Monday, August 15, 2011
To Make a Life Different
"How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference?"
This is not a question from me; this is the title of a book that we used in this Thailand trip. To be honest, when Dr. Dena asked us to buy this book, I laughed. In nature, I’m not the type of person who’s good at thinking about something; I’m better at just doing something. Indeed, my experience of using this book was quite painful, because I had no idea how to answer those deep and big philosophical questions. Even right now, typing this blog is murdering my brain cells; I’m just so poor at analyzing myself and exposing my thoughts. But I told myself, this is what I have to do. If I want to give a meaning to all these days in Thailand, if I want to find an answer for what I should do after this trip, if I want to mark down this milestone in my life … I have to type all these words out.
Genes, education, and environment built my competitive and ambitious personality. In my mind, my life cannot be mediocre and common; my life must be different and outstanding, otherwise, it has no meaning. Indeed, before entering college, I was always the top student in all areas and had never really met any big challenges. However, the college life in US was much more difficult than I had ever expected. The first weekend in US, I walked three hours to Walmart because I didn’t know buses would not run on Sunday, and of course there was no taxi on road. The first week after school started, I slept for only 15 hours in the whole week in order to understand all the lectures and finish all the assignments. The first Thanksgiving at KU, I stayed in a temporary dorm room alone for seven days, and apples and donuts were the only food I had. The first final week in college, I kept awake for 40 hours to prepare for all the exams. The first summer break at home, I was hospitalized three times, because overwhelmed stress and unfamiliar environment destroyed my health … Slowly, I began to doubt my decision. Why did I choose to study in a foreign country that has completely different culture? Why did I choose to be away from my family? Why did I choose to make my life so hard? If I didn’t decide to be a music therapist, would my life be easier and happier? Is this what I really want to do for my entire life?
I kept questioning myself. My stress was accumulated and finally reached the top last year, when I started my practicum at school and found out how difficult it was for an international student. Right before going to Thailand this summer, I just had a battle with my parents about my future, and got on the plane with tears in my eyes.
During the first week in Thailand, I was not doing very well. Besides all the environmental issues and life difficulties, I still remembered that in my first Thailand trip in 2008, I was the only one in the group who could not contribute very much in discussions. Those embarrassing memories pushed me to an anxious and depressed mood. However, the situation changed in our first observation in Sirindhorn rehabilitation center. In the session with a group of adults, Karn used a Chinese song which was very popular in 70’s. When I heard the familiar music, I was so shocked that I almost jumped up. I would never imagine hearing such a song in such a situation! With questions in my heart, after the session, I privately asked Karn why he chose this recorded music instead of popular Thai songs. He told me that many of these clients were immigrants from China; they really loved those songs.
Well then, will it be the only opportunity for me to contribute to this trip?
Once having this idea, I started to plan my clinical work. I tried to convince my teammate that Chinese songs would be very effective for this population, and I got great support from them. I talked with Karn about what songs I could use and how I should use them. I spent hours to loop a song and memorized all the lyrics. Then, on the first day I led the session with older adults, I knew I found something. Just like a firework was released in the darkness, a new way was lightened for me. I realized, although language was always my biggest weakness, when the cultural barrier was crossed, I could be equally good, or even better than everyone else. I finally found my place and value, because this was something that only I could do.
The success of first clinical experience brought me great confidence, which was so important for me at that time. In following practicum, I became more open and more creative. Also, because my worries about language and culture were released, I became more cooperative in group work. My effort was rewarded by all kinds of touching moments. In my journals, following notes began to appear –
“Jun. 14 – today, a gentleman requested me to sing a song for the group, even though I was not leading the session. He said my singing was No. 1!”
“Jun. 28 – today, an old lady cried when I started singing. She had no facial expression at all before. Her daughter told me she was very happy to hear these songs again.”
“Jun. 30 – today is the last day for clinical work. The nurse spoke with me in Chinese, “Xie xie, ni de ge hen hao ting (Meaning: Thank you. Your singing was great.).”
The last night before leaving Thailand, I opened my journals, reviewed all the words and all those moments. Suddenly, a lightning crashed in my heart – isn’t it the answer I have been looking for?
So far in my life, I had spent so much time to chase after glories, to compete with everyone else, to make my life different and meaningful. I had spent so much time to move toward my goal, but ignored the pleasure and joy along the road. I had spent so much time to push myself higher and higher, but forgot to take a break and really think about what I wanted.
Maybe, just maybe, after hearing my songs, these clients will have a sweet dream. They may recall some old memories about hometown and chatter with their families. Or maybe after a long time, they might still remember that one day, a young music therapist from China sang a song for them and brought them pleasure – and they may not know that, the young therapist from China, will also remember their smiles forever.
How lucky I am to witness their joy? How lucky I am to bring pleasure to so many people? How many people will be as lucky as me, to have the chance to participate in the process of change a person’s life?
And now I am sure, there will be no way for me to abandon music therapy, because I would never get the same pleasure and excitement from anywhere else.
How many people does it take to make a difference?
To be honest … I don’t know.
But I can say, when I am making others’ life different, my life is also becoming different.
Question: What is one thing that you value most or motivates you the most in your current life?