Chapter 654

Choi Gyeonmi thought about her past. She was an actress who had gained a decent amount of fame in the drama industry after debuting through a play. Although she stayed as a TV actress without being able to cross that wall into the realm of film, she wasn’t disappointed. There were people who recognized her, colleagues who she could work with, and above all, a loving family. She wasn’t that desperate for success. She had the confidence, but she was afraid of slipping. Rather than tasting failure after poking her head around in the film industry, she thought that it would be for the best if she kept playing supporting characters in dramas. That is, until she got divorced.

Divorce didn’t come to her suddenly. Just like how a newborn baby would eventually graduate from their mother’s breasts, divorce found its way to her after a suitable amount of time. It wasn’t that her relationship with her husband had gone bad. The relationship she had with her two daughters was just like others as well. There were no problems and life was smooth. It was her husband who showed her the divorce papers. Her husband was a gentle man who had deep thoughts. When he showed her the papers and apologized to her, she nodded without a word. She thought that there must be a reason for him to do that even though he was cautious about his every move. Gyeonmi just had that much faith in her husband. Marriage failures didn’t always happen after a dramatic event. The break occurred very slowly. Their two daughters said that they would follow their father. Her husband was a director at a large pharmaceutical company, so he was more than capable of taking responsibility for their two children.

After breaking up, Gyeonmi challenged the film industry. Although the challenge of an actress past her forties did not attract anyone’s attention, Gyeonmi did not mind. She wanted to put a burden on her body that had been lightened. She tried to fill that absence of the weight that was her family with work. In 1990, she got her first film script. Since this was her first try, she went about the shoots with the mind of a rookie. The film she tried her hardest for went bust halfway through the production. Everything stopped. The director waited for a few months before he started working on another film, and other actors were also selected for various other commercial films, but Gyeonmi didn’t have anywhere to go. A rumor started circulating. An ahjumma with half-assed acting is being a pain.

One of the pillars that supported Choi Gyeonmi collapsed into rubble. She believed that she would be able to stand up again, but that was her being arrogant. Only then did she find out that one of the pillars that supported her had collapsed already. It was the pillar known as family. From then on, the acting skills of her juniors started catching her eyes. Acting techniques were developing rapidly by the day, and likewise, shooting equipment and techniques were also improving rapidly. As the importance of post-sync recording decreased, the very concept of acting changed as well. Dramatic acting became more focused on placing importance on the ordinary. It didn’t take that long for the skills she had polished through plays to become outdated. Her colleagues started quitting their acting career one by one. The ones that managed to adapt to the new norm belonged to a minority. Unfortunately, Gyeonmi didn’t belong to that minority.

It wasn’t that her livelihood was in danger because she had saved up quite a lot, she now no longer found any reason or fun in life. Humans probably weren’t born in order to spend their time doing nothing before their life came to an end. She fought her best in order to become the actress Choi Gyeonmi, and although she tasted failure, she did not want to despair and collapse on the spot. She needed an opportunity to leap. She was already branded as a failure as a mother, so she didn’t want her acting career to have the same branding. At least, she wanted to do something related to the entertainment industry.

It was around then that she was given an offer to teach children. Around that time, the debut age for entertainers had gotten lower because of idols, so the trend now was to try and raise child actors professionally. Gyeonmi accepted after thinking about it for a few days. She decided as such because she realized that she would no longer be able to continue as an actress. Teaching others about acting was something she had been doing when she was in the theater troupe, so she thought that there wouldn’t be any difficulties, but as with all matters, it didn’t entirely go the way she expected it to. Teaching the foundations of acting was easy. After all, those foundations would not change even if the era changed. The problem lay in form. Why did she have to step down from the entertainment industry? It was because her acting techniques were outdated. She was in a situation where she couldn’t let her students inherit her own acting. Gyeonmi started studying. She handed the children who were above a certain level to other teachers with the excuse that she wasn’t qualified. She once again realized that there was no end to learning as she chased down the latest trends. It was a duty of sorts for an actor to become sensitive to the trends. At the same time, they had to be not swept by those trends, and if possible, they had to be the ones leading it. She changed her vocal methods and her movements. She tried her best to learn what a ‘natural’ acting was and then tried to break it down so that she could standardize it and teach it to her students. She lived a much busier life than when she was an actress. Even when she was resting, she continued to think about such things. There were times when she woke up in the middle of the night to think about a natural pose for sleeping. It was tiring yet surprisingly fulfilling and fun.

Once she gained a bit of confidence, she started accepting children. In order to guide the young actors who didn’t have as much patience as the adults, their teachers had to have several times the amount of patience. She started teaching the children the acting style that she had discovered and nurtured. She was afraid of not being able to achieve anything with her teachings, but she tried believing in herself. Eventually, the results were out. The four students she had taught had all successfully managed to debut. One in a sitcom, two in a movie, and one in a drama. When her students, who received the spotlight, mentioned her name in passing and thanked her, Gyeonmi became assured that this was her path forward.

After that, she continued to accept a few children and taught them. The number of students she taught at the same time didn’t go past three. Getting to know people and teaching them was definitely not an easy thing, so having more than three tired her out physically. Every year, she produced two or three disciples. Among them were some who stopped without becoming big. Becoming perfectly successful was impossible.

Gyeonmi gathered the successful cases and thought about what she could do in order to increase the chances of success. However, the more she analyzed the children that stood out, the quicker she arrived at the conclusion that actors had to have something special. Effort was, yes, very important but even that effort had to be at the level of that ‘special something’. She couldn’t help but agree that the people who put effort into practice like their life depended on it had bestowed upon them the ‘talent to try hard’. The more she taught, the more she realized that talent was not distributed fairly.

Gyeonmi became cold from that moment onwards. She rarely said that trying hard would lead to success. She kept teaching the people who really put in the effort after hearing her words, but she immediately gave up on them the moment they tried to take a detour, even if it was just a small one. You should look into doing something else - Of course, even if she said those words, the children did not give up and looked for other teachers. Among them were people who managed to debut after having their skills acknowledged, but the overwhelming majority of them did not. Gyeonmi trusted her own discerning eyes.

Ever since her teaching ways became concrete, the students she took in were also ‘different’ from the rest. Innate acting talent, the one chosen by the god of acting, the one that makes everyone surprised - she was now in charge of the so-called ‘elites’ with fancy titles to their name at a young age. Like that, she had encountered a few incredibly surprising kids. There were times when she even felt jealous as she looked at the gemstone ores who rushed forward without stopping after she set a direction for them. The children with that much talent lived in a different world from the rest. However, even those geniuses sometimes failed to enter the entertainment industry. That ‘special something’ wasn’t restricted to elements about acting. The children who had developed an increased amount of something’ that they possessed as humans showed a higher level of acting than even the talented kids with special kinds of acting skills. There was something that surpassed form. Gyeonmi intuitively realized that that something should be her ultimate objective as an educator. Among the people that went past her, there were a few people who possessed that ‘something’. The one named Yang Ganghwan was one of them. He was crazy and that was put in a soft way. There was a boy named Hong Geunsoo as well. He was a lunatic. Other than these two, the children who possessed that ‘something’ were now at the center of the entertainment industry. Gyeonmi could guarantee that those two would one day join their ranks.

And, the two in front of her right now also clearly possessed that ‘something’.

“Teacher. Can we seriously stop for today?”

Heewon fell on the ground like melted ice cream. Gyeonmi snorted. Heewon sounded like he was lacking energy every single time, but he had never collapsed during practice. He was a guy who made other people shiver with his eyes despite looking like he was a fool. Gyeonmi had set an objective this year, and it was to see Heewon truly exhausted. Whether physically or mentally, she wanted to see his rock bottom.

Heewon was very special even among the students that she had taught until now. His emotional processing procedure was different from other peoples. Gyeonmi understood to a certain extent the concept of seeing color from emotions from his words, but she had no confidence in formalizing it. It was a cognitive ability only allowed to the human known as Lee Heewon. Gyeonmi focused on setting a direction for him to follow. It was hard to teach him since he strangely lacked any motivation, but as he was a kind kid at heart, he did listen if she asked him to. If he was stubborn, Gyeonmi would have given up on him as well. Even now, she would be having a hard time if not for Haewon. Gyeonmi believed in the existence of God whenever she looked at Haewon. Otherwise, there was no way such a bad kid would have a gentle brother like him. Haewon was both the carrot and the stick for Heewon.

“Let’s continue while we have time. Also, isn’t practice fun?”

Gaeul said that before she took a deep breath. Gaeul was also a special child to Gyeonmi. Until not too long ago, she was just one of the many children who had a refined form without that ‘special something’. She was taking care of her because of a request from the president of an agency she was close to, but she was rather skeptical about Gaeul. It was more likely that she would fail than succeed. How disappointed would she be when she realizes that what waited for her at the end of her path was the lack of qualities as an actress? Gyeonmi was worried about that. Not only that, she was taking the same class as someone who had a talent that couldn’t be explained with human words. She thought that Gaeul would become dejected soon and leave, but recently, Gaeul had become a completely different person.

Honestly speaking, she wanted to focus on Gaeul rather than Heewon right now. Heewon was a semi-perfect actor who only needed time, as his thought processing system was already perfect. In contrast, she still had a lot to teach Gaeul. They had a lot in common as ‘ordinary folk’ after all. Rather than Heewon, who was no different from an alien, it was natural that she had an easier time talking to Gaeul.

“We’re going to start again after taking a 10 minute break. Get ready,” Gyeonmi said to the two children.

She was fifty-six, the perfect age to teach two children.

* * *

Maru looked at Yuna, who was standing in front of him. He could smell something good from her. Did she put on perfume? He felt rather sorry because he thought that he made her concerned about looking good. It would have been fine even if she was in casual attire. Well, she was a girl after all, and since she was at an age where she cared about her looks, he could understand what was on her mind.

“You have something to say, right?”

“Eh?”

“I just thought so because you said you had to see me no matter what.”

“No, I was planning to just treat you to dinner because I promised last time.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

He decided to think of her as someone who could not live while being indebted to others. They walked side by side until he pointed at a kimbap restaurant in front of Suwon station. It was cheap and they could eat it quickly. It was the perfect choice. However, it seemed that Yuna didn’t like it.

“Can we go over there instead?”

The place Yuna pointed at was a fancy-looking family restaurant.

“That place looks expensive though.”

“It’s fine.”

“I’m not fine. I know how deep the pockets of a high school student are. I don’t want to get treated to something like that for listening to a couple of words. Also, I like kimbap.”

Just as he was about to open the door to the kimbap restaurant, someone pulled on his clothes. It was Yuna. She kept staring at the floor without saying anything, but he could understand her intentions.

“You’re quite stubborn.”

“It’s not like that.”

“You should save up and use that money when you go on a date.”

“I don’t have a boyfriend though.”

“I’m sure you’ll get one soon.”

“How do you know?”

“Just a feeling.”

Maru tried to go back into the kimbap restaurant, but Yuna didn’t budge as though she had taken root. It wasn’t like he could force her either. He was in a fix.

“Fine, let’s go then.”

He turned around, intending to give his credit card to the cashier before she could.

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Editor's Note:
Walls of text suck. Thank you for listening to my ted talk.