Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's in a name?

Each of my sibling's names is based on a Chinese proverb. My older sister and I share a four-character proverb that means being wholehearted and single minded. My sister's name, Yat-Sum literally means "one heart." My name is the "single minded" bit, but the literal translation is less straightforward. Yat-Yee means "one intention/mind/desire." The "Yee" part of Yat-Yee is a character that doesn't have a firm meaning but takes on different shades of meaning depending on context. Many characters in Chinese are like that, it makes the language so much more fluid and rich but also ambiguous at times. I secretly believe (not so secretly anymore) that the fluidity and ambiguity of the language has affected how Chinese people relate and talk to one another, but that's the topic for another day.

My parents probably had high hopes that we would grow into our names, and my sister is indeed a passionate person who pursues her dreams wholeheartedly. Good ol' One Intention over here, however, er, can't decide which one of her passions to focus on. So far, the solution has been to pursue one thing at a time. Although I've always loved books and art as much as music, it was music that hooked me first. I threw myself into music beginning in my teens and went to college and grad school as a musician. In the early part of my career, I was one of those fortunate people who loved what they did for a living (although financial wise, it wasn't much of a living.)

Twenty years and a child later, the itch to write began to intensify. I had been writing all along, of course, but always on the side. With a fussy sleeper in a house built in a open floor plan (read: whatever sound you make in one room is heard in the entire house), I couldn't practice much. The timing was perfect.

These days, my work is done on a different keyboard, but it is the same slogging over mechanics and technique, nurturing the creative mind, judging the results as an objective third party, booing the failures, cheering the progress, second guessing the choices, walking the fine line between control and freedom, all in glorious solitude.

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