When You Feel Down… Write It Out!

Hi friends. Today was a down day for me. It was just one of those mornings when, no matter how hard you tried to tell yourself to get out of bed, the very task seemed impossible.

I had had a sleepover with my friend, Leyla, the night before. We had a grand time catching up on college life, boys, boys, etc. We watched the Stephen King classic, “The Shining” well into the early hours of 3am. The film, hailed as one of the greatest horror movies ever made, really plays mind games on its spectators. I think I’d have to watch it one more time before truly understanding the plot, let alone the film’s meaning.

I had planned on waking up at 8am to start my day. As usual, though, I ended up hitting the snooze button, and slept in ’til the bright rays 10am infiltrated Leyla’s purple curtains. Leyla graciously gave me a ride home. At home base, I took a shower then headed to my room to plan out my set of daily goals.

  • meditate
  • write about my New York trip
  • read “Wuthering Heights”
  • dance
  • exercise
  • answer time-sensitive emails/messages
  • regain the former focus and discipline I’d practiced as a gymnast

Here’s the thing with me and goals, though. I am both goal-oriented and ambitious. Therefore, I tend to overestimate how much I can squeeze into 24 hours’ time. Oftentimes, I’ll have laid out in front of me 10 different goals to accomplish, without a clue as to where to begin. Ambition is a great quality to have, yes. But ambition alone will not guarantee success. It is ambition, channeled into strategic daily practice, that will bring about progress.

Goal-setting is indeed an art. As much as we like to believe we’re superhuman, the reality is that we all have our limits. It is important in life to know what you don’t know– I had a big talk with my father about this particular life skill, one that many of his physician colleagues seem to lack. But back to my point– you’ve gotta set realistic goals. Attempting to build Rome in a single day is impossible and will of course lead to disappointment. Not only do your goals have to be realistic, they also must be triaged, with the most pressing task placed at top priority, and all succeeding tasks lined up below in order of decreasing urgency. After deciding which goals to tackle and which to leave to tomorrow, you must create a detailed road-map as to how you are going to achieve this goal. It is not enough to say, “Today I am going to write.” Okay… but what are you going to write, and what do you wish to accomplish with that writing? Is your goal to finish chapter one of your next novel? Complete the first draft of your college essay? Point is, the more specific you are with what you need to get done, the greater the likelihood of you getting it done.

Man… that was a HUGE digression about goals. I should’ve just written a whole different blog post about strategies for effective goal-setting, huh… Oh well. Back to my day. So I laid out all these goals, without putting into practice all I had just preached about goal-setting, how-to. I started with the seemingly easiest one– meditate. I rolled down my curtains, closed the door of my room, sat on a chair and listened to a guided morning meditation from YouTube. Diversion– do you guys think guided meditations count as legitimate meditation, or are they just a dumb-downed version of meditation, made easier for laypeople? Anyway, after the 20 minute meditation video concluded, I opened my eyes, only to feel super drowsy. Eventually, I succumbed to the voice in my head and crawled under the covers of my untouched bed sheets. Have I lost all mental willpower to resist tantalizing temptation (in this case, the beckoning of my soft, warm bed)?

I woke up around 1:30pm. With the former bulk of the day gone, I felt ashamed for choosing sleep over productivity. I looked over at my “Goals” whiteboard; all I had accomplished thus far was meditation, which, if I’m being honest with myself, is but an excuse for me to close my eyes and stay a few minutes longer in la la land, before landing back to reality. But time doesn’t stop, and there’s no use in doting on wasted minutes. All you can do is make the most of the remaining day, right?

So I went downstairs and ate Japanese take-out lunch with the fam. As I am on a quest to lose weight– yes, I know I look perfectly healthy and absolutely don’t need to diet; but I am not yet happy with my bodily appearance and henceforth am taking steps to earn my dream figure, though I know that being “skinnier” will change nothing of my inner demons– I told myself to abstain from carbs. But oh my, that Japanese white sticky rice called for me… I needed something to balance out the rich, sweet and sour Teriyaki sauce richly coating the chicken and salmon… I relented, and stuffed my face with rice. Oh fie, fie, fie!!! “For shame, for shame,” cried the voice in my head. I grew weak. And because of that, I had to take measures to NOT eat the rest of the day, to lessen the blow of what I had just done.

Following lunch, my mother graciously drove me to San Jose for dance practice. I had brought “Wuthering Heights” with me, planning to read on the car ride to the studio. In one of my Griseldaish, self-loathing moods, however, I was intent on withdrawing into myself and my unhealthy thoughts. My mother is my greatest confidant; she is the one I turn to when I need help. I didn’t quite know how to express all that pent-up negative emotions I felt in that moment… It started with guilt and shame attached to not being nearly as productive as I wished to be, and giving into my terrible carb cravings. From there, the negative emotions took a life of their own. I’m telling you, guys– when I’m in my depressive states, it doesn’t take much for my emotions to spiral downward.

So, the car ride. I tried to convey to my mother all I felt. The low motivation to dance, though I had already committed to performing at a family friends’s wedding; questioning of my former identity as a disciplined, hardworking, strong-minded, focused individual– I am as far from that person now as I am from New York City; the immense guilt felt from causing my family members so much distress with all my mental health issues. Just… a lot of stuff on my mind, with no feasible way to appease my mental anguish. I mean, I could meditate, yes… but when you are so deep in the vortex, the hope of getting out is so slim, that it is so, so much easier to just succumb to the negativity and wallow in self-pity, than it is to say, “SCREW YOU, VILE VOICE. I WON’T HAVE YOU ANY LONGER. I CHOOSE HAPPINESS, AND BY GOD’S NAME I WILL GET IT.”

I had much I needed to release, in that moment, but my mother is no therapist. I expressed to her how I felt nothing but pressure and frustration with dance, and oftentimes thought of quitting the sport (why, I will get to in a later blog post). She responded angrily, telling me that I could not flake on my promise to dance at the September 23rd wedding. I told her I was never planning on quitting… but it didn’t mean I had to be happy about doing it. The conversation started there and went on to my impulsive tendencies, my inability to stick to commitments, my life being dictated by my untamable emotions.

All of the above are truths about me. I am undoubtedly a passionate and ambitious individual. If something inspires and strikes a chord in me, I will, at once, pour my everything into whatever the object of obsession is at the time. That’s the thing, though– at the time. Lately, I’ve realized that many of my life endeavors, beyond school and gymnastics, have been but mere impulses. Let us take dance, for instance. Earlier in the summer, I was inspired and motivated to dance for the Embassy Ball competition. I went all out into my training, spending entire days locked away in a studio, practicing. Pushing myself to my breaking point, I felt like my old self again– the little girl who’d never talk or complain at gymnastics practice, but just silently and resolutely fight towards improvement. Then, of course, the burnout ensued. It wasn’t but two weeks into my military-dance training, when I grew exhausted and reluctant to keep going. Then, I decided to not do the competition. That competition was the only thing keeping me training as hard as I did, which shows that, maybe, my goals are not aligned in the right place. I dance hard when faced with an external goal, like performing well at a competition, but when the external motivation is taken away, and I’m left with simply the motive to dance to IMPROVE MYSELF… well that just isn’t enough for me, now is it? Note to self– work with therapist on becoming more intrinsically motivated than extrinsically driven.

Again, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. The dance anecdote illustrates how quickly I can go from 100% to nothing at all. Why can’t I just stay at a steady 50%? Consistently training two productive hours each day, whilst having time to enjoy other aspects of life, beyond the in-the-moment goal.

Consistency is what I lack. Shocking, right? It took me a while to recognize this fault in myself… My pride of being a “former gymnast”, with the mental toughness of steel, hindered me from recognizing that I have since fallen from my former self. What’s that quote they say? “It’s always a lot easier to let something fall apart than it is to try to hold it together.” The shield of armor that was my athletic discipline has slowly melted in the past five years I’ve been out of gymnastics. This realization is a bitter pill to swallow, but a necessary one at that. Dance is not the only instance of me wanting to quit when the going gets tough. What about the day-to-day struggles? Fighting, but ultimately losing the battle, to get out of bed at the sound of the alarm. Knowing I should be taking cold showers, but giving in to the hot water my body yearns for in the moment. Knowing better than to stay up late, surfing the net and doing absolutely nothing constructive, when I should be going to bed early to fix my nocturnal sleep schedule. Canceling dance lessons left and right, with the excuse of being “depressed”. [Side-note– depression is a real mental disorder, and as a person struggling with depression, I’d be the first to point out that the illness makes performing day-to-day tasks ten time harder than it would be under normal conditions. However, I also do not wish to let my depression take total reign over my life. It is so easy to fall into the loop of making excuses for yourself because of your “depression”. I know that when I do this, I am feeding my depression’s power, instead of fighting it. And I hate myself for being weak like that. Side-note, concluded.] What else, what else… eating junk food, when I’ve committed myself to eating a healthier diet. And yes, the competition. Committing to competing at the dance competition, then deciding not to do it, then deciding to do it once more, only to ultimately give up on it. I mean, how much more whimsical, flaky and impulsive can I get?

Obviously, the process of achieving goals entails one to do things one may not necessarily enjoy doing… take me wanting to transfer to Columbia, for instance. Do you think I relish the reappearance of the “Common Application”, which, a year and a half ago, I thought was the last I’d ever see of the monstrosity? Of course not. But, it’s something I need to do if I want to get into Columbia University. So I do it. Likewise, the journey to becoming a great dancer is an arduous one… the art takes years of patient, consistent training to master, and it is difficult for dancers to see concrete, day-to-day improvement. Do I jump at the thought of drilling my rumba walks over and over and over, for several hours? No. I absolutely hate it. The thing is, though, dance is something people do to ENJOY. Unlike school, which for me, is an absolute necessity, dance is something I do as a hobby, for fun. I don’t NEED to dance to make a good living. So, if I’m not enjoying it, why, oh why must I keep going? Especially when the hobby is SO FREAKING EXPENSIVE. There are so many reasons why I should give up… would it be great to become the dancer I aspire to be? Of course. But is the costly battle to get there one worth fighting?

This is the fourth big digression of this post. I apologize, guys. I just have a lot on my chest I must release.

So, here I find myself now. Still ambitious, still passionate, still capable, and still full of aspirations for myself. I am sobered, though, by my inability to stick things out to the end. It’s a real problem. I can’t become successful if I quit at the very moment I run into difficulty.

On paper, one would be surprised that I’d come to the following conclusion about myself. I was a stellar student throughout high school and college thus far; I was successful, in my own right, as a gymnast; I’ve made some not-so-bad achievements in the dance world as well. Of course, it would take a determined person to achieve, right? If you want to be successful, you mustn’t be weak. So how did I achieve all I’ve achieved in life thus far, if I’m now calling myself “whimsical”, “flaky”, “impulsive” and unable to commit long-term to a goal? Here’s my self-analysis. School was always something I had to do. I’ve gotten so good at separating my emotions from what I need to get done academically, that my grades and scholastic achievements are left untouched by the heat of my emotional ups-and-downs. Gymnastics, I started as a child. Back then, I thought little of “achieving” or becoming an “Olympian”; at the start, it was all fun and games. By the time I started training seriously as a gymnast, I had been doing the sport for so long, I just couldn’t see quitting as an option. I had my wonderful mother there to push me through all my rough patches. Just ask anyone how many times I wanted to quit the sport in my younger years, and how many times my mother had to physically force me into the car to get to practice. I look back on it all now, and I’m immensely grateful for my mother for pushing me so hard to stick with it, when I wanted to quit. But you see, already in my youth, did this pattern of “wanting to quit when the going got tough” appear. The difference is, though, when I was young, I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than gymnastics, because it was all I had ever known. So quitting was never a real option. Now, as a young adult, filled with MUCH more experience of life’s diversities, I am presented with so many doors beyond dance. No longer can I rely on my parents, or anyone for that matter, to push me to keep going. I have sole responsibility over what I decide to do in life. No one can make that choice for me, but myself. It’s terrifying, sometimes.

See, I really believe I can be successful at whatever I set my mind to, if only I knew what it was, dammit!

Maybe that is the basis behind my inability to carry out long term goals. I can’t seem to separate momentary impulses of euphoric excitement from genuine, long-lasting passion. I don’t know what I want to do, and because of that, I don’t know if the battles I am fighting are ones I truly want to fight.

And my damnable emotions… I am at the point where I can confidently say, I do not know how to control how I feel. Here is a reflective excerpt I wrote earlier today:

Emotional regulation. I’ve never been good at managing my over-the-top extreme moods– on top of the world, waking up at 5am for dance practice, training 6 hours each day; or sleeping in till noon, wandering about the house without knowing what the hell to do with my time.

Why, why, why… I just want to be steady. Please God, help me. This isn’t living. Waiting for when the next crash will happen is not living.”

My emotional highs are now tainted with the wariness of being too hopeful, for I know that, with every high, an emotional low will follow, and offset any progress I’d made in my euphoric state. Two steps forward, one step back. Such is the state of my life now, so it seems.

Thank goodness I am seeing a good therapist who will help me with emotional regulation.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. It’s nearing 11pm– I’ve been at this post for the past 3 hours or so. Time to ride my bike back home and get some rest. No matter what, I will continue hoping that tomorrow will be a better, brighter day.



How to Handle Confrontation

Hey guys! It’s 6:12pm right now. I’m sitting in a local Starbucks, typing away.

I just finished working out at the gym. Had a nice swim, relaxed in the jacuzzi and did some sun-bathing. All was well, until I got to the locker room. I was talking on the phone with my best friend. The locker room has a no cell phone policy, so I will admit it was my mistake to be on my phone there. As I was talking, one middle-aged lady walked up to me and said, in the sassiest tone you could imagine, “Excuse me. You know there are no phones allowed in the locker room. Yeah– you see that sign? It says so right there.” I apologized to the lady and told my friend I’d call her back.

But the lady wouldn’t stop there. She continued, to her friend, “God. I can’t believe some people. They get memberships here and don’t follow the rules… They say they don’t see the sign or whatever… Puh-leez. If you want to talk on the phone, go over to the jacuzzi… drown the phone in the water, for all I care.”

Her friend replied, “Well you know, everyone does it.”

The lady continued ranting, and her friend just laughed along.

I overheard all this very rude banter, and I knew she wanted me to hear it. That part, I couldn’t stand. I walked over to the showers and placed my towels on the rack. I was going to let the whole situation go… but a part of me felt the need to defend myself. I wasn’t okay with that lady’s behavior and the rude things she said. It was neither decent nor respectful.

So I walked back over to the lockers, and after spending a few minutes contemplating what I’d say, I stormed over to the lady and her friend.

“Excuse me,” I said. The lady saw me and started rolling her eyes to her friend, without making eye contact with me.

I began, “You know, I appreciate you informing me that there are no cell phones allowed, and I will not do it again.”

The lady nodded her head in agreement.

I continued, “But you know, there is a nicer way to speak to someone. I’m 19 years old, and never in my life have I been spoken to in that way.”

The lady and her friend looked at me and gave a start when I mentioned my age. After I reprimanded her some more, the lady interrupted me and said, “Are you done? Is it my turn?” I nodded my head, handing the floor over to her.

She said something along the lines of, “I appreciate you appreciating me, and I do know that there is a nicer way to say things. I hope I can learn from you in the future.”

I was satisfied. I gave her my hand to shake, and she just ignored it and proceeded with her makeup, telling me, “Oh, we don’t need to shake hands. Nice meeting you. Have a good day.”

I walked away, a little bit shaken but immensely proud for asserting myself and standing up for what I felt was right.

The lady, needing to save her face in front of her friend, then continued: “Man, I wish I was that smart when I was 19. In another life, maybe. But god, people always say ‘You could have said it in a nicer way…’ Excuse me but I will say it however I please, and if you’re not okay with that, go to another gym!”

It just saddens me, you know? That other people have to put up with this lady’s negative energy. I pity her. She must not be happy with her own life and feels the need to take it out on others. Yes, I was in the wrong for using my cell phone in the locker room. Still, that is no excuse to treat someone with disrespect. I hope she will learn from this experience not speak to people in that way again. She probably won’t… but you know what? At least I voiced my opinion and rose above her.

I’m happy I encountered this lady, actually. In life, there are gonna be loads of really unpleasant people to deal with. Being so young and having lived a sheltered childhood, I never had to deal with many such people in my life… but I know that there will only be more and more of these crazy people in the future. The key is to stand up for what you believe is right– in this case, I did not think that lady should have spoken to me in such a manner, and I let her know it.

It’s true when they say, “Kill em’ with kindness.” I’ve learned that, when faced with confrontations, it’s important to get your point across without deliberately demeaning or disrespecting the opposing party. Be assertive. It’s a skill many have yet to master, myself included. Today was a great learning experience, though. It was my first time verbally standing up for myself– really, I’ve long struggled with doing so. In high school, I had the unfortunate experience of being made-fun of by some peers. The first time was a clique whom my best friend at the time and I would sit by during lunch. My friend and I were both into gymnastics, so we’d do cartwheels and other acrobatic tricks near them. They seemed to derive pleasure in making fun of the two of us, for whatever reason. At the time, I didn’t have the courage to stick up for me and my friend. I just took the blows. The same thing happened my senior year of high school. I was in my human biology class, home to many unmotivated students (I took the class over AP Biology because I wanted more time to dance that year). Anyway, there was one girl who sat in the back and would constantly be chatting during lecture, thus posing as a disruption to my learning. One day, I had had enough of her ruckus and called her out in front of the class. From that day on, she made it her goal to make me feel uncomfortable in that class. We had a final presentation, and I overheard her telling her friends that she’d sabotage my presentation in whatever way she could– make loud noise while I was speaking, be a rude audience member, etc. I reported her to the teacher, who I supposed talked to her, and later in the year, she apologized to me for treating me the way she did. I did appreciate her apology… but a part of me really wished I had called her out sooner and stood up for myself, instead of keeping quiet and enduring her bullying for as long as I did.

All this to say, I am pleased with my growth into a strong, vocal young woman, unafraid to stand up for herself and others. You must value yourself enough to not let others step on you.

Enjoy the rest of your day, and remember to be the bigger person when faced with crappy characters.






Checking In With Myself, 8/15/17

As usual, when I’m feeling low, confused, angry, bitter or indecisive, I turn to writing as my catharsis. Had a rough couple of days emotionally– fighting with parents, craving independence, missing NYC, feeling guilty about the financial burden dancing puts on my parents, coming to terms with reality, obsessing over losing weight, etc. Got a lot on my chest, and while I usually turn to my private diary to release this much pent-up negative emotion, I’ve decided to share my sentiment with you all, this time. Here’s what’s been up.

Missing NYC

AS you all know, I recently got back from a week-long solo trip to New York City. I had the time of my life and could totally envision myself living there– dancing, writing, exploring theater, attending Broadway shows, living the life immersed in all my creative passions. More than that, I experienced for the first time what true independence felt like. No longer did I need to rely on my family members to drive me places. New York public transportation is a godsend. Getting around via subway was SO easy, and I felt LIBERATED, being able to go wherever I pleased. The independence and convenience of living in New York, I really really missed. I distinctly remember calling my mother one day, in the middle of Times Square, gushing about the amazingness of the city and predicting that, when I got home, I’d feel trapped once more, because I wouldn’t have such independence as I had in New York. My prediction held true. I resent the fact that my parents won’t pay for my car insurance. Of course, there are valid reasons for that– the reality of paying for both me and my brother’s insurance; them not trusting me to be safe on the road; the family insurance plan being a pain in the ass, as it doesn’t allow us kids to cancel our plans once we head off to college again, thus placing undo financial burden on my father. Still, without a means to transport myself across the Bay, I am effectively handicapped. I know how I must sound– spoiled, entitled, ungrateful, the works. I should be happy with all I’ve been blessed with, instead of being bitter over what I don’t have. I guess this is all just motivation for me to graduate fast and move to NYC as soon as I get my degree.

Dance and the financial burden of this very, VERY expensive hobby.

If y’all are not familiar with the Latin/Ballroom dance world, the first thing you should know is that everything– EVERYTHING- in this industry is so freaking expensive. Lessons can get up to $130 for 45 minutes of instruction. Cost of competing is exorbitant, especially if you are dancing with your professional teacher. My teacher, for instance, charges his students $3000 per competition, and that doesn’t even include the cost of covering his hotel, flight and meals. Competition entry fees alone can cost up to $1000, depending on how many dances you dance (most competitions charge $40 per dance). Dresses can cost several thousand dollars. The whole industry is a game of who has the most money. You could be so, so talented– but if you don’t have the means to take lessons/compete/travel… I’m sorry, but you won’t go far in the sport. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it is the reality of Latin/Ballroom dancing. A rich man’s sport, it is. So basically, this reality really hit home with me these past weeks as I prepared for an upcoming competition, Embassy Ball, with my amateur teacher. Since he was still in the amateur circuit, he didn’t charge nearly as much as my professional teacher does, but still, the cost of lessons add up. My poor dad is paying for three kids’ college tuition. He’s older than most parents of kids my age, and thus is looking for retirement soon. No longer can I take dancing for granted. My parents have always financially supported me and my brothers in all our pursuits. We live a comfortable life in the Bay Area, but our resources are limited, especially while we’re in college. Bottom line– my parents can’t afford for me to be dancing as much as I have in the past, and I can no longer turn a blind eye on the financial cost of dancing. It is not just my parents’ problem. It’s absolutely my responsibility as well. So, the point– I’ve decided today to not do the competition, for the very reason of it being unreasonably expensive. It wasn’t my parents’ decision. They had already agreed to financially support me with Embassy. Whatever happened with my dancing after Embassy, was a different story. But because they had already committed paying for Embassy, it wouldn’t have been fair for them to back out at the last minute and tell me they wouldn’t pay for it. No– the decision to not compete was all mine. After totaling the expense of the competition, which amounted to a couple thousand dollars, I felt immense guilt and unease about spending my parents’ money like that. $2000… man. That’s a LOT of money– money that could be going to my college tuition. So, I decided not to go through with it. Of course, I was upset, as I had really been looking forward to competing, and my teacher and I had poured so much into prepping for the competition. I feel terrible for canceling on my teacher, who put up with my indecision for so long– one minute, I’d decide to compete, next minute I’d be backing out. Here is my public apology to him, and to everyone who put their energy into helping me prepare for the competition. Was it all for naught, though? No. I still improved a lot as a dancer in the process of training for Embassy. That’s the victory– not winning some ribbon. Still, though… reality sucks. My blood sometimes boils at the thought of how expensive ballroom dancing is… why can’t it be more affordable, so more people can learn this beautiful art? I know that, from here on out, I will have to support my own dancing. I need to get a job while in college, if I want to be able to keep taking dance lessons. Apply for every scholarship I can find. I’m not going to put any more financial burden on my parents.

Moving to NYC

Don’t worry guys– the big move isn’t happening quite yet. It will soon, but not yet. Basically, I came back from NYC on cloud 9, and all I’ve wanted since was to move back to my favorite city. I had planned on going to NYC one more time mid-September, before school started, but it’s the money issue, again. I have to be smart with how I spend. On my post-NYC high, I decided to apply to transfer to Columbia University next fall, so I could finish my studies in New York. I originally had not intended to tell my parents about my plan and apply secretly. Only if I got in would I break the news– otherwise, it was not worth putting my parents through another of my “crazy” plans. As usual, though, I can’t keep big secrets from my mom and ended up telling her. She, of course, told my dad. As expected, the two of them were not enthused about the idea of me finishing school in New York at a reputable university, for several reasons. Firstly, the money. Cost of tuition at Columbia is nearly double that of UCLA. If I’m so worried about not placing financial stress on my parents, then transferring to Columbia is precisely what NOT to do. Secondly, the distance. They aren’t comfortable with me being across the country, as I won’t have them to turn to, should I fall into another mental crisis. Though I have two cousins and their families living in New York, my parents told me not to burden them unnecessarily. Thirdly, they don’t trust me to live in NYC quite yet, as they deem me neither responsible nor mature enough to handle the Big Apple. To that, I call bull. I THRIVED in NYC for the week I was there– granted, it was just a week– but I adapted to city life in a matter of days. My energy is perfect for fast-paced city life, and whatever street smarts I lack now, I will learn quickly. Anyway, the past weekend consisted of a LOT of verbal arguments between me and my parents, regarding why they don’t want me to go to New York. Well, it started with New York, then turned into a fight about my so-called “ingratitude”, my “rebellious nature” (I told them I’d get another tattoo, pierce my belly button and take ipecac, a vomit-inducing medication, to lose weight, mainly just to spite them/get attention), and things of that nature. It doesn’t help that my two brothers are pure angels compared to me, and I absolutely hate it when my parents start the comparison game. “Why can’t you be more like Austin and Chris,” they say. It’s especially tough being compared to your siblings as a triplet (or any multiple, for that matter), when you’re all the same age and going through similar life phases. My parents just have to understand that we are all individuals, and even though my brothers have never dabbled with caffeine, alcohol, sexual activity and body art, doesn’t mean I have to be the same way. Hurtful words were exchanged, which affected me deeply and spiraled me into a whirlwind of self-hate. Now, a few days out of last Friday’s explosive argument, I’m feeling better and have reconciled my relationships with the ‘rents. Now back to the Columbia plan. My mother told me, if I do get into Columbia (and that is a big IF, as their transfer acceptance rate is less than 10%), she may support me, as the school has a big name. Anything less than Columbia though, she says is not worth the cost. Whatever. I will apply, and if I do get in, we’ll go from there. It took reality a few days to sink in, but I now realize that moving to New York at this moment is not reasonable from a financial standpoint. As much as I wish to go, I mustn’t act on whims, impulses and passions, without considering reality. This is part of growing up, and I absolutely hate it… How I wish I could be a billionaire, so I’d have the freedom to do whatever I pleased with my life. Oh well. If Columbia doesn’t work out, I will graduate UCLA with a psychology degree as fast as humanly possible– I’ve laid out a plan, and at this rate, I can still graduate in three years. I’ll keep dancing and working part-time while in school. It won’t be easy, but I believe I can do it. Once I earn my Bachelor’s degree, I’m outta here. I love UCLA and college life and everything… but New York, guys. That’s where my heart lies in the moment. I worry about my whimsical nature– one minute, my heart’s at UCLA, and the next minute, after a week-long trip to NYC, my heart moves across the country. Why is this so? I am a very passionate person… but I’ve always had a problem being grounded in reality and separating impulses from what I truly want for myself. Yes, graduating early will necessarily deprive me of all UCLA has to offer. And no way can I go forward with the English and Psych double major plan, if I want to graduate in four years, let alone early. It’s a gamble and sacrifice… at the end of the day, though, I have to ask myself if New York and its myriad of opportunities is worth it.

New Therapist

I’ve started seeing a new adult psychologist. Her name is Dr. Wang, but I call her Marg. I have faith this is going to work out– she’s been great so far. Though, I am going back to school in a month, which may pose as an issue for communication… but for the here and now, Marg is good for me. We actually just had a phone appointment this morning. Telling her about all my recent emotional tumult has been very helpful and cathartic. I told her about my newfound obsession with losing weight. First, it was mainly to prep for the Embassy competition. I wanted to look good on the floor, and I am not quite satisfied with my body just yet. I lost four pounds during my week in New York– lots of walking and not much eating (I didn’t want to waste money on food). When I got back home and stepped on the scale, I was happy with what I saw– 126.2 lbs. In my head, I thought… This is good. I wonder how far can I go with the weight loss? My dance teacher had also commented on my weight loss, especially around my arms, and that made me feel great. Seriously, guys– hearing his positive observation was probably the highlight of last Sunday. I treasured those words like diamonds. It motivated me to keep restricting my calories. I told my therapist about my rapid weight loss, and she was understandably concerned for my health. She told me to stop weighing myself on the scale immediately, as the number only feeds into my obsession. I won’t say I have a full-blown eating disorder… but obviously something is not right in my thinking. I wonder if this recent obsession with becoming thin is mired in the guilt and self-loathing as of late… guilt about the financial cost of dancing… resentment towards myself for acting ungrateful for all my parents do for me, even though in fact, I know I am very very blessed. So now, there are two obsessions in my life– weight and money. Both probably having to do with my inability to manage my overactive emotions.

Alright, guys. That was probably the fastest I’ve ever completed a blog post. I just have so much going on in my head… so much I want to share. Thanks for putting up with my rambling. I’ll talk to y’all soon.







Advice For Incoming College Freshmen– Pt. 1

As we reach the middle of August many young adults across the globe are ready to commence a new, exciting chapter of their lives: college!

I remember the mixture of anxiety and excitement I felt last year, right about this time of the year. I was on vacation in China with my family, but my thoughts were as far from enjoying my trip as Redwood City is from Guangzhou. Day and night, my mind was occupied with one thing: college. How would I adapt to this new environment, away from my Bay Area home of 18 years? Would I make friends? What if I don’t fit in? How difficult will college classes be? Would I be forced to pull the dreaded “all-nighter” which, up till that point, I had responsibly avoided? Would I earn straight A’s? Would I be able to do everything on my bucket list the length of my leg? How would my dancing pan out in the context of an academically rigorous environment? Would my anxiety and depression act up, once away from home? What about laundry? I’d never done my own laundry before. What if I screw up and start a fire in the res hall laundry room?

A million questions bombarded my overactive mind. I was the kid who asked every college student she knew for advice. Most of my college friends told me roughly the same thing: balance studying with fun. Time management. Enjoy each moment.

Having survived my first year of college, I can now say that, no matter how much advice you receives from peers, you cannot truly be ready for college until you experience it for yourself. Equipped with the life vest of study skills, values and personal ambitions, you are thrown from the safety of your home ship, into the waters of college. You will struggle to stay afloat, at first, but eventually, you’ll find your own rhythm.

I believe that, if you go in to college with an open, learning mind, a willingness to challenge yourself with new experiences and meet people of different walks of life, you will be fine.

Many of my pre-college anxieties were mitigated within the first couple weeks of college. They stemmed mostly from my lack of life experience and the many uncertainties that followed. Transitions are always difficult, but once you regain your footing, college will soon feel like your home away from home.

Nonetheless, I found that getting as much advice as possible from others calmed my very anxious mind. Below, I’ve compiled a list of advice for incoming college freshmen (or third-year transfer students), based on my first-year college experience. I figured I’d split this advice column into two parts, to make it an easier read for y’all. Take what you will from the list; not everything I say will necessarily apply to you. You do you– I’m here to offer my two-cents, with the hopes of easing your transition to college life and soothing some worries you may have before move-in day! So without further ado, here are some words of advice on how to survive freshman year of college!

Study Tips

  • This is for you, all you pre-meds/engineers/overachievers. Don’t spend all your time studying. I made this mistake during my first two quarters at UCLA, back when I was still a  premed gunner. Not only will studying day and night drive you up the wall; it will deprive you of developing relationships and experiencing new and exciting things, all of which is integral to your growth as a human being. Most people’s priority in going to college is to get a degree– and rightly so. But to become educated entails more than locking yourself in a study room day and night, nose in a book. Grades are important, but they don’t define you. Your experiences, relationships and memories are what count in the long-run, as they teach you street smarts and shape your character.
  • Find your best mode of study. Whether it’s attending lecture, going to professor/TA office hours, forming study groups, studying via textbook, studying by yourself, studying in your room, studying in the library, studying in the café, studying several subjects throughout the day, or diving deep into a single subject for several hours, only you will know how you learn best. It may take a little experimenting in the beginning, especially if you were one to succeed in high school without having to study much, but the goal by the end of your first year is to have developed an arsenal of study tools to draw from for future use, as your classes become more difficult.
  • In high school, attending class was mandatory, and failure to show up to school bore severe consequences. In college, lectures are merely another study tool you may choose to utilize. While some professors check attendance, most do not, as there is no efficient way to keep track of 400 students. Thus, there is really no way your professor will know whether or not you attended lecture– at least not in lower division classes at large public universities. That said, it can be very tempting to skip that 8am lecture to get some more sleep, or to nurse last night’s hangover. If you feel you can learn the material on your own, without the professor’s reinforcement of the material, then you may choose to skip lecture. I personally attended most of my lectures, as I found my professors helpful in aiding my understanding of the material. Also, professors may discuss a topic in lecture that may not appear in the textbook. If such a topic showed up on the exam, and you didn’t attend lecture the day it was discussed, you’re kind of screwed. Then again, some professors are brilliant in their respective fields, but are absolutely TERRIBLE teachers. If faced with one such professor, you may find lectures to be a complete waste of time. It’s up to you to deem lectures worthwhile or not. Just don’t go complaining when it’s finals week, you haven’t been to lecture since day one, and you’re struggling to cram ten weeks’ worth of material in to three nights, all because, all quarter long, you chose to sleep in or party instead of attending class. My apologies for sounding like a total mom for saying that, lol.
  • Try not to study late into the night/early hours of morning. When your brain is exhausted or wired on caffeine, your studying will be unproductive. The most efficient studying happens when you’re awake and alert.
  • Studying on your bed often does not end well. Trust me, I know from first-hand experience. As a sleep-deprived college student, laying stomach-down on your soft mattress, textbook three inches from your face, is a surefire way to fall asleep. REMOVE the temptation, and study somewhere you know you will be productive. Like the library, or a study room.
  • Some people advise against studying in your room altogether, on the grounds that you should preserve your room as a safe haven and place to decompress, away from the pressures of academics. Separating personal life from professional “student” life may help you preserve your sanity as the quarter/semester progresses. In the beginning of the year, I did a lot of studying in my room. Eventually, I moved my study sessions out to study rooms, the floor lounge, or the library, as I found the bed right next to my desk to be wayyy too tempting.
  • If you can, avoid pulling all-nighters. They are very bad for your body, and your studying is sure to be inefficient as the minutes of the night drag on. Back in my crazy pre-med days, I pulled my fair share of all-nighters. Looking back, it was totally unnecessary. I wasn’t even falling behind in class; I was just so hung up on getting perfect grades for medical school, that I went completely overkill with the studying. I’d stay up all night to prepare for the following week’s chemistry lectures. I’d redo problem sets two or three times, to completely solidify concepts. Basically, I strove for perfect grades, at the expense of my mental and physical health. But more on the dangers of the pursuit of perfection, later.
  • Efficiency is key, especially when you’re learning to juggle multiple responsibilities: academics, chores, jobs, hobbies, self-care, etc. Once you sit down to study, FOCUS on nothing but studying. Eliminate distractions, like music, loud noise, open Web browsers, Netflix, etc. That way, you can get your studying done in a short amount of time, enjoy life and maybe even go to sleep at a decent hour. It can be done, trust me. I have yet to succeed, though.
  • Put in the work. This one is self-explanatory, but important enough to reiterate. It’s simple- how well you perform academically is directly proportional to how much time you devote to studying. There is a caveat, though. The more time you devote to studying, the less time you’ll have for engaging in deep conversations with friends; attending dance workshops; joining the theater company; playing intramural sports; working; dating; meditating; sleeping. The whole thing is a cost-benefit analysis. You learn to prioritize what is important for you. For most people at my school, that is academics. Just because you are a pre-med or engineering student, though, doesn’t mean you must forsake a life outside the classroom! It’s all about studying smartly and efficiently. Trust me, work-life balance is a life skill that takes years of experience to truly master. Don’t feel bad if you find yourself studying 90% of the time during your freshman year of college; you’ll get better at balance with time!

Declaring a Major

  • Don’t feel pressure during your first year to know what you want to major in. Most universities don’t require students to declare a major until the end of their second year. You’ve got time, so chillax!
  • If you go into college undeclared… GOOD ON YOU! I don’t think anyone truly knows what they want to do at age 17 or 18, and it’s in college where the magic of finding oneself transpires. So take some GE classes in new and interesting topics! A good friend of mine once said, “College is a balance between earning a degree and exploring.” Even if you are sure you know what you want to do going into college, I urge you to still take some time during freshman year to expose yourself to new fields. You never know– perhaps you’ll fall in love with a random class, and your whole life trajectory will change!
  • The world won’t end if you don’t graduate in four years. Don’t get so hung up on NEEDING to graduate in four years that you limit yourself in the scope of courses you take. You don’t NEED to do anything. If you need to graduate in five years, and have the financial means to do so, then there is absolutely no shame in that!
  • A mentor of mine once told me, “A degree is not your destiny.” What you major in does not necessarily determine the career path you will ultimately embark on. Here’s what I love about the U.S. You don’t need to know what you want to study by the end of high school (or, in some cases, middle school!), and what course of study you eventually decide on is not a definitive sentence to “X” career. My uncle is a case in point. He majored in electrical engineering at the University of Florida, but after he graduated, he ended up becoming a successful CEO in Macau. Just because you major in science, doesn’t mean you HAVE to do something science-related as a career. Those on the pre-professional track can major in anything, really; in fact, medical, law, and graduate schools eat up unique applicants who major in things they truly enjoy, like music, art, history, art history, English, dance, etc. etc. (not throwing shade at science majors or anything). Point is, we often place undue pressure on ourselves to choose a major that will open doors to decent-paying jobs. What can you really do with just a Bachelor’s degree these days, anyway? “Masters is the new Bachelor’s,” as my AP Language and Composition teacher used to say. Enjoy you undergraduate years, revel in the exploration, and settle on a major you are passionate about. I understand that not everyone has the luxury to do this, but if you or your family have the financial means for you to follow your heart, I say, go for it.
  • Your major doesn’t define you, and you shouldn’t judge an individual based on what they are studying. Of course there exist stereotypes about the “nerdy, antisocial” engineering students; the “cutthroat” premed sharks; and the humanities students who “won’t get jobs”. College is a time when you will meet SO many different people, and with the sheer amount of new faces and names storming our hitherto close-knit childhood circles, it’s natural for us to seek simplicity by placing people into boxes, based on what they study. The first few weeks of freshman year, you will find yourself greeting every person you meet with something along the lines of, “Hi! My name is “X”. *handshake* Pleasure to meet you. What year are you? Oh, you’re a freshman too? That’s awesome! So what’s your major?” Your new friend answers that last question, and then, boom. Into the mental box they go. Thing is, though, engineering students are not necessarily social hermits who tinker with machines and study all day. I’ve met several engineers on my school’s ballroom dance team. And, get this– not all pre-med students are sharks who will stop at nothing to get into a top medical school. One of the kindest people I met at UCLA is a pre-med student and is currently taking a year-and-a-half break from school to serve a mission in Chilé. And, believe it or not, many humanities majors WILL find jobs at the end of the day. Your major is simply one small facet of your multi-dimensional identity. So, I definitely urge you all to meet people with different interests. There is something special in every individual that is waiting to be discovered, if only we all devoted more effort to looking beneath surface level and really getting to know one another.


  • Keep close tabs on how much you spend with a budget book. I wish I had been a more responsible consumer my first year. Little naive me did not check her debit card account regularly, and ended up over drafting her bank account– seven times in a single day. The following fact may be self-explanatory to some, but it definitely wasn’t to me: just because your debit card transaction goes through at the cash register, doesn’t mean you have enough money to pay for what you buy!
  • Amazon is both your greatest gift and worst enemy. It is oh-so tempting to spend in excess when you’re stressed with finals and crave some instant gratification. I’m still haunted by my winter quarter Amazon mega-shopping-spree. I was going through one of many mental crises at the time and found comfort in impulse shopping. Now, I barely even touch half the things I bought that quarter. Do yourself a favor and remove the temptation altogether by ridding your search bar of Amazon!!!
  • You can save hundreds of dollars by buying used textbooks (check Facebook for your university’s “Free and For Sale” page), or finding cheaper versions of the book online. Brand new textbooks sold at university stores are real rip-offs.
  • If you’re like most college students, Uber is your primary form of transportation. Splitting the cost of Ubers with friends when commuting on/off campus is an obvious way to save some money.
  • Take advantage of all the free stuff your university offers. Whether it’s plastic water bottles, cardholders that stick to your phone, t-shirts or free planners, the words “FREE STUFF!!!” are music to college students’ ears.
  • Random side-note: the downside of cardholders that stick to your phone is, the magnetic strip on your university card may wear down because of close contact with your phone’s radiation (don’t ask me about the mechanism, I am no engineer). If you don’t want to risk this happening, don’t keep your university card so close to your phone!
  • If you haven’t done so already, consider downloading the app, “Venmo”. It’s an easy way to buy things from your smartphone if you don’t have your wallet on hand. Do exercise self-control when using this app, though, as it’s much more tempting to spend in excess when a transaction can be completed at the touch of a button (aka, impulsively buying a sugar-glazed doughnut on Bruin Walk while walking to class).


  • If you live in the dorms… you’d better hope for some decent human beings as floor mates. You know… people who know NOT to take a dump in the shower stalls (this happened TWICE on my floor last year); get into 2am bloody fistfights; or blow up and slide down an inflatable waterslide in the middle of the hallway during finals week.
  • Roommates. I was blessed to have chosen a wonderful roommate my freshman year– she was clean, quiet and respectful of boundaries. Nonetheless, like with any functioning relationship, communication between the two of us was essential to making things work, or else our room would just be strained with a whole lot of passive-aggressive energy. So, rule #1 in dealing with roommates: COMMUNICATE! If something your roommate is doing does not sit well with you… tell them, instead of letting it fester. If your roommate is blasting their music too loudly, tell them to quiet down. If your roommate never takes out the trash, tell them to do so. If you hate constantly being “sexiled” or waking up to the sound of your roommate getting it on with a different person each night… TELL THEM. Just as you respect their rules, they should respect yours.
  • Living with roommates really teaches you the important life skill of communication and compromise. That’s rule #2, guys– COMPROMISE. You can’t expect your roommate to be perfect and abide by your every rule. No matter how great a fit your roommate is, differences in living habits/behaviors are inevitable. While it’s important to let your roommate know if something is bothering you, you also shouldn’t go into full dictator mode and call them out on every. single. thing. Just as you desire personal space, leave your roommate some wiggle room to breathe in their own. Don’t do things like scolding your roommate for tossing and turning in bed, or breathing too loudly, or simply existing. That’s a little bit extra and pretty unfair to the receiving party.
  • Rule #3 in dealing with roommates: you don’t HAVE to become best friends with your roommate. I know some people go into college with the expectation that they and their roommate will become best buds, and are disappointed when this does not happen. In my opinion, though, being best friends with your roomie may pose as a conflict of interest. As a roommate, you must assert yourself and draw lines when needed; but as a friend, you may feel bad about stepping on their toes. I won’t tell you if you should or shouldn’t be joined at the hip with your roommate. I personally liked my freshman year roommate very much, but we were not so close as to be considered “besties”. And I’d say the two of us got along just fine. In fact, the nature of our relationship made being assertive with her a lot easier.
  • Roommate rule #4: This one’s not such much a rule as it is a general observation. When you first meet your roommate, you may feel excessive pressure to act a certain way to get your roommate to like you. After all, you will be living with this other person for the next year, so you’d want to get off on the right foot, right? As the year progresses, though, facades will melt away and your true colors will show. Okay, I didn’t mean for it to sound that dramatic. What I mean is, you shouldn’t feel the need to impress your roommate, just because you’ll be living with them. In fact, it is for the very reason that you’re living with this other individual that you’d want to be authentic. Of course it’s good to make a decent first impression. At the end of the day, though, just relax and be yourself, and your roommate can either take it or leave it. Simple as that.
  • Roommate rule #5: Another observation. Oftentimes, inter-roommate tensions will mount as the year goes on. This is something I noticed among quite a few roommates. Towards the end of the school year, you’re exhausted from academics, crave your own room and personal space, and have long since stopped giving two hoots about pleasantries or politeness. Communication will take you a long way, but even that at times is not enough to clear the air of tension and negative energy. I’ve known of roommates who, by the year’s end, completely stopped talking to one another. If you guys are fine with giving each other the cold shoulder, then no harm no foul in doing so, I suppose. Just don’t do anything petty or dumb, like meddling with your roommates things, farting on their pillow, stealing their clothes or mixing up their lotion bottles, just to spite them. You’re an adult now, so talk things through. If the engine is running smoothly with you guys doing your own thing and not saying a word to one another, that’s cool too.
  • Is doing the random roommate assignment worth the risk? I personally did not do random roommate assignment, as I managed to find someone I knew beforehand to be my roommate. Honestly, it’s really up to you. Usually, your university’s housing application will ask you to fill out a lifestyle preference questionnaire, so as to match you to a good-fit roommate. Even so, there is no guarantee that you and the roommate you’re assigned will get along… I’ve seen both sides. Rest assured, though, that if you really despise your roommate, you always have the option of moving out.
  • Now, onto the topic of floor mates. I’d say, at least during the first week of school, make a genuine effort to get to know the people living on your floor. To me, knowing my floor mates by name, saying “Hello” when I pass them by in the hallways and sharing late night conversations in the floor’s lounge makes my dorm feel a lot more like home, as opposed to a room I sleep in amidst an ocean of other rooms inhabited by strangers. The beauty of living in dorms your first year of college is, it helps you make friends more easily. You’ll find that most floor mates– and freshmen in general– are very open to meeting new people. Take advantage of that and get out of your comfort zone by introducing yourself to your new “family”. It’s totally fine if you’re introverted or shy. As a self-proclaimed ambivert, I can be quite outgoing at times, but also withdraw into my personal space if bombarded with too much external stimuli. That’s what happened the first few weeks of fall quarter. Every day I was meeting so many new faces, and I felt overwhelmed. It’s completely normal to feel this way, and when this happens, take some time to recuperate and care for yourself. All will be just fine in the end.


Things to pack/not to pack for college

Do bring:

  • Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, face products, shampoo/conditioner/body wash, feminine products, shower caddy, razor. Duh!!!
  • Wallet: driver’s license, credit/debit card, student ID. Double duh!!!
  • The usual stationary: pencils, pens, notebooks, binder paper, highlighters, flashcards, sticky notes, etc.
  • If you are in communal bathrooms, I suggest packing little plastic bottles to store cleansers in (so you don’t have to lug a gigantic bottle of shampoo to the bathroom every time you take a shower)
  • Shower shoes. I highly advise against walking barefoot in the res halls and communal bathrooms. You never know what kinds of vomit/other bodily fluids the res hall carpets have seen. Case in point– one of my brothers’ roommates peed in the middle of the hallway (while inebriated, of course).
  • Power strip. WHAT a life saver, especially when you’re cranking out those study sessions in the library!
  • A lanyard attached to a cardholder is a great way to keep your IDs and credit/debit card close at hand.
  • Tissue boxes. Lots of ‘em. Very handy during flu season, as well as during midterms/finals week, when you’re crying your eyes out over the five exams to study for and three papers to write. Just kidding about that last one– if you manage your time well, life will be A-okay!
  • Vitamin C. Keep that immune system strong! There’s nothing worse than getting sick right before exam time, unable to sit up long enough to study!
  • Face masks for flu season. I tried to buy some at Target during week 3 of winter quarter, but was met with an empty shelf. Buy em’ before they run out!
  • Duct tape: fixes everything, 100%.
  • Pepper spray. Never know what kind of weirdos lurk on/around campus, so it’s always good to have that on hand. Many people attach small pepper sprays to their lanyards, so don’t feel dorky about doing that.
  • Extra batteries (for calculators, flashlights, digital alarm clocks, your pillow pet, what have you)
  • Disinfectant wipes. A clean and germ-free abode is a comforting one.
  • Business casual outfit, for interviews and networking nights and the like (for ladies, a sharp blazer, pencil skirt/slacks, and heels/flats will suffice. Or whatever you consider business casual)
  • 1 formal attire (or if you are rushing Greek life, maybe 2 or 3. Don’t quote me on that, as I personally do not partake in Greek life)
  • Laptop! Literally my lifeline, aside from my phone. Make sure your laptop is not too heavy, either, as you’ll most likely be carrying it around with you… everywhere.
  • LOTS of comfy clothes. Come week 2 of fall quarter, I lost all motivation to dress up for lectures. My go-to outfit: Yoga pants, Ugg boots, a cute t-shirt and a pink UCLA sweater to top it off.
  • Notepads. I love the yellow ones with pages that easily rip off. Great for scratchwork. Literally filled up an entire pack while drilling problem sets for my math and chem finals!
  • Tide Pods. SO much more convenient for doing laundry than packing a massive, heavy tub of detergent.
  • Journal— trust me, you’re gonna wanna remember your college days. They FLY by. Each and every moment is so, so incredibly precious. You’ll experience so much growth during this time of your life. So even if you write just a few words each day, in your private diary or google folder, journaling is a sure way to immortalize the wonderful/crazy/new adventures you’re sure to have in college!
  • Noise cancelling headphones. I personally did not own a pair during my freshman year, but looking back, I think they would have been helpful. Especially if you’re living in a noisy residential hall, with next door neighbors blasting music into the early hours of morning (yup, I had the unfortunate experience of having rancorous neighbors).
  • An eye mask and ear plugs (for that one roommate who stays up into the early hours of dawn with the light turned on)

Don’t bring:

  • Your entire wardrobe. I made this mistake. Most of the time, I just stuck to sweats, leggings and t-shirts, with my fancy-schmancy attire collecting dust in the closet. I wore my blazer about two times last year, and didn’t even touch my red formal gown. Definitely a waste of closet space.
  • Your entire shoe collection. Guilty of this one too! If you pack every pair of shoes you own, you will definitely regret it, come move-out day. Remember, everything you bring to college, you also have to move out! Choose wisely what you decide to bring with you!
  • Your entire makeup collection. I barely wore any makeup my freshman year. Of course, this was a personal choice… but between studying and dance and self-care, I found it difficult to find time to get all dolled-up in the morning.
  • An excessive number of shower towels. I think I brought three or four towels to college. Why, I am not sure. Two towels– one to alternate each week– is more than enough.
  • An excessive amount of stationary (sticky notes, index cards, scotch tape, etc.). Again– bring what is necessary, and if you run out, there’s always the student store to turn to.
  • Fancy/bulky electronic gadgets, including: a blender, a face steamer, a steaming iron, etc. I brought all three and barely used any. The res halls may provide clothing irons and vacuums, and blender bottles for protein shakes are a LOT more portable than full-out Nutribullet contraptions.
  • Throw pillows. Unless you’re really into the room decor thing, or absolutely can’t live without throw pillows, they just take up unnecessary space. Remember– you don’t want to have too much stuff to move out of your dorm, so bring only what is necessary!
  • Graphing calculator. Unless you know you’ll be taking a math class that requires a graphing calculator, you should get by just fine with a small scientific calculator. It’s a lot smaller and lighter!
  • Trash can. Most dorms come with their own trash can and recycling bin.
  • Outside reading. Chances are, you will not have much time to do extraneous reading beyond your classes. Of course, if reading novels is a means of relieving stress, then by all means, bring as many books as you like!
  • A gigantic bucket of laundry detergent. Stick with the tide pods. SO much more portable, especially if your floor’s laundry room is at the other end of the hall (#storyofmylife). Then again…
  • Expensive jewelry. Again, up to you. I didn’t want to run the risk of having my late grandmother’s diamond ring stolen, so I left it safely at home.
  • Toilet paper. It’s usually provided by university housing. Obviously, if you are living in an off-campus non-university apartment, you’ll have to buy your own.

Just Ordinary (The View is Great From Down Here)

Good afternoon, dearest friends! I hope you all are enjoying your Friday.

This morning was just another normal morning in the life of Belicia Tang… but it was also one of the most meaningful moments I’ve experienced in quite a while.

I woke up at 10am, and after mustering the motivation to roll out of bed, I proceeded along my usual morning routine- brush my teeth, wash my face, tame my bedhead, change into my OOTD (or, if I’m feeling lazy, just stay in my PJ’s), head downstairs and eat breakfast.

It was a quiet morning. My mom and dad were already out of the house, running errands. Chris was in his room, doing whatever the hell he does in there. Austin was already at his 9am-5pm job. Grandma was downstairs, watching TV whilst bustling about the kitchen. My two parakeets, George and Shelly, were quietly perched on their bench, joined at the hip.

I didn’t eat much of a breakfast, other than part of the delicious carrot cake Chris had baked a couple days ago. I’m tellin’ you guys, Chris is becoming quite the chef! When I was in New York, he commenced his baking phase– one cake a day, my mother told me. So far, I’ve tried his vanilla cake, carrot cake and Chinese-style pork bun. All made from scratch. Chris’s multi-dimensional creative genius never fails to inspire me– he can cook, write, rap, act, sketch, play piano, and recently began composing his own music. Whoever he ends up with will be one lucky lady, indeed. Ode to Chris, concluded.

Anyway, I spent the remainder of my morning taking care of some unfinished business. I unpacked the rest of my suitcase, checked hotel rooms for my upcoming dance competition and did some writing.

At a quarter to noon, Chris summoned me to the bird’s cage, where George and Shelly were chillin’. Shelly is an old bird, and she seems to be reaching the end of her journey. Her feathers were all fluffed up, which meant she was trying to keep warm. George, her best friend, seemed to pick up on the cues and perched right next to her, providing her with extra body heat. We watched the two of them, and I remarked to Chris, “This is indisputable proof that animals do indeed have souls.”

Chris was inspired to take the cage out to the backyard so he could wash the cage with the hose, while the birds soaked up the rays of sun amidst their natural habitat. I was hesitant at first. There was a slight breeze flowing, and I was afraid that the combination of wind and water would expedite Shelly’s impending death. Chris insisted, though, and finally, I relented. I figured, maybe some nature would do the birds some good. The two of us picked up the heavy cage and hauled it to the backyard. We positioned the cage so that the birds could receive just the right amount of sunlight. Chris removed the top and bottom part of the cage to expose metal rungs. He sprayed the cage with the hose, which scared George and Shelly (you can tell when they’re scared, because they withdraw their feathers and look small). After getting most of the poop off the cage, Chris sprayed the birds with a light mist. I told him to point the hose directly up, so that the mist would come raining down on the birds. I don’t know if George and Shelly liked it or not… but the sight of tiny water droplets rolling down their bright, ornate, waterproof feathers was really beautiful.

After all that was done, we left the birds out in the sun to dry. Originally, we were only going to leave them there for 20 minutes, but the birds were chirping happily, so we let them be. Chris had said he was going for a run, and I headed back inside the house to continue on my to-do list. Ten minutes later, I went back outside, only to see Chris there, still intently observing the birds. I don’t know why, but my heart filled with so much love for my brother, in that moment.

The whole morning with Chris and the birds brought me back to our childhood, when we were raising our first generation of parakeets. Back in those days, we owned four parakeets– Georgia the First, Spot, Sheldon and Albert McFat. One morning, little Chris and little Belicia decided to give the birds a bath. I filled up the sink with lukewarm water, while Chris grabbed the two poor victims– Albert and Georgia– and removed them from the cage. We placed them in the sink and watched with delight as they splashed, sputtered and flapped their damp wings. We thought they were playing! Little did we know that they were, in fact, struggling to stay afloat and breathe. Little Belicia had filled the sink with too much water. Soon, we saw Albert hopping on Georgia’s back to keep from sinking, which made us even more excited. “Piggy-back-ride!!!”, the two of us shouted. That excitement quickly faded, however, when Georgia did not emerge from under the water after several minutes. Chris grabbed her by the tail and held up the lifeless body of a beautiful, young, dark green parakeet. We were horrified. You could imagine how we learned our lesson, that day, to never again bathe our birds in the sink.

So, flash forward again to 11 years later. Chris finally left his post at the bird cage and went for a run. I started this blog post. My grandmother kept nagging me to eat food, but I told her I’d eat when my mom came home with Vietnamese food. Grandma asked to borrow my yoga mat so she could do physical therapy exercises in the living room. Of course I let her use it!

I then gave my godmother a call. She is currently in the hospital, in critical condition. She’s been battling cancer for many years now, and a few days ago, her platelet levels dropped to a mortally low level. As my dad explained to me, the normal blood platelet level is around 200,000-300,000. 10,000 is considered critical. My godmother’s was at 2,000. She is currently fighting for her life. I knew my godmother has been very lucky to have lived for this long and that each day she remains alive is a bonus. I knew this day was inevitable, but to me, my godmother has always seemed invincible. She’s had a couple of close calls in the past, but she’s always bounced back from them. This time, though, I am not certain she’ll make it. Hearing her voice on the other line, I could tell she was exhausted and a lot of pain. She didn’t want me to visit her in the hospital today, because she was feeling absolutely miserable and did not wish for me to see her in her current state. My heart broke, knowing how much my godmother was suffering.

When the kiss of death brushes so close to you, you can’t help but reevaluate your life priorities. For most my life, I’ve lived with an obsession to be “successful”, whatever that blanket, subjective, trite term means. As a young, hungry and passionate individual, I always viewed success as being “the best” at whatever you do, be it school, gymnastics, music, dance, etc. If I wasn’t the best, I wasn’t enough. If I didn’t have the gold medal or perfect exam score to serve as validation for my worth… I wasn’t enough. Having never quite made my mark in any of my pursuits, then, I was never satisfied with the way I was. I constantly strove for more.

Let me interject here and just clarify– there is nothing wrong with striving to be better. In fact, I believe that to be an effective individual, you must never ever settle. Life is a never-ending journey of limitless growth. We should always strive to improve ourselves– sky is the limit when it comes to skill-building. Even if you are the best athlete, best musician, best teacher, best parent, best whatever in the world, you can always learn more and be better. I think the problem arises when your MOTIVES for improvement become impure. If you’re striving to win, just because you want the external validation– the bragging rights, the glory, the fame, the money– you are bound to fall. Hard. Worst of all is when you strive to win to feel good about yourself. That, my friends, is a tell-tale sign of a wounded, insecure individual… someone who doesn’t know how to love himself, and so turns to the outside world for validation. Can you imagine that? Each first place is a small ego boost, a confirmation of your worth. But in life, nobody’s perfect. Nobody was born to be the best at everything. So, once you inevitably fall short of first place, you start to question the very essence of your worth and identity. You become terribly insecure. It is that insecurity that serves as a driving force for you to keep fighting… but do you see how the motives are messed up? What a sad, unstable life you live, if all you care about is winning and external validation. Screw the journey of newly formed relationships and tremendous self-development that ensues in the pursuit of an end goal. If you don’t achieve the end goal, all is for naught. If you don’t win, you are nothing. Worthless. Which, of course, is a fallacy I’ve work long and hard to extricate myself from. Where’s the self-empowerment, if you let external rewards and punishments dictate how you feel about yourself?

But, I digress. Where was I? Right. My obsession with success. So, I used to believe that being successful meant living the labels. I wanted to be a big-shot SURGEON. A brilliant ATTORNEY. A WORLD CHAMPION DANCER. I was absolutely terrified of living an “ordinary” life… You know… working a mundane 9am-5pm desk job under a boss I secretly hate (okay, trite example, but you get the point, right?). Or never having achieved anything “noteworthy”, from the outsider’s perspective, in life. I had this one high school teacher– Mr. Schaal. He taught human biology, a class notorious for being an “easy-A”. I took that class my senior year of high school. Learned little to nothing, though I did have the chance to dissect a frog and cow eyeball, which was pretty gnarly. Anyway, Mr. Schaal was Stanford alumnus. I always wondered why in the living hell he would choose to be a high school human biology teacher, after having graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I thought to myself… what a waste. He could have been anything. Why this? I used to pity Mr. Schaal. I couldn’t fathom why someone with such a bright future ahead of him would throw it all away to teach unmotivated, delinquent high schoolers.

Now, I look back on my previous worldview, and I realize that I was the one in the wrong. I had no right to judge Mr. Schaal based on what little I knew of him. Perhaps he had, out of his own volition, chosen the so-called “ordinary” life over one of ambition and immense career success. He had a roof over his head and food on the table. He had a wife and two young children. An easygoing job. A twin brother with family of his own. Two loving parents. Believe it or not, Belicia, but for some people, that is enough. Some people don’t need to do something great or leave a lasting mark in this world, to feel great. If he’s happy, that’s all that matters.

It’s interesting. There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the events of my morning… but still. There was something special about the normalcy of it all. Merely spending time with my brother, relishing in the moment, basking in all the beautiful memories conjured and feeling immense gratitude for all I had in my life– that was meaning in itself. I don’t need to live up to society’s definition of success to find my own fulfillment. I don’t need external validation from others to make myself feel worthy.

Again, allow me to clarify. Ambition is a wonderful quality. For some, ambition is the predominant theme and primary motivator in their lives. These individuals aspire to leave a lasting legacy and make an indelible mark on this world. I strongly identify with this camp of individuals. However, I’ve grown to learn that not everyone may value ambition as much as I do. In my youth, I simply couldn’t understand why anyone would not strive for “greatness”. Anyone who wasn’t working as hard, or harder than me, at achieving their goals, was deemed “lazy” or “uninspiring”. I’d look at these people and place them in my mental box of “What Not to Be”.

However, I now realize that people less ambitious than I are not to be looked down upon or respected any less. They simply value different things in life. And that is absolutely okay! Live, and let live. To each his or her own.

I will continue to strive for self-improvement. I aim to use my personal skillset to positively impact the lives of those around me. But I do so now with more clarity and purer intentions. Unhealthy goal: be THE best. It’s an unattainable bar. Healthy goal: strive to be YOUR best, taking into account where you started, innate ability, amount of resources you have and level of opportunity. Work damn hard to better yourself each day. Never get comfortable with where you’re at in the present, for you can always develop your skills further. However, don’t let ambition– even healthy ambition– take away the simple joys, which at the end of the day, often turn out to be the most significant. Things like being surrounded with family and close friends; going out to dinner and a movie; window-shopping with your bestie; reading a book under the sun– there is beauty in all of the above. I don’t need to be working my ass off 24/7 to live a life of meaning. You can, if this is the life you choose… but, having lived this former life myself, I don’t believe such a life is one that’ll bear the greatest fruit and dimension, at least not for me. This is where the idea of work-life balance comes into play. Don’t worry– I’ll be doing a whole other blog post on that.

Hope you all enjoyed today’s musings! Enjoy the rest of your day!




New York Trip Reflection

Hi everyone! After a tumultuous couple days of missing flights and being placed on standby flights, I finally made it back home from New York in one piece!

Man… there is so much I want to tell you guys about my past week in NYC, I just don’t know where to start. My apologies if the following post is all over the place without any coherent structure. It parallels the state of my mind right now- reeling from wondrous memories of my past week’s adventures. I will be writing detailed accounts of each day of my trip, but I thought tonight’s post could be more of a general overview of my sentiments, thoughts and lessons learned from my week in New York.

Before embarking on this weeklong solo journey to the heart of New York, I was unsure of how I’d adapt to New York City life. I grew up in the pristine, sheltered suburbs of Redwood Shores, where trees grow in perfectly straight lines to complement the perfectly uniform blue houses occupied by upper-middle-class, white-collar professionals. My whole life, up till this point, has taken place in a perfect little bubble.

Even after completing one year of college at UCLA, I still didn’t feel like I’d experienced much of the real world and its harsh realities. During my freshman year of college, I rarely left the safety of campus, which was yet another bubble in itself, albeit filled with a more diverse array of individuals. While I was blessed to have had the opportunity to travel the world with my family in my youth, traveling in a pack, within the confines of your family and tour groups, is much different than traveling alone in a big city.

All this to say, I didn’t have much street-smarts to draw from, prior to embarking on my New York trip. I was understandably a bit anxious, then, about leaving for New York– my parents, probably more so than I!

Little could I predict how well I would mesh with New York City life, though! I remember the very first day I explored Manhattan alone. It was Wednesday, my second day in New York. I got off the subway at Times Square/42nd Street, followed the crowd up the steep subway steps and was greeted by a gray sky, light drizzle, hoards of bustling people, towering buildings, flashing billboards advertising the latest Broadway hits, the sound of drawn-out car honks and the smell of food stands and cigarette smoke. It was absolutely thrilling.

I had a lot to learn in the beginning– deciphering the subway system; navigating the city (Google Maps was my lifeline); walking the streets in typical “New Yorker-esque” fashion (i.e. taking brisk strides with eyes trained forward, not smiling at strangers and spurning unwanted attention); mastering the art of J-walking (if you don’t J-walk in New York, you’ll look like a fool); and dealing with panhandlers/homeless people (apparently it’s illegal in the state of New York to give homeless people food or money).

I adapted quickly, though, and by the end of the week, I felt like a pro New York city gal. I grew to be absolutely confident walking the streets, even in the early hours of 1am. Having not run into any trouble with crazy people or dirty men– aside from the occasional cat-call, which I’d haughtily roll my eyes at and ignore– I developed a mental armor of invincibility, thinking that I could handle anything the streets threw my way. Of course, it is dangerous to fall into such a mindset, especially if you are a young woman, more vulnerable to worldly evils. No matter how seasoned a New Yorker you may be, you mustn’t ever let down your guard. Anyway, at the week’s close, I had pretty much mastered the art of public transportation, though I still struggled with locating subway stations– they’re often hidden in the corner of some dark alleyway, and if you aren’t paying close attention, you’d totally walk right past it.

Here’s what I love about New York City.

  1. Ease of transportation and ensuing independence. Public transportation makes getting around so damn convenient! This aspect of city life is one that especially hit home with me. As a young woman living in the Bay Area without car insurance, I must rely on Caltrain, Uber, my brother, my mom or my dad to take me places. The heinous hour-and-a-half commute to dance practice or gymnastics coaching is a real time and money drain. In New York, I never had to face such day-to-day hassles. Anywhere I needed to go, I could do so in a timely, cost-effective manner. For once in my life, I felt truly independent, without needing to rely on others to get around. The subway, dank and smelly as it is, is a real blessing. I bought a $32 weeklong unlimited subway pass that let me ride the subway to my heart’s delight throughout the duration of my trip. To my surprise, the subway system is actually quite simple to navigate. Google Maps will tell you which train-line to board, and you just have to make sure you board the train headed in the right direction (either uptown or downtown). Once you exit the station, your destination is usually within walking distance. In short, city life makes transportation so much more accessible and convenient, and with this convenience comes an empowering sense of independence. In New York, I needn’t worry about traffic, expensive Ubers or being a bother to those who give me rides. Armed with my purse, Metro card and pair of flats, I’m set for the entire day. I never find myself in a situation where I’m trapped inside the confines of my home because I cannot find anyone to take me to where I need to go. That’s how I sometimes feel at home. Trapped, like a bird with clipped wings. In New York, I have the freedom to fly.
  2. The arts. Obviously! After relinquishing myself of the “premed illusion” and looking within to discover my true passion, I realized that my heart is drawn to all things related to creative expression, be it dance, music, theater, or writing. New York is THE place for artistic souls like myself. Standing in the middle of Times Square, looking up at the flashing billboards advertising timeless shows like “Book of Mormon”, “Cats”, “Chicago”, “Hamilton”, “Phantom of the Opera” and many more, I find my heart fluttering with excitement, my soul burning bright flames of life. My goodness. I can’t express how alive and invigorated I am when surrounded by everything that colors my life and gives my soul purpose. I am New York City, and New York City is me. It is a love story meant to be.
  3.  Latin-American dance. New York is rich with the best dancers and dance instructors in the world. Allan Tornsberg. Vibeke Toft. Eugene Katsevman. Maria Manusova. Colin James. Gary and Diana McDonald. Yulia and Riccardo. Troels and Ina. The list goes on and on. Being surrounded by so many passionate, brilliant dancers has really inspired me to continue onward on my dance journey. It’s shown me that there is no limit as to how far you can grow in mastering the art of Latin-American dance. If I want to dance seriously, New York is THE place to be. No doubt about it. There are opportunities for dancers here that I just cannot find in the Bay Area or Los Angeles. For instance, I tried out with two potential partners in New York. Both guys were great– only problem was, neither one could relocate to California, and at this point in time, I cannot move to New York. Obviously, I wouldn’t have that problem, were I to reside in New York City!
  4. City life helps with my depression. See, friends, I have a tendency to get depressed when my life lacks structure or I find myself bored with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I’m sure some of you can relate. In NYC, I’ll NEVER find myself in such a limbo state. Times Square is but a subway ride away. There are plenty of things to do to keep you busy– internships, Broadway shows, shopping, music festivals, clubs, good restaurants, the works. Never will I find myself wont of a means to get out of the house. Simply by living in New York, my life will be a constant hustle-bustle, which I know is the kind of pace that’ll keep the depression at bay.

I’m sure you all can tell how much I adore the Big Apple. I’m already planning another weeklong trip back in September, right before school starts, to take dance lessons with top instructors. God knows how long I’ll have to work to pay back my parents for these trips… but man, going to New York this past week was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Until then, I’ll continue working hard at my dancing and prepping for the upcoming competition– Embassy Ball on September 3! If anyone is in the Irvine area around that time and wants to watch me compete, I’d love to have your support!









Good morning, friends. It’s almost 8:30am here in New York as I begin this post, and I’m currently sitting on the floor of JFK airport, waiting in line for the Sun Country airlines kiosk desk to open. I am completely overwhelmed with exhaustion… my nervous system is still coming down from what may have been the most intense hour of my LIFE.

See, friends, I just missed my 7:00am flight home from New York.

It was past 1:00am by the time I got home last night, after running a series of errands around the city. I’ll get into the details of that later. I took a shower, packed my things, said goodbye to my cousin and planned on leaving the house at 4:30am, to give myself enough time to comfortably make my early flight.

By the time I was ready and dressed, it was 4:00am, and I had 30 minutes to kill. I was absolutely exhausted from the previous day’s events– I had not slept for nearly 24 hours. I decided that it’d be completely safe to take a 30 minute power nap. I distinctly remember telling myself, before falling asleep on the oversized couch, to NOT oversleep, under any circumstances.

Well, obviously things did not go as planned. Silly me forgot to turn my phone off of “silent” mode, so I totally didn’t hear my alarm go off! I woke up at 6:20am to bright sunlight seeping through the window. My first thought was, “What the f*** did I just do?!” My eyes shifted to the time on the TV digital clock, and my heart dropped. I was not going to make my flight.

Yet, being the stubbornly resolute person I am, I decided to make a mad dash for the airport, just in case the flight happened to be delayed. Also, I didn’t have much experience to draw from in terms of missing flights, and a part of me really believed that I could make it to JFK, pass security and securely arrive at the gate in a half-hour’s time. Who knows? Maybe the airline would be nice enough to wait for me! Had I known what I know now– namely, that it’s impossible to make a flight within a thirty minute time frame– I would have just stayed at the apartment, called the airline to book me for the next available flight, and saved myself a lot of stress.

So for the next hour, my mind was racing on turbo-speed, adrenaline was pumping fast and the fight was ON.

For the first time in my relatively smooth-sail New York trip, Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head, for everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. I hailed an Uber from the apartment to JFK, but could not find the car for the life of me! I was probably too nervous to be aware of my surroundings. I worried that the Uber guy would cancel on me, but he kindly found out where I was and rushed me to the airport. On the car ride there, I called the airline, informing them of my situation, and asking if they could possibly transfer me to another flight later that day. The lady told me that the next available flight was not until the following day, at 11:35am. Disheartened, I told her to book that flight for me, as I was nearly certain that I’d miss my 7:00am flight.

I arrived at the airport at 6:48am. By then, it was already flooded with people. Suitcase and duffel bag in hand and backpack on back, I pushed and shoved and maneuvered my way through the crowd like I had never before. I was a girl possessed. Politeness and pleasantries went out the window. I focused on nothing but the goal– get to the gate as quickly as possible. Nothing else existed but the impending doom of missing my flight.

I looked on the big screen and couldn’t find my flight number there, so I asked an airport employee where I should go for security, and she directed me to the “All Gates” line, which was growing longer by the second. I ran to the line, but when it came time to present my boarding pass to the man guarding the entrance of the line, I was not ready. He told me to stand on the side, and I fumbled and cursed at my phone to hurry and load my darn boarding pass, which was on my email. By then, it was 7am. I asked him if he thought I could make the flight, and he said he did. My panic was temporarily ameliorated. I asked two other airport employees the same question while waiting in the torturous line. The first one told me I could make it; the second one replied with, “It’s 7:00am right now.” Nuff’ said. Either way, when I reached the security checkpoint, I peeled off my backpack and hurriedly placed my laptop and phone in a big gray bin. There was a stupid rule requiring all bags to be placed in a bin, so I had to wait for two more bins to place my luggage and duffel bag in. Like, why waste bins on a freaking carry-on luggage? No one was removing their shoes, so I followed in suit. When I crossed the detector, I was beeped. Security told me to take off my shoes. I threw my black boots in a bin. Scurried back to the metal detector thing. I was told to remove my black circle scarf. Ugh. Ran back to the conveyer belt and threw my scarf in with the shoes. At that point, I was in full-on panic mode. Every. Second. Counted. I consolidated my things as fast as lightening and ran to the big screen to find out which gate I was at. Still, I couldn’t find my flight! It was 7:28am by then. I asked a lady where to go, and she told me, either gate A2, A3, A4 or A5. I headed in that general direction. Still couldn’t find any gate; asked another person at a random front desk. He told me that Sun Country was at A3. Ran to A3. Was greeted with an empty gate and no airplane. My heart fell. I was ready to cry, at that point.

I collapsed on a seat, feeling utterly miserable and defeated. My first call went to my mom. She picked up the phone, and I greeted her with a very teary, “Hi Mom.” In between sobs, I told her I had missed my flight. I was terrified that she and my father would be furious at me. I guess she figured I was upset enough for the two of them, and she gently told me to calm down. I couldn’t calm down. I was hysterical. This was the first time in my life that I had missed a flight! I was kicking myself inside– why the heck did I oversleep? I shouldn’t have even gone to bed! I should have gone straight to the airport and slept at the gate. Why wasn’t I thinking?

My mom told me to check other flights headed to San Francisco that day. Didn’t have to be from Sun Country. I checked the dashboard and saw a 9:30am flight to San Francisco, via Virgin America. I headed to the A2 desk and asked the lady if I could be placed on stand-by for the 9:30am flight. The lady replied with a very sassy, “No.” I asked her, “Why not?” She told me that I had to first purchase the ticket before being able to be placed on stand-by. Duh. I responded with an equally sassy, “Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do.” She replied, “No, you wanted to go on stand-by, which is different.” Whatever. I just wanted the ticket, okay? She told me that the 9:30am flight was around $700 and had a layover to Las Vegas. There was also an 11:45am flight that went directly to San Francisco and cost around $400. I pulled out my debit card and decided to buy the latter ticket. I wasn’t even thinking about money at that point. I’d pay back whatever I spent. I just wanted to get home.

Unfortunately, my bank has this really annoying rule for debit cards where you cannot perform an online transaction of over $500 per day. It’s a pre-set limit that only the “signer” of the account– aka, my Dad– could change. I had gone through the same hassle the previous day when trying to pay for my new Latin dance dress, so I knew what trouble it would be to deal with the debit card. I called my mom again and told her that I’d just stay at my cousin’s place another night and take tomorrow’s flight home. I didn’t want to spend another $400 on a plane ticket, anyway. I began to cry again. I don’t think I’d ever been that panicked in my life as I had while rushing to catch the flight. I had to hold it together when traveling by myself, but once I talked to my parents, I felt safe to act like a child once more. Ahh, parents… You can’t live with ‘em, but you can’t live without ‘em.

My dad gave me some reassuring advice. He told me that missing a flight was not the end of the world. In the moment, though, I felt that every ounce of my well-being depended on me making the flight. My dad reasoned that the situation could have been ten times worse. I could have been like my brother Chris, whose flight got canceled on the eve of a big piano performance across the country. Or, also like Chris, who missed his flight home from music camp, the very day before our whole family would fly out to China for vacation. In all of those cases, Chris was probably anxious, but I don’t think he had a full-on mental breakdown like I did. He’s always been a calm, level-headed person, and I wish I could have more of that endearing quality. I definitely blew my crisis out of proportion… but still, it’s not a good feeling to miss your flight, by fault of no one but your own.

I am so lucky that I had my cousin’s apartment to go back to for the night. I didn’t need to be anywhere important the following day. Life was beautiful. The whole debacle was really a learning experience that held minimal consequences.

From my experience of missing a flight, I’ve learned the following lessons:

  • If you do end up missing your flight, remember: It happens to the best of us, and it is not end of world. In life, shi* happens, but things have a way of working themselves out in the end. Sure, you may have to spend a ridiculous amount of money on extra airfare/hotel stays and change some plans around, but at the end of the day, life will go on. You’ll soon find yourself looking back upon the experience as just that– an experience you learn and grow from. Hopefully, once it happens, you’ll know better the next time around to exercise better planning and judgement– i.e. not booking early-bird flights if you know you aren’t a morning person, or setting several morning alarms the night before your flight and triple-checking that your alarms will indeed go off.
  • If you oversleep the day of your flight, don’t try to make a mad dash for the airport, unless there’s actually a reasonable chance of you making the flight. I’d say, any timeframe less than one hour is not worth the battle. Just call the airline and have them book you for the next available flight.
  • Keep checking your flight status. If there is, by good fortune, a flight delay, then it may be worth the attempt to head to the airport. In my case, I could only check the flight status online, and my phone data was being unreliable… so I had only to hope that my flight was delayed. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in that situation.
  • Don’t purchase flights from cheap, obscure airlines. If I had missed a Delta or United flight, I likely would have been placed on a same-day flight to San Francisco and arrived home by the end of today. With Sun Country, the only next available flight to San Francisco was over 24 hours later. At the end of the day, if you can afford it, it’s probably worth the extra forty or fifty bucks to fly with a reputable airline, rather than just choosing the cheapest flight possible.

So, friends, that was what happened today. The only good that came of my blunder was that I got to spend one more day in my favorite city in the world! While I spent most of my day sleeping and relaxing, I enjoyed playing with my baby niece, Isabella, and bonding with Kimmy, Isabella’s nanny. It’s 9:47pm here in New York as I finish typing this post. I’m headed to bed soon, and fear not– I’ve set five alarms for 6:00am and made sure my phone was not on silent. Here’s hoping I’ve learned my lesson, and that there will be no repeat of the harrowing tale of today.

Also, stay tuned for many posts on my New York trip! Twas’ a transformative and life-changing weeklong adventure, to say the least!