time, working towards obtaining clinical licensure. The chapters related to raising a family have closed. New ones have opened, and honestly, I’m not particularly enjoying the new ones. On most days, it feels like a grind.

I guess it’s taken me this long to realize that graduate school was very idealistic, and I’m not sure it was worth all of the student loans. At times, actually often, I feel pretty disillusioned and tired. More importantly, I realize that all of the misplaced ambitions were to gain a sense of self worth, a sense of significance. After a lifetime of feeling invisible, one desires nothing more than to be seen and heard. To make a statement. To lead in some way. Adoptee stuff.

What I’m learning is that life is so much more valuable than achieving. It’s about enjoying and letting go of the stuff that brings you down. I’m still very much working on that. It doesn’t come easy. I wish that I could impress this upon my daughter, who is starting her life as a grown up. Our children learn the good and the bad from us, and I have certainly not always modeled how to manage stress and anxiety in healthy ways. She is doing so well, however, despite many challenges in her beautiful young life. I love her so. She has made all the difference.

Mothering has taught me a lot about life and love and ease. I guess that’s why I miss it so much, not that I don’t continue to mother, it’s just different now. It’s more about letting her take the wheel, trusting that even should she veer into the wrong lane, she will get back into the right lane, wiser. This is what I know: Hold the people and things you love the most close to your heart everyday. I would love to go back to Taiwan to see my birth family again. Alas, there are always obstacles. I hold them close to my heart, despite the distance.

There is something to be said and learned from achieving and making a difference. But life is short, and you cannot go back. Do what makes you happy, and don’t let naysayers dissuade you. Surround yourself with others who support you and your dreams because God knows, life is not easy. I wish that someone had told me these things when I was an impressionable young woman. I’ve worked hard since grad school. I truly hope that it has not all been in vain, as things that are most valuable do not come by way of a diploma or a degree or clinical hours. Life is precious. Your life is precious. Every single minute of it.

Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

a crazy little story

jared-rice-388260-unsplash“Oriental Express.” The words leapt out at me in dark green letters as I tore away at the wrapping paper. There was some “oriental-like” design in the background in pink, yellow, and purple. I stared at the license plate in my hands in horror. It was Christmas morning, 1980. Across the way, my dad sat in his favorite recliner, a broad smile lit the corners of his whiskered face. He was clearly pleased with himself. I was a high school freshman. I don’t recall what exactly I said in response to the gift, but I distinctly remember the embarrassment and confusion of it all. The pained expression on my face, I’m sure made it just as confusing for my dad. He thought that the personalized license plate specially ordered just for me was something his adopted daughter would love and appreciate, but just the opposite occurred. It was like a punch to my gut, a painful reminder of my differentness. There was no way in hell I was putting that on my car. All I truly wanted was to be and look like everyone else around me. Neither my dad nor mom understood the internal struggle that tore me up inside – a conflicted self, confused, shamed by my appearance, but even further, a suffocating separateness that was like a heavy cloak. They had never heard of the terms, “adoption trauma,” “cultural identity,” or “birth heritage,” and really, back in the day, what adoptive parent had? Clearly, no one understood the implications of trauma and separation and loss on the development of an internationally adopted child. The license plate sat on my dresser collecting dust for a little while, but eventually I hid it. Who knows where it ended up or where it is now.

I am fifty-one years old, and yet this event is still so vividly etched in my mind. My struggle with identity has lessened dramatically since that time, yet at my core, I still struggle occasionally with those same misplaced feelings of inferiority. I’m just better at identifying them now and managing them in a healthier way. I tend to be an overachiever and perfectionist, which is exhausting. I think other adoptees have this same tendency to one degree or another. I feel and sense things more acutely than maybe the average person, say for example, rejection. As a result, I’m a people pleaser. I go out of my way to win people over, which is good and bad. I tend not to deal well with strong emotions like anger or conflict. It stirs up those same feelings of fear, insecurity, and distrust. In my work, I am constantly placed in those types of situations. Yet, I can pinpoint those uncomfortable feelings now and am not paralyzed by them. Though I still don’t like the presence of such strong emotions, I can sit with them when confronted. It’s not easy, and it takes me awhile to process them. It takes time to let any negative emotions go…I am not good at letting go…but I try, and I try to learn from the process so that I can grow.

Feeling grounded is super important to me. After dealing with conflict, I’m always off-balance and have to work at getting back into a more positive state of grounded-ness. Music, art journaling, and writing help tremendously as does yoga. The practice of yoga is so centering and helps me focus on connecting to my body. I highly recommend it. Perhaps I’m writing about this now because work over the last month has been especially challenging, and I am growing my clinical skills. Dealing with our line of work is “not for the faint of heart” as one of our directors shared.

I have grown to embrace my cultural heritage and identity, yet the struggle is never really over. I continue to work on accepting me just the way I am – making peace with myself, my appearance, my professional aspirations, right here in the moment. That’s probably why I love yoga so much. The practice promotes acceptance, which is truly not an easy task. I continue to struggle with perfectionism and overachieving in almost everything I do. I’m not great at self-care, or perhaps I just need more of it! Why can’t there be 3-day weekends?! And I’m constantly working on gratitude. My experiences have made me who I am, just like everybody else, and I accept that my parents were not able to help me with the things I struggled with the most. I have many regrets about our relationship and wish that I could have been more involved in their lives as they aged. Time is short. But I was still working on my own internal struggles. It was really selfish as I look back, but I didn’t know any better. My parents did the best they knew how. One thing they did do well was model generosity and care. And that is a tremendous gift. I can’t undo the past, yet in the future, I hope to get better at being okay with it. And I hope to get better at practicing generosity and care towards myself and others. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

 

 

new podcast

Hsiao_Ling_H-Logo-Final-3000x3000It’s rare that I write two posts in a row these days! I wanted to share with you a new podcast I’m launching soon called Global Adoptee Talk, a podcast about the experiences of international and transracial adoptees around the globe. The podcast will feature 1:1 interviews with other international/transracial adoptees, and we’ll discuss topics related to international adoption, race/culture/identity, search and reunion, and mental health. Please stop by to visit my new site, GlobalAdopteeTalk.com.

And, please share the podcast with your adoption community! I’m off to work now…Thank you so much for visiting Global Adoptee Talk!

ivory

RecitalMrs. Guinn placed the clunky brown headphones snuggly over my head, the giant earpieces squeezed my temples. A long, coiled cord reached across the way to a stereo where she now stood, ready to drop the needle. I had no idea what I was in store for. Mrs. Guinn had never offered to play music for me at any of my other piano lessons. Mandi, my friend next door, and I took weekly lessons at Mrs. Guinn’s house. I loved going to Mrs. Guinn’s for my piano lessons and looked forward to them every week. She lived in a quiet neighborhood in Shady Grove and was probably 30-something in age. She was married to an officer in the Air Force and had a pretty face and gentle demeanor. She reminded me of Toni Tennille of Captain and Tenille. The front living room where Mrs. Guinn taught held an upright piano on one wall and an organ against another, a large window overlooked the street. Her house was always meticulously clean and inviting. “I have something I want you to listen to today,” she said as she guided me into the family room. The headphones felt heavy against my ears as she adjusted them. I sat silently and settled into Mrs. Guinn’s plush black couch, waiting for the music to begin playing.

“Da-da-da-DUM.” “Da-da-da-DUM!” Those first four minor pitches of Beethoven’s all too famous Fifth Symphony bellowed in my ears. The music escalated, and I became completely enraptured, magically swept away. With every pulse of the bass, my heart quickened. I was only 9-years old at the time, and yet that was such a defining moment in my life. The rest of the world fell away in those brief eight minutes or so of that first movement. I was an extremely shy, introverted kid, but at my lesson the following week, I mustered the courage to ask Mrs. Guinn if I could listen to that recording again. Of course, she obliged. Little did Mrs. Guinn know how much that recording influenced me musically. One of the other things I enjoyed while taking lessons from Mrs. Guin was the monthly gatherings she held at her home where all her students performed for each other. The best part was when she performed for us on her organ. I loved watching her feet fly across the pedals.

Mrs. Guinn was a member of the National Federation of Music and entered me into my first music festival where students performed and were adjudicated. I received a superior + and was selected to perform in the Honors Recital with many other students. Kabelevsky’s, The Clown, Op. 39, No. 2, was my first performance piece ever. As I climbed the stairs the night of the recital towards the concert grand piano, it felt as though I were having an out of body experience. Somehow, I got through my piece without any fumbles and took my bow to the applause of the audience. I would perform in many other recitals, each one causing more anxiety than the last. It was something I continuously struggled with.

Mrs. Guinn moved within a year or two. I was deeply saddened when she told me her husband had received a military transfer to Texas, as I had become quite attached to her. I eventually studied with Mr. Robert Buckner during my high school years. Mr. Buckner lived in Shreveport and was quite a character. He had a piano studio behind his house, and a dachsund named Angie. I began every lesson with major and/or minor scales as a warm-up, or Hanon exercises. I felt comfortable with his teaching style and sense of humor. I decided to major in music and attended Centenary College of Louisiana where I studied piano performance, primarily because it meant I didn’t have to take a single math class. I was beyond horrible in math or anything that had to do with numbers. Initially, I felt terribly inadequate compared to my peers who seemed to have much better training musically than I did. I struggled with ear training and theory, but loved composition and piano literature. I studied with Constance Knox Carroll and absolutely adored her. She was an inspiring teacher and incredible pianist. I’m sure, however, that I was one of her least favorite students, as I was not very disciplined and did not practice as I should have, especially during my senior year. I got distracted with theatre and dance and remember her scolding me at one particular lesson for my lack of practice. She had every right to because my senior recital loomed ahead, and I hadn’t memorized all of my pieces. She remarked that it seemed like I liked theatre and dance better, and she was right. What did I know at that age? Not a whole lot. I sat there silently, not knowing what to say.

I wasn’t exactly lazy, but discipline was not my strong suit. Practicing was such an isolating endeavor, and yet in those days, I didn’t always mind it. I typically hit the practice room for four hours a day, sometimes six on the rare occasion that I was super inspired. There were times when it was such a rewarding experience to sit at the keyboard and just play without anyone listening. Those were the times when I performed the best. But in front of an audience, I lost all sense of composure. Performance anxiety plagued me. I could not control my hands; they became leaden, nor the adrenaline racing through me, and memory slips haunted me. On one occasion, several students were to perform with the Shreveport Symphony in a special recital. I was going to perform the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A, K414. I can’t describe how exhilarating it was to perform with an orchestra, with other musicians. It was like flying, but without the motion sickness. Unfortunately, performance anxiety got the best of me, and my memory lapsed somewhere during the development. The orchestra continued to play as if nothing happened while I sat frozen. Eventually, I wove my way back in, but the damage had been done. I barely made it through the cadenza.

After graduating college, I taught piano for a brief time at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Shreveport and another Christian school before moving to Florida. I didn’t touch a keyboard for nearly 20 years after that. One day, my mom asked if I wanted my baby grand piano, the one they bought me when I first started taking piano lessons. Of course I did, and a couple of months later, my baby grand arrived to our tiny condo in California. It took up an entire room. I started teaching piano thereafter at a Christian elementary school in Mission Viejo, CA, and eventually taught privately on and off until 2013. My piano skills were more than a little rusty, and I lamented the loss. I attempted to take piano lessons a couple of different times, but just didn’t have the time to commit to practicing with family responsibilities and work. I stopped teaching altogether in 2013 when I went back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work.

I’ve now had my baby grand since 1999. It has moved with us many different times in the last several years. It’s sitting in our family room in need of a little TLC – or a lot actually. Every once in awhile, I sit down to play,  but most of my time is spent at work these days. Recently, I felt moved to find Mrs. Guinn and searched for her via Google. Amazingly, I found her, and she wrote back to me immediately. She continues to teach, perform at churches, and accompany choirs in Nebraska. Although she only vaguely remembered me, she said that she looked up old recital programs and located one dated May 23, 1976, that I performed in. She said I played a Schaum arrangement of Yankee Doodle as a solo and again in a trio performance with Mandi, my friend, and another student named Kelly Scott. I was so happy to hear from Mrs. Guinn and that she continues to teach and play.

I feel truly blessed to have been trained in piano for so many years. I wish that I’d held onto it, but I think there was a part of me that felt incredibly inadequate as a pianist, so I shut it out of my life for a spell. When I studied to become a board-certified music therapist in 2006, that passion for music came back to life. And now, I long for my piano to be more than just a pretty conversation piece in my living room. One of these days, and hopefully not too long from now, I will get back to playing, perhaps a little at a time. It’s hard to play as I compare my skills now to those days when I was playing everyday for long hours. People tend to tell me, “you should just play for yourself.” Well, it’s easier said than done. Nevertheless, music is truly part of my fabric. I can’t think of anything more powerful and transformative than music.

So, for your listening pleasure, here is one of my favorite pianists, Murrah Perahia, at the keyboard performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K. 414. To Mrs. Carroll, who inspired me to be a better pianist:

 

My memoir!

CoverBeyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity is now live! If you have not yet purchased your copy, don’t delay. I have a few books left, and signed copies can be purchased right here on my website.  Just click on Shop to order. Kindle and hardcover editions are available via my author page at Amazon, and you can also find the book at Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.org.

If you enjoyed reading the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, or wherever you purchased your copy! Unfortunately, I am unable to ship internationally; however, those copies can be ordered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. To learn more about the book and to read an excerpt, click here, and to read reviews, click here. Thank you for supporting Beyond Two Worlds!