On the 200th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution, I turned two years old and became a U.S. citizen. It was kind of a big day for everyone involved. I got a nice photo op with the American flag and literally pissed myself onstage. One would have thought that I was well on my way to a successful career in politics, but my aspirations were due to be crushed some years later by the very same Constitution that celebrated with me that day. And I’d thought that we’d been so close. It was a blow.
The reason that I had been receiving my citizenship that day was that two years prior to that, I had been born in South Korea, and it turns out that natural born citizenship was a requirement for the presidency. My birth certificate couldn’t save me from this one.
And so my life continued. Since I obviously didn’t have enough going for me by being a brown-ish Asian (let’s just say I’ve never exactly been a k-pop idol) in a white family in a 98% white town in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, I was also the weirdo musical theatre kid who told their kindergarten teacher that the person they wanted to meet most was Andrew Lloyd Webber. While my parents were always extremely supportive and surrounded me with my birth culture – all of those summers of Korean culture camp! — I was almost the parody of the classic image of the American immigrant, quasi-psychotically forward-looking by my own choice.
Fast-forward to finishing college, and I’m sick and directionless over-achiever millennial with no entry-level job skills because I was privileged enough to not have to get a real job prior to this and had earned all of my side money as a pianist at parties and substitute church pipe organist, while spending whatever time I could doing theatre. I somehow managed to snag a position as the music director at a church, through my combined strengths of being a pipe organist who couldn’t yet make social security withdrawals and being able to sing the entirety of Les Mis from memory. (During the interview, I walked into the priest’s office and he had a Les Mis poster on his wall. It never came up explicitly, but I think we both knew.) In other words, being a gigantic nerd had somehow saved me there.
But after a year, I threw in the towel and told myself that if there were any time to attempt a life in the theatre, it was now, when I was young and unencumbered. I applied for a year-long professional internship to see if I actually liked the work and the life that came with it. That was followed by a professional internship at a bigger theatre. Which was followed by three years of graduate school. Which was followed by landing in New York City as the production stage manager for a pan-Asian theatre’s show about two kids who just don’t fit in but discover that their strength lies in both being different and sticking together (which enables them to use their superpowers to defeat the evil alien that has been going around devouring planets, natch). Thanks to the goodness of my colleagues, luck, and my devastating beauty, I’ve managed to be working in the industry and city of my dreams for years now.
And then in the spring of 2017, a friend contacted me about a new chamber opera with the Japan Society at the end of the summer. It would be rehearsing and performing here in New York City – and then at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan in Japan.
I would be within a few hours of my birth country. And it was pursuing art in my life that would have brought me there.
I agreed. I didn’t dare breathe a word about the job to anyone for a long while. And then, when the producer asked about my travel arrangements, I set my return date for weeks after the job finished and began researching flights from Japan to Seoul.
After years of saying that I was going to go back “someday,” this is finally happening.
What exactly “this” ends up being will be discovered.
I’ll be tracking my journey in entries categorized In My Own Little Corner of the Sky.