Hi guys! I hope all of you are doing well! Winter quarter has officially ended, and I am now back home in the Bay. Man, does it feel great to be reunited with my family (aside from my brother Chris, who is still in school). This entire day, I couldn’t stop hugging and kissing my grandmother, mom and dad! I guess being away from your family for an extended period of time really puts things in perspective. It’s the little quirks of my family that I miss. Like Mom’s distinctive footsteps up the hardwood stairs, signaling the arrival of fortifying fruit or hot soup, or just a nice mother-daughter conversation. Or the sound of the garage opening late in the evening., indicating Dad’s return from a long day at the hospital.
Just today, I was swimming at our local gym, when I was pleasantly brought back to the memories of swimming alongside my brother, Chris. We’d race each other in freestyle, me always beating him by a fraction of a second. We’d space out our laps with little “walk-and-talk” breaks, in which we’d hop / float from one end of the pool to the other, whilst talking about all sorts of things, like planning our annual summer trips to China, the physics of space-time, and our excitement / anticipation for college. We’d end our swimming work-outs in the hot tub and continue talking about anything– everything. Sometimes, Chris would splash me in the face with hot, sudsy, chlorinated pool water, just to spite me. I’d get very annoyed at him at the time… but now, I smile in fond nostalgia. I miss Chris. I wonder if I will ever have that kind of relationship with my brother again. Has the distance of college, time spent apart and individual transitions to adulthood forever tainted our dynamic? Will nighttime swims, pointless storytelling and playful pool fights be a thing of the past, locked away in a treasure chest of childhood memories, never to be reopened? Such is life, I suppose. People grow. Relationships mature. There is very little in this life that remains at a constant, stable equilibrium. Change can feel painful at times, like this realization that my brothers and I are growing apart. What started as a single shared path is now branching off into three very different roads. But I have faith that, no matter where our respective journey’s take us, my brothers and I will remain the closest of friends. We are tied together by blood. We came into this world together. We will live our lives supporting one another unconditionally. At least I will, for my brothers.
This morning, I woke up late– around noon. Austin and I were so exhausted by the travels of the previous night. Our flight back home was delayed for a few hours, so our 8:00 p.m. flight was became an 11:45 p.m. one. To pass the time at the gate, I began working on a new blog post that should be up by tomorrow. It’s a big-picture reflection of this past winter quarter at UCLA. Definitely a quarter filled with growth and learning from mistakes. But more on my college adventures later.
My mom prepared a nice brunch of sliced kiwi and papaya, purple yam, marinated chicken breast and, of course, her world-famous smoothie! Never thought I’d say these words, but since leaving for college, I’ve really missed drinking her smoothie– the same one I so greatly despised back in high school. We reunited with my grandmother, who is doing pretty good for 82. She’s been having some knee pains lately and had to see the doctor for what’s suspected to be a heart murmur, but other than that, my grandma is alive, happy and well! A couple of my friends lost their grandparents this past quarter while away at college. This made me realize that my grandmother and I may not have much time left together on this Earth. A morbid thought, but also reality. I can’t begin to imagine how I’d feel if I received a phone call from my parents one day, telling me that my grandmother had… My goodness, I can’t even write the words. And if I wasn’t there to say goodbye, I don’t know how I could be okay with that. I guess the moral of the story is to love with no reserve. Never stop telling your loved ones how much you care for them. Cherish each moment you have together. Be in the present moment, and live it to the fullest with the people dearest to you. Only then can we possibly make meaning in an inherently meaningless world filled with death, hate, injustice and evil. Love transcends all. And with that, I conclude my philosophical tirade (I’ll save the rest for the Philosophy 7 class I’m taking next quarter)!
At 3:00 p.m., my mom, Austin and I took a walk on the levee. We remarked at the mesmerizing beauty of the Redwood Shores scenery. Our surroundings sung the song of spring. The grass was luscious and greener than ever, thanks to the recent downpour of rain; little birds perched on flower branches sang their hearts out; the water glistened and gleaned, diamonds of light dotting the surface of the low-tide lagoon. I’ve taken countless walks, runs and bike rides down the dusty, rocky path of the levee. Observing my hometown through a fresh perspective, however, I realized that the physical perfection of the Shores is a metaphor for the bubble I had been raised in. For 18 years, I was sheltered from the harsh realities of the outside world. My brothers and I are fortunate enough to have been able to live in the Bay Area with an amazing family and boundless opportunities. I will say this, though. Going to college and leaving the bubble of my home has made me realize the extent of my naivety and ignorance, and the dangers that stem from living such a sheltered life. I’ll tell you more about what I mean exactly, in a later post.
Man, I keep getting side-tracked by the flurry of thoughts in my head. Need to get it all out somehow. Sorry, sorry– must focus. Let’s finish off this post with the conclusion of my wonderful day.
After taking a walk, my mom, Austin and I headed to the local gym. Austin drove the Volkswagon, while I drove the Lexus (with my mother in the passenger seat). I drove with great caution, as I had not been behind the wheel in three months. I also may or may not have had my driver’s license on hand… Anywho, we arrived at the gym unscathed, though my parking job was “trash”, as Austin proclaimed. My workout consisted of cardio (five minutes of treadmill, thirty minutes of elliptical, ten minutes on the bike), ab exercises (my mother noticed my growing paunch and commented that I needed to lose it) and swimming! At around 7:00 p.m., Austin and I headed home– Mom left the gym after an hour, as she had to go home to prepare the hot pot dinner!
Hot pot was fantastic, as usual. The workout had built up my appetite, and I indulged in boiled beef, chicken, fish, rice noodles, tofu and greens. Dad came home at around 8:00 p.m., and I greeted him with a big kiss. He looked completely exhausted. At the dinner table, I asked him if he enjoyed his job as an internist for Kaiser. His reply: at this point, every morning he wakes up for work, he wonders when he can retire. Burnout. Not uncommon among physicians, especially those who’ve been in the field for so long. Makes me wonder if I want to pursue medicine, seeing how drained my father is. I asked him what he hates most about his job. He said, he hates the stress of being on call, constantly being needed somewhere. Sometimes, he’ll be in the middle of diagnosing a patient, when he’s paged to see another! He hates waking up each morning knowing he will be “cobbled” at the hospital with an enormous number of patients, and an even greater amount of paperwork to be completed. The medical field is undoubtedly stressful, and I think any aspiring physician should really think twice before deciding on such a long, costly path that may ultimately lead to burnout and exhaustion. But hey, if you are passionate about the human body and healing people, then go for it! If you love a profession, you will be able to put up with the politics, bureaucracy and stress of it. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” career, just as there’s no such thing as the “perfect” spouse. My dad always told me, stress is part of the package in all professions, not just medicine. Stress is a part of life. There’s no avoiding it. He told me that, at this point in time, he doesn’t believe I have what it takes to handle the stresses of the “real world”, let alone medicine. My mother agreed. I guess they’re referring to my several mental breakdowns last quarter that stemmed from my unhealthy obsession to be “perfect”, and the ensuing self-hatred when I fell short of such unrealistic goals. Also, I’m only 19 years old. I’m learning how to deal with life. College is a controlled environment where mistakes are forgiven more easily, so long as I learn from them. Still, I expressed to my parents the hurt I felt when they told me that they didn’t think I could take on the real world just yet. I know I’m not the most street-wise person, but I would like to change that. This is actually one of my biggest insecurities– not being street-smart. A lot of it comes from my sheltered upbringing and my ten years of total immersion in gymnastics. For most my life, I turned a blind eye towards what was happening around me, under the guise of being “busy” with gymnastics and classroom education. Indeed, my commitment to the sport left me little time or mental energy to think of anything outside of gymnastics and academics. It was a very small world I knew. But now, four years removed from the sport and transitioning into the role of a responsible adult citizen, I know I cannot remain in the dark forever. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve lacked the initiative to educate myself in politics, economics, foreign affairs, etc. All this must change, though. I want to be able to fend for myself once I leave college. To live independently. To protect myself from men with bad intentions. To learn to keep close tabs on my finances. To learn how to say “no”. To be more assertive with people, and have those difficult conversations, instead of relying on passive aggressiveness as my default coping mechanism. I want to read more, about everything. Politics. Current events. Essays. Classic novels. I want to be able to engage in deep conversation about a wider spectra of topics aside from dance, gymnastics and my personal life. Since coming to university, I realized just how little I knew of the world. I’ve acquired a newfound hunger to enrich my mind. I now realize that I am worth much more than just my physical abilities as a former athlete-turned-dancer. I have much potential mentally, as do all young people. I just need to unleash that potential. It is at university where that magic happens. Plus, the beauty of training the mind is that, unlike physical pursuits, your mind never stops growing. Knowledge accumulates. There is no limit to how much one can grow as a scholar.
It is now 12:04 a.m. I’ve been writing for a good 2.5 hours. Ahh, the joy of spring break, and not needing to worry about studying. These next seven days, I plan to post on this blog every day, get back in touch with my inner self after a tumultuous 10 weeks, put my dance shoes back on and spend quality time with my favorite people- my family.
Have a wonderful night, everyone, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.