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And Then There Were Three

That’s what Myoung Jae said on Friday night, after I talked to the guys.

Short version: I’ve left the band. Not easy, but something I felt necessary for me. No bitterness, no big fight, like the stupid way people leave bands on TV and in movies… no drama like that; just a kind of slightly sad, “See you later,” and a lot of gratitude that’s probably too unspoken, as I nonetheless turn my energies to other things.

Long version follows:On Friday night the band had a practice, and I played as best I could though, with some of the new songs I really found nothing for me to do in them. Thats not surprising, though, as one of them was worked uo while I was indisposed with the cold and the meds and all that. We did play Kol-Mok-Gil, which I have to say was fun; I’ve always thought that was a good version of the song, but never having heard the original I just go by what I imagine it must have sounded like.

But this was not the usual practice night. I’d spent a lot of time thinking about the conclusion I’d come to and finally I had actually, really come to that conclusion. So on Friday night, I told the guys that I didn’t want to play with the band anymore. I asked whether they would like me to keep playing for a while, like till December, to give them time to, you know, smooth the transition, or whether making the shift to being a trio would be easier than that for them.

Myoung and Thai agreed that it was up to me, and that they thought playing as a trio had gone fine, recently, so it wasn’t a big problem for them.

Thai and Seong Hwan—especially Seong Hwan—seemed to find it difficult to understand my decision. Maybe Myoung Jae did too, but he seemed to know what was behind it a little more clearly. I could tell that he knew what the bottom line was, in my heart: I just didn’t want to play gigs, to travel… simply put, to “do it” anymore. “If I didn’t want to do it, I would just say it, like you,” he said, and that was something I found very supportive, understanding. I tried to explain about how so many ideas have been flooding my mind, especially lately, how I really feel compelled to just put all my energy into writing and studying now, which maybe was not a fair thing to explain, though it really is for me a question of priorities and writing is a higher one, one I need to focus on now. Still, I am not so much “quitting the band for my writing” as leaving because in my headspace—which is very good right now—I can’t help but feel begrudging about other demands on my time, which is unfair to everyone else in the group, who happily gives their time. I’d rather be studying, writing, reading, simply put.

One thing Myoung said has stuck with me: “We’ve just been together so long, it’s like a breakup. That’s why it’s hard.” I really agree, and it wasn’t easy for me to walk away from the band like that. It took me forever to get past all the petty excuses, the little resentments that I think I was trying to use to justify what was a lot simpler thing: that I just didnt want to be in a rock band anymore, to put my energy into that anymore. But it was hard, because of the amount of time we’ve been together. “I feel as if I’ve dumped a pretty girl!” I said.

“Are we that pretty?” Myoung asked.

“Well, I’ve seen you guys in dresses,” I said, alluding to the gig a couple of Halloweens ago, when, in drag, we gave a show and launched our first CD. “Thai’s pretty… you’re just kind of slutty.”

Seong Hwan seemed to take it hardest. I felt awful as he tried to express his feeling about all of this, and I couldn’t understand parts of it. He used the word 아싶다 to say how he felt, but none of us could understand it. (Lime told me later it means, “Incomplete… unrealized… so very sad… and something you keep thinking about.” He sent me text messages and even called me late that night, all the while carefully saying he understood I was following my feelings and my own heart, but that he wished the band would stay together. It was, I think, really hard for him.

But really, in truth, it is hard for me too. I think perhaps for me it’s even more hard, because my time in Korea and my time in the band have almost been synonymous: I joined the band a few months after coming here and have remained a member ever since. The regularity of meeting for practice, of being together even despite tensions; the comfort of being a member of something that is doing well—and the band is doing well, no matter what—and the consolation of being with friends and having something “to do” no matter whether I feel great or down, and even a very important dimension of a friendship that I’ve shared with Myoung, Thai, and Seong Hwan for two and a half years now. I suspect I shall pull through, but I also suspect I shall feel keenly these losses, regardless of how fulfilled I feel and how happy I am doing those other things I’ve been wanting to do.

The band was many things for me, not just—as I occasionally grumbled—a bugbear. One often tends to say the negative aloud, and keep the positive secret in his heart, or at least, one does when one is me. I realize that ‘s one of my failings, something I need to work on in the future. Being in the band was an unarguable good for me, even in the times when I resented the work it entailed, even when I whispered to myself, “Not another trip to Seoul…” These three guys I’ve played with for so long occupy a special place in my mind, in my heart, in my life.

But my time had come, plain and simple. I have other things, many other things, that I need, honestly need, to be doing, and so I just need to follow the way that seems right to me.

Recently I’ve thought back to when my friend Hadden and I were leaving Iksan, a year ago. He said he felt a little happy about where he was headed (India) but also a little sad to be leaving, and said that he thought this was the best way to leave any place. When Lime asked me how I felt about this decision I’d made, I told her that story. She’d been very careful to listen to me when I talked about this feeling I had, but not to influence me in either direction—at one point she even explcitly made sure it had nothing to do with her. Rather, she pointed out when my own expectations were unreasonable, when I was justifying things to myself; but otherwise she patiently waited as I deliberated through what she was the first to admit was a really difficult and even painful decision. It was exactly the support I needed.

I should note that Myoung suggested, if I like, I could still be the band’s “session man” for recordings, as they’re hoping to keep recording until the summer comes again. Recording, I’d be more than happy to do, assuming the other guys are comfortable with me in that capacity. It won’t be the same, but it will still be good. For music, I think I need to take some time off being in a band, and just spend some time alone. I’ll give it a month or two and then start practicing, especially the soprano I think, and maybe the flute.

In any case, to make sure this whole decision was not in vain, I should turn to those many things I have said I need to do. It’s a fine Sunday morning and I am full of energy and ideas, and it’s time to get them cooking.

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