Alas, before I have had a chance to decide on a New Year’s resolution, or decide whether to ditch the whole idea of making resolutions as suggested by some self-improvement gurus, we are nearing the end of January. A whole month has gone by in the blink of an eye and now there are only 11 months left to the year.
It is said that when you reach a certain stage in life, the passage of time feels different, that time appears to pass more quickly. Some experts attribute this to brain chemicals and brain mechanics, some to the fact that as we age, we become less productive and thus able to complete fewer tasks in a day and yet others point to the lack of new experiences for the feeling that time is flying as swiftly as an arrow. Apparently, if you are doing new and exciting things, you feel time to be passing more slowly. If you felt 2020 just whizzed you by, now you know why. The COVID-19 pandemic which has been keeping us mostly at home with minimal social interactions is the culprit.
’How brilliant!’ I thought, reading about the change in the perception of time as we age. This way, we would be spared long days of humdrum existence as we trudge towards the inevitable. Our creator really had thought of everything!
But that was a long time ago. These days, I wish the days would slow down. I wish that there were more than 12 months in a year.
I envy youth, for all the attendant possibilities, passion, vigor and the seemingly endless days. It is only when you are no longer in possession of a thing that you grow appreciation for it. Yet, I have no desire to be that age again. I have paid my dues and I know that memories are almost always rose hued.
I would rather be cheering them on, the young people who have just begun full-fledged adulthood. The young generation of today face an uncertain future. It was a decade ago that the term “3 Po Generation” was coined in reference to three things that the young generation had given up -- dating, marriage and children. The situation has not improved over the years -- you might say it has worsened -- and today, we talk about the plight of the “N Po Generation” as the number of things that young people give up continues to grow. We have failed abjectly at creating a better tomorrow for the young and the best I can do now is to encourage and support them from the sidelines as I watch them strive to make something of themselves while the odds are stacked against them.
Flipping through the TV channels last month, I happened upon “Sing Again,” a music audition show on JTBC. I was intrigued by the goal of the show -- to give due recognition to unnamed singers who have been struggling to be known.
One singer caught my attention with his obvious talent and command of the stage. I wondered how it was that someone with his abilities had remained mostly unknown.
It was not difficult to find clips of singer Lee Seung-yoon performing in small indie music venues, the audience often just as small, but demonstrating outsized enthusiasm. His performances are honest and sincere. And between songs, he says his name loud -- “I am Lee Seung-yoon.”
He had released his first two-track single in 2013 but felt like he was not getting anywhere, he had said in an interview. Once he decided some three years ago to fully devote himself to music, betting his all, Lee performed anywhere that would have him. In one year, he performed more than 200 times.
A video of Lee busking in front of the DDP, his back to the indifferent, passing pedestrians and car traffic, for me, symbolized the lonely struggle of a young person striving to realize his dream. And his dream is to have his music remembered, he said.
Who wins the top prize at “Sing Again” seems irrelevant now. Viewers have witnessed the hard work and the tremendous commitment of the contestants fighting to have their names be known. They deserve to be cheered for their valiant efforts. They are all heroes of their own lives.
And as we applaud their valor, perhaps some of us will be asking ourselves, “What happened to my dream?”
By Kim Hoo-ran (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kim Hoo-ran is the culture desk editor at the Korea Herald. – Ed.