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"This Is me"-songs that represent my 2018

I’ve never thought I would write.

I’ve never thought my stories would matter, why even bother to write.

Until this summer when I was working at a summer theatre, my roommate at the time held a little reading sharing a one-man play he just finished writing. I only knew him for a few days at the time, I knew pretty much nothing about his life, but surprisingly I was so moved by his childhood memories, his struggles, and the problems he is still dealing with. To me, that feels like nudity, but he shared it anyway with sincerity, proud, and a great sense of humor.

He told me afterward: "You should tell your own stories, even if it only touches one person. Or none.” He wasn’t the first one that encouraged me to write. But ever since his reading, this thought has been pacing back and forth in my mind. And there were several times in the past few months after moving in NY triggered me to write something. Then I got carried by other things, or doubt and fear.

But today, when I was working out at the gym; after finishing my new favorite podcast “The Good Parts” by Andy Grammar, I discovered a list on Spotify called “Your Top Songs 2018.” I clicked it open. The moment I saw the top few songs on the list, I saw different comic columns popping out in front of me and letting me browse through what I have been through this year. I am a very musical person (apparently), so many of my emotions and memories would attach to songs that I listen to at different time periods or songs that inspire me and walk me through ups and downs. So these songs truly represent my journey in 2018.

“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman

"God So Loved” by Hillsong Worship

"Dear Theodosia” from Hamilton

"I Think I Can Play This Part” from The Goodbye Girl

"A Puzzlement” from The King and I

“故鄉 Puyuma” by 陳建年

”One More Mile“ from Bubble Boy

“過程” by Soft Lipa

"10000 Reasons” by Matt Redman

So, here I am, sharing the story of the first song on the list- “This Is Me." Though I am still unsure if I should spend the time as I am typing those words down, there’s a voice in my head saying: “Even if no one sees it, or no one cares, at least you are doing this for yourself." Then I listened to the song once more, it kept me going.

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I'm meant to be, this is me.”

Some people might be annoyed by the number of times this song has been played and sung everywhere ever since it came out, but not me. Every time I hear this song, I am still touched by the drum beat and inspired by the lyrics.

This May, I choreographed “This Is Me” for our graduate dance showcase. It was the very first time I choreographed a piece that involves such heavy dance. If you know me, I hadn’t had any dance training before coming to SDSU (other than joining the Hip-Hop Dance Club in high school and college). But my professor and my colleagues trusted in me and bared with my craziness. And we did it. During that time, I listened to the song every day for two months, letting my body lead me to where it wants to go before setting any steps. Because I knew there’s a story my body wants to tell, and I can’t fake it until I feel it.

But the most important reason why this song is so precious to me is that my cohorts and I took our last bow together at SDSU after singing this song at our Commencement. These other seven people, who I sang, danced, rehearsed, lived, grew, laughed, and cried with every day for the past two years, were some of the best gifts I have ever had in my life.

We all came from different backgrounds, came for different reasons, but there was/is one thing that we all had/have is the love for musical theatre. And we believe that arts education is so crucial to society, especially under this very political climate. This group of people taught me how to fight for what is right; how to defeat failures; how to stand up for myself and what I believe; but most importantly, how to love and take care of the people around us.

Though we are scattered in different cities now, I know we are all standing strong fighting for our dreams and expressing love through our passion. Thanks for shaping me into who I am today.

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1 Comment

Angi Verstraete
Angi Verstraete
Dec 30, 2018

Fantastic words Leo. Waiting anxiously for the rest of the playlist. Keep writing.

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