Today, I Tackled My “Work” Demon

Hi guys! I just got back from bowling with a group of high school friends, and I would like to take a minute to do some self-reflection of my experience.

Now, you may be wondering why a casual outing with friends is important enough to throw me into a state of rumination- so much so that I feel compelled to write a piece about it.

To demystify things a little, I will start by saying that I am a complete workaholic. My “workaholism” started from a young age, stemming from the disciplined lifestyle I led as a competitive gymnast. I find it very difficult to tear myself away from my various goals and projects. When I am hanging out with friends at movies, dinners, or sleepovers, I try to have fun, but there’s always a nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me that I should not be there. That I should be at home instead, working on my goals. Studying. Practicing dance. Reading books. Writing.

So, going out with friends has always been a big source of anxiety for me. Not because I don’t enjoy spending time with friends or having great conversations, but because the very act of leaving my work behind is stressful. I simply cannot do work-life balance.

In the past, I would simply not leave the comfort of my work. I’d constantly turn down friendly invitations with the same excuse: I’m too busy with [something gymnastics/school related]. According to my therapist, this was an act of avoidance. Since going out was such a great source of anxiety for me, I avoided the feeling of discomfort by choosing to stick with my work. And so, my anxiety over leaving my work grew. It got to the point where I was lugging around flashcards in my purse whenever I went out to dinner or outings. I distinctly remember studying SAT vocab flashcards at a Thanksgiving dinner party back in 2011, as an eight-grader! Or bringing my AP Euro review book with me to the band’s spring tour during sophomore year of high school, and studying in the cruise cabin while all my friends were out having fun.

My borderline OCD discipline won me praise from my parents, coaches, schoolteachers, strangers who watched my laser-focus while training. I took pride in my “all work no play” lifestyle.

Now I know that this kind of thinking and behavior was completely distorted and ridiculous. Everyone deserves to take a break and relax now and then. Life is more than just working 24/7. You need time to take a breather and recharge. More importantly, you need to make time for those you love. It doesn’t matter if you are a world-renown surgeon, an Olympic gold-medalist, a famous painter, or a world champion dancer. If you don’t have strong secure relationships, your life will be a lonely one.

This morning, I had half a mind to back out of bowling and spend the two hours studying chemistry in my room instead. This was my “work demon” talking. In the past, I would have succumbed to it. I would have agreed that studying was a much better use of my time than going bowling. In fact, I would have taken pride in the fact that I was above “playing” and “having fun”. This kind of “all work no play” mindset is precisely why I felt so lonely throughout middle school/early high school. I didn’t know how to function away from my work. I didn’t know how to have fun and enjoy life with people I cared about.

Today, I shut down my work demon. I told it that it was wrong. Spending time with friends IS important, and I am worthy of treating myself to some down-time. So I went bowling. And, even though I often found my mind drifting back to the MCAT book sitting on my desk at home, I’m proud that I was able to have a pretty decent time. This is progress, guys.

And now, after a relaxing morning with friends, I am fully recharged to work hard again!

Stay tuned for more on how I tackle my distortions one by one, changing them into more positive, constructive ways of thinking!


Growing Up as a Triplet (pt.1)

What’s it like growing up as a triplet? Well, glad you asked! Here are 11 things triplets know all too well.

  1. We are not twins, dammit!
  2. The annual “triplets” feature in the school yearbook.
  3. You have a one in three chance of being the target of mom’s fiery wrath.angry abby lee
  4. Zero privacy because everything you say/do/post will eventually find its way back to your siblings.
  5. Getting into “triplet formation” when taking pictures. That is, stand in the order in which we were born. Only like every family picture, EVER.
  6. This next one’s unique to me and my brothers: Being known by all as “ABC” (Austin-Belicia-Chris). And we are, in fact, American-born Chinese.american born chinese
  7. Sharing EVERYTHING. Birthday parties, bedrooms, Christmas presents, lucky money, graduation parties, you name it. Being the only girl, however, I will say that I have it better than my poor brothers.sharing is caring
  8. “Happy birthday, dear Austin-Belicia-Christopher…[gasp for air]gasping for air
  9. Matching outfits. Here’s a challenge: can you guess who is who? 037.JPG
  10. “OHHHHHH you’re Austin and Chris’s twin.” Kanye West Visits BET's "106 & Park"
  11. “Wait wait wait. You’re a TRIPLET?!?!”mind blown


Hi guys! I was looking through my past blog posts, and realized that my last social anxiety update was all the way back in September 19, 2015! Almost a year ago! (You can check it out here: 9/18 Weekly Recap: exams, college apps, dance, social anxiety).

I’m really glad to say that since then, I’ve grown much more confident among people.  I recently joined a local chapter of Toastmasters, an international organization dedicated to helping people improve their public speaking skills. I went to my second meeting today, and actually won “Best Table Topics” of the day! I’ll do a more in-depth post on what a typical Toastmasters meeting entails, but Table Topics is a portion of the hour-long meeting that trains members’ impromptu/extemporaneous speaking. One member asks a question, and calls upon another RANDOM member to stand up and answer it in one to two minutes. Today I was asked the question, “Who is my ‘strangest’ family member and  why.” My two brothers, Austin and Chris, actually attended this meeting with me (upon mother’s strong urging), so of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to embarrass at least one of them! I spoke for a little over a minute about how Chris’s artistic persona made him the oddball of the family. Meanwhile, Chris was staring at his feet, head resting on palm, laughing in good-natured mortification. At the end, I was very surprised that I ended up winning that category- and I have a ribbon to prove it! I feel proud that I was able to challenge myself and participate in the meeting, despite how nervous I felt.

Another way in which I’ve been tackling my social anxiety is by getting my first job at Hollister! My first day is actually tomorrow afternoon, and I am feeling, admittedly, a bit jittery over it. This is my first job EVER, so it should be an interesting, eye-opening experience. I am working as brand manager, which means I’ll be working the register and interacting with all the customers. If that’s not the most direct way to tackle social anxiety, then I don’t know what is!

However, I will say that while it is important to challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone, you have to do it in baby steps. If I were forced into joining Toastmasters or working at Hollister two years ago, chances are that the experiences would be so traumatizing that I’d be left feeling even LESS confident and willing to fight the anxiety. When overcoming any fear, one musn’t plunge into the deep end without learning how to swim, for doing so can actually be counter-productive. Another important thing to have when fighting anxiety is  STRONG EMOTIONAL SUPPORT SYSTEM. Fighting fears entails you to expose yourself to frightening situations, and it helps to have a buddy to urge you on when you don’t want to move forward and affirm your bravery for exposing yourself to your fears.

The process of overcoming a fear is gradual and requires lots of patience. It is a marathon, not a sprint. You will have “up days” when you successfully remain calm in scary situations- today, for instance, is an up day for me, because I was able to deliver my little spiel at Toastmasters calmly and eloquently. Other days may be “down days”, when your anxiety gets the better of you and hinders you from functioning to your greatest potential. Know that it is totally okay to have down days! One step back, three steps forward. This idea can be applied to ANYTHING that requires learning a skill(s) to reach a goal- dance, music, professional careers, etc.

Alrighty, guys! I have to get back to studying Chinese/chemistry (prep for college), but it was really nice writing this little update. I always feel a bit more connected to you guys when I write something personal like this. My apologies if this post sounded rushed- my summer is turning out to be busier than expected!


Hugs and Kisses to All!!


Belicia ❤



Orlando Mass Shooting: What Has Our World Come To?

You hear about travesties like these and can’t help but wonder, what has our world come to? The sad thing is that hearing about atrocities like Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando has become the norm.

49 lives were lost today. 49 unique, beautiful human beings with communities of friends and loved ones, all of whom are, at this moment, going through the worst pain they’ve ever felt.

It was just a innocent, carefree night out at the club. Dancing, drinks, a fun time with friends. That’s all. Did these innocent people know that, upon entering the club, they would never emerge to see the light of day? They didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. They didn’t get a chance to live their lives to its entirety. It’s not fair. It just isn’t.

To think that 49 lives were lost today at the hands of a single man- a man with a gun, a distorted worldview, and a diehard passion to live by what he stood for. This is absurd. Especially because it is so preventable. What of gun control? What of humanity?

The Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012.

The Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2014.

The UCLA murder-suicide earlier this month.

And now, this. The worst case of mass shooting in the history of this nation.

We all give our condolences to the grieving families, communities, people of Orlando. But they are just words. Come next week, this shooting will be old news. The living move on. It’s in the past. Forget it. Let’s move on with our own lives, our own problems.

But can’t we see that today’s shooting, as well as its predecessors, is everybody’s problem? It affects all of us equally. No one is safe. More importantly, though, this shooting calls into question the very essence and value of humanity. What has this world come to? The violence, atrocity, death… Man pitted against man, brother against brother. It is absurd. Unspeakable. This world is filled with dangerous people with distorted belief systems. So we must switch the conversation from why do such atrocities happen, to how they can be prevented. We know why- there are crazy people out there. But when we give crazy people the power and means to inflict evil, then is the aftermath- shootings, violence, atrocity- really that surprising?

Too many times history has repeated itself. You would think that the American people are smart enough to make a change. Why is it taking so long for the people to understand that gun control is adamant, and the first step towards eliminating such horrible travesties? Why isn’t something being done?

Today’s mass shooting is the tipping point, the last straw. If the people of this nation continue to turn a blind eye to horrors like these, then I don’t know what this nation stands for anymore.


College Admissions: Excitement, Disappointment, Betrayal

So I was looking through my drafts, and found this one piece from early April that I finally finished. I think it is a valuable piece for incoming high school seniors to read. Enjoy!


April 2016

Well, it’s that time of the year again- college admissions! An exciting and understandably nerve wracking time of the year for the class of 2016, filled with both joyous celebration and heartbreaking disappointment. We’ve made it through most of high school- both the best and worst four years of our lives. We began our journey’s as pre-pubescent, timid, COMPLETELY naive freshmen, and ended as mature, responsible, enlightened young adults (or so we hope!)

Passionate and hungry, just the thought of leaving home in half a year to embark on a journey of self-discovery and life-changing experiences gets our hearts fluttering in excitement. We will be free to further existing passions, as well as discover new and unexpected ones. We may find our first loves- heck, even our future spouses! But that’s thinking a little too far ahead… 🙂 Mostly, though, we look forward to the liberation of finally leaving the nest, as well as the challenge of responsibility.

Filled with both joyous celebration and bitter disappointment, the college admissions process marks the next milestone of our lives: the end of childhood and beginning of adulthood and social responsibility. It is, at it’s core, a beautiful celebration of human growth and capacity for achievement.

Sadly, though, I have noticed and experienced firsthand the darker reality of this time: tension, envy and competitiveness put friendships to the test and bring out people’s true colors.

Yes, we are all human. It is completely natural for one to feel envy towards one’s classmate who got into your dream school, while you were left with a pitiful rejection letter. I felt that way when I got rejected from Stanford while three other classmates- all of whom are in my AP Gov/Econ class- got accepted. Underneath the initially painful sting of rejection, I was happy and proud for my friends, for I know they deserved every ounce of that achievement.

I was hurt today, however, when the inherent competitiveness of this time caused a close friend to undermine the  value of our nearly seven year friendship. Long story short, my friend was visibly jealous at my having received a scholarship she greatly coveted. The thing is, she ended up receiving the same scholarship, so why she was so unhappy at my accomplishment is beyond me.

Despite the hurt and anger I initially felt when my friend showed her true colors, I have decided to look past this, for I understand that, while we are friends, the college admissions process is ultimately a competition. As a former gymnast, I know better than most that there is no mercy when competing. Off the carpet, my fellow competitors and I are great pals, going out to dinner after meets. On the carpet, however, it is war. No jokes, no laughs- just focus and determination towards achieving the goal. The same can be said about the college admissions process. Emotions run high when in the competitive zone. While I wish my friend could be happy for me, I know that, no matter how selfless a person you are, it is human nature to put yourself before others, which is why I am willing to look past today’s unfortunate incident.

I just want you guys to know that stuff like this happens as college decisions/scholarships start to roll out. The whole game of “who got into which school” is really petty, however, and causes a lot of unnecessary drama. And at the end of the day, what matters is which school you end up going to, not the ones you got accepted into. My advice is simply to rise above the gossip and drama. If someone asks you what schools you got into, you can either tell them or keep your acceptances to yourself, but don’t feel forced into saying anything you don’t want to say! Another thing- I trust you guys have enough sense to figure this out on your own, but don’t be that person who badgers everyone about where they got into, or boasts about the schools he/she got accepted to. Seriously. Don’t be that person who posts on FB about every. single. college they get accepted into. It’s important to be sensitive to those around you, especially during this time. You may have gotten into a school of your choosing, but the person sitting next to you in math class may still be reeling over a rejection by the same school. Of course you have every right to be excited and proud of getting into colleges! Just be sure to contain the euphoria when around your classmates so you don’t inadvertently strike a tender chord.

Update 12/10/16:

I just finished my first quarter at UCLA, and I’m growing to love my school more and more each day. I’ve just returned home for winter break, and I’m already feeling some nostalgia for my UCLA. Point is, wherever you end up going, you will love it, or learn to love it. When I first began applying for colleges, UCLA was not even on my radar. I had heard of it, and I liked Los Angeles, but I’d always envisioned myself attending an East Coast school, like NYU or Wellesley College. Now, one quarter of my way through college, I honestly could not be happier with my final decision. I love my school, and every one of you will end up being at peace with your final decision. Once you’re in college, you’ll realize how truly petty and unnecessary the high school drama over college decisions was. At the end of the day, as long as you are happy with your decision, it doesn’t matter what others think.

First Time at Toastmasters!

6/9/16- 11:52 pm

So some of you may know of my fear of public speaking. I’m glad to say that I’ve been making great strides in overcoming it- or, at the very least, getting comfortable with being terrified!

Tomorrow morning, at 6:45 a.m., I will be attending my very first Toastmasters meeting! Toastmasters is an international organization with local chapters across the globe. Its mission is to help people hone their public speaking skills and become more effective orators. Some people go join Toastmasters simply because they enjoy public speaking! For many others, Toastmasters is a means of getting over fear of public speaking through repeated practice. I’ve thought about joining Toastmasters for the longest time, since the advent of my social anxiety, nearly two years ago. But I’ve never been able to muster up the courage to go to a meeting until today.

Am I nervous? A little bit, but that’s expected. But definitely not as nervous as I was before taking the public speaking class last summer. Progress, people, PROGRESS! I will be sure to let you guys know how tomorrow morning goes!



Well, I did it guys! I survived my very first Toastmasters meeting, marking my first step of the long road ahead towards becoming a seasoned orator. The meeting itself started bright and early at 6:45 am, scheduled meticulously down to the minute. What I like about the meeting is that it gives every member the chance to practice speaking in public, whether it is delivering a speech, engaging in impromptu table topics, or evaluating others’ speeches. Every time one speaks, one must stand up in front of everybody. A little intimidating, but definitely good training. All of the members in the chapter I attended were adults. Some were already very experienced speakers, but many others were beginners. The great thing about Toastmasters is that it gives such people the opportunity to practice in a safe, low-stakes environment, where it is okay to be afraid and make mistakes.

I actually had the opportunity of introducing myself to the 10 or so members! When offered the chance to speak, I walked up to the podium, a little bit nervous, and told everyone my name, age, educational background, and why I decided to join Toastmasters. The members were impressed at my audacity of getting up in front of everyone to speak- they said that no one ever stands up at the podium the very first day! So in the end, I felt very proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone.

I highly recommend joining Toastmasters, whether you a seasoned speaker or fresh newbie. This is not only a chance for you to tackle your fear of public speaking head-on, but also to hear and learn from people of various backgrounds! Within my chapter alone, we have an actress, opera singer, CEO, and many other gifted individuals. Toastmasters is a place where you can challenge yourself, both personally and intellectually. So, I highly encourage you all to check it out- it is an international organization, so you can literally find chapters all over the globe.

I know the idea of weekly public speaking can be scary for many. It took me about two years to muster up the courage to go to a Toastmasters meeting, and now that I finally went, I wish I had done it sooner!

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Don’t worry if you are not the best speaker when you first start. After all, the first time you do something is the worst you’ll be at it. Don’t let the fear of failure hinder you from pursuing something incredibly fulfilling. Who knows? Maybe you will discover a hidden passion for oration! You’ll never know, however, unless you take that first scary step. Ask any member of Toastmasters, and they will tell you that joining the organization was one of the best decisions they’ve every made.

I’m excited to keep you guys posted on my public speaking journey. And remember that I am the same girl who, two years ago, was afraid to raise her hand in class to ask to go to the bathroom. If I can take gather courage to overcome my fear, then anyone can.

The College Admissions Process: Personal Statement

The importance of the personal statement in the college application process cannot be understated. The personal statement is a chance for you to “sell” yourself to admissions officers. Why should they pick you over another equally qualified applicant? What makes you unique? What special quality can you contribute to their university?

The college application is a creative process- you are a painter, and you are painting a self-portrait of who you are, highlighting your strengths and qualities, portraying not only your academic ability, but also the multiple facets of your identity- personality, passions, purpose- that make you, you. So you’ve proven your ability to test well by maintaining a high GPA and earning decent standardized test scores. Then what? A person is NOT a set of numbers and letters, and quite frankly, a student’s intelligence cannot be measured by grades and SAT scores. This is one of the reasons why college applications are so controversial- universities’ quantification of everything to make the admission process simpler and more efficient does not accurately judge a student’s intellectual potential, inquisitiveness, or ability to learn.  The system is flawed, and admissions officers know this, which is why they’ve so graciously given students the opportunity to submit a personal statement. You have a chance to show these guys what kind of PERSON you are, away from all the numbers. Don’t pass up this opportunity. This is why I urge all of you incoming seniors to really get started on those essays, right away. It is NEVER too early to get started on generating ideas for your college essay- I personally started brainstorming sophomore year of high school. That isn’t to say that if you start a little later, your chances of generating a great piece of writing are shot. All I’m saying is that it never hurts to get started on your essays early, for you will allow yourself sufficient time to create your best work, instead of jumbling together a last-minute, half-baked piece.

Here are some tips on how to get started on the essay:

  1. Ask yourself- what is my story? Did you overcome an adversity- illness, death of a loved one, injury? Was there an event in your life that had a significant impact on you or inspired you in any way? Then, think about how your story has shaped the person you are today. For example, I told the story of the injury that ended my ten-year gymnastics career. However, I made sure to not dwell too much on the injury itself, focusing instead on how the injury made me stronger, changed my worldview, and influenced my career path.
  2. Sometimes, people have multiple stories to tell. I knew I wanted to tell the story of my injury and its profound impact on me, but I had other ideas, like how growing up as a triplet influenced my worldview. When you have more than one story in mind, that’s great! Write down ALL of your ideas, create outlines for them, and see which one you feel best encapsulates your strengths and multi-dimensional character.
  3. Avoid telling other people’s stories. Your parents may have been immigrants from a foreign country, working their way up the social ladder from nothing. An inspiring story- but not your own. Now, you can most definitely mention in passing the strife your parents faced, and focus your essay on how their determination and endurance inspired you, but I’d be wary of devoting the bulk of your essay on their story. Rather, focus on how your parents served as a beacon of inspiration and shaped your personal, educational, or career goals. Admissions officers want to know about you, not your parents!
  4. Write, write, write! The first draft will be rough, but you just gotta plunge right into it, like jumping into cold water. Once you start swimming, your muscles will get warmed up, and the initial cold will subside. Likewise, the more your write, the smoother the process will get.
  5. Don’t think about word limit when writing your first draft- your essay can ALWAYS be trimmed down later.
  6. Turn off the judgement side of your brain when writing. During the beginning stages of any creative process, the nagging voice in the back of your head will tell you that your piece is crap. Try your best to tune this voice out! Almost always, the first draft will be pretty bad. I remember my first draft just went on and on and on about the injury, focusing too much on the pain of it and too little on what I learned in the process of overcoming it. Albeit poetic (a little too much so), there was very little substance in my first draft. Five drafts later, I was able to create a piece that got me into most of my top choice schools.
  7. Get other people to read your product, but I’d refrain from having more than one person at once read it. Also, you should choose the people who read your essay carefully. Many people show their essays to one close friend/family member who knows them well, and one individual who doesn’t know them as well.
  8. Reading sample essays online can be helpful, but be wary of allowing your own voice to be influenced too much by others’. Personally, I didn’t read ANY sample essays until after I had finished writing my essay. I didn’t want to have other people’s ideas/styles drown out my own voice or dampen my creative process.

So, that’s my two-cents on how to tackle that personal statement! You definitely have your work laid out for you, but the process of looking within to find your best qualities is incredibly fulfilling. You may very well likely emerge from the process more enlightened about yourself! Enjoy this creative project, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions whatsoever! I’d be glad to help 🙂



First Writing Job!

Hi everyone! This brief post is an announcement of my new position as writer for the Odyssey, an online platform that empowers writers of all ages to reach a wide audience and make their voices heard. Don’t fret-this does not mean that I will stop posting on “Teenage Struggles”. In fact, many of the posts I make on my personal blog will be re-uploaded onto my Odyssey platform. That being said, I’ve decided that “Teenage Struggles” will be home to more personal stories- my continual fight against mental health illness, weekly goal updates (dance, academics, career goals, etc), and any other burgeoning thoughts/feelings I have that need to be released into the open.

Here is the link to my Odyssey blog:

Hope you guys continue to follow me on this blog, as well as my new one!

Sending hugs and positive thoughts your way! Enjoy the rest of your night 🙂




My Hollister Interview Experience!

On Friday May 27, 2016, I interviewed for a position as brand representative at Hollister! As many teenage girls/guys are interested in working part-time jobs at retail stores like Hollister, I thought I’d share with you guys the questions asked during my interview, as well as my overall experience!

Ice breakers
1) introduce yourself
2) fav animal

1) Experiences of being outgoing in front of a lot of people?
2) What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?
3) Describe a situation in which you’ve interacted with diverse group of people.
4) Scenario: a customer comes up to you asking for recommendations for clothes. How do you respond?

All in all, I thought the interview was a pretty low-key experience. This was my first job interview EVER, so I was admittedly a little bit nervous, as I did not know what to expect. Usually, Hollister interviews are conducted in group settings, with a few other applicants applying for the same position. I was the only applicant the day I interviewed, however, so it was just me and the store manager (a relief, if you ask me!).

For the interview, we sat on a bench in a quiet corner of the mall, a little ways away from the store. One thing to keep in mind is that you can take all the time you need to think about a good, complete answer to the questions posed. Don’t feel compelled or pressured to rush into answering the question. The store manager made it clear to me that I could- and should- take time to think before answering. Also, the interview is a chance for you to ask any questions you may have about the position, work attire, hours, wages, etc. Any questions you have for the store manager, don’t hesitate to ask!

So what should you wear to the Hollister interview? The morning of the interview, I was at a complete loss over how to dress. Seeing as this was an interview for a clothing store, I figured I should dress in a Hollister-y way, so the store manager could better envision me as an actual employee there. I wore a thin flowy-sleeved white blouse, blue boot cut jeans, tan-colored Toms wedges, and a matching tan satchel purse. My hairdo was pretty interesting- the day I interviewed was actually the day of senior prom, so right before my interview at 1:00 pm, I had my hair all curled and dolled up for that night. I explained the situation to the store manager, who was completely cool about it. I don’t think I wore ANY makeup to the interview, but you can never go wrong with foundation, light eyeshadow and mascara. I don’t really encourage the heavy eyeliner and such, since Hollister style is more about natural beauty(think SoCal beach scene).

It’s about ten days since the interview, and I still have not heard back from the store manager. I’m guessing that means I probably did not get the job, which I am 1000% okay with, since I mainly interviewed for the experience! One more thing to note- if you don’t get the Hollister job, it doesn’t mean you are not beautiful. It just means that you either don’t fit the Hollister “look”, don’t have enough job experience- there are a whole host of reasons! In spite of all that, I highly encourage you guys to go out, prospecting, looking for part-time jobs this summer, particularly in retail- I’ve heard it is an eye-opening humbling experience. Don’t let the anticipation of not getting the job hinder you from seeking out the experience!

Talk to you guys soon!



My High School Journey- Part II

*Disclaimer: The following post was not written to evoke pity in any way. Rather, it is a narrative of how I endured a very low point in my life and emerged stronger and enlightened. Hopefully, those going through times of strife can use my story as a source of inspiration.


Chp 2: Sophomore Year (’13-’14)

“The darkest hour is just before the dawn.”

The summer leading into sophomore year, my family and I had gone back to China for one month to visit family. There, I visited the ZhuHai rhythmic gymnastics province team- the team I trained with back in summer ’11. I went to see the team doctor about my knees, hoping to get a fresh, eastern medical perspective. I had hope that perhaps this doctor would cure me, and I could train the rest of the summer with the Chinese gymnasts, get back into shape, and resume my competitive career. The doctor performed acupuncture with electric stimulation, which provided momentary pain relief, but, to my disappointment, could not permanently cure the tendinitis. The Chinese doctor, like all the doctors back home, told me that physical therapy and strengthening of the muscles surrounding the area of inflammation was the only way to heal. More false hope shattered.

But it was really nice getting away from home that summer, filling my days with activities and loved ones. If I spent my summer at home, I can assure you, I would have been in my locked room all day, curtains drawn and lights off, grieving and self-pitying. It was nice getting my hair straight-permed and highlighted for the first time, filling my closet with Hong Kong style clothes. Change is good, and it was much needed at my lowest point. Yet simply changing your hairstyle and wardrobe does not heal a broken heart- any person who’s been through heartbreak can attest to this. The heart mends itself after time spent mourning, accepting, and rebuilding. For me, the process of truly moving on from gymnastics spanned three years- it wasn’t until February of senior year that I was able to peacefully closed the door to that chapter of my life, a sad smile on my face, as I walked away for good.

During sophomore year, however, I was still in the early stages of healing. The wound was still fresh. The one escape from the pain I felt was schoolwork. By burying my head in the books, striving to maintain straight A’s and score well on the SAT, I was able to channel the grief to something productive- academics. I excelled academically sophomore year, playing catch-up in math, getting straight A’s and passing the SAT with flying colors. My parents were proud of my academic achievements, and they assumed that since I was doing well in school, my mental health was perfectly fine. They were wrong.

I felt incredibly lonely. This time of tribulation was an ultimate test of friendship- most of my “friends” I had freshman year left the moment things got bad for me, showing that I didn’t have any real high school friends to begin with (owing to my unwillingness to open myself up to those beyond my world of gymnastics). My one school friend at the time soon became agitated at my growing detachment and isolation. In truth, nobody at school understood what I was going through emotionally, and I didn’t expect them to. Not even my family understood, despite the countless articles I sent them via email about athletes’ depression after injury. And what of my gymnastics family? Did they stick by me, even without the common bond of gymnastics to hold us together? I wish I could say they did. In reality, though, once the tie linking us together was broken, my relationships with my so-called “real friends” fell apart. I learned that even if you are going through the worst time of your life, for others, life goes on. Only those who truly love and care about you- family and genuine friends, will stick by you and help you get through rough patches.

So, to sum up: by the end of sophomore year, I was still as broken as ever, falling deeper into the hole of grief, bitterness, and isolation I had dug myself into. My isolation from people, coupled with the identity crisis and plummet in self-esteem, fueled the social anxiety that manifested itself in my growing fear of public speaking and increased anxiety when having conversations with others. I didn’t think it was possible, going from confident, charismatic, level-headed gymnast who competed in front of hundreds, to shy, insecure, utterly terrified girl, afraid of speaking in front of a class of thirty. I didn’t think my life could get any worse, until junior year started.

After an entire three months without any real social interaction- the summer into junior year was comprised of college app’s and studying- my anxiety around people developed into a full-fledged disorder. A month before the commencement of junior year, I felt an incredible fear at the prospect of returning to school. I dreaded school. The fear ate away at me each day, inundating my thoughts. Where was the quality of life? Could this be called living? Because if life was this hard, then I didn’t want to be a part of it any more.