Winter Quarter Week 3 Reflection

Disclaimer: My apologies in advance for the disorganization and typo’s in today’s post. I have midterms next week to study for, so unfortunately I could not spend too much time perfecting my writing. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy, and as always, feedback and thoughts are greatly appreciated! 

Hi guys! It’s currently Friday, January 27, 2017, at 12:07 p.m. I have finished my two classes of the day– math and chem – and am now sitting inside the biomedical library. The rest of the day will be a study day, since I have a chem quiz and math midterm next Tuesday.

This week was emotionally rough. Last Friday, I called my parents and expressed to them that I no longer wanted to continue the pre-med track, and that I had aspirations to pursue a professional dance career instead. They were okay with me not doing premed– my dad was actually relieved! But, as you could imagine, neither were pleased with my decision to pursue dancing. They just don’t think such a career will provide me with stability and any real guarantee of success. My mother went so far as to tell me that she knows I can’t “make it big” as a dancer. The thing is, though, when you love something, success does not necessarily mean becoming the BEST dancer in the world and gaining external rewards like money, fame and prestige. Would it be nice to one day rise to the top and share the floor with some of the best dancers in the world? Of course! But even if I never get there, which is a real possibility, I believe I will be happy regardless, because dancing, plain and simple, brings me joy. To me, personal success is doing what makes you happy and finding meaning in the pursuit of your passion, no matter how difficult or uncertain the path. What others think is absolutely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you go into medicine or some other field deemed “prestigious” by society. If you yourself are not happy, everything loses meaning.

Screw what society says. Why CAN’T I become a professional dancer, if my heart wants it enough? All my life, things like gymnastics and dance have been labeled by others as mere “hobbies”. They were extracurricular activities rendered secondary to school. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not discounting the value of an education. I am currently enrolled in a wonderful university, where I will expand my knowledge capital, delve into academic disciplines on genuine interest and master my skills in critical thinking and writing. More importantly, I will meet so many people during my time here and enrich my life with lifelong friendships and mentors.

The thing with dance, though, is that this path has a time limit to it. If I really do want to give professional dancing a real shot, NOW is the prime time to pursue that dream– not four years from now.

But going back to my parents. My dad made it clear to me that as long as I am enrolled in UCLA, academics must be my number one priority. He told me that he is not paying all this tuition for me to go to college to dance 100%. He said, if I wanted to dance full time, I might as well just drop out of college, live at home, and dance. At least then he wouldn’t have to pay $30,000 in tuition each year. Now, I have no intentions of dropping out of college and renouncing the incredible opportunity of higher education that I’ve been blessed with. College is indeed my backup plan, should dance not work out. I’ll get a degree in something that interests me, whether it’s English, psychology, business, or some undiscovered passion, and go from there. However, at this point, medicine is not in my cards. Ever since freeing myself of the “pre-med” label, I’ve felt liberated. By being brutally honest with myself, I was able to admit that I just didn’t have a passion for medicine like I had originally thought. With this liberation came feelings of fear and uncertainty. For my whole life, I thought I would become a doctor like my father. Coming in to college, I was certain about pre-med, bent on getting into medical school. I had the next twelve years of my life laid out. I never stopped to ponder what I would do if not medicine. Having renounced this long-standing plan, then, I have definitely felt overwhelmed at the uncertainty of my future. I don’t want to say I am 100% done with pre-med, because I can’t predict the person I may be several years from now. Maybe, later in life, I’ll decide that I want to go back to school and become a doctor. As of right now, however, I know that my passion for dance transcends all inclinations towards medicine.

Things with my mom aren’t going so well. Every time I call her, we end up arguing, leaving both of us frustrated. I usually phone her because I feel absolutely miserable about the classes I’m taking this quarter– science and math courses that, because I’m no longer pre-med, seem completely irrelevant to my future. Unfortunately it is too late in the quarter for me to drop these science and math classes, so I just have to grind it out for the next 7 weeks. I know that the chemistry and math classes I’m taking are not utterly useless– the chem counts as a GE, and the process of learning about thermodynamics and modeling biological systems will train my problem-solving skills. I’m just struggling with adopting a more positive attitude when I have to study for subjects that really don’t pique my interest. Each study session is an ordeal. This quarter, I started drinking coffee, in spite my religious values. It’s been so difficult to channel the willpower and motivation to study efficiently for chemistry and math… On Wednesday night I stayed up until 5:00 a.m., grinding and cursing and pulling my hair out while solving thermodynamics problems. Last night, I stayed up until 2:30 a.m., pretty much doing the same thing. It’s definitely a mindset problem. Ever since I decided I was no longer pre-med and admitted to myself that I really am not passionate about science, I began to live this self-fulfilling prophecy. I go into each study session thinking, “Why am I even doing this?” Instead of studying chem, I wish I could be dancing or writing or learning about topics that really interest me. Procrastination– something which, up to this point, I have spurned with a passion– has crept into my daily life. Dancing, socializing, writing and tutoring friends have all become mechanisms for me to avoid the dreadful reality of the next seven weeks. It’s interesting because last quarter, I was probably the most enthusiastic and driven premed student you could imagine. I was so laser-focused on the goal of getting into medical school, because I forced myself to believe that pre-med was path I had to take. I doubt I enjoyed chemistry any more then than I do now, but the difference was, so long as I still wanted to go to medical school, I had the long-term goal to motivate me. Sure, chemistry wasn’t fun, but it was just a necessary obstacle to overcome on the long journey to the eventual destination. Now, I don’t have that goal of medical school to motivate me to get through chem. I’m relying on sheer willpower, and willpower is a limited resource. If I don’t want to burn out by the end of the this quarter, I’m going to have to change my attitude. Maybe treat this whole quarter as a test of strength, and have faith that I can get through it and succeed academically if I really apply myself.

I still will try hard to get good grades this quarter. I want to keep my options open, should I later decide to pursue medical or graduate school. Maybe that will be my motivator whenever I have to sit down for a dreaded five-hour chemistry study session.

On the bright side, I’ve been doing tremendously well socially! I’m gaining a lot more confidence each day. Talking to strangers has now become a natural part of my life, and I really do enjoy getting to know people. Yesterday, we had a debate for my human aging GE class. I felt nervous before getting up there with my group. However, I realized that nearly everyone in the class felt the same way. One of my debate teammates and I compared each other’s hands right before it was our turn to go. Her hands were glistening with sweat, and my hands were cold as ice and slightly trembling. We both ended up performing very well– as rebuttal speakers, nonetheless! When it came my turn to speak, I got up out of my chair and paced in front of the room, putting on my best “trial lawyer” act. I turned the sass level to full throttle. I channeled the initial nervousness into positive energy that fueled my debate performance. I was met with applause from the audience, who my friend later told me, was “blown away”. I still marvel at the fact that this is the same girl who, not too long ago, found the idea of raising her hand in class utterly terrifying.

Ever since I was diagnosed with social phobia, I had always thought I had it worst when it came to public speaking anxiety or other socially challenging situations. The truth is, though, everyone has some degree of social anxiety. In fact, I’d say some people were more nervous than I was for yesterday’s debate! It’s completely normal to feel nervous before a speech or debate or performance. I’m really starting to get the hang of embracing the discomfort instead of being repelled by it. Discomfort breeds growth, and with each experience I have outside my comfort zone, I gain confidence in my ability to push through the discomfort. So my hands shake and my voice trembles when I’m anxious. I feel awkward and my mind sometimes goes blank when I have to talk to attractive guys. So be it! It’s called being human. The point is, by pushing myself to do things that scare me, I am growing. My shyness is rapidly shedding. I’m blossoming into the outspoken, confident and shameless individual I always dreamt of becoming, and it’s really a beautiful thing to experience.

While I still have much to tell you guys, I mustn’t put off studying any longer. Tomorrow, I have a double private lesson with my new dance partner. We are shooting for our first competition in May. Until then, I will continue to study hard, dance, and continue my upward trajectory of personal growth. Never again will I twist myself into a being I am not, in the name of conforming to societal and familial ideals of success. I am Belicia Tang, and this is my one shot at life. I have no intention of wasting it on anything that doesn’t make me happy.

 

 

Winter Quarter Week 2 Reflection: LIBERATION

Hey guys! It’s Friday at 4pm as I begin typing this blog post. The weather today in Los Angeles was absolutely treacherous! I made the fatal mistake of wearing Ugg boots in the rain… The sad lumps of gray wool are now sitting in front of the fan, drying.

Schoolwork definitely started ramping up this week. Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I took the day off to study (and, of course, appreciate the justice that MLK brought for African-Americans and the precedent he set for our nation). At noon, I headed out to Westwood to have coffee with a friend, Edgar, who is currently a PhD student in engineering at UCLA. He knew of my current career path dilemma and told me of his own story as a young immigrant from Peru. While in Peru, Edgar had no aspirations of pursuing engineering, as he didn’t feel confident enough in his math and science abilities. Upon coming to the U.S. for high school and finding great mentors in his teachers, Edgar realized that he genuinely enjoyed math and science, once given the opportunity to learn. He was accepted to UC Berkeley School of Engineering (which is crazy difficult to get into), and received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree there. Now, he is at UCLA for his PhD and aspires to become a university professor one day. I guess the lesson I learned from Edgar’s story is that you never really know where life will take you. A career in engineering was not something Edgar even imagined he would pursue, until the opportunity presented itself when he moved to the U.S. It’s foolish to think that you can plan out the next 12 years of your life and expect everything to go according to plan. Impermanence is the only permanence; uncertainty is the only certainty. And now, as I abolish my entire life’s game plan of going the med school/residency/fellowship/doctorhood route, I’m faced with this vast ocean ahead of me. There are so many options, so many things I can envision myself doing. Dancing. Writing. Psychology. Acting. Teaching. Physical therapy. The list goes on! I have full confidence in my ability to learn and master whatever my heart desires. That’s the thing though. What does my heart want?

On Tuesday, we had a guest speaker, Dr. Leland Powell, an oncologist, come in and talk about “Death and Dying”. After the lecture, I ran into Dr. Powell on the way down the stairwell. So eager was I to talk to him that I walked him all the way to his car, which was parked off campus near the hospital. On the way to his car, I asked him questions about the doctor’s lifestyle, growing rates of burnout and suicide among physicians, how he maintains work-life balance, how he emotionally distances himself from his profession, his family, and what he thinks of my whole career path dilemma. This is what he told me.

He was not officially “premed” until his senior year of college. He doesn’t plan his life out in chunks greater than four years at a time. He went to Johns Hopkins medical school and earned his PhD in biochemistry. He is a self-proclaimed “science geek”, as is his wife, a pathologist. His wife also dances as a hobby. He has three children– two girls and a boy. None were science geeks growing up, and all have chosen career paths lightyears away from the field of medicine. And that, according to Dr. Powell, was completely okay. I told him I was interested in medicine because I wanted to make a profound difference in the life on an individual. His reply: “Teach kids how to dance. That’s making a difference right there!” Regarding the whole premed dilemma, Dr. Powell told me that beyond good grades and book smarts, medical schools want individuals who are PASSIONATE and can COMMIT to long-term goals. Having interviewed so many prospective medical students, Dr. Powell says that a premed student can go through the entire checklist of “premed extracurriculars”, like volunteering at a hospital, doing groundbreaking research, or “giving blood transfusions to homeless people”, but if there is no passion there, he sees right through it. He told me that if I still wanted to go to medical school, there was NOTHING wrong with getting good grades, a decent MCAT score, and doing nothing but dancing as my extracurricular throughout college. What’s wrong with doing that? I may not be the “cookie-cutter” premed student who greets patients at hospitals and joins Stroke Force or EMRA (2 really big premed clubs at UCLA), but honestly, I think it’s so much more important to stay true to myself and do what I love doing, than to create this contrived, on-paper entity that speaks nothing of me–Belicia– at all.

I’ve only just begun my college journey, but I feel that I’ve reached a whole new level of clarity since I came to UCLA. It’s funny– I made the decision to come to UCLA so that I could pursue premed whilst continuing dance as a hobby. Coming into UCLA, I was so bent on premed, so set on becoming a doctor, that I never really stopped to ask myself if this was really what I wanted. All my life, the default career path was medicine. My parents never gave me any pressure to become a doctor. It was all my decision, from the beginning. This was the path that felt “safest”. So many before me, my father included, have embarked on this very path and succeeded. It’s a respectable profession and the work is undoubtedly profound. Saving lives? Who wouldn’t give to have such knowledge and skill and power? Steady income doesn’t hurt. It’s the reason why my dad’s able to take me and my family on cruise trips to Europe and treat family friends to expensive dinners. It’s the reason why we can live in the Bay Area! So becoming a doctors has all these face-level benefits. I have the smarts, work ethic and family support to do it. So what’s stopping me from chasing the glorified white coat?

Before I came to UCLA, I had embedded in my mind this idea that I HAD to become a doctor. That any other profession would not be “respectable” or “prestigious” enough. In allowing societal ideals to dictate me in my choice of career, I had renounced one of the most fundamental freedoms of a human being– the power to think for oneself.

I can’t pinpoint what exactly changed when I got to college. I had the opportunity to talk to so many people– classmates, professors, doctors, artists– conversations that both expanded my mind and gave me the courage to listen to my heart. The more I listened, the more I realized that I really didn’t know if medicine was my passion. Science has never piqued my interest the way art and human behavior and language has. Sure, I’ve done well in my science classes throughout high school and college thus far. It’s not that I lack the intelligence to go for medicine. But it’s the other organ– the one that keeps you alive with purpose and passion- that is more important. And the more I listen to the soft whisper of my heart, the more I realize this truth: I don’t want to be a doctor. I want to be… Well, I have yet to find the answer to that question. What is more important than knowing the answer to this question, however, is the new state of mind I have adopted. In coming to university, I broke free from the stifling forces of my upper-middle-class hometown and self-construed idea of NEEDING to follow in my dad’s footsteps to live a good life. In doing so, I freed myself from the chains of society. And for the first time in my life, I feel as if I have the power to live my life with my heart as my compass. This feeling of liberation is something that I felt greatly during this week. I may not have studied as much as I should have (that’s what this weekend is for), but I spent much of my time dancing and sharing my knowledge of dance with others. I attended a meditation workshop last night, led by a master Buddhist monk, who actually received her post-doc in chemical engineering in the U.S. before earning her ordinance in 2011.

And I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.

Winter Quarter Week 1 Reflection

Week 1 of winter quarter freshman year is officially over! This week was INSANE, but in the most amazing way possible.  So much has happened in the span of seven days, and by leaping out of my comfort zone on several occasion, I have grown tremendously.

Monday: Monday was the first day of winter quarter classes! Nothing crazy happened in my math or chem lectures, just the usual introductory spiel from the professor and review from the previous quarter’s material. At 4:00 p.m., I attended my first research lab meeting under UCLA head and neck surgeon, Dr. Maie St. John. I faced considerable anxiety before attending this meeting, as I had no idea what to expect, and I was worried about appearing dumb or incompetent amongst the MDs and PhDs in the room. Thankfully, everyone was super friendly and welcoming. Another newcomer that day was one of Dr. St. John’s 4th year residents, Kelly. I spoke to Kelly about my dance vs. medicine career path dilemma, and she told me that dancing competitively in med school is definitely doable, which gave me hope. Dr. St. John was a bit late to the meeting, since her surgery went overtime. She was very welcoming and sweet to everyone, and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. Once we went around the room and introduced ourselves, the meeting commenced. I didn’t understand much of what was being discussed, as I was unfamiliar with the current projects the team was working on. I was terrified of being asked for my input, because I struggled simply to understand the complicated medical jargon being used– I had to pull up my computer and look up what a “tracheotomy” and “trach tube” was. To my relief, I didn’t have to say a word during the meeting. At the meeting’s close, I stayed behind to talk to one of the head researchers, a UCLA professor of engineering (or something along those lines). He instructed me on the lab safety courses I had to take before I could even begin doing any research. I made it clear to both him and Dr. St. John that, as I’m currently questioning whether or not I’m even pre-med track anymore, I didn’t feel comfortable with committing 100% to the lab– at least not until I was more certain that I’d be going to med school. They understood, and told me to just keep coming to the lab meetings while completing the lab safety training on my own time. I told them that I’d try to make a decision by the end of this quarter about pre-med. However, even if I’m not a pre-med student, I think getting involved in undergraduate research is still an invaluable experience, so I may stick with research, even if I’m not looking to go to medical school.

Tuesday/Wednesday: These two days were pretty normal. On Tuesday, I went to my morning chemistry discussion section, did some studying on campus, then made a Target run with my friend Tracy. I bought athletic tape and band-aids for the dance-induced blisters scarring the heels of my feet. For snacks, I got these Fiber One 90-calorie/pack brownies. Tracy and I took an Uber back to campus, as it was raining pretty hard. I was able to squeeze in a couple hours of gym/dance time on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to dance on Wednesday, since I had to prioritize my schoolwork, which had begun to ramp up that day.

Thursday: Thursday was a formative day. I went to my 8am math discussion in the morning and was pleased to discover that one of my closest friends at UCLA, Chiana, was in the same discussion! After lab, I stayed on campus and studied at the Kerchkoff coffee shop. There, I ran into some members of UCLA’s Dancesport club, who had planned to pass out fliers on Bruin Walk to advertise the club, but were driven inside by the rain. I joined them in some online media advertising. Taylor, a third-year math major who is the club’s head Latin dance teacher and coordinator, recently split with his dance partner, so he and I discussed competing together in collegiate ballroom. While I recently found a dance partner outside of school whom I’m training with to compete in amateur Latin, I figured that a partner in collegiate ballroom wouldn’t hurt. I was originally hesitant about competing in collegiate dancesport, since I didn’t feel I’d be challenged enough, but I think any competition/performing experience at this point is better than nothing. I’m just dying to get back out on the floor. At 12:00 p.m., I attended my first Bruin Toastmaster’s meeting to help with my public speaking anxiety. Was I nervous to be the first one to go up to the podium and introduce myself? Yes. Was I nervous to participate in the Table Topics segment of the meeting, which involve answering a random question spontaneously? Double yes. But in this state of anxiety and discomfort, I also grew more confident in my ability to EMBRACE the unfamiliar, instead of run away from it. In challenging myself to face my fears, I grew. It was also wonderful being in a room full of people who shared similar fears of public speaking and creating that supportive and nurturing environment needed for people like me, who find public speaking to be a nerve-wracking ordeal. When answering the question, “What makes you unique?”, I somehow got into the topic of my current career path dilemma. Dance, medicine, both, or something else altogether? Later that day, I was pleasantly surprised by a voicemail from a member of Toastmasters who had heard me speak. He told me of this resource I might find useful in helping with my decision. This is what I love about Toastmasters– not only do you get to practice your public speaking skills in a supportive environment, you also have the opportunity to make connections with so many different people. Bruin Toastmasters is open to undergrads, grad students, post docs and faculty. It’s really enlightening and inspiring to hear so many different perspectives from people of all different walks of life. I’m definitely going to make Toastmasters a bigger priority for this coming quarter. After the hour-long meeting was adjourned, I went to my math professor’s office hours. There were only two other girls there, so I was able to have all my questions answered. My GE class on human aging that day featured a guest speaker, a UCLA geriatrician. Before class started, though, I headed to one of the professor’s office hours, just to chat. This professor was sitting alone in a room, and her eyes lit up with surprise when she saw a student actually utilizing her OH’s. I didn’t have any academic-related questions for her. Rather, I wanted to get her perspective on my whole career dilemma. I’m trying really hard this quarter to ask as many people as possible for their input on my current struggle to choose what career path to embark on. Of course, the decision is ultimately for me to make, but hearing multiple perspectives will give me more information to work with in making the final decision. Dr. Effros told me that I don’t need to make a decision right here, right now. She advised me to stick with both dancing and pre-med, and see where it takes me in a couple years. It’s true that at some point, it will be nearly impossible for me to do both to the degree I want to. Should I stay with medicine, dance will be rendered a hobby, nothing more. Am I okay with that reality? My heart says no. Dr. Effros also gave me the name of an accomplished UCLA pediatrician who was a serious ballerina before she decided to embark on the medical path. We talked for so long that we lost track of time and were both late for the 3:30 p.m. lecture! I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. David Reuben lecture on geriatrics. He concluded the lecture with a 25-minute film he made about one of his patients, Freda Sandrich. She lived until she was 103 years old. Each year, she would be invited as a guest to Dr. Reuben’s second-year medical student lecture, and perform a series of tests assessing her physical and cognitive abilities. Freda’s personality exuded wit, humor, and love of people, even up to her final days. Freda gives young people hope that not everyone will become the stereotypical “grumpy old man/woman” in their latter years. After lecture, I had originally planned to attend UCLA Hooligan Theater’s pre-audition workshop at 7:00 p.m. This quarter, Hooligan is putting on Footloose, a production perfect for dancers. I was really considering auditioning for it, and even practiced singing “All That Jazz” from Chicago as my audition piece. At the last minute, I decided that I had too much going on, with studies, UCLA dancesport, UCLA Latin dance team, competitive dance outside of school, Toastmasters, and research to also be a part of a play (as much as I love Footloose). Instead of attending the pre-audition workshop, then, I practiced my rumba walks by myself at John Wooden Center. At 8:30 p.m., I met up with a couple other dancers from the Latin dance team, who taught me the new choreography to our bachata routine (I had missed the final practice last quarter, due to studying for finals). We practiced until 10:00 p.m. I concluded the night with some more studying and went to bed at 11:30 p.m.

Friday: Friday was another day of immense growth. I had morning math and chem lectures until noon. At noon, I headed to Bruin Walk, the pathway most students take to head to their lecture halls, and helped pass out fliers to advertise the Dancesport club, which would be holding their first class of winter quarter that evening. Taylor and I would be teaching a beginner’s cha-cha class. I will admit that initially, I was not too crazy about the idea of shoving fliers in strangers’ faces. I don’t think fliering is an effective means of marketing, as students rushing to class could really care less about a piece of paper shoved in their faces by complete strangers. I personally try to avoid people handing out fliers when I walk to class, or just take the flier for good measure and throw it away at the next trashcan. Being on the OTHER side of the grass as one of those people who scream and shove fliers in people’s faces was definitely a humbling experience. My dancesport friends and I faced rejection after rejection, hit after hit– people either politely refused the flier, or simply averted eye contact and continued walking. To better advertise our club, Taylor and I decided to dance cha-cha in the middle of Bruin Plaza, while Shatakshi, another member of dancesport, passed out fliers around us. THAT proved to be a more effective marketing strategy. Many people stopped to look at us dancing and even grabbed a flier! It’s interesting that with dancing, I feel significantly less social anxiety than I do with something like speaking to a roomful of 20. I love dance. It’s what I’m confident in. At 2:30, after 2.5 hours of fliering, I headed back to my dorm. I originally planned to grab something to eat, but I was so exhausted from the day’s events that I decided to take a nap instead. Plus, I was pretty nervous about the idea of teaching to a large group of people that night, that I probably couldn’t eat if I wanted to. At 5:00 p.m., I awoke from my slumber, got dressed, and walked back to campus for the 5:30 p.m. intermediate Latin class. It was wonderful being surrounded by fellow Bruins who share a love of ballroom dancing. By the time the class began, all nerves had subsided, and I was genuinely excited to share my passion for Latin dance with others. Taylor did most of the teaching– I was mainly up there with him, demonstrating. I also walked around the room, giving corrections to individuals. It was indeed a great teaching experience for me. If I decide I want to pursue dance as a career, I will have to teach for a living, so it’s great that I’m starting early. Teaching is also a great way for me to reinforce my concepts of the mechanisms of a certain dance figure. For instance, at the end of the intermediate class, I tried to explain the mechanics of the “figure-8” hips to a small group of dancers. Teaching forces me to really understand what’s going on in my body so I can clearly and effectively convey the concept to others. 6:30 p.m. was the beginner’s class, and I was so happy to see the familiar faces of supportive friends in the crowd. As this was the beginner’s class, there were many people present who had never danced in their lives. Many were nervous about dancing, but my heart warms at the fact that they took the first courageous step to show up to a Latin dance class. I remember clearly two years ago, when I was in the exact same shoes as these beginner dancers. I was super nervous going into my first beginner’s Latin class at Cheryl Burke Dance studio. When we had to partner up to dance, my eyes were trained at the floor the entire time. To look back and see how far I’ve come since is incredibly fulfilling. And now, I have the incredible opportunity to share my  love of dance with others. As we were short on guys compared to girls, I assumed the role of the “leader” dancer. I remember dancing with one girl, who had never danced before in her life. In the beginning, her palms trembled in anticipation. When she started to get the hang of the cha-cha basic, however, her face broke out into the biggest smile you could imagine, and it was all she could do to keep herself from laughing aloud! She was having the time of her life! I found fulfillment in the ability of dance to bring joy to individuals’ lives. After the 7:30 p.m. class was over, I rushed to Latin dance team practice, which lasted until 9:30 p.m. At that point, I was pretty exhausted and hungry, as I hadn’t eaten since 8:00 a.m. that morning. Practice was frustrating because not everyone knew the choreography, so we couldn’t move on with the routine. It was our first formal class since winter break, so we were understandably rusty in our bachata choreography. Nonetheless, practice had its fun moments as well. For instance, I tried to execute a side body roll, but completely butchered it, causing our salsa/bachata teacher, Joel, to laugh at the cringeworthiness of what I had  just done. At the end of practice, I grabbed a super late dinner with one of the other dancers, Colt. He is one of the most committed dancers on the team, and his story of joining the Marines and overcoming various mental health conditions is truly inspiring. We ended up talking for nearly two hours about… life. Never have I been able to share such a conversation with someone so like-minded as I. I won’t go into the details of what we discussed, because that in itself is a whole other blog post. But this was one of those raw, brutally honest, soul-baring conversations that resonate with you for a lifetime. It was the first of such conversations I’ve had in college, and I hope to have many more in the future. At 11:30 p.m., I headed back to my dorm and called my mom, telling her that I was completely happy and doing very well. She was obviously pleased to hear that my mental health was good. And honestly, even though this week had its fair share of challenges, I’ve tasted what it feels like to be ALIVE. When you push yourself to do things you think you cannot do, you experience so much more than you do if you choose to stay in your comfort zone. Life truly begins outside your comfort zone.

Pre-Winter Quarter Thoughts, Excitements and Anxieties

Hi guys! It’s 3:46 p.m. as I sit at my dorm-room desk, typing away. Today is the last day of freedom before the commencement of winter quarter, and I’ve been relishing every moment of it.

My roommate Maggie got back last night, and we’ve since been doing a lot of catching up. I woke up at 10:45 a.m., sped through my morning routine, and took an Uber to Westwood, where I met up with my friend Emily for Sunday brunch at Panini’s Café. Emily is a third-year biochemistry/pre-med student at UCLA. She is also the president of UCLA’s Regents Scholar Society and is involved in many other on-campus organizations. I definitely look up to her in many ways. She’s an incredible leader, super outgoing and charismatic, and seems to genuinely enjoy helping and mentoring others. We met last spring at the Overnight Stay Program for high school seniors admitted to UCLA as Regents Scholars. Emily was the director of OSP that year, so she played a huge role in helping me with my decision to go to UCLA. Anyway, the two of us shared a nice brunch, caught up on winter break and the past quarter, discussed career aspirations, and shared our hopes and anxieties about the appending future.

After brunch, I Ubered back to campus, where I met up with a dancer, Marco, for a try-out. We practiced his rumba routine several times, getting the feel of our connection and such. I felt that we danced well together, and we are both very committed to Latin dancing. Hopefully this partnership works out!

After the try-out, I practiced my rumba walks a bit more, then headed back to my dorm to kick back and relax. I feel strangely at peace with the present moment, relishing in this last bit of carefree bliss before classes begin. After an entire month of relaxing, I doubt that anyone- professors and students alike– feels like getting back in the groove. Well, such is life… vacations can’t last forever. If we did nothing but relax all the time, then the very act of relaxing would lose meaning and pleasure.

I’m a little anxious for the impending quarter, just because classes will be harder than last quarter’s, and I’ll be taking 4 classes instead of 3. But I’m also looking forward to the challenge of it and the growth that will ensue.

My primary goal for this quarter is to get time management DOWN. As Emily and I discussed over brunch, most people coming into college– myself included– think they have good time management skills. Once they start, however, they soon realize they have a lot to learn. In college, you have a lot more free time than you did in high school. With this freedom comes discipline and responsibility. You have to figure out a schedule that maximizes productivity and allows for a good balance between studying and relaxing. You have to set your own structure. I definitely struggled with finding a schedule that worked for me during my first quarter of college. A lot of it is experimentation– finding locations where you study most productively, or seeing if you like morning classes or afternoon classes. I made the mistake last quarter of thinking I could study efficiently in my dorm room. One glance at my bed and I’d feel tempted to take a nap. So this quarter, I will study in the library. I’ll plan my days in such a way that I’m not constantly walking back a forth between campus and my dorm room, wasting precious time in the process. I will make time for my two primary extracurriculars– Latin dance and research. I won’t waste time doing anything I feel is no longer serving me.

Another goal for this coming quarter is to attend more office hours. In the beginning of fall quarter, I was pretty diligent about going to office hours, asking questions and getting to know my professors. Later on, my motivation to go kind of slipped. Part of it was laziness– I didn’t want to walk from my dorm all the way across campus to my professor’s office. I didn’t think it was worth the time or effort, if I could eventually figure out the concept on my own, or with classmates. Now, I realize what a waste of precious resources that was! These professors, who are pioneers in their respective fields, have a wealth of knowledge to impart to us students. While professors may have varying degrees of enthusiasm for teaching, at office hours, they have no choice BUT to teach and answer students’ questions. In retrospect, it was silly of me to pass up this opportunity to learn, better understand concepts, and build connections for letters of rec, which is why I will prioritize office hours more this coming quarter.

Finally, I will make sure to take better care of my physical and mental health. No more unnecessary all-nighters. No more locking myself in a room and studying all day. No more striving for perfect grades. No more studying until 2:00 a.m. when I have an 8:00 a.m. lecture the next day. All that matters is that I make a valiant effort to try my very best, but not so much as to ruin my health. I will be more wary of personal hygiene, making sure to wash/sanitize my hands before meals, eat Vitamin C, drink lots of hot water and green tea, and not go to bed with wet hair. When I leave my dorm room on chilly days, I’ll be sure to wear a jacket so I don’t risk catching a cold. Honestly, guys, if you are sick, it’s impossible to work at maximum productivity. Your grades, in turn, will suffer. Everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s inevitable that you’ll get sick at least once each quarter, especially if you are living in a dorm setting where germs spread very easily. I am PRAYING to not have a repeat of last quarter’s respiratory/GI virus… a memory I’d rather not relive. All I can do if/when I get sick is to know how to nurse myself back to health as quickly as possible, and pray that the illness doesn’t happen during midterms or finals.

Alrighty, guys. This is it for today’s post. I’m gonna relax some more, maybe watch some Netflix, go to the gym, eat dinner, then get ready for tomorrow.

I also want to thank everyone who read my previous post, Confused, and offered some great, insightful advice for a young woman struggling to find her path. Words can’t truly express how touched and grateful I feel to have so many supportive people following my life journey and helping me out along the way. I derive meaning from my ability to use writing as a means of hopefully inspiring and comforting those going through similar predicaments as I am. I know the journey to finding my calling will not be easy… but maybe’s it’s not so much about where I end up, as it is the process of exploring, learning new skills, going out of my comfort zone, meeting new people, and ultimately discovering things about myself I wouldn’t have known, had I not pushed myself into the discomfort of straying from a solid path of comfort and safety.

 

 

Confused

I don’t know what to do with my life, guys.

Winter quarter starts in three days, and I’m questioning premed immensely.

Here’s the truth: I don’t think my heart is in medicine. There’s a reason why I am questioning premed so much. Perhaps I’ve always turned to the medical field as a path that felt SAFE, as opposed to something I was truly interested in. Being a doctor is obviously socially acceptable. Nobody is gonna tell you that medicine is a bad field to get into (except, perhaps, those already in the medical field). And it’s not like I don’t have the smarts to do well in my premed courses and get good grades. But if my heart is not in it, I will not be happy. I will suffer through med school and residency and live my life resenting the fact that I am not following my heart.

So what does my heart speak? What is my calling? At this moment, I just can’t say. I’ve already registered for winter quarter classes, and all of them are premed related. I was just given the opportunity to conduct research under an esteemed UCLA head and neck surgeon. I feel… locked in. Like my whole track ahead is leading to med school…

I came into UCLA as an overly enthused premed student, certain that I’d be going to med school. I had the next 12 years of my life laid out ahead of me. But somewhere along the way, I realized that maybe this wasn’t the path I wanted. And questioning medicine was terrifying, because I never stopped to think of what I’d do if not medicine.

Dance? Now, more than ever, I’m thinking that dance is where it’s at for me. Every debate I have in my life boils down to the same question– will I be able to dance to the degree I want to? And when the answer is no, I always feel unsettled. My heart has been saying, DANCE. My mind, influenced by the opinions of those around me, tells me that dance is not a viable career path. That dancing will not put food on the table. That there is no guarantee of success as a dancer, or any type of artist, for that matter. There are obviously many obstacles along the path of dance… But if we leave our lives to the hands of reason and logic alone… where’s the fire, the passion, the drive leading us to jump out of bed each morning? I feel my most invigorated and happy when I dance. It’s as simple as that. I know this, because two days ago, when I put on my dance shoes for the first time in two months, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I don’t know if there’s a word in the English language to describe what I feel when I dance to beautiful music. It’s a feeling in my heart… an enveloping warmth that rises to my throat, making me want to cry from sheer joy and satisfaction. Maybe it’s called passion.

So. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I guess you could say, I’m officially an undeclared major. I hate feeling so uncertain about my future. So lost without direction. It’s uncomfortable, unsettling. I just want to know everything will be okay in the end. That I’ll end up happy and personally successful and fulfilled.

It’s ultimately my responsibility to find what my calling is. No one can tell me what I should do with my life but myself. Medicine? Dance? Writing? Theater? College is the time for me to explore what I love. I think those who say they know what they want to do with their lives at 18 years old are only kidding themselves. Life is so unexpected… One moment you’re premed, the next, you realize your heart isn’t in medicine, and you want to switch to performing arts. I think it is totally okay– healthy, even– for 18 year olds to be questioning what they want to do with their lives.

I don’t know much, but I do know this. I will keep dancing. I won’t let college stop me from dancing and training. And I’m grateful that I’m questioning medicine NOW, one quarter into my freshman year of college, instead of towards the end of my college career, or even during medical school.

There is good in all of this. In all this anguish and debating and questioning. It means I have options. That I’ve been blessed with the opportunity and talent to succeed in whatever field I choose. If my heart is in medicine, I have all the potential to become a good doctor. If my heart is for dance, I have the talent and ability to succeed as a dancer. Now comes the hardest question: what do I want?

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017/ Life Update 1-2-17

HAPPY NEW YEAR, my dear friends!!! Firstly, I want to apologize for not being able to properly conclude December’s “Blogmas”. I got sicker towards the remaining few days of December and didn’t feel well enough to write on either the 30th or 31st. My sick days pretty much consisted of sleeping and resting in bed while watching figure skating videos and listening to the soundtrack of Kill Bill. Nothing too exciting.

Thankfully, I’ve been back on my feet since yesterday, and my cough is nearly gone. Yesterday, I put on my dance heels for the first time in a long while and danced on the living room hardwood floor. I did the same thing again today. It felt absolutely amazing to just let go and dance for enjoyment. I didn’t realize how much I missed dancing until I restarted after a hiatus. I’m determined to never let dancing fade from my life, no matter how hard it gets with college academics. I’ll make it happen, guys.

Today, my family and I had one last movie night together. We watched Arrival starring Amy Adams. It was a phenomenal movie. One of those mind-twister plots that leave you feeling stunned, confused, unsatiated and awestruck. It’s a film that gets better and better the more you think about it and make sense of its meaning and the depth of its characters. It takes sci-fi to a whole new level, as it has this great emotional appeal that many other science fiction films lack. Would definitely recommend this movie to everyone.

Tomorrow, my brother Chris is flying back to University of Michigan for his second semester of college. Because our spring breaks don’t overlap, I won’t see Chris until June, when Austin and I finish our spring quarters! It’s crazy to think that I won’t see my brother for nearly half a year. That’s by far the longest time we’ve been physically separated, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad to see him go. His flight is at 6 a.m., so he’ll be out of the house by around 4:30 a.m. I’m really grateful for the time we spent together as a family this winter break, though. My dad took the second half of December off from work so we could eat out and watch movies and explore San Francisco and go to holiday parties together. These moments of togetherness are only going to get rarer as my brothers and I grow older and move onward with our individual journeys, so I will definitely cherish them while they last.

Earlier this evening, before Chris went to bed, Austin, Chris, my dad and I played the card game “Duces”. Chris and I were complete newbies at the game, while Austin and Dad had more experience. Dad crushed us during the first three rounds, but during the final round, I actually won, to everyone’s surprise!

Man, as I am writing this, I’m just feeling nostalgic for all the memories my family and I shared this break. It’s really been a special holiday season. We didn’t go anyplace fancy, but the important thing is, we spent time together.

Austin and I leave for LA on Friday the 6th, so our winter break is drawing to its close as well. This break was by far the most relaxed I have allowed myself to be in my entire life. Sleeping in till noon, spending my days reading, watching movies, going to the gym, eating out… I brought home my chemistry textbooks with hopes of doing some getting ahead studying, but that clearly did not happen. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I am now completely recovered from my first quarter of college and am ready to take on the coming quarter!

It’s hard to find time to do write in college, but I’m determined to carve out one hour each week for reflective writing. College is such a formative period of life, and I’m afraid that if I blink, and it’ll all be over too soon. I want to document my four years at UCLA so I can look back upon these memories in future years. My Friday schedule is pretty light, so I may upload weekly reflections every Friday afternoon, give-or-take.

I’m determined to nail down time management this coming quarter. That means studying ONLY at the library where I will be super efficient and 100% focused while studying. Starting week 1, I will come up with a schedule that works best for me, and stick with it until it becomes habitual. I will take better care of my health and make sure to get a decent amount of sleep each night, if possible. I will make healthier food choices and avoid binge-eating on sweets and heavy carbs during midterms/finals. I’m feeling positive that this coming quarter will be better than the last, largely because I have more experience as a college student now. I am, admittedly, nervous about next quarter’s course load, since I’ll be taking 4 classes instead of 3, and the content of these classes are a bit more difficult than last quarter’s. But no matter. Everything will turn out fine. It always does.

Alrighty guys, I’m going to hit the hay pretty soon. Trying to get my sleep schedule back on track before classes start next week. I wish you all good health, success, and happiness during this new year. May 2017 be a better year than its predecessor.

 

 

Best,

Belicia