Signs

You’re in love. Your heart aches, but in a good way. Like somebody gently squeezed it, just enough to feel that inexplicable shot of electricity that leaves you giddy. You cannot help the corners of your mouth go up in a smile. Sometimes it feels that you could go on all day without eating (but then, in my case, I usually end up being hungry and eating shamelessly). The world around you is rosy. Sometimes, when you think about it very hard, it’s hard to believe that this is all happening to you.

Yet, it IS happening to you. It IS happening to me.

(Oh, and by the way, for those who haven’t noticed, the object of my ‘love’ is NOT a guy. It’s soooo much better – or at least that’s what I tell myself.)

Up until a few days ago, I was scrambling for signs that would tell me I was indeed going to go somewhere and be someone. Everywhere I looked, something was telling me that it was going to be okay. And I’m the type that brushes off and sigh at people when they squeak ‘Oh my god! That’s a good luck sign!’ or ‘That’s definitely a sign that he is interested in me’ or ‘This is it. This is telling me we’re meant to be’. But when you’re desperate, the world is talking to you and you only, and ever since August last year, I’ve been gathering these signs wherever and however I could. They turned stupider and stupider as time went by and I was left alone, stranded in my lonely island of false hope and foolish signs. But now, I can finally share my half-year long state of delusion without looking too desperate.

  1. I guess the first sign would have to be a sweet belated birthday card (hence August and not July) from a dear friend from grad school. Aware of my ‘failure’ that year, she wrote ‘Unni, I dreamed that you told me, smiling, you got into a school of your choice and were going to the States. Surely, it’s a sign you will succeed this year!’. That was indeed touching, even if she hadn’t really dreamed it. And a definite sign.
  2. The second sign was also from a very good friend’s dream. Out of the blue, she texted me ‘Seulgie, I dreamed that we went shoe-shopping and you bought two pairs of shoes. ‘Shoe dreams’ are meant to bring good luck! Look it up!’. Of course, I didn’t look it up, and I don’t believe in dreams (except my Mom’s sometimes, because her rate of ‘success’ is pretty uncanny and scary…). But still, it’s the thought that counts. Plus, she is just as skeptic as I am when it comes to ‘believing in signs’. So if she believed in it, who was I not to?
  3. When I went to register to the gym, I had gone to register for three months only, fully knowing myself. The manager somehow convinced me (again, fully knowing myself, it must have been pretty easy for him to convince me) that I should register for 6 months. It made sense at that time. What, was I going to quit only after three months? No, of course not. Registering for 6 months would be much cheaper than registering for 3 months twice. Think of it as an investment (OK, I can do that…). Then, they added me 2 months ‘free of charge’, which extended my obligation to the gym to the end of August. Well, that would be perfect, since I would probably have to leave in the beginning of September for the new semester. All was well.
  4. Kurt got accepted at NYADA. Who is Kurt? Well, Kurt Hummel from Glee of course. If he failed the previous year (just like me), and then got into his dream school the next year, well, surely, this was a sign that I too, would be able to reach for my dream a year later. And yes, the tears I shed with him on that episode were for real. Don’t judge me.
  5. The presidential elections. Yes, I went as far as to assume the fate of this country was somehow linked to the fate of the small, insignificant being I was. What, with Ms. Park being elected as the president, God had to at least get me out of here. If Candidate Moon had been elected, then I would have been sorry not to experience the changes he would have brought to the country. So in God’s great schemes, he was going to make at least one person stay true to her words ‘Well, with her as the leader, I’m getting out of this country!’.

There probably were more, one even less significant than the other, and making even less sense, but I felt foolish jolting them down, even if they were going to be used for a day as today.

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Best day ever

Wow, Wow, Wow.

Let me first clarify a few things:

True, I didn’t get into the PhD program I wanted and applied in advance, and it’s just a one year Master program, but this is the first tiny, yet significant step towards a new start in a way, and also the firm and steady continuation of my life and career. It’s a new beginning, and those are always exciting. It is also true that one year flies by at the blink of an eye and I will be stressed out after a year (which, technically, is just 10 months), going through the same harrowing times about what to do next with my life. We all know the old song. But at least for today, I don’t want to think about those things. I want to concentrate on how great today is. I’m keeping up with my studies, I’m going to the U to the S to the A.

I’ve been dreaming of this day, and I had a perfect post to write when it finally did. But then, I have so many things I want to write and say that all my plans have been thwarted by my immense joy. It’s like my brain has suddenly been overwhelmed with happy thoughts and exciting, good, positive things to write about, and it just isn’t fast enough to adjust to this new feeling, what with all the negative energy and attitude I’ve been spreading around lately.

These are a few starting sentences I was thinking of:

“Elated – so, this is what it feels like.”

Erm… okay, I’ve forgotten the rest, but there were at least two or three more great ones. I ‘almost’ wrote them in advance, you know, just in case, and save them as drafts, since I know a thing or two about forgetting what you want to write in the first place. But I once saw Jimmy Kimmel say in his show that one of the saddest things for Oscar nominated actors must be that moment they go back home, take their jacket off, and throw away that thank-you note they had written in advance, just in case they win. And I didn’t want to be that.

And it’s nothing like I imagined it would be. My plan would have roughly gone like this:

  1. Check email
  2. Elated
  3. Call my sister, scream about how exciting this is
  4. Call Mom (or even wait until Mom gets back home to tell her face to face)
  5. Call Dad
  6. Write a Tweet and update my FB status to something like ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES’
  7. Calmly gather up the thoughts I’ve been so far treasuring in my feeble brain, sit down, go to my blog, create a new category “Graduate Life”, write a logical, well reasoned post (which certainly wasn’t going to start with ‘Wow Wow Wow’, so cliche, ach), end it with a large thank you speech similar to that of a Oscar winner
  8. Text my closest friends
  9. Be excited about finally leaving this house

But no, nothing went like that… You can’t prepare for disasters, and you certainly can’t prepare for excitement.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to just fumble and eventually drown in tears as I called my sister and Mom.

Updating my FB status was the last thing on my mind. Sit down? Calmly? What?

And most of all, I wasn’t as excited as leaving the house as I thought I would be. I don’t mean I’m sad about leaving, no, I can frankly say I’m not (yes, I’m cold-hearted that way), but there were way more things to be excited about than leaving Mom and Dad. Actually, I felt this sudden wave of gratitude towards them, for sticking by their so-lost eldest daughter, and for supporting me, in their own ways, always. I know, I’m so ingrate, I only see the good of people when I am also in a good place.

So, yes, here goes my Oscar winning speech.

I want to thank Mom and Dad. A thank you to all my close friends who have stuck by me, comforted and encouraged me with their kind words, and have endured the dark clouds I was bringing everywhere with me. Thank you especially for showing so much joy and excitement at the great news. I want to thank my professors, who took the time and effort to write me recommendation letters (especially one who had to write twice, in 2011 and in 2012).

And Gaeul, the one who always more than stuck by me and who never gave up on me. See you next month.

Thank you, U of Chicago, for giving me this opportunity.

I always thought that the best moments to write, the moment you are most inspired are when you are angry and frustrated, because words just pour out and there is no way stopping them. Clearly, it had been a long long time I had been happy, because I now realize that joy is an even greater inspiration.

And since my life revolves around Nikita, :p just like Michael said to Nikita, to you, U of Chicago, I tell you:

“It has been a long time since anything as good as you has happened in my life”

I hope that in my frustrated moments (because there will be) during that one year, I will always be able to come back to this post and remember how exciting this day was.

And yes, people, there IS hope after all. God DOES open a window after closing (many many many) doors.

PS: Is it too soon to make a new category? Is it? 

Oh Hope thou art treacherous

I didn’t want to write this because I didn’t want to jinx anything, but today is graduation day at SNU, and having graduated from the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS), as a proud holder of an MA, just a year ago, I can’t help but assess how much I have changed (or, sadly enough, unchanged) since then.

Having had yet another (!) rejection this morning, it is truly a miracle, I find, that I can get up from my bed  at all, come to work and type away my miseries. Geez, re-reading this makes me want to kill myself…

Having had yet another (!) rejection from a grad school this morning (I’ve lost count now), I think it is fair and about time to assume that a Ph. D degree and going to the States won’t be part of my near future. Yet while most of my brain tells me that, there is this tiny and thin thread of hope that I desperately cling on to, a hope that will linger on as long as the remaining five schools don’t deliver the fatal (or redeeming?) verdict. And so, yes, I cannot yet make myself  look for a ‘real job’ thoroughly enough right now, for, what if I found the perfect job, applied for it, got it (because doh? Of course my resume is brilliant and I will ace the interview), and then, suddenly, Oh Behold, Harvard offers me a fully-funded Ph. D position? Well now, I would have to let down the people who made the wise decision of hiring the awesome person that I am. Oh the disappointment they will have! I’ve had enough disappointment in my life, I don’t want to be the one to bestow it on others. 

Yes, call me crazy and delusional, but that is roughly what has been going through my head for the past couple of weeks. I will probably regret not having made extra effort to find a job a few weeks from now, but that’s the thing with hope, isn’t it? You can’t just make it go away, no matter how much you try to reason with yourself. It lingers there, it hops here and about, taunts you, hands you water to your thirsty and starched soul, only to take it away when you finally gather up the courage to accept what you know is poison for your mind.

Oh Hope thou art treacherous

It’s like when I was a kid, I knew in my head that I had screwed up an exam, I checked, with my very own eyes that what I had written in my paper was not the correct answer to the question. Yet I hoped with all my heart, for the following few days, that somehow, history had changed and suddenly, yes, the First World War had indeed started in 1916, or that a guardian angel had corrected the + sign in my Math paper to the correct – sign. But the day finally came when the teacher would hand out back our exam, and hope scurried along to haunt another kid while sticking its tongue out for a last chance of mockery, and I had to face the red pen marks of my teacher and the bad grade it ensued.

This tormenting relationship continues to this day, and to this day, I cannot, will not, learn my lesson. Because just when I’m about to give up, it suddenly offers its generous hand and rejoices at my relieved shout ‘Yes! There IS hope!’, only to snort at my naivety once more. Hope is sometimes overly exaggerated. Sure, it’s what makes us go on day after day, year after year, but at what cost? At the cost of seeing your imaginary world, which you carefully built day after day, shatter into a thousand pieces with a simple rejection letter, a phone call, a click at your keyboard, a message, and so on.

Oh Hope, you are mean and misguiding…

yet…

today again, I hope.

I hope that one school will open its doors for me.

I hope that I will get a great job.

I hope that I will finally move out from my parents’ house.

I hope that I will make enough money to take a trip once a year.

I hope that I will meet my Chandler and live happily ever after.

Yes! We’re bound to achieve our dream, whatever that may be, sooner or later!

Les Miserables – A defense

Les Miserables

I’ve just watched Les Miserables, the movie for the third time in theater. And for all three times, I paid for my ticket, and whoever was with me to watch it. My close ones know how frugal I am (and how I enjoy being so), so this fact already states in itself how AWESOME the movie is. Plus, I wouldn’t care watching it a fourth time or a fifth, although I’m not sure if I would still be willing to pay for two tickets. But I would definitely pay for mine.
Why is the movie so great? OK, what ISN’T great about this movie?
Talented actors? Check. Beautiful songs? Check. Mesmerizing singing? Check. Captivating delivery of emotions? Check.
I really wouldn’t know where to begin.
So for all the haters out there who have this and that to say about this great movie, here goes.

The movie is based on a musical. The appearance of Colm Wilkinson, one of the musical actors who interpreted Valjean on numerous occasions, including the 10th anniversary concert, was clearly a tribute to the musical, for those who knew. The musical was created in the 1980s by Cameron Mackintosh and Claude-Michel Shonberg, and yes, although this musical found its inspiration from the original french book by Victor Hugo, I think it’s fair to say that the movie obviously left out many things from the original book. The story of the movie had to go around the original songs from the musical and wrap its storyline along the songs, so yes, some things might have been left out, some things might have given a different interpretation, Victor Hugo’s message might not have been passed along as its readers had imagined. But once again, the movie is a cinematic adaptation of the musical, and not the book, and for that, I don’t think anyone could have done a better work.
The actors’ performance was simply amazing and beyond description, and certainly should have been immune to negative criticism. I applaud Hooper’s daring initiative to have filmed the actors with such a close angle, it can’t have been easy for anyone involved in the filming, but I’m sure the audience appreciated (I did anyways) the closest encounter they could ever had with performers. As much as I love musicals, that’s certainly something we can’t experience with on-stage musical performances, even if you get the best seat.
True, I was a little bit disappointed by Russell Crowe’s singing when I first watched it, but I absolutely loved him for the second and third time. I guess I was used to a very strong Javert performance in the musical version, with both the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts, but Russell Crowe provided his own interpretation for ‘Stars’ and it was clear that he could play a very angry Javert for some scenes, when the need arose.


After all, the movie was more about the acting than the singing. I don’t mean to say that the actors would have been condoned for a bad singing, but the whole point of the move, as I see it anyways, was to allow the viewers to feel Valjean’s relief and joy when he was finally released from prison, Fantine’s despair as she saw her dream fade away, and Marius’ sorrow at empty chairs and empty tables. It was less about the strength in their voices through all the songs, and more about the emotions behind the tunes.
And from that point of view, I think the movie accomplished a great deal.
And this is where I was going to diss Adam Lambert’s negative critique about the movie and the singing, but well, I guess if I have my own opinion, so should he, as he clearly states it in his new response.

My next response is to the article featured in -surprise, surprise- Foreign Affairs. I guess the mere fact that a movie gets so much attention as to be the object of criticism and discussion on both Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy already says a lot about what a phenomenon the movie is.
However, whereas the author in the Foreign Affairs article criticizes Hooper and his work for being anti-revolutionary, or at least disillusioned in the notion of revolution, if the former word is too harsh, I find it is totally the opposite. True, there are many religious references throughout the movie, the cross, the angels, and so on, but to his criticism against the bishop who rescued Valjean, or the setting of the convent, or Fantine returning as ‘an angel’, I would have to say, once again ‘The movie is based on the freakin’ musical’, where these all take place. I know we’re supposed to enjoy movies without making it an opportunity for more knowledge (although the nerd that I am firmly believes opportunities for more knowledge lie everywhere), but have the decency to check with some basic information.
I thought the movie delivered its message of revolution from the very beginning: “1815 – 26 years after the French Revolution, a king still rules in France” (or something like that… I don’t remember the exact quote 😦 I’ll definitely have to watch it again!). True, the literal pain I felt at these words, the exasperation at not only the failure of one of the most renowned revolutions in history, but also at the reality Korea had gone through with its presidential election, may prove that it is indeed hard to hope for great outcomes out of a revolution, and that deep inside, that’s what I think. It is also true that the movie depicts the struggle of the young revolutionaries as they try to restore democracy and are shunned by the people of Paris in their most critical moments of help (windows slowly closing, doors kept shut as they are shot to death), and in the end, it is Marius, the son of a noble family, who is left as the sole survivor and gives a heartbreaking delivery of ‘Empty chairs at empty tables’. But in my defense and in the defense of the movie, there could not have been another ending to the Revolution of 1832 because it was a historic failure and Hugo or Hooper couldn’t possibly have come up with another end to the story. So, really, it’s not Hooper’s fault they all had to die.
However, it was his doing that portrayed the strength, passion and unfailing belief in ‘France’ as they died one by one, it was his doing that made Gavroche sing ‘Do you hear the people sing’ as they seemed to be losing hope, and it was his doing once again that brought back the dead to singing the anthem at the end of the movie, with not just happy but triumphant faces, as they were circled by what appeared thousands of others following their cause. And to me, that is proof that revolution does work and can bring hope. Sure, it may take decades, perhaps centuries, like France. Sure, people will die, lives will be crushed and sacrifices will be asked, but it won’t be all for nothing. And the tears that the movie brings out of its viewers, the sigh that we all let out at the end, these are proofs that while we may be disappointed by the lack of speed and immediate results of a revolution, we still believe they count for something.
There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes, whether it is for the Arab countries having gone through their revolution, whether it is for Korea that decided to pass on their decade-long struggle for democracy, political participation and justice this time.
And well, if Mr. Charles Walton fails to see that, well, too bad. What would be the use of a Revolution if it did not allow a difference of opinions after all?
And on that note, because I just can’t get enough of it, and because it’s my blog, and because I’m obsessed like that, I’ll end it with this formidable rendition of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ by Michael Ball at the 10th anniversary concert. (Nick Jonas should be ASHAMED, seriously).