In April I travelled to Cape Town to spend some time with friends and family. That trip would turn out to be the first real vacation since I took on my job as the Director of the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Peranakan Museum.
I eased into a whole week where everything was taken care of by these old friends of mine I stayed with, who are like family. The museum was in good hands. I had just about completed my epic, 7-year Grand Tour of Asia. So for the first time, in a very, very long while, I had absolutely nothing I needed to achieve.
My sole responsibility each day was to get out of bed – which I duly did, of course, and always on time for breakfast (which was always painstakingly prepared for me).
What a luxury it was to have no museum to direct, no teams to lead, no stakeholders / patrons whose expectations I needed to live up to, no photographs to curate, no blogposts to write. Nothing at all whatsoever to do except to spend time with people who cared for me and only wanted the best for me; people with whom I felt absolutely safe and with whom I could be just Kennie.
Aside from meeting other friends and family, I spent that week mostly reading books and staring out into a beautiful view of mountain, ocean and setting sun, reflecting on what I had achieved in the last three years and what I ought to pursue next.
Professionally I’d say I’m doing well. I’ve grown tremendously on the job, and in ways I never expected.
I’ve always been an extremely shy and introverted person, even now. My idea of a perfect evening is one spent listening to music and reading a book at home – or wandering the streets of a city alone with my camera. But in the last three years the job has forced me into the spotlight, and I spend most of my waking life meeting people, facing crowds, delivering lectures and accepting media interviews as a semi-public-ish personality.
What a change from before!
I’m very happy to say that I am now able to confidently speak and lecture in public; to hold my own with some of the most important people on earth in serious conversation; to “work” a room with ease and at ease at museum events (despite a crippling fear of crowds and confined spaces); and to lead with purpose and grounded idealism a team of extremely passionate, ambitious and vocal professionals at the museum. All this while ALWAYS maintaining a child-like authenticity, sincerity and a generally optimistic attitude.
THIS – this professional and personal growth – has been the MOST important reward from taking on this job.
[I shan’t go into how I feel I’ve also reasonably succeeded in turning around the brand, profile, relevance and visibility of the Museum. That can come in the post marking my 3-year anniversary as Director, heehee.]
On the creative front, however, I am now at a bit of a crossroads. With last month’s final, concluding post on THE GRAND TOUR III – PORT AND PRINCELY CITIES OF THE SUBCONTINENT (and, by extension, my entire GRAND TOUR OF THE EAST), a very important creative project – one that has been an integral part of my life and has occupied most of my waking time outside of work these past 7 years – has come to a resolute end.
I must admit I am at a loss as to what next to do!
These past few months, I’ve been remastering and “releasing” old demos of songs I wrote almost 10 years ago. The reader would probably realise that these posts are really just for the purpose of “marking time”, as I figure out what next to pursue creatively, outside of work.
Because I believe it is important to have creative pursuits outside of work, to remind myself that there is a KENNIE TING that is not D/ACM-TPM.
Instinctively, I want to extend the concept of the Grand Tour, and dive deeper… perhaps into the cities of Java (I’ve ALWAYS wanted to take a train across Java and stop at all its fabled cities); or go further… perhaps on to the Historic Cities and Grand Hotels of the Middle East and Africa. Port Said… Cairo… Alexandria… Damascus… Zanzibar… Dar Es Salaam…
But part of me feels that it’s time to move on completely from photography, cities, grand hotels and historic travel. Therefore the music, because that has always been my first love. And because before I landed willy-nilly into the world of museums, I always thought that my destiny in life was to write musicals. =)
So who knows, perhaps by the end of this year, I would have resuscitated a project I had been working on some time back, but which I never seriously pursued – a work of musical theatre. I’ve been listening to the demos and I must say I’m rather pleased with them.
Or maybe you’ll see me next in Port Said, which was the Gateway port city to the Suez Canal and the East.
The creative spills over into the professional, of course. I am acutely aware that come September, I would have spent 3 years on the job at the Asian Civilisations Museum, and that to avoid being bored and stuck in a rut in 3 years time, I would probably need to figure out NOW what comes after that.
Hopefully I stay, but to stay at ACM would require a dramatic change in my situation… something I’m diabolically setting in motion right now… sorta kinda. Who knows if that will play out the way I want it to? =)
[On a side note, my life on the romantic and personal fronts has been in shambles – the job is an all-consuming one and in the course of it, I have lost a relationship, more or less; and I am barely spending time with family and friends. But that’s another story.]
So I thought anyways…
… as I nursed a pot of Darjeeling tea and snacked on lovely biscuits, perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, staring into the vast expanse of blue-water and cerulean-sky.
500 years ago, Vasco da Gama and his Portuguese conquistadors rounded this cape and made their inexorable way to India. The Portuguese would christen this cape Cabo da Boa Esperança, or “Cape of Good Hope”, because past this point lay the fabled spices and treasure of India and the Far East.
Past this point, was Opportunity and a change of Destiny.
The Cape of Good Hope was a turning point not just geographically (literally in terms of it marking the transition from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean); it was also a turning point in world history. For better or for worse, the world would never be the same again, once the Portuguese rounded the Cape.
And I thought that perhaps this year too, having finally rounded the proverbial “Cape” both on the creative and professional fronts (and also, to be fair, the romantic and personal fronts), the “world”, so to speak, may perhaps, also not ever be the same again for me from hereon.
The exact shape and form of this “world” is yet to manifest itself.
So, in the meantime, 我拭目以待, as the Chinese would say – I wait, post my blog posts on DREAM OF A CITY, experiment with as many things as I can, and see what appears eventually in the horizon.