As a performing artist, I am almost always on the road. Going from city to city, country to country, I encounter new and outrageous things all the time. It’s a life filled with new people, weird places and exciting adventures, and strangers tend to be intrigued by my transient ways. But a recent conversation with a Melbourne taxi driver made me examine what my life is about and what I do.
The conversation started mundanely enough: “Where are you going? The airport? Where are you flying?” After I went down the list — New York, London, Berlin, et cetera — he caught me off guard.
“When are you going home?” he asked. Normally, I would have given a pat answer about returning home to New York in a few weeks to regroup before heading out on the road again. But this time, I found that I couldn’t answer.
I was brought back to a simple exercise I had undertaken in a poetry class years ago: each student had to finish a sentence with the first answer that popped into their head. My sentence: “I’ve always wanted to...”; and my answer: “...come home.”
Home is a difficult concept to me. Home is, for me, a place where I can relax, reflect, be who I am. I never feel this way in my New York City apartment. There, I’m always busy preparing for the next trip. In fact, the only place I really feel the peace of home is on stage. There, I find my center. There, I connect with the music and the audience.
I’ve always wanted to... come home.
I was born in Korea and moved to America when I was eleven, and I’ve never felt wholly comfortable speaking either language. But on stage, music serves as the only language I need.
It’s a strange dichotomy. For the audience, the concert is often an escape, one where they can temporarily leave the world behind and immerse themselves in the mystery and beauty of music. But for me, the concert is an arrival, not a departure. Everything in my life culminates in that precious musical moment. It’s that feeling of arriving at a familiar, heart-warming place that we all associate with home.
So when I’m back in New York and my friends say to me, “Oh, it must be nice to be home for a few days,” I’m thinking otherwise: I’m just getting ready for my next journey “home.”
This article originally appeared in Listen: Life with Music & Culture, Steinway & Sons’ award-winning magazine.
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