The years from 2011 to 2016 were the hardest time of my life. Despite the honor of becoming Dr. Kim with a doctoral degree in piano performance from one of the most reputable music schools - the Indiana University, my life was upside down.
I went through a difficult and unexpected divorce, due to my ex-husband's drug addiction. Not only did I lose the person I loved, the well-being of our close circle of family and friends has never been the same since. From this experience, I finally opened my eyes to the dark reality of drug addiction and its extreme difficulties.
I did not have an agent at the time or any concert engagements lined up. My hope of becoming a professor at a university or concertizing internationally was far from reality. When I relocated to the West Coast, I was jobless and didn’t know anyone. All of my family members lived in Korea. I was alone. In every corner, all I saw was darkness — I was in survival mode to crawl through this dark tunnel.
Dreaming something for the future was unthinkable at the time. I considered it a success if I made through the entire day without breaking down.
I remember music being my only solace, as it had always been. I kept practicing piano to reconnect with myself and the universe. At least in that artistic realm, I was safe and free.
Living in San Diego since 2015 has been a blessing to my healing process. Even in the darkest moments, that Southern California sunshine always came through to remind me that all is well. I realized that I could still laugh at silly jokes, foods still tasted great, and the ocean breeze felt pleasant on my skin.
And just like that, I was gradually developing a muscle to not only survive, but to thrive in this life.
That was when I decided to embark on an idea for my first album, 10 More Minutes. It began through a Kickstarter crowdfunding project with a total pledge of $30,000. I wanted to create an album which captures that special feeling of wanting just ten more minutes of whatever it is that gives you pure bliss. I recorded a selection of pieces which reminded me of a warm hug from a dear friend, when you really need one.
I said to myself, "People would love it! I can share my oasis with the world."
At times of despair, I found a glimpse of hope that I can get up again.
Even though I was skeptical of project's success, I was willing to bet on myself. I knew going into it, there was no loss in this attempt. I thought to myself, ‘If I am able to get funded, I will fulfill my dream of creating and sharing my first album with the world. If I am unable to get funded, I will learn from it and gain momentum to move forward.’
Asking for donations from friends and strangers was a humbling experience. I had to practice delivering the same sentences over and over again, before even mentioning the project funding. Accepting a "no" as an answer was not an issue for me, as I didn’t take it personally. I, however, felt terrible for those who might have felt guilty by saying no. I did not like that I might be putting them in an awkward position.
Somehow, a miracle occurred.
$10 here, $20 there, $1,000 sometimes… or more.
Donations started to roll in one by one.
More people were enthusiastic about the project than I initially thought.
They said, “I can’t wait to listen to the album. GO FOR IT!” “I love your music. I hope your dream comes true.” “Thank you for creating this music for us.” “We love you, Jeeyoon!” “What a great idea!” “Cheering for you!”...
Every dollar donated to the project had a message of encouragement attached.
I felt supported, encouraged, lifted, and surrounded by love.
After completing the crowdfunding campaign, I flew to New York to record the album. I shared every step of the progress with my supporters about my whereabouts, the look of my cover shots, and how far along I was with the album.
The moment the finalized album arrived at my doorstep, I shared it excitedly with my supporters and friends. They were as excited as I was, if not more. The 2016 album release of 10 More Minutes was a celebration that I shared with the world.
“WE DID IT TOGETHER!”
Yes, I was the one who played the piano and recorded the album, but it would not have come to fruition without the wind in my sails created by all the wonderful supporters. I was merely playing my role in a much larger endeavor.
I was a messenger of music.
That was it. That was how I found my mission.
The moment this album became a reality, I was reborn as an artist.
In every new project, concert, and album, I have that mission in mind.
‘How could I serve? How could I share more? How could I be more of a messenger of music, so that people can receive its healing and uplifting powers?’
Some might say that it is a story of great luck, and some might say that it is a story of triumph.
I would say that it is a story of love.
My life did not offer me a shiny red carpet path. Jagged rocks and dusty roads trained me to become who I am today - the Jeeyoon that you know. I am forever grateful for the wisdom I have gained from my life's darkest valleys.
Whenever I face a new challenge or when I feel discouraged by my own criticism, I need to hear my story again. A journey that I am currently on. A reminder to myself of all the mountains that I have climbed, giving myself a much needed lift.
We all have a story. It doesn't have to be enormous or earth-shattering. The truth is that we all have come far from where we began. The storyteller and author, Mathew Dicks, emphasizes that one must view his or her life story as a journey - an adventure worthy of investment, excitement, and continuous movement forward.
Rather than looking at your life through the small lens of the immediate moment or an ominous unknown future, we must expand our views to all that came before and all that could be. Take credit for your achievements. Try to view this very day as a scene in a greater story you can tell yourself.
Please tell your story. Especially to yourself.
When the story of your battles and their eventual victories is alive in your heart and mind, you will see that the next battle is nothing you can't overcome.
It was true for me.