Blogmas Day 3: Family Love, Depression, and Epiphany

I woke up at 10:00 a.m. to the sound of my mother calling for me to get dressed for my 11:00 a.m. dental appointment. As with the past week, I had very little motivation to get up. When I eventually did, I went through the motions of my morning routine, hoping that the coming day would be an “up day” instead of the usual “down day”.

I checked the UCLA website for final grades, and FINALLY, all my first quarter grades were published. The verdict:

Chem 14A: A+

LS 30A: A

GE Cluster 80A: A-

First quarter GPA: 3.88

In all honesty, I was disappointed at the A- I received– in my GE, of all classes! It brought my GPA down from a 4.0 to a 3.88. I know, I must sound ludicrous, complaining about an A-. But when you are hoping for an A and fall short of your expectations, disappointment is only the natural human response. The takeaway from this– study harder, study smarter, and take care of your health! When I got sick for two weeks, I fell WAY behind in my readings for the GE. As a result, I ended up cramming for the final, which, history has proven, does not work for me. I could blame external circumstances– namely, the illness– for hindering me from performing to my greatest ability… but even the illness could have been prevented, or the severity of the illness mitigated, should I had made my health a greater priority. At the end of the day, though, I realized that, A- or not, I still worked very hard for the grades I earned and am happy to walk away from first quarter knowing I gave it my all. Besides, it’s only the first quarter! I have plenty of opportunities to boost my GPA. My father, back when he was a freshman undergraduate student at the University of Utah, got a B in economics during his first quarter! He still was able to make a comeback, get his GPA up, get into medical school and become a great doctor. And, as Chopra the anesthesiologist told me, grades are just a number. Yesterday, when I told him that I had earned an A+ in chemistry, he dismissed it, stating that in the grand scheme of things, grades say nothing about the human intellect, character or potential for greatness.

At 10:45 a.m., my two brothers and I piled into the Volkswagen that Austin so affectionately named “Leon” and headed to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned.

The good news– no cavities! I was actually a bit worried, since after 2.5 months at UCLA, home to the best university dining in the nation, I suspected that all those irresistible cookies, doughnuts and ice cream (yeah, what a dancer I am…) would take their toll on my pearly whites. Thankfully, I got lucky, as did my two brothers.

My brothers and I got lunch at Nob Hill foods. Austin and Chris ate healthy greens, while I made my way to the “hot foods” section and indulged in turkey bolognese, spare ribs, pasta and chicken salad with tomatoes. Chris eyed my lunch with disapproval (and, I suspect, envy), to which I say, “There’s no shame in a gal with an appetite, okay?”

After satiating my growling stomach, I made my way up to my room. Ahh, my room… it’s the place I go when I feel down. And, despite having a good meal and being reunited with Chris, there was still a suffocating heaviness that weighed down on my chest. And so, I gave in to the emotions. I crawled under my covers, not really asleep, not really awake. I was in a limbo state, ruminating.

Whatever happened to get me to this low? And when I think of the effect that my polarized moods have on my mother, I feel guilt beyond measure. My poor mother, who has long since renounced all expectation of me, other than that of being happy. Any parent would hate to see their child hurting. I wish I didn’t have to put her through this. I wish my recurring depression doesn’t have to impact those close to me… but alas, this is the nature of love and family. When one suffers, all suffer.

Eventually, I dragged myself out of bed and mustered the willpower to continue working on one of my winter quarter pieces for Daily Bruin. At around 4:00 p.m., my mother urged me to go to the gym and get some exercise. At first, I was unwilling. But then I figured, any physical activity is sure to boost my spirits at least a little bit. On the way out the door, I complained to my mother about how, despite having my driver’s license, I wasn’t able to drive without a licensed adult in the vehicle, as my parents only paid car insurance for Austin. I don’t know why I whined at that moment. I believe it was the depression talking. When you’re depressed, you tend to be very negative about everything and think the whole world is conspiring against you. That’s why I complained about how unfair it was that Austin got insurance, and I didn’t. He could drive anywhere he wanted, while I still had to rely on my mom or brother whenever I needed to go somewhere. To add fuel to fire, my parents had canceled all three of our gym memberships when we went off to college, but, during winter break, paid an extra $200 to extend Austin’s membership so he could work out whenever he pleased. I, on the other hand, had to use my father’s guest passes to enter the gym, and in order to do that, my mom had to call the front desk in advanced before I could use the facilities. There was just a lot of unnecessary hassle, having to deal with guest paperwork upon arriving at the gym. Basically, due to my irritable mood, I was complaining about nothing. It happens, guys. I’m only human. But I still feel bad for spreading my negative energy to everyone during what’s supposed to be the “happiest time of the year”.

Austin was sweet enough to let me drive Leon. I made a premature left turn and had to weave through a busy parking lot to get to the gym. Didn’t get into an accident, though!

Upon arriving at the gym, I was pleased to see a former AP Psychology classmate, Nathan, working at the front desk. After checking in, I headed to the locker room, only to realize that I had left my key-card at home. Thus, I left my bag inside an unlocked locker, hoping that no one would steal my things.

I left my phone in the unlocked locker as well (I know, genius move), as I didn’t want distractions during my workout. I ran a mile on the treadmill, did my usual stretching and conditioning routine and concluded with a machines circuit that centered on my abs. Gotta cut down on that belly fat!

I was a bit nervous working out at the gym I’ve called home for the past fourteen years, and I’ll tell you why. Last week, when I was at the same gym, I was in the middle of my warm-up routine, when a man who looked about 70 years old walked up to me. I can’t remember his exact words, but he basically said, “[something something] beautiful women like you”, gave me his card (he’s a florist) and suggested we “grab a cocktail sometime.” I was mortified! As I was in public, I didn’t want to outright reject the man, nor did I wish to comply. So I simply gave him a strained smile and walked away, dumbfounded at what had just transpired. Another strange thing happened that day in the gym as well. As a former gymnast, I have a set warm-up routine that consists of splits and kicks and other moves that may seem perfectly normal to me, but to others, unusual. Anyway, I was sitting in middle splits, engaged in the stretch, when I suddenly heard the voices of three men behind me, chattering away. They were talking so loudly, it was impossible for me not to catch some of their words. One asked another, “Can your wife do that?” I presumed they were referring to my middle splits. The other replied, “No, my wife’s not a slut.” At first, I thought I had misheard. A slut?? Did that man– that grown man with a wife and children– just call me, an eighteen year old girl, a slut, simply because I was stretching? Of course, I pretended not to hear them, but in that moment, my mind raced and my blood turned icy. The more I thought about it, the more bothered I became. I didn’t want to make a scene by confronting the three grown men about their discussion, but I certainly did not feel comfortable training in front of those men any more, so I promptly exited that section of the gym, finding a dark and quiet corner to continue my workout.

While I still have a lot to say about the strange and offensive encounters that happened last week, I’d rather not dwell on unpleasant memories. All I can say is, this world is filled with crazy people, but you can’t let these guys get to you. Know how to be assertive and defend yourself when needed. Thankfully, I did not run into any of the men at the gym today, and if I had, I already planned to simply ignore them and continue my workout in peace.

At around 5:45 p.m., I finished my work out and felt a lot, lot better than I did coming in to the gym. Physical activity, while not a panacea for depression, MUST be practiced by all, especially the clinically depressed. It helps SO much.

I went back to the locker room to grab my bag, only to find my bag strewn on the ground! Some lady had come into the locker room, opened the unlocked locker and saw my bag, and instead of choosing a different locker, she had thrown my bag onto the floor and filled the locker with her belongings instead. Thankfully, my phone and wallet were still safely in my bag. I still was a bit salty about the incident, but it’s such a trivial matter, I won’t waste any more mental energy on it.

My brother told me he’d be finished at roughly 6:15 p.m., so I used the extra time to go to Nob Hill and buy some cookie mix for baking. I stopped by Starbucks and splurged on an overly-sweetened but still delicious peppermint-mocha frappuchino. I headed back to the gym lobby, but Austin still wasn’t finished with his workout. So there I sat, twiddling my thumbs, not wanting to call my mom to pick me up, as she was probably busy preparing dinner. It was too dark and chilly to make the twenty minute walk back home, so I decided to just wait it out.

By 7:15 p.m., Austin still didn’t come out, nor did he answer the texts and calls I sent him (he doesn’t bring his phone inside the gym). So I finally called my mom and asked her to pick me up. Downsides of not having car insurance…

I got home and had a home-cooked meal with my family. I had a heart-to-heart talk with my dad (those are rare) about the ineptitude I felt with regards to my social life. Basically, on the way home, I received a text from a good friend, who recounted something that had happened while she was out with a group of high school friends. What exactly happened is not important. What struck me was the fact that my high school friends were hanging out together, and I wasn’t invited. I know, I know. I sound very needy right now, letting myself get all riled up over something so trivial. In the past, I would have brushed this aside with some high-sounding self-reassuring words like, “Oh I don’t need people like them in my life.” Now, however, I recognize the importance of building relationships in life, and I’m making an effort to form new ties and rebuild old ones.

About a week ago, before I caught a cold, I invited a group of friends over for a baking party! I was a bit nervous to host the party, as I have little to no experience as a hostess, but I really wanted to reach out to my friends and bond over the common joy of baking cookies. So a few friends said they would come, but when I asked the group what they wanted to bake, nobody replied, even on the scheduled day of baking! I took this lack of response to mean that no one was really invested or enthusiastic about the baking party I had in mind. In the end, I canceled the party since I caught a cold that same day. It was probably for the better, anyway, since nobody seemed excited to come over. So how does this minor digression relate to anything at all? Well, one of the girls I had invited over for baking last week was also at today’s reunion. You know, the one I wasn’t invited to. And because of that, I felt a little bit left out… a little bit like an outsider. Here I was, making an effort to build a relationship, but the high school friend I had reached out to seemed too busy with her own friends.

I will admit that throughout high school, I was never part of the “group” that had reunited today. I find cliques to be a petty and superficial. I love being a floater and having the chance to meet a diverse group of people from various “groups”, instead of being tied down to the same people. But that’s just me. Anyway, in high school, I didn’t do great with forming relationships with my peers, largely because of my social anxiety. So I understand that maybe the friend I had reached out to last week may have felt more comfortable hanging out with her “people” than she did with me.

That’s what I love about college, though. You get the chance to start over a make new friends from scratch. The friendships I’ve formed in my first quarter at UCLA run deeper than most of my high school bonds. While many of my college friends were excited to go home and hang out with high school pals, I thought, I want to stay here, with my Bruins, where I feel accepted for who I am! 

Anyway, that’s basically the gist of my dinner-table convo with my dad, who thought I was overreacting about the entire situation. And maybe I am. But sometimes, I wish I had made a greater effort to form deeper friendships in high school. You know what, though? High school is nothing. COLLEGE is where the real stuff is at… the life-changing, defining moments of your life; the deepest friendships; the grandest adventures. So to anyone reading this who is having a rough time socially in high school, know that it gets a GAZILLION times better once you go to college.

Ok, so back to my day. After dinner, I went to my room and started writing this blog post. In the middle of my writing, my two brothers came into my room and told me that no matter what, I will always have them to count on. They urged me not to be upset about my relationships with others– or lack thereof. And in that moment, I loved my brothers beyond imagination. We fight, but we’re also the greatest of friends.

Later that night, my mom called me downstairs to spend some quality time with her. So engrossed I was in my writing that, at first, I turned down her offer. Then, I came to my senses and realized that I only have about two weeks left with her, and it’s off to college once more. So I made my way downstairs and sat on the leather sofa in front of the burning fire. Mom made some green tea for us to share, and we basically had a long heart-to-heart conversation about lots of things.

We talked about my dancing, and how I haven’t been dancing much lately. I know this post is already super long, but I’ll give you guys the back-story. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when I returned to UCLA, I was studying for one of my finals when I suddenly had an epiphany– I wanted to be a dancer. In that moment, it seemed so clear. Dance was my calling. It would be a crime if I didn’t try to pursue a dance career. Life was too short to not pursue what made me happy. And dance made me happy. I’d put the premed aside and focus my energies on dancing whilst pursuing a B.S. in psychobiology. After college, I’d continue dancing on the competitive circuit (given that I’d found a partner) and go as far as I could. After I retired from dancing, I could always go back to school and get a post-bacc, if my heart still wanted medicine. I had this whole plan laid out for the future. Most importantly, I was GENUINELY HAPPY. For the two weeks I believed I would pursue a career in dancing, I felt completely liberated. My heart was at peace.

Then, the reality sank in. When I called my mom and told her about the plan, she was completely against it. I talked to more people in the dance community, and they all stressed how difficult it would be to make a living as a dancer. There was neither comfort nor luxury nor stability in a dancer’s life. And what about a family? Did I want to have children? Did I want a steady income? Did I want to go to med school at age 40? These were all very real considerations I failed to take into account when I made that spur-of-the-moment decision to pursue dancing.

In the end, I decided I was deluding myself. In all honesty, I lack the courage to make that leap of faith and attempt to pursue a career in art. Now, if I were already a highly accomplished dancer, then this option may be more viable. But I’m not! I just started two years ago. I’m still a fledgling beginner with LOTS to learn. And I’m sure that if I gave up school and focused 100% on dancing, I could get somewhere, because I have the potential, thanks to my foundation as a gymnast. But that’s not the point, is it? Just because you have the potential to do well in something, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to make a living out of it, right?

So, once I came to the realization that dancing as a career wasn’t going to work out after all, I completely stopped dancing. My delusion: If I’m not going to dance as a profession, might as well not dance at all. As Chris so rightly observed, I live my life in “absolutes”. I always pursue things with an end goal in mind. I never just do something for the fun of it, or because it makes me happy. If dance isn’t to become my profession, then screw it, I’m just gonna switch gears completely to medicine (which, by the way, I’m also unsure of), and channel my energies to something that’ll give me CONCRETE benefits.

Despite my claims of destroying my former illusions, I feel like I’ve been living under the umbrella of one gigantic illusion that I only became aware of tonight, when Chris pointed it out so clearly and eloquently.

I wonder if I ever truly loved dance for dancing’s sake, or if I just liked the idea of becoming a professional dancer and living the seemingly glamorous dancer’s life. Maybe my entire life, I’ve been so obsessed with achieving goals and seeing end results, that my fight to STRIVE for success and achievement actually backfired. It took away the beauty of simply doing things for the purest reason– because you derive happiness from it. How else can I explain this 180 degree shift from being super motivated to pursuing dance as a career, to not dancing once during this entire winter break?

Chris is currently studying computer science and music. Unlike me, he actually has a real shot at making a career in art, as a concert pianist. At University of Michigan, he was taken under the wing of the accomplished American classical pianist, Arthur Greene, who sees great potential and talent in Chris. Big things are coming for my brother– he’s performing with an orchestra in Italy this summer– and I’m honestly so excited for him.

Tonight, I asked him the following question: “What if music were NOT your primary career path? What if your main focus was computer science, and piano was rendered something secondary?” In reply, Chris stated that he’d still find time to play, because music gave him joy and fulfillment. Just because he wouldn’t be pursuing a career in music doesn’t mean he’d stop. And that’s when he pointed out to me my tendency to focus only on the end results, without enjoying the process. He couldn’t be more right. For it’s the PROCESS that PRODUCES the end result. The end result is something that ensues, rather than something actively pursued. I’ve been living my life as one big tunnel-vision towards my goals, without stopping to ask myself, why am I even doing these things?

This post is especially long, and it reflects the current anguish of my mind… About 15 minutes ago, my mom came into my room, frustrated that her daughter was depressed. I get it. She doesn’t understand it, and she’s upset because she doesn’t know how to help. And in her frustration, she said some things I know she didn’t mean. I forgive her.

Quite frankly, writing this blog post has been incredibly therapeutic, for when I write, the void and emptiness I usually feel is suddenly filled. Writing is my sanctuary. This is why I never envision myself as becoming a professional writer. I don’t want that label to entrap me. Writing is the one thing in my life where I’m completely focused on the process, instead of the end result. I don’t care if I become a NY Times bestselling author one day. I don’t care if I don’t make a penny off of my writing. I just need to write. I fear that once I set my mind on making writing a career, my shrine will be shattered. I write for me. I write because I truly love it. Can I say the same about dance or medicine with such unwavering certainty? I can’t. Because I’ve turned these pursuits into extrinsically motivated goals, which in turn, destroyed the light that made me start in the first place.

I will conclude this post before it hits midnight.

3 Gratitudes 12/20/16:

  • the gift of writing
  • my mom
  • my brothers
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2 thoughts on “Blogmas Day 3: Family Love, Depression, and Epiphany

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