Injury and Reinjury

Hey everyone, hope life is treating you well 🙂 In my case, life is currently hurling a lemon in my direction… Allow me to elaborate.

I’ve been having knee problems for over two years now. It started when I was training like crazy in rhythmic gymnastics. My ten years in gymnastics wore away at my knees, causing lots of inflammation in the tendons around my kneecap- i.e. Patellar Tendinitis, colloquially known as “Jumper’s Knee”. When I first started experiencing sharp pains, I kept it to myself, simply because I didn’t think it was anything too serious. After all, it’s normal for competitive athletes to experience some physical discomfort, considering the physical strain they put on their bodies. However, it soon became apparent that the pain I felt in my knees was not soreness– it was much more painful and did not go away. I finally told my parents about the knee pain after the 2012 competition season. They took me to several doctors, who all told me the same thing: I had Patellar Tendinitis in both knees, and the only solution was lots of rest and physical therapy, and don’t do anything that aggravates my knees. That is, quit gymnastics.

Had my parents not forced me to quit, I would have happily continued to grit my teeth through the pain and continue gymnastics– in retrospect, a foolish mindset, but also one that illustrates how much I loved my sport.

The injury took a greater emotional/psychological than physical toll on me. My whole life up until that point, I had devoted myself to gymnastics, sacrificing a carefree childhood, a social life outside the gym, family time, and intellectual pursuits, among other things. My life was literally school and gymnastics, every single day. But I didn’t mind, because I loved my sport. I loved it. I will say it again: Gymnastics was truly my first love. My love and passion for the sport drove me to push myself beyond my physical limits and willingly make sacrifices for the sake of reaching success in my sport. Every waking moment during those ten years, I dreamed of performing in the world’s biggest stage- the Olympic Games. All my hopes and aspirations were based on gymnastics. That being said, I lacked the proper balance in life so integral to stability- all the different facets of my life aside from academics revolved around gymnastics. It was a two-legged table threatening to come crashing down. I had put all my eggs in one basket, and if the basket fell… It was a dangerous game to play. So beautifully dangerous…

When I quit, my world crumbled around me. Cliche or melodramatic as this may sound, it’s how I felt at the time. Gymnastics, the sport I devoted my life to, gave me a sense of identity. All my life I identified as a gymnast. And I grew to believe that everyone around me– family, peers, teachers– also identified me as “the gymnast.” Without gymnastics, I felt worthless. I didn’t know who I was or what I excelled at other than gymnastics. My self-esteem dropped to zero. I realized that I didn’t know any pride or confidence outside my sport or my life as an athlete. I felt completely lost. For two years I struggled to come to terms with the injury, to accept it, accept the fact that one chapter of my life had ended. And God I missed it. I cried every single day for several months at the mere thought of gymnastics. Seeing anything that reminded me of the past life I lived was enough to bring the tears flowing. For the longest time I was angry at the universe, at fate, for “making” this happen to me. I channeled this grief and anger in different directions– at my family, at my peers in school, at my studies. I would fight on a daily basis with my mom, dad, and brothers about their lack of understanding about how I felt. My family failed to acknowledge the deep grief I felt. To them, the injury was great because I could now focus on school and grades. At the time, though, I felt zero feelings of happiness or gratitude towards the injury. I was just depressed and hurt and angry. It’s hard to see the glass half full when you are grieving. At school, I isolated myself from my peers. My “friends” failed to understand, hard as they tried. Now I realize that it is hard for people who haven’t been through what I went through to understand what dedicated athletes face when uprooted prematurely from their sports. In many ways, though, losing a sport is similar to the death of a loved one. You grieve the loss of this person, accept and adapt to a new life without this person in it, and eventually the deep wound in your heart closes up, until one day, the death of the person is merely a scar that may open up from time to time.

So for two years I grieved, I accepted, I adapted. I rebuilt my identity from scratch by trying new things, things I never imagined myself doing: diving, synchronized swimming, public speaking, ballroom dance. And it is this last item on the list– ballroom dance– that helped me find my fire again. I never imagined I would discover anything other than gymnastics that I’d love as much. But ballroom dance… it took my heart from day one.

Having learned from my previous experience with gymnastics, though, I knew better than to devote my entire life to ballroom, as much as I wanted to. This time around, I need to keep my life in balance, so if I were to get reinjured, I won’t fall to rock bottom again. But then again, I know that if I really did fall to rock bottom, I would be able to get back up on my feet. Losing gymnastics taught me that I  can pick myself up from whatever lemon life decides to throw my way.

Going into ballroom, I didn’t think this sport would be too hard on my knees. After all, there was no jumping involved, which was the primary cause of my “Jumper’s Knee”. Of course, I was mistaken. Ballroom is hard on the knees in a different way, since this art places so much emphasis on beautiful lines and hyperextension of the joints. My coaches always want me to straighten my knees beyond 180 degrees to create that gorgeous line. The thing is, my knees don’t go backward naturally!! I can FORCE them to hyperextend, but not without a lot of effort and pressure on the joint. After doing this for 4 months, my knee injury reactivated.

A few days ago I practiced for only two hours- not much compared to my 5 hour trainings in gymnastics back in the day. The next day, I couldn’t walk without yelling from the sharp pains. If I couldn’t walk, then there’s no way in HELL I could dance. I know that I need to listen and respect what my body is telling me. If my poor knees are screaming “STOP!”, then I have to listen. There is no point in being “heroic” by pushing through the pain… And for what? For becoming a champion? For a slim chance at momentary glory? My body is my body, and Heavenly Father blessed me with this ONE body that I must cherish. If I continue killing my knees, I will pay the price in later years. I don’t want to live my life as a cripple. That being said, I was quite saddened when my knees flared up again a couple days ago. But in a way, I saw it coming. The thing with me is that in whatever I do, I refuse to give less than 100% of my effort. I have this urge to be reach my greatest potential in whatever endeavor I take on. This is a wonderful trait I have been blessed with, but it can also be detrimental to my health, especially if all my life I have chosen to make athletic endeavors my primary focus.

But I know this is not the end of my ballroom journey. There is still so much hope inside me, I can feel that this is not the end. I just need to take a short break, properly rehab my knees again, and ease back into it. I’m going to my sports medicine doctor next Monday, so we’ll develop a solid game plan then. Until then, I will continue to be hopeful. And if worst comes to worst and I have to end my ballroom journey, I will be very disappointed, yes. But I won’t despair. I can always dance for my own enjoyment without killing my body. Plus, I’ve realized during my post-gymnastics years that there is SO much more to life than gymnastics, or any other physical endeavor for that matter. Hello, what about the vast wealth of intellectual pursuits? Writing, for instance, is not something I picked up until I had stopped gymnastics. My recent experience with shadowing Dr. Nwynn has opened my eyes to the world of medicine, and I realize that this is something I am fascinated by and want to pursue. In conclusion, then, injuries are never pleasant. They hurt, both physically and emotionally. But injuries may also be blessings in disguise.

Shadowing Dr. Nwynn, M.D. in Labor and Delivery Pt. 2

This post is a continuation from my previous post, “Shadowing Dr. Nwynn, M.D. in Labor and Delivery Pt. 1”. Read that one first before reading this one 🙂

One thing I learned is that when babies are born vaginally, their heads may appear oddly shaped because babies’ heads are soft, and they have just been squished through a tight passageway. Dr. Nwynn said this “cone-shaped” head will become normal in as soon as one day.

A funny story: while I was inside Room 404 with the baby Emma and her family, taking pictures and basking in the joy of it all (I hope I didn’t intrude on the family moment or anything…I was just so happy for them I wanted to be apart of the special moment, lol), I heard two nurses shouting my name from the hallway and I thought I was in trouble.  I ran out, and there they were, calling for me to hurry to Room 400, where another delivery was happening. They wanted me to assist again! So I dropped my purse and phone on the table and went clonking in my heels oh so loudly to Room 400, where an calm, happy mommy and very nervous daddy were just getting started.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, there was a complication in this birth. Baby Whitney (not sure if this is the way parents spell her name) was born with all her pee and poo surrounding her. This can become deadly if the waste matter gets stuck in her lungs- a condition known as meconium aspiration. Because of this possible risk, Dr. Nwynn and a pediatrician stood nearby, waiting for the baby to be born.

The pushing process for this mother was very similar to that of the previous mother: no screaming or crying, just grunting; long time to get the head out, then the body follows easily; mineral oil and other lubrication used; also a first-time mother.

Fortunately, when Whitney came out, she started crying immediately, indicating that she could get air inside her lungs. Again- a magical experience witnessing a life being introduced into this world. I left soon after the birth, since my mom expected to pick me up at 1:15 p.m., but because of the surprise delivery, I stayed 45 minutes longer. I called my mom, and she said she that she assumed I got held up from another delivery, so she went to pick up my brother Austin first, who was helping his friend out with painting. Anyway, I got to stay another fifteen minutes in L and D. I went back into Room 400 to check on Whitney and her parents. Baby and mommy were both healthy. Whitney had these big dark blue eyes and dark brown hair from her Asian daddy. She is beautiful, and I envision a bright future ahead for her.

After checking in with baby Whitney, I headed to the staff lounge, where there were a BUNCH of unhealthy munchies sitting on the table: popcorn, red vines, cookies, chips, and other delicious junk. Ironic, considering this was food from the HOSPITAL. Top Chef was on, so I watched that while indulging myself.

One thing that was so prevalent in the L and D ward was the pleasant atmosphere. When you are in L and D, you can’t help it but smile in contentment. Everyone- the midwives, nurses, doctors, secretaries, janitors, mothers, fathers, EVERYONE. was super friendly. The walls of the ward were painted this dark shade of yellow, which reminded me of sunshine. Really, though, I was surprised at how low-key the environment was for the doctors and nurses. Before today, I had in my mind a mental scene of L and D being this hectic ward with lots of screaming and crying coming from different rooms, doctors and nurses running around delivering babies left and right- kind of like Wall Street insanity. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The hall was dead quiet when I arrived, aside from the casual banter of nurses among one another. There were hardly any doctors on call- I believe Dr. Nwynn was the only doctor there! The brown  mahogany doors leading inside each delivery room were closed. The only people roaming the hallways were a few nurses and a pregnant lady and her partner. I kid you not- nearly everyone had a smile on his/her face. I was surprised, to say the least, considering that everything I imagined L and D to be was false.

A final thing I want to share with you guys is a conversation between Dr. Nwynn and a midwife. The midwife started by saying that in L and D, 95% of pregnancies end happily, with healthy babies and mothers. 5% of the time, the unspeakable happens, and these unsuccessful cases are, needless to say, EXTREMELY sad. The midwife asked Dr. Nwynn how he copes with such devastating situations, and Dr. Nwynn replied that this is just life. Stress is apart of every profession, you just have to deal with it. He said in OBGYN, doctors are very likely to be sued in their careers if something goes wrong with the birth. It’s just a fact you have to deal with.

Well, I feel like I have said everything I wanted to say about my amazing experience. While I don’t think any of my words will do justice to the beauty of witnessing the miracle of birth, I hope you guys were able to feel a bit of the magic by reading this.

To those of you reading, I am greatly touched and thankful for your continual support ❤

Shadowing Dr. Nwynn M.D. in Labor and Delivery Pt. 1

Today I had the most amazing experience of witnessing not one, but TWO natural births while shadowing Dr. Nwynn, an OBGYN doctor, in labor and delivery.

Being able to see first-hand the miracle of birth is so special. I don’t even know where to begin with recounting the experience! I guess I should mention that it’s not the doctors who deliver the baby- it’s the midwife. Doctors usually deliver the baby only if there is a complication with either mother or baby, which happened in the second birth I saw today.

Starting with some facts: in order for the baby to make its way into the world, the mother’s cervix must be both 100% effaced and dilated to the maximum 10 cm. Effacement is where the cervix stretches and gets thinner to the point where you cannot see it anymore. Fun fact: throughout the pregnancy, the cervix has been closed and protected by a plug of mucus; when the cervix effaces, this mucus plug is loosened and passes out of the mommy’s jay-jay. This discharge is commonly referred to as “show”, or “bloody show”. Dilation is where the cervix opens to allow the passage of the baby from the uterus. These two processes- effacement and dilation- comprise the first stage of labor. The second stage of labor lasts from complete dilation until baby is born.

When the first mother’s cervix had completely dilated, all the doctors and nurses were SUPER happy and started cheering!!

Then came the actual birth process. The midwives/nurses wanted me to assist with the birth, which was really awesome. Basically, when the mother experienced contractions and had to push, I helped with pushing one of her legs in towards her chest to make the pushing action easier and more effective. The mother only pushes when she experiences a contraction, or the periodic tightening and relaxing of the uterine muscle. Contractions come in waves, so delivering a baby is largely a waiting game, since the time interval between contractions may vary in length.

Honestly, when I walked into that room, I was expecting a lot of screaming and swearing and cries of pain. To my relief, though, there was none of that. None. Rather, when the moms had contractions and had to push, it looked/sounded like a really bad case of constipation (you all know what I mean). Hollywood most likely over-sensationalizes the process of labor… or maybe the two women I saw today just had relatively easy labors.

The first baby, Emma, was born after an hour and ten minutes of pushing. Considering that this was mommy’s first birth, the duration of pushing is considered good- first-time mothers can push for up to 4 hours! Emma is a very healthy and beautiful baby girl, weighing in at 7 pounds, 13.6 ounces. She got her mommy’s dark Asian hair and her daddy’s light Caucasian skin.  The parents actually had three names picked out before Emma came out, and only decided on naming her “Emma” when they saw her face. The other name they were choosing from when they saw her face was “Korina”, but I definitely like the name Emma more.  When Emma’s entire head popped out, her body flew out immediately. That’s something I noticed in both labors- the hardest part is getting the head out of the vagina; after the head is out, the body follows easily from all the lubrication. Speaking of lubrication, during the labor, the midwife would pour this mineral oil and gel all around the birth canal to make the passage of the baby smoother. Just a fun fact.

Actually being there to witness the baby gradually emerging into this world, the parents’ tears of joy, the baby’s first cries- it was a priceless experience. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been a part of it.

Gosh, I have so much more to say about today, which is why I’m gonna end here and make a new post for pt. 2: everything I want to recount to you guys but have yet to do so 😉

Update/Catharis: ballroom dance

Hey everyone. It’s 11:05 p.m. as I’m writing this. I just felt the need to get a lot of stuff off my chest, because my head is spinning in circles- there’s simply too much going on in there.

I want to talk about ballroom dance. As you may or may not know, I’ve been dancing for a bit over 4 months now. In the beginning it was like, OMG, this is so exciting, ballroom is super fun and oh yeah I want to be a world champion one day!!  I was insanely enthusiastic and passionate and loved every minute I had to dance. The thing with latin, though, is that the more you learn, the more you realize how much you DON’T know. It’s very frustrating sometimes, focusing on all the technique and annoying stuff. And it’s hard too, coming from such a high level in gymnastics, and having to start all the way at square one again in something completely new, knowing how hard it will be to reach that high level again. I get very impatient. I expect to be an amazing dancer is such a short amount of time. The reality: not gonna happen. Life doesn’t work that way. Anything worth getting takes TIME.

So I’ve reached a plateau in my journey. I no longer feel the spirit, the motivation to become a world champion dancer. Dancing feels like WORK now, in all honesty. I’m not sure if this is normal, or if it’s a reflection of myself. Like I said, I’m super hard on myself. When I can’t get the steps or technique right, I get frustrated and super negative and dejected. And I’m sure I’m not the first to feel this way. I’m gonna be straight up with you guys: I think about quitting sometimes. Take tonight, for instance. As  I was studying Chinese, I had a thought: what if I quit ballroom now? Would it really be so bad? I could invest more of my time into academics and other activities that don’t put such a physical strain on my body. Shadowing Dr. Nwynn has really given me a newfound interest in pursuing medicine. I’d have a simple reason to quit: my chronic knee injury that was in the process of healing from gymnastics, but is now being exacerbated every day by my dancing. And this is the truth: my knees are acting up again, just like they were when I was still in gymnastics. A couple days ago I was walking a hill when I felt this sharp pain shoot up both knees, like I was being stabbed by a knife. I really do not want to re-injure myself…

But then I take a step back and think. Why do I really want to quit? The whole injury thing, while a valid reason, is merely an excuse. What’s going on here?

Now I’m questioning myself. Am I really so weak that when there’s a little bump in the road I just quit? Of course learning latin dance will not be easy. Who said it would be easy? And if we look at just the facts, HELLOOOOOOOO!!! I’ve been dancing for 4 months!!! I’ve made incredible progress during those months, and I should be very proud of myself. Just because it’s getting harder doesn’t mean I should just quit. The fact that learning latin is so difficult should be motivation enough for me to continue. Belicia Tang is no quitter. It’s hard now, especially since I’m just beginning and learning how to dance. But I promise: If I continue to work hard each and every day- going through each little step one hundred times until my muscles remember,  being extremely nit-picky about details, keeping my eye on the reward- I will one day, perhaps in a few years, look back and be able to SEE the improvement. It’s hard with dance, to see the day to day improvement. But I know for a fact that if I am patient and just stick with ballroom, I will one day reap the rewards of my hard work.

As my rhythmic gymnastics coach once told me, “Don’t lose heart. Hope dies last.” I can do this. Of course there will be rough patches in any journey one embarks on. It’s a matter of overcoming that rough patch that separates the strong from the weak. And I am anything BUT weak (self-assurance, not cockiness, I swear).

So I have decided after this fairly lengthy catharsis that I some reason decided to post on the internet, I WILL STICK WITH BALLROOM. I still love this art. And I remember why I started: it is beautiful to watch, and even greater as a means to express oneself. I watch amazing dancers like Anna Melnikova and Yulia Zagoruychenko, and I feel the magic. I want to be able to GIVE people that same magical feeling through my dancing one day. This is why I should stick with ballroom. The journey was never meant to be easy, but the rewards of my hard work will be worth it.

Good night,


My Experience with Shadowing Dr. Nwynn, M.D.

Three days ago on Friday, 6/19/15, I had the amazing experience of being able to shadow an OBGYN doctor, Dr. Nwynn. A funny thing about Dr. Nwynn- 18 years ago, when my mom was pregnant with me and my two brothers, Dr. Nwynn was her OBGYN doctor! As I later found out when he introduced me to his patients, my brothers and I were his only set of triplets in his ENTIRE career in medicine (ahhhh.. I feel so special!!!). The last time Dr. Nwynn saw me was when I was one year old and oh so tiny… he was shocked to see how big I’ve grown during these 17 years!

Being able to shadow a doctor is an experience like no other. Basically I just followed Dr. Nwynn around as his went about his day in the hospital. The day I shadowed him, he was working in the clinic, so he examined patients, performed simple procedures, and did computer work in between patients. It was pretty much non-stop work during those 4.5 hours, and I learned SO much.

I learned that after 24 weeks, a fetus can live outside its mother’s womb (40 weeks is a full-term pregnancy). Apparently the idea behind an ultrasound is that soundwaves are used to somehow generate the image of the baby. When performing an ultrasound, doctors have to spread this gel on the mom’s stomach due to the fact that soundwaves travel best through solid medium, and the gel eliminates air pockets between the skin and the “ultrasound tool” (not sure of the actual name for that tool). It’s all physics, as Dr. Nwynn said. I told him I hate physics, and he replied that he aced the physics portion of the MCAT. The first patient I saw was a young lady, pregnant with her first child. She and her husband came in for a regular prenatal check-up. Dr. Nwynn wasn’t this lady’s regular OBGYN doctor, but he was filling in that day. I was fascinated when I saw the ultrasound of the baby, who I believe was 26 weeks old. I saw the little heartbeat, and tried to make out the baby’s facial features- although to the untrained eye, as Dr. Nwynn said, it is very difficult to do so at this stage of the pregnancy. Being the first time he saw this patient, Dr. Nwynn tried to see the gender of the baby. After minutes of shifting the ultrasound device to get a clearer view of the baby’s private part, Dr. Nwynn came out inconclusive, which is normal at this stage. He said it was most likely a girl, since there wasn’t anything apparent between the legs.

The second patient I saw had vaginal yeast infection. Vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that can occur in some women- usually not young girls. Doctors call infections like these “bread and butter”, since they are so common. I actually got to take a look at the yeast infection bacteria under a microscope- they have a long and stringy appearance and resemble worms, in my opinion.

I learned that OBGYN doctors are not just “baby” doctors. The OB part, obstetrics, refers to babies; the GYN part, gynaecology, refers to parts of the female reproductive system.

Aside from basic facts, I gained a lot of insight on communication skills of doctors to patients, what it takes to become a doctor, and why one should pursue medicine. Patients, as Dr. Nwynn explained, are not just numbers on a screen. They are actual human beings and thus should be treated as such. Before seeing a patient, Dr. Nwynn always checked the patient’s history, especially if he didn’t know the patient well. I noticed that when doctors write their notes about patients, they include everything you tell them- even the seemingly trivial details. For instance, one doctor wrote that Patient X loved listening to such-and-such music and was going on vacation in a week to visit her mother, who had dementia. Details like that, doctors always write down. They are very thorough and meticulous.

Dr. Nwynn knows that I love performing, so he made it a point to always link being a doctor to performing. When doctors see patients, they must cater to the needs of each individual. Obviously no one person is alike, so no one person can be treated the same way. Doctors need to adjust their roles to make each patient feel as comfortable as possible. Once they are in the presence of a patient, it is show time. First and foremost, doctors need to make sure their patients know and understand what’s going on, meaning that they have to translate their doctor-speak to layman’s terminology. I noticed that Dr. Nwynn made copious use of analogies when describing certain anatomy to help his patients better understand their bodies. Doctors must have great interpersonal and communication skills with their patients. If a patient is visibly upset or worried, it is the job of the doctor to reassure that patient and soothe his/her nerves. One small detail I picked up on while observing Dr. Nwynn’s interactions with his patients was that he made it a point to frequently SAY his patient’s name throughout the examination. To me, this made Dr. Nwynn seem more compassionate and less intimidating. These kind of communication skills are not taught in med school- they are acquired through years of experience with people.

Speaking about people, Dr. Nwynn says that one big reason he loves medicine is the valuable relationships he makes with his numerous patients. Some patients he’s known for over a decade! Dr. Nwynn also stresses the fact that in medicine, there are zero barriers imposed by race, gender, sexuality, etc. On the inside, everyone looks the same- theoretically speaking.

I asked Dr. Nwynn if he finds his job particularly stressful. Dr. Nwynn’s reply: being a doctor is no more stressful than any other profession. The difference is, when you are a doctor, at least you can live comfortably without worrying about the next paycheck. True, very true…

So I think I will abruptly conclude my fairly lengthy spiel on my day at the clinic with Dr. Nwynn! It was an incredible experience that I really cherish. I actually went inside the OR with Dr. Nwynn today, but I will write about that crazy experience on another date. Now off to bed!

Good night world,


First Day at Public Speaking Class!

Today was a terrifyingly wonderful day for me. I attended my very first public speaking class at College of San Mateo! If you guys know me, you’d probably know how deathly afraid of public speaking I am. Public speaking, never my thing. But after struggling with this fear for most of my life, I decided that enough was enough. I don’t want to live my life in fear. So, a month ago, I signed up for public speaking class at CSM. I knew this is a very popular class among college students, and since college students get the priority in registering for classes, I assumed I would be wait listed.

Well, to my relief, I WAS wait listed. Except I didn’t realize that students on the wait list were still allowed to attend the class, until I received an email from the professor- two days in to the course. When I saw that I was being sent all this info about the course syllabus and assignments, I made the fortuitously dreadful discovery that I was, indeed, enrolled. Which meant that I had to go to public speaking class after all.

When I found out initially, I had a little freak out session because I was REALLY dreading the class. I knew I didn’t have to go- the class was free, as are all community college classes to high schoolers, so it’s not like I’d be wasting money by not attending. But I knew if I took the easy way out by avoiding the very thing that scares me most, I’d be depriving myself of an insanely valuable opportunity. I mean, a 6-week class devoted 100% to public speaking. FOR FREE. I needed to do this, challenge myself, push myself outside of my comfort zone.

So this morning was the first 2 hour session I attended. We had this assignment called the “Identity Art Project”, where each person made a piece of artwork that illustrated different components of his/her identity. When it came time for me to present my poster, I was nervous. Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t as nervous as I expected to be. I didn’t feel as if I were about to vomit or pass out. I felt the butterflies in my stomach and the usual tensing of the facial muscles, but other than that, I was composed.

I was a little nervous in the beginning, but as I got into the flow of the presentation I became very relaxed. It helps to talk about something you are very familiar with- in this case, myself. I remember enjoying the limelight and being able to share my story with the twenty other people in the room. I really feel so good I showed up to class today and presented. I’m proud of myself for facing my fears, no matter how difficult. Already I feel more confident as a speaker!

Tomorrow I have another day of class… I’m surprisingly very excited- a little nervous, yes, but mostly excited! Can’t wait to see where my journey with public speaking leads me.

The Journey is More Important than the Outcome

Hi everyone!

A bit over a week ago at dance practice, something amazing happened. I truly believe that our Heavenly Father sent an angel down to earth to help me out with life issues. Lately I’ve been feeling tormented over ballroom dance- I want to achieve so much so fast, that I start to forget why I started dancing in the first place- for pure enjoyment and passion. Every practice becomes an internal struggle. There’s always this incredibly negative, deprecating voice inside my head screaming things like, “You’re doing it wrong!” or “Why can’t you get the f***ing step right?”. You know what they say- you are you’re own worst enemy and your harshest critic. These aphorisms couldn’t be truer.

My angelic savior manifested itself in a middle-aged Filipino lady named Crystal. Crystal is a friend of one of the other dancers at the studio, and she happened to be at the studio that day, watching. After observing my practice with Arkadiy, Crystal and I had a long and heartfelt conversation that completely changed my state of mind regarding ballroom dance and simply any endeavor I pursue in life.

Crystal’s message is that while having ambitions and striving to achieve goals are great things to observe in your life, at the end of the day, what truly matters is neither the number of titles you earn nor accolades received- it is the journey that holds most value. What gives life meaning, Crystal says, is not the quantity of accomplishments achieved, but rather the relationships cultivated during the process and number of lives you have touched along the way. The distorted thought pattern that afflicts many today is that one’s worth is measured purely by one’s achievements and accomplishments. This couldn’t be further from the truth. No human being is defined solely by his or her achievements. Your average John Doe is every bit as special as, say, a world champion ballroom dancer. Cliche as this may sound, everyone is unique and special in his or her own way. For most of my life, I believed that the only way to make myself “worthy” and “accepted” by others was to be the best, to win. In retrospect, this kind of thinking was twisted and unhealthy. Of course, it is great to push yourself to reach your greatest potential in anything you do. But if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, losing your integrity and relationships along the way, the entire journey loses meaning.

Crystal made me realize that the true reward lies not in the number of competitions you win. Momentary glory fades. But the memories, the relationships fostered during the journey, the personal growth- this is timeless. It is what brings color to this life.

Review of SoCal College Tour, June 2015

Hi everyone! I just came back from touring five universities in Southern California: UCSD, UCLA, UCSB, USC, and USD. I decided I would write a brief “review”, if you will, of each university visited. Before I begin, allow me to clarify: none of these schools are “bad” schools- not by a long shot. All are academically rigorous, resourceful institutions that have produced brilliant alumni. Keep in mind that the following reviews are my PERSONAL OPINIONS on the colleges visited. My personal preferences will very well likely differ from yours, so take these reviews with a grain of salt 🙂

Without further ado, here are the reviews, ordered from favorite to least favorite college.

#1: UCLA

UCLA by far stood out for me among the five colleges. Perfect weather (330 days of sunshine/year), though set in a semi-rough neighborhood. The campus is more of a traditional college campus, and OH SO BEAUTIFUL. It is a large school, but smallest of all the UC’s, spanning 419 acres (compared to UCSD’s 1,200!). What really set UCLA apart from the other schools I visited was the incredible sense of school pride and community among fellow Bruins. The atmosphere was so vibrant, cheerful, and exciting. Maybe it’s because seniors were graduating the day after, but still. There are over 1,000 student organizations- a far greater number than any other school I visited. Our tour guides, April and Jack, did an amazing job informing us about what UCLA had to offer its students. Jack spared no enthusiasm when talking about the university’s superb dining. Indeed, UCLA is ranked third in the nation for quality of dining. Something I will carry with me through the rest of  my life is what happened at the end of the tour, when April and Jack explained why they both chose UCLA. Since they were graduating seniors, our tour was the very last tour both would ever give. To say it was emotional is an understatement. As Jack reflected on his four years at UCLA, he started tearing up, until eventually the tears gushed out uncontrollably. April followed in suit. I saw people in the tour group crying as well because it was all so emotional and special (my mom bawled like a baby). As I’m writing about this experience my words can’t even do justice to the magic of the moment. I turned around and saw that our tour group had doubled in size, as other tour guides, tourists, and fellow Bruins gathered around to feel the magic. It was in this very moment that I realized that I, too, wanted to become a part of this tightly- knit community of Bruins who support and care for one another, who push one another to reach their greatest potentials. At the end of the tour I gave April a BIG hug. I had only just met her a couple hours earlier, but I felt that bond, that instant connection. I knew she embodied the type of person I wanted to surround myself with- confident, loving, well-rounded and supportive. And this I can find at UCLA.

#2: UCSD

UCSD is actually the first of the five colleges I toured this week. The fact that UCSD managed to stick in my mind after visiting all the other colleges speaks for itself. The weather, at least on the day of the tour , was perfection. Even better than that of UCLA. Perfect amount of sunshine balanced out by just the right amount of cool breeze. The atmosphere was quite tranquil and relaxing. I remember smiling with contentment during the tour, a warm feeling inside me, and I could really see myself as a student here. It was finals week when we toured, so most students were busy cracking the books. The campus, as I mentioned earlier, is  a whopping 1,200 acres- approximately 3.3 Disneylands! An overwhelming number, but there is a lot of open space. And the campus itself is gorgeous. Its Geisel Library (named after Thomas Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss), sticks out in my mind. This 8-level building houses over 3.4 million books, and actually inspired the design of the snow fortress in the movie Inception.

inception snow fortress

Something else I found interesting about UCSD is its 6 College System. In short, the university is divided into 6 different “colleges”, each with different educational philosophies and location. For instance, Eleanor Roosevelt College focuses on developing a global citizen by providing students with international experience, while Ravel College aims to develop the Renaissance scholar, one who is well-rounded in their discipline.

#3: USC

I like the educational philosophy of the University of Southern California more than I like the actual campus and atmosphere. USC places a lot of emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and aims to create Renaissance scholars- that is, well rounded students. Students are encouraged to bridge the divide between completely different fields. For instance, recently a group of video game design majors teamed up with pre-med students to create a video game catered to help returning soldiers recover from PTSD. USC is a private school, so it is much smaller than large public schools like the UC’s. There are obvious benefits to the fewer number of students, such as smaller class size (average class size is 26) and more interaction between students and professors.  It’s funny because going into the SoCal college tour, I thought I would like smaller private schools more than large public schools. I was worried I would feel inundated by the large school atmosphere and less attention from professors. However, coming to USC made me realize that small private schools don’t give me the same excitement that large public schools do. I don’t mean to say that USC is boring or lacks spirit just because it’s a private school. In fact, this college has over 750 clubs and organizations. I’m simply going off of that gut feeling you get when you first step foot on campus. For both UCLA and UCSD I felt the spark, the excitement of becoming a part of the enormous student body and taking advantage of the myriad of opportunities and activities each university had to offer. I didn’t really feel that initial thrill at USC. The campus is nice, but not mind-blowing, in my opinion. From the outside, the brick wall buildings look old, but the inside is all renovated and modern. So that’s my little spiel on USC.

#4: USD

Univeristy of San Diego is a Catholic private school (doesn’t mean you have to be Catholic to attend). It was actually the first private we toured. The campus is really beautiful, with many castle-like structures that resemble Hogwarts. The weather, like that of UCSD, is perfection. However, nothing really stood out to me about the school other than the campus and amazing scenery. No spark.

#5: UCSB

UCSB was the last college we visited this week. Let me just start by saying, the people at this university are very good looking. Just a random observation. Our tour guide, Tom, was SUPER easy on the eyes as well, not that it matters 😉 Anyway, you may be wondering why this university made it to the bottom of my list. To be honest, it’s simply a matter of gut feeling and first impression. UCSB is a great school with great academics and amazing career and research opportunities. It has the greatest happiness level among college students nationwide. But when we toured UCSB, the weather was cloudy, the atmosphere depressing. I’ve heard so many people gush about the gorgeous campus, so I had very high expectations going into the tour. However, touring the campus, I was not blown away like I expected I would be. The beach view is incredible, I concede. But other than that, I felt like the campus was pretty ordinary. We walked inside one of the residential halls, where college kids live. Like I said, pretty ordinary- just a building with a row of dorm rooms, bathrooms, and rec rooms. So I felt a bit disappointed with the campus, but maybe it’s because of the gloominess of the weather that day. Aside from that, I am happy to say that, despite its reputation as a party school, UCSB takes its academics very seriously. Students really have to work for those A’s and B’s. But one more downside that turned me off is the 25% substance-free rate. That means 75% of UCSB students drink to some degree. Of course, this is just a number. And just because other people drink doesn’t mean I have to engage in such behavior. Still, the low substance-free percentage just doesn’t sit well with me, since I have no intention of drinking in college, or anytime, for that matter. What I found interesting about the UCSB tour was Tom’s little anecdote that the tour’s close. He told us that, as a junior in high school, he toured UCSB and HATED it. The school’s reputation as a party school concerned him, and he wasn’t thrilled with the campus either. But at the time, he was dating a senior, who ended up going to UCSB. Tom’s then-girlfriend convinced him to sit in on some lectures during the school year. After attending a few of these lectures and experiencing the college life first hand, Tom began to appreciate the university more. He realized that the university’s reputation as a party school did not compromise its academics. Professors are super engaged with their students and provide them with so many opportunities for research. And one more thing about Tom- he was a shy kid going into UCSB. Now, if you saw him, shy is the last word that comes to your head. As president of the tour guide program, Tom is confident and outspoken- a true leader. To conclude my rant about UCSB: this university has produced that greatest number of Nobel Prize winner alum’s.

Alright, well that concludes my SoCal college tour review! Sorry if it turned out to be lengthy… Again, I have no intention of swaying you guys in a particular direction regarding college decisions. I’m simply giving you guys my personal opinion on the colleges I visited. Really hope you guys found this interesting and informative! And I definitely encourage everyone to visit prospective colleges. By actually setting foot on campuses, I gained a better sense of what type of college setting I prefer.

Thanks for reading,