After living in the residence hall for all four years of my undergraduate journey, it was time to make that call for independence, starting with the way I live my life.
Every year, the Juilliard dorm cajoles me to remain in its embrace, appealing to my preference for familiarity and efficiency. With its tight security and the light the lobby emits day through night, it was my safe haven. Its prime location in Lincoln Center was attractive for convenient living, being a two-minute walk to school, a five-minute walk to the major performance landmarks, and most importantly, a stone's from the subway station that gets us anywhere in Manhattan and beyond.
They always say experiences define you. The truth is, the quotidian timing and placement of these events are what propel us to distinguish choices and make wise decisions in our favor. Our intuition becomes our guide at the right junctures. My desire to move out of the dorm once I started working on my master’s was not a sudden revelation but rather a sentiment that manifested gradually while I lived on campus. Happy memories, sleepless nights, friendship dramas, and golden views from the 17th, 24th, and 25th floors I lived on were all part of the package that taught me to cherish what growth entails. Over the years and my two double and two single rooms, I left traces of my solitude, shadows of people I cared for, and love as well as regret for certain things I did. Emotionally, I became attached to this place as I reconciled my homesickness for Singapore with its newfound meaning of home and acceptance but at the same time, I felt empowered by all these experiences to welcome new explorations and changes to my environment. Finding a place outside these walls seemed to promise me greater freedom to breathe and to realign my focus on well-being
At the forefront of change is uncertainty, which can either hinder or challenge one to overcome difficult situations. I was a newbie at apartment renting and finding, so I wound up having to learn the rules from ground zero and even paid a huge broker fee (a major lesson to be wary of early impulses). In the end, it was, to an extent, worthwhile and the selection was swift—I was immediately captivated by the second place I visited. What first caught my eye in this tiny studio apartment on the Upper West Side were the pink walls, toilet, and sink in its little bathroom. My favorite color unadorned, the fresh air from Central Park adrift, and the peaceful quietude all in one place. After some help dolling up the place and installing furniture, it became my home where I can truly rest at ease in my own pace and time. Here, music can happen more than in a dorm—in between extra books lying on the new, spacious Ikea bookshelf, on my speakers playing weekend afternoons, out of my unabashed lips as I sing and create, and from my very own Chinese dulcimer.
The limited space only allows a small snack table as my dining table, which only fits two-to-three people, if we squeeze. Sometimes I notice a small ant, other times, a little spider. On certain days (especially Tuesdays), I hear a neighbor repeating that same phrase again and again relentlessly on what sounds like an out-of-tune upright piano. Dogs of all sizes and cuteness levels leave trails of their furry scent on the lobby carpet, and it is still hard to tell which belongs to whom. All these remind me that I am living in a real city full of vibrance and variety. That there is so much life to witness in the common folk and scenery around me, in the most therapeutic manner of accidental deliverances.
More than a month in and I am still enjoying my morning walk to school past coffee shops and fruit stalls, the accompanying sounds and scents, and the sight of yellowing leaves atop paths that pigeons and I tread.
Attend a student performance on campus.