The Art of Flying Solo

For the longest time, I was almost afraid to do things by myself. Stuff like going to the movies or concerts, even eating out – it just seemed weird to do it alone. It’s like we were raised in a society to think that we have to do things with other people, like it is somehow not normal. You feel as if you’re being judged for wanting to be alone and taking on a social experience by yourself. For me, self-consciousness would set in. I’ve never been a sociable person to begin with, so to be honest, I really shouldn’t care what other people think (especially complete strangers),  but that’s what happens. (I see the irony of being somewhat anti-social, when I was in fact, a sociology major in university.)

Pair that with the fact that I don’t have very many friends and the ones I do have sometimes have different tastes in music/movies than I do, or their entertainment budgets are less than mine, I didn’t have much of a choice but to start going to things by myself. It was the rare occasion at first: a movie every once in a while and then I slowly moved up to concerts.

The first concert I ever went to solo was Kelly Clarkson in 2012. For the life of me, I had yet to see my favourite female artist in concert. My friends do not share the same affection for Kelly Clarkson as I do, but I didn’t want to miss her coming through town again. I went back and forth about it for a long time, when about a week before the concert, I just said “F**k it” and got myself a ticket to go see Kelly. What happened at a result of that? I got Floor ticket, 2nd row from the stage. I WAS SO CLOSE TO KELLY! It felt weird in the before and after of the concert, but when I was in the venue, and just being there seeing my favourite singer perform, nothing else mattered.

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See? I was SO CLOSE!

In 2013, Sara Bareilles embarked on a solo tour she called the “Brave Enough” tour, where it was just her performing with no band behind her. If you’ve read her interviews around this tour or read her book, this was a big deal. My sign of solidarity for her was being brave enough to go to the show myself.

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Sara Bareilles, Brave Enough Tour (April 2013)

And after that? Well, I still went to the majority of concerts with friends. But when it became apparent that it was getting more difficult to plan outings like this (considering the costs especially), I started to say “the hell with it” and went to even more shows and concerts by myself. Kris Allen, Shaping Sound, Jessie J, The Script, So You Think You Can Dance, David Cook – all shows that I went to solo in the past year and a half.

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What I found was that, though I love having the company of my friends, it’s sometimes just so much easier to go do things solo. I don’t have to coordinate plans with anyone, consider anyone else’s wants/needs. I can go on my own accord, schedule my day however I want to, and then lose myself in the music/dance/movie/environment for 2 hours. On top of that, lately I’ve been more sure of myself (which really, at 28, seems like a long time coming). When I went to the SYTYCD tour in January of this year, my purpose was to meet Jessica ‘JJ’ Rabone, whom I love and adore because she’s also a Paris By Night dancer. The show was at Hamilton Place, a venue I didn’t go to often so I had to do my research ahead of time to figure out where the stage door was. After the show, I asked around to see how I could meet the dancers and the answer was pretty much “You have to be an invited guest.” I was determined and not taking that for an answer, so I walked around the building, making my way to stage door and just as I got there, one of the crew members was walking by and I asked her “Is this where I can meet the dancers?” She’s like “Yeah, come on in!” directing me and a small group of people who had also waited, back inside. Next thing I knew, I was inside the theatre with all those ‘invited guests’ and brought to meet the dancers! Made my way straight to JJ, who I had tweeted earlier that I was going to find a way to meet her, and had a nice little conversation with her! I probably wouldn’t have been able to do all that had I gone with a friend, because I know they wouldn’t want to and I’d feel bad if I made them do it (I’m selfless like that). Plus, ya know as years go by, it gets weirder going to the tour and the majority of the dancers are younger than me.

Same thing when I went to Toronto Comic Con in March. I only went on Saturday because that’s when everybody I wanted to see had their panels. It just worked out beautifully that I had time between each panel to roam the floor a bit. My schedule was: Killjoys panel, roam the floor, Will Friedle panel, floor for 20 minutes then head back in line to ensure I get a ticket for Dark Matter signing, Dark Matter panel, Dark Matter signing, Robbie Amell panel, floor, home. I could only do that here in Toronto and by myself; no way would I be able to do that at SDCC! So yeah, before the Dark Matter panel, I noticed Kristian Bruun from Orphan Black so I went to say hi to him, talk to him for a bit, and get a picture. At Robbie’s panel, Italia Ricci (Chasing Life, Supergirl) was also there, because they’re just an adorable couple. Anyways, after the panel I was about to leave when I thought “Let’s go see Italia!” Lots of other people had that thought as well, so there was a small group around her asking for a picture. When I got to her, I talked to her about Chasing Life and how excited I am about her new show Designated Survivor with Kiefer Sutherland, Kal Penn, and one of my other favourite human beings, Maggie Q. At the end of the day, I gotta say, I was super proud of myself for keeping my awkwardness in check in front of Kristian, Italia, and the Dark Matter cast (even when Melissa O’Neil and Anthony Lemke said they remembered me from SDCC)!

And going to the movies solo? Yeah, it’s a normal thing for me now. Like, for some of the big blockbuster movies, I used to wait and go see it with my sister and brother-in-law. I still do that for some movies, but for others, I just couldn’t wait for them so I would just go on my own. It’s to the point where, when I went to see Captain America: Civil War on the Thursday preview (because I REALLY COULD NOT WAIT), my sister was like “Yeah, I kinda figured you’d go without us.” For the record, they still haven’t found time to go see it, so yeah, I made the right choice.

Like I said before, I get so awkward and self-conscious in social situations that it kind of stopped me from doing things that I wanted to do sometimes. But nowadays, realizing that it’s perfectly fine to do things by yourself, and in fact, at times even better to do so? Well, the world is at your disposal, might as well go enjoy it! Honestly though, I’m still learning to be more self-assured, to basically be who I am and enjoy the things around me. I’m seeing now, more than ever, that it’s okay to be alone. I’m independent, I don’t need anybody else to do anything.

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Music/Lyric Therapy

Anybody who knows me would know that I’m a quiet person, who doesn’t talk a lot. Anybody who really knows me would know that I’m not so great with words and explaining things, which is why I’m usually quiet and would much rather listen to what everyone else has to say, then jump in only when I feel like I can contribute to the conversation. I’m kind of socially awkward that way. (The exception to all this being when you get me going on a really good entertainment subject, I can probably ramble on for a good while.) Over the years, I’ve been the one who is always there for my friends, support and encourage them, and especially while I was still in school, I was almost always the positive and optimistic one. Once real life kicked in though, it became hard for me to keep up that positive outlook. Some days, it actually feels like I can’t count anyone or turn to anyone for support. With my tendency of being quiet and letting everyone else talk about their problems, I’ve grown to internalize my problems and feelings, which is not incredibly healthy.

That’s where music comes in. Music is my therapy. It cheers me up when I’m in a bad mood. It sings the words that I can’t seem to let out and all the things that I’m feeling. Over the years I’ve learned to listen to the lyrics as much, if not more than the actual song itself. I found myself drawn to songs with lyrics (even if it was just one line) that I could relate to. Even if I gave the lyrics a different meaning than what was intended (which happens quite a bit), it still became important to me because someone had given words to what I was feeling.

This reminds me of something said from One Tree Hill:

You know, I got this theory that there’s two kinds of people in the world: There are lyric people and music people. You know, the lyric people tend to be “analytical,” you know, all about the meaning of the song. They’re the ones you see with the CD insert out like five minutes after buying it, pouring over the lyrics… interpreting the hell out of everything. Then there’s the music people, who could care less what the lyrics are, just as long as it’s got like, a good beat and you could dance to it. I don’t know, sometimes it might be easier to be a music girl and not a lyric girl, but since I’m not, let me just say this: sometimes things find you when you need them to find you. I believe that. And for me, it’s usually song lyrics.

Music and lyrics are my inspiration, what gets me through tough times. Over the years, I began to compile lyrics from numerous songs and artists that served as a catharsis to explain how I felt. This is by no means a comprehensive list, because it could go on forever, but just a sampling of music + lyrics that have put into words what I could never explain about myself.

SONG LYRICS

I’m asking for your help. I am going through hell. Afraid nothing can save me but the sound of your voice. – Maroon 5How

I’m getting tired of believing. Even sicker of pretending, that it’s not so bad, just wait it out. I think you’re feeding me lies again…And that’s how I feel right now, so just let me be – Kelly Clarkson “How I Feel”

Sitting in a big white room alone, Tilt my head back, feel the tears fall down. Close my eyes to see in the dark. I feel young, broken, so so scared. I don’t wanna be here anymore – Jessie J “Big White Room”

Don’t lose who you are, in the blur of the stars. Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing. It’s okay not to be okay. Sometimes it’s hard, to follow your heart. Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising, just be true to who you are – Jessie J “Who You Are”

When you lose what you love, live on live on. When the road gets too rough, be strong, be strong. What you can’t understand, but you’re starting to see, it’ll work in the end, you just got to believe and keep on – Tyler Hilton “Keep On”

All my life I’ve tried to make everybody happy, while I just hurt and hide, waiting for someone to tell me it’s my turn to decide – Sara Bareilles “King of Anything”

‘Cause when you’re in your darkest hour and all of the light just fades away. When you’re like a single flower, whose colours have turned to shades of grey. Well hang on and be strong – Delta Goodrem “Be Strong”

2am, where do I begin? Crying off my face again, the silent sound of loneliness wants to follow me to bed. I’m the ghost of a girl that I want to be most. I’m the shell of a girl that I used to know well – Christina Perri “The Lonely”

The girl I used to be has a terrible case of mistaken identity. – Delta Goodrem “Mistaken Identity”

When the static clears and all is said and done, I will realize that we all need someone. So when you see me crashing and there’s nowhere left to fall, will you lift me even higher to rise above this all? – Christina Aguilera “Lift Me Up”

I’m tired of looking ‘round rooms, wondering what I’ve got to do or who I’m supposed to be. I don’t want to be anything other than me – Gavin Degraw “I Don’t Want to Be”

And I know that it’s a wonderful world but I can’t feel it right now. Well I thought that I was doing well but I just want to cry now…But who am I to dream? Dreams are for fools, they let you down – James Morrison “Wonderful World”

In my life I don’t mean much to anyone…Some people say that I’m not worth it. I’ve made mistakes but nobody’s perfect – James Morrison “One Last Chance”

Some of us we’re hardly ever here. The rest of us were born to disappear. How do I stop myself from being just a number? How will I hold my head to keep from going under? – John Mayer “Vultures”

In the night we’re all looking for a guiding light, we’re all seeking something more than right. It must be there. Everyday, we’re all trying to find a better way. We’re all hoping for someone to say we’re almost there. We believe there’s a reason that we’re all here, that every doubt will disappear. We believe that tomorrow carries something new and after everything that we’ve been through, we believe – David Cook “We Believe”

I wanna think good thoughts. I won’t let the negativity turn me into my enemy. Promise to myself that I won’t let it get the best of me. That’s how I want to be – Colbie Caillat “Think Good Thoughts”

Please remind me who I really am. Everybody’s got a dark side. Do you love me? Do you love mine? Nobody’s a picture perfect, but we’re worth it, you know that we’re worth it – Kelly Clarkson “Dark Side”

Would you face me? Make me listen to the truth even if it breaks me. You can judge me, love me. If you’re hating me, do it honestly – Kelly Clarkson “Honestly”

I’m feeling like I always see them but they can’t see me. Hello, is anybody listening? Let go, as everyone lets go of me. Won’t somebody show me that I’m not alone…Wishing I was more than what my story has told…Holding on to the memories of when I didn’t know. Ignorance isn’t wise but it beats being alone  – Kelly Clarkson “Hello”

Why do I even try when you take me for granted? I should know better by now. It’s never too late to turn it back around. Don’t bury your demons deep in the ground – James Morrison “Up”

Now in life there’s gonna be times when you’re feeling low and in your mind insecurity seems to take control. We start to look outside ourselves for acceptance and approval. We keep forgetting that the one thing we should know is, don’t be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own. Love will open every door it’s in your hands, the world is yours. Don’t hold back and always know, all the answers will unfold – Christina Aguilera “Soar”

Now I’m sitting here alone in my bed. I’m waiting for an answer I don’t know that I’ll get. And I know there’s someone out there somewhere, who has it much worse than I do. It’s like I’m only tryin’ to dig my way out of all these things I can’t…These times will try hard to define me, but I will hold my head up high – SafetysuitThese Times

It makes me that much stronger, makes me work a little bit harder. It makes me that much wiser, thanks for making me a fighter. Made me learn a little bit faster, made my skin a little bit thicker, makes me that much smarter, so thanks for making me a fighter – Christina AguileraFighter

Hear me, I’m crying out, I’m ready now. Turn my world upside down, find me. I’m lost inside the crowd, it’s getting loud. I need you to see, I’m screaming for you to please hear me – Kelly ClarksonHear Me

Sometimes we fall, sometimes we don’t feel the crash at all. Sometimes we break, sometimes we’ve taken all that we can take. But tonight ain’t the end of the story, just keep turning the page. Don’t give into the heartache. Don’t give into the pain, this world will turn your way – Tyler HiltonThis World Will Turn Your Way

When there’s no one else, look inside yourself, and like your oldest friend, just trust the voice within. Then you’ll find the strength that will guide your way. You’ll learn to begin to trust the voice within – Christina Aguilera “The Voice Within”

I’m tired of hiding behind these lying eyes. I’m tired of this smile that even I don’t recognize – The WreckersThe Good Kind”

‘Cause someday maybe, somebody will love me like I need. And someday I won’t have to prove, ’cause somebody will see all my worth. But until then I’ll do just fine on my own – The WreckersCigarettes

Why do I try and make them happy? Why am I always playing nice? It isn’t easy trying to tell you, exactly what’s on my mind – The WreckersHard to Love You

Oh these times are hard, they’re making us crazy, don’t give up on me – The Script “For the First Time”

But I’m scared to death, that there may not be another one like this. And I confess, that I’m only hanging on by a thin, thin thread – Maroon 5 “Sad”

Throwback Thursday: Dancing Days

Dance Crew, my second family during my high school years. Can't believe this was 10 years ago!

Dance Crew, my second family during my high school years. Can’t believe this was 10 years ago!

I have made it known how much I love dance, ever since I was a little kid. I remember just dancing around to songs and then finding every opportunity in school to make up dance routines. I never asked for dance lessons because growing up in my house, it never going to be an option. Parents put me into piano lessons (of course), but that lasted two years before it got too much for us. So my dance education consisted of trying to learn choreography from music videos and such; to this day, it actually still is. When high school rolled around and I found out about Dance Crew, I knew I wanted to try out, even if I didn’t know what to expect from it.

Me being completely unsure of my dance ability, I was in shock when I made it past the first cuts, and then eventually got through to joining the Crew. As you would expect from any Crew, though not necessarily normal for a typical school team, we did everything ourselves: scheduling practices, choreographing, finding a teacher supervisor. Everything was us and while most of the choreographing was done by our Captain, it was still very much a group effort. For me, I found a place to learn dance, from people who loved dance even more than I did, and a creative outlet that I never thought possible.

From year to year, unless you graduated, quit or there were serious issues which caused you to be kicked out, we all stuck together as a team. We became friends and we became a family – a somewhat dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. In my sophomore year, I was slightly more confident, but still very insecure about my dancing abilities, so I always felt like they let me stay because I was loyal. I caused no drama; in fact, I hated the drama that sometimes went on, but I was committed to the Crew. The one time I questioned my commitment was towards the end of junior year. I had already ran for Co-President of Student Council and lost; got over it after a day or so and chalked it up to a VERY BAD Friday the 13th. Now, our Captain was going to be graduating that year and we had to nominate/vote for Co-Captains next year; I had thought that being next in terms of seniority I would be somewhat in charge. Boy, was I wrong. I mean I knew I wasn’t the best dancer or choreographer in the Crew, but that’s why we were voting for Co-Captains and I would handle the logistical stuff. To be overlooked completely though? Yeah it hurt. Sure, it was just a title, doesn’t mean that I felt betrayed somehow, like my loyalty/commitment/care for the Crew meant nothing. I didn’t talk to any of them of a solid week and for high school, that was a long time. I remember needing to think things over and re-analyze my position in the Crew. It took some time but ultimately, I had to put those hurt feelings aside and realize that I couldn’t spend my senior year not dancing with them. They did kind of make it up to me when I graduated though.

There were a lot of good times and a lot of bad times, but when I said that we were like a family back then, I meant it. We had each others’ backs. The bunch of us may have gone our separate ways after high school, as often happens. However, the memories are still there, and even with everything that happened during my time, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Dance Crew made my high school experience better than what it would’ve been without it.

 

My Blog as a Mixtape

Joie Fatale of Confessions of a Book Pimp wrote a post recently called  “My Blog as a Mixtape”, and thinking that it’s a really cool idea, I got inspired to do it for Pop Cultured Randoms. The challenge is pretty self-explanatory: make a mixtape – five songs on side A, five songs on side B – that encapsulate what the blog is all about.

Now Pop Cultured Randoms is and always has been an extension of who I am: a fan of all things pop culture – music, movies, television. Trying to define the blog in a mixtape however, has turned out to simultaneously be a fun and difficult task. I don’t want this to simply be a compilation of my favourite songs because that’s a hard task and honestly, it’d end up being like 100 songs with half of it being comprised entirely of Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 songs. That being said, seeing as how I often blog about my favourite artists and whatnot, it’s inevitable that my favourites will indeed be included in this playlist.

Here we go…

SIDE A – Pop Favourites

  1. Justin Timberlake, Let the Groove Get In – I can’t not have JT in a mixtape and though this track isn’t my absolute favourite of his, it is just so much fun to dance to.
  2. Kelly Clarkson, How I Feel – This jem from Kelly’s underrated third album “My December” is pretty much me in a nutshell. The title itself is also very indicative of the blog; I write about how I feel on various pop culture things, so just let me be.
  3. Maroon 5, Sweetest Goodbye – Picking a M5 was so hard but ultimately, I just ended up with, no question, my favourite song of theirs, which happened to stem from “Songs About Jane.” The song is everything I love about M5 – the fusion of pop, rock, R&B; a kind of slow-burning love song that builds to a climax featuring Adam’s longing vocals and the band just jamming, made all the more euphoric when you hear them perform this song live. DAMN I LOVE THIS SONG!
  4. Kyle Riabko, The Rules of the Game – We have a lot of talent coming out of Canada and one of my favourites is Kyle Riabko. He’s an incredibly talented singer-songwriter and actor, who has done quite well for himself on Broadway (he took over for Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening back in 2008, went on to Hair, and most recently starred in What’s It All About, a reimagination of Burt Bacharach classics for which he arranged the music). I am Canadian and though I don’t regularly acknowledge Canadian talent, do go and check out Kyle’s discography, which is filled with an incredible amount of soul and a hint of indie folk rock.
  5. Delta Goodrem, Waiting for Forever – I’m a little fuzzy on how exactly I came across Delta in the first place, but I’ve been a fan of this Australian singer/songwriter for 10 years. Even as she dives deeper into the pop sound, she holds onto her core of piano-driven songs and thoughtful lyrics.

SIDE B – Random

  1. Tony Lucca, Baby One More Time – This song is a reminder of what I loved when I was growing up (Britney Spears, pop music) and how much (or little, it’s debatable) my tastes have changed. What I have always loved is a good cover, and this one done by Tony (who was on the Mickey Mouse Club back in the day with Britney, JT, X-Tina, Ryan Gosling) on the second season of The Voice was just all kinds of genius.
  2. Gavin DeGraw, I Don’t Want to Be – “I don’t wanna be anything other than me”; how is that not everyone’s motto? As much as we try to run a successful blog/life/whatever, at the end of the day we just have to do what works for us. The song was also the theme for one of my favourite TV shows One Tree Hill, so this song will always have a special place in my heart. Plus, now every time I see Gavin in concert performing this song, I picture the OTH finale with the whole gang singing along.
  3. Jay-Z & Linkin Park, Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer – Here’s where we get truly random. If you actually met me in person, I don’t think you’d expect me to be a fan of either of these acts, let alone the fact that Collision Course is quite possibly one of my favourite albums. I love me a good mash-up, which by extension brings forth the fact that I love a lot of different music, and this entire album was filled with them. The rap and alternative rap-rock melds so well and truly personifies the random part of the blog.
  4. Legally Blonde the Musical, There Right There – My adoration for musicals is a lot more believable than the Jay-Z/Linkin Park pairing. Say what you will, but Legally Blonde is one of my favourite movies (I will always stop to watch it if it comes on TV) and not surprisingly, I fell in love with the musical. With this song, it’s equal parts silly and awesome.
  5. Thanh Bui, Mirror Mirror – Holding onto my Vietnamese heritage is something that’s important to me and one of the best ways for me to do that is through music. Every once in a while I’ll blog about a Vietnamese entertainment show called Paris By Night. PBN is amazing to me because though its focus is on Vietnamese culture and music, it is by no means just some concert. The production is actually done by Hollywood standards.; they hire the best in the business from their directors, lighting, camera crew, dancers, etc. This song in particular appeared in PBN 96 as a featured performance by Thanh Bui, a singer/songwriter out of Australia (he was a contestant on Australian Idol), and what makes it so special is that it’s actually written/performed in equal parts English and Vietnamese. It’s a pop song in the veins of OneRepublic (circa the “Apologize” days) and so well-crafted, it pleases me to no end to have a song that melds all these parts of me (Vietnamese, Canadian, music fan) into one.

Geez, that was difficult. You have no idea how many changes I made and what songs almost made the cut, but in the end, I’d say this is a pretty decent mixtape that properly represents Pop Cultured Randoms.

Thanks again Joie for the idea!