Hey guys! I hope you all are doing well! I apologize for going completely off the radar these past couple weeks. Academics started ramping up, and I haven’t been taking very good care of my mental/physical health.
The first phrase that comes to mind when I think of this past fortnight’s events is, “out of control”.
Around week 5, I started to really feel the heat of midterm season. Being in a competitive environment, I slowly reverted to my former unhealthy thought pattern of needing to ACHIEVE to feel WORTHY. Therapy taught me to soften my unrealistic expectations of myself and to curb my perfectionistic nature. In using my academic achievements as a measure of self-worth, however, I was going against the very core of what I had worked on for the past year and a half with my former therapist.
So, midterms happened. They went alright, but I definitely did better last quarter. This is partly owing to the increased difficulty level of my courses this quarter. Also, during the first half of the quarter, I had spread myself extremely thin between dancing and school. In consequence, I didn’t have as much time to study as I needed. I’m no genius, and I know my limits- I need to go to lectures and office hours and study a little bit every day to understand the material. Having not devoted as much time and energy to my studies, then, my grades slipped. Don’t worry– I’m still holding on to those A’s (for now). I’m just not as on fire as I was last quarter.
But here’s the rub. With my sense of self-worth stemming from something as precarious and fragile as grades and numbers and external achievements, the minute I start underachieving, I begin to question the very crux of my identity. I know it is fallacious and a little bit ludicrous to measure my worth by how well I do in school. However, at this point, my mental health has spiraled downward to the point where I CANNOT feel good about myself unless I know that I am at the top of my game.
The thing with achieving is, you must set yourself up for success. With a new dance partnership, my commitment to Dancesport Club and UCLA’s Latin dance team, as well as the added difficulty of my academic course load, it is no surprise that, as hard as I worked, I simply could not perform as well academically as I did last quarter.
And what of dancing now? During week 5, I had to quit the Latin dance team because of increased commitment to my fresh dance partnership outside of UCLA. Two weeks ago, my dance partner and I mutually decided to terminate our partnership because our schedules and commitment levels didn’t align. As a college student, my number one priority is, of course, academics. While it is disappointing that the partnership didn’t come to fruition, I am learning that life is a series of judgement calls and day-to-day triage– that is, prioritizing what matters most. It is impossible to do everything at once and expect to do them all well. I’m glad to say I’m still continuing Dancesport club, though with considerably less vigor as finals week approaches. On February 18th, the UCLA Dancesport team competed at a collegiate Latin/Ballroom dance competition hosted by USC. I competed with a girl named Fay in the rookie/vet category, as the vet leader. It was definitely a new and interesting experience playing the role of “leader” at a competition. Being out on the dance floor rekindled my passion for dance and performing.
So, going back to the root of many of my anxieties: my perfectionism. As my TA and I discussed the other day, one cannot be the best at everything. It’s simply impossible, and I am smart enough to know this. I must choose my battles wisely, working hard in the things I’m most passionate about. Most importantly, I must be able to forgive myself when I fall short of perfection.
Last weekend, my parents and brother Chris drove down to LA to visit me and Austin. We ate at a steakhouse in Beverly Hills called “Ruth’s Chris”. I was very excited to see them, and we had a wonderful time catching up on lost time. Even though Austin also attends UCLA, I rarely see him during the academic year, as we are both so focused on our studies. His biceps had gotten considerably larger since the last I’d seen him, and I was quite impressed at his upgraded physique. Chris looked great as well– I hadn’t seen him since early January. Austin and I shared a heart-to-heart conversation with Chris, remarking that, intellectually, Chris is probably the brightest of the three of us. His memory retention skills are ridiculously impressive. He’s given 2-hour-long solo piano concerts by memory. He can sight-read anything. He was born with perfect pitch– the ability to identify every sound’s corresponding note. He is able to think critically about a wide array of subjects and utilizes his creative talents to problem-solve and think outside the box. He is a talented musician, writer, rapper and artist. He is also a great chef. The only thing Chris lacks in is his organizational skills. Because of his tendency towards forgetfulness and absentmindedness, Chris’s true light has never shown to its greatest power in traditional classroom settings. Hopefully college will be Chris’s time to shine. I know he is currently excelling in University of Michigan’s music program.
My parents and I discussed my potential career aspirations. Frankly, I am quite tired of hearing the question, “What do you want to do with your life?”, as I’ve asked myself the same thing only about a million and one times. What is my life’s purpose? What gives my life meaning? What is my definition of success? At this point, I am in exploration mode. I am the captain of my ship on this voyage towards self-discovery. I am in the middle of the ocean, and I can really go in any direction. EVERYTHING is fair game. Medicine. Law. Journalism. Psychology. Teaching. Philosophy. Performing arts. Of course, it helps to have at least a general idea of what I want to do. I know I love working with people and having direct contact with individuals.
I am so blessed for the many talented, hard-working and ambitious people who fill my life. Being at UCLA, surrounded by individuals who settle for nothing less than success, is invigorating and inspiring.
Finals are coming faster than ever, which means it is crunch time. I wish all my fellow college-mates the best of luck at the end of this academic quarter. Here’s to a next two weeks of sleep deprivation, stress-eating, studying, studying and more studying! And maybe a little bit of dancing.