UCLA Sophomore Year: Fall Quarter, Week 2– Mania, Medical School, and Anti-Romance

Hello lovelies!

It is exactly 9:00pm here at Powell library as I begin this hasty post. I must be brief with today’s post, as I have a Russian quiz tomorrow and statistics midterm on Tuesday to study for!

One major theme of this past week is that of time management.

When I first decided to move into the university apartments, I didn’t consider the new responsibilities of apartment life– namely, the cooking and maintenance of the place– to be much of a time suck. Turns out, I was wrong. The time you spend cooking your meals, sweeping the floor, doing groceries and washing dishes, DOES add up. I’m only taking three pretty chill classes this quarter (plus dance outside of school), yet I still find myself working till odd hours and waking up extra early to fit in more study time. It’s probably just a transitional bump in the road. I’ll learn how to better juggle the newfound responsibilities that come with living off campus, and all will be well soon enough.

Second point of discussion– my manias. Oh, how I miss them so. The emotional highs, periods of heightened motivation and waves of free-flowing creativity. I began taking the mood stabilizers shortly before heading back to UCLA, and I’ve since stopped experiencing my manic episodes. I can’t seem to tell whether or not this is a good thing… Sure, my moods are more stable, and I’m no longer knocked around by the dangerous emotional roller coasters that have characterized most my life; but I miss feeling unstoppable. We all know this aspiration of being “unstoppable” is simply another of my illusions, as no human on Earth can go on full throttle, forever. Without maintenance and self care, we burn out. I know that, without my stabilizers, there is a good chance I will continue along my path of mania, until one day, those very manias that I long for at this moment will morph into insanity. Still. I wonder if I can still achieve the things I do, without the mania driving me. I question whether or not my past achievements were genuine. Have all my accomplishments in school and gymnastics been just the manic Belicia talking? Am I and the mania one in the same? Have I just been “cheating” my way through life, with the heightened emotional states serving as a turbo booster and driving force? Is that the only reason why I’ve been able to achieve?

No. I don’t need my manic episodes to be an accomplished person. I must free myself from the chains of the highly addictive manic drug. I must learn to thrive without my intoxicating best friend and worst enemy.

There’s so much more I wish to say on the topic of manic depression and bipolar disorder. But that’s a story for another day.

This past week, I’ve also been reconsidering the path of medical school. I’m taking a greater interest in the field of psychiatry– definitely an underserved, underappreciated field with higher demands than ever. I’ve been blessed to have been seen by only the best psychiatrists, but I know that, more often than not, psychiatrists do not provide adequate mental and emotional care to their patients. Many psychiatrists see their roles as simply that of the robotic “pill dispenser”, and leave the deep talk therapy stuff to the clinical psychologists. I would like to be the psychiatrist who not only can help her patients on the physical scale, but also be able to provide emotional support to those in need. I don’t see why I can’t provide individuals with physical, mental and emotional care. I want to empower myself in all different dimensions to best help those around me, just as my past and current therapists/psychiatrists have.

Psychiatry or not, I am certain of one thing– my fascination with the human psyche. How cool would it be to look deep into the souls of people from ALL walks of life? To collect so many stories, some touching, some inspiring, some rife with tragedy and pain– what a gift that would be. In many ways, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are what I call the “Transcendents”. They’re the ones holding the access card to the workings of the human mind. They are the special people we go to when we need to release our greatest inner turmoils; the individuals we divulge our deepest, darkest secrets and truths to. What a special thing it is to peer into another human’s pain-stricken soul and fix the underlying issues to ultimately bring that person happiness.

On a whole different note– DANCE! Well, is dance really that different from the former topic of discussion, though? Dance is an art that makes visible to world the raw, human soul of its perpetrator. I love dance, and I know I will continue to dance as long as my body can handle it. Lately, I haven’t been dancing as much as I wish I could, with my time management askew and all. Today, I had dance practice with my new partner. I surprised myself with my impatience and snappiness during our first practice outside of lessons. I was not intentionally trying to be a bitch during training today. I am a passionate person with great expectations and an eagerness to see immediate results. That mindset is all well and good when I’m alone, like in gymnastics. Put another person in the equation, though, and things get trickier. I can’t expect everyone I work with to carry themselves with the same focus and expectation of perfection– the latter, not something to boast about, by the way. While my impatience and grouchiness was in part justified by the fact that my partner showed up an hour and twenty minutes late for practice, I still admit that I must learn to control my explosive passion, which can often sweep me off my feet– and my wits, for that matter.

Alrighty, friends. Lots more to say, but so little time. I must get back to my studies. Oh, one more thing– romance. I can confidently say that I’m absolutely terrified of the prospect of bringing a significant other into my life at this moment. As much as I mope about never having had a boyfriend before, a huge part of me longs to stay in the comfort of the single life. The single life is great! You get to focus on you, and ONLY you. The idea of sharing my heart and life with another person at this point in my life is just too much for me to handle. It’s scary. It’s terrifying. No thank you. Maybe I’m just not emotionally ready for a relationship right now. Will I ever be, then? Oh, how to reconcile personal ambition with the human need for intimate companionship… One of my friends told me the other day that, if I wanted to, I could get a boyfriend in a day, being the “cute Asian girl” I am. Thanks for the compliment, Ishan! Let’s focus on the first part of his statement– that I could get a boyfriend, “if I wanted to”. Do I want to? I don’t think so. The very idea of having a serious boyfriend is so foreign to me, it’s enough to get my palms sweaty and heart racing. At this rate, I’m pretty sure my brothers will be married by the time I begin to feel ready to open my heart to another person. Lol. Well, anyway… it’s 9:46pm now. Better get back to studying! Apologies for the rushed nature of tonight’s blog post… there’s only 24 hours in the day, right?

 

 

 

Best,

Belicia

 

UCLA Sophomore Year: Fall Quarter, Week 1

Hey guys! It’s currently 6:30am as I sit here in Powell library. The study room is nearly empty, as it is only week 1 of the quarter. Aka, the calm before the storm. For me, though, I’ve been playing a game of catch up these past few days, as lots have been going on extracurricularly!

Monday

The week began with a pretty chill day. I had only one class that day– Russian 1. We continued learning new letters of the Russian alphabet, as well as a few basic vocabulary words, like мама (mom), папа (dad), это (this) кто (who). The remainder of my day was spent studying, preparing for my two theater/singing auditions the following day, working out and dancing. Life was good.

Tuesday

Tuesday was a formative day, full of firsts and lasts, triumph and tragedy. First, the bright side: I survived my first ever auditions in the realm of theater and music! At 8:30pm, I auditioned for UCLA HOOLIGAN theater’s fall quarter production, “Cabaret”. I performed Velma Kelly’s famous monologue from “Chicago” and sang Cher’s “Welcome to Burlesque”. Both artistic choices aligned with the very, VERY strong sex appeal of “Cabaret”– right up my alley, considering my background in Latin-American dancing. The audition went pretty well, considering it was my first ever audition of the like. I forgot some words of my monologue, but I glided right through the blunder. As for the song, I knew I didn’t have a strong vocal background, so for what I lacked in singing ability, I made up for in dancing and strong, sexual seduction. I pretty much danced my way through the song, improving sexy dance moves along the way. The panelists seemed caught by surprise by my unique approach to the vocal performance, and many exchanged glances and smiles at one another. Hopefully that was a good sign that they enjoyed the performance, sprinkled with winks and hip gyrations.

After “Cabaret” auditions were over, I headed over to the acapella audition, with my best friend and roommate Chiana by my side for moral support. Decked head to toe in “Cabaret” attire– black crop top, black shorts, black fishnet tights, black high heels, a red and black boa scarf, short fishnet gloves, and theatrical makeup– I quickly explained to the friendly panelists that I’d just come from a theater audition. After pleasantries were exchanged (the audition was a lot less formal than anticipated), I began to sing. We were required to sing a few scales, perform a prepared choice of song, and imitate a few piano tunes on the spot. My scales were alright– not terrible but not perfect either. I chose to sing “West Coast” by Lana Del Rey, one of my favorite artists. I was to sing one verse and one chorus– a relief, as I had expected to sing the entire piece. The song was probably my strongest portion of the audition, as I had prepared extensively beforehand. After the song was the tonal exercise– one of the panelists would play a short tune on the keyboard, and you were to imitate the tune through song. I think I did pretty well on that final portion of the audition. No major flubs or anything of the sort. I walked out of that audition room feeling victorious, regardless of the result. I had done something I’d hitherto been afraid of doing, and in the end, it wasn’t all that bad! I had put myself in a novel, vulnerable position and did so not in spite of being nervous, but BECAUSE I was afraid. As I grow, I’m learning more and more each day that living– real living– does not happen when you stay in the cave of comfort. One must summon the courage to take those first steps out of the shadows and into the light. As I write this, I’m envisioning Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. You all should read his short work– it’s immensely enlightening (pun intended). Anyway, I see tremendous self growth in that I no longer cower from fear, but am in fact drawn into it, like a moth to a flame. I no longer view the racing heartbeat, sweaty palms and tight throat as signs of weakness, but rather as signs of courage and strength. Simply showing up is half the battle. I encourage you all to take small steps out of your comfort zone each day. Raise your hand to ask a question in class. Say hi to your crush. Have a civil, diplomatic, assertive conversation with your boss about that well-earned raise you’ve been wanting. Attend that acting class you’ve always wanted to try, but were too afraid to do. In doing such things, you are adding on layers of empowerment and confidence to your skin. Oftentimes, the best opportunities in life lie well beyond the circle of comfort, so becoming best friends with the uncomfortable is actually a very important life skill, in my opinion. Have courage. Don’t take yourself all too seriously. Enjoy the process of growth! Rant, concluded.

After auditions were over, Chiana and I headed back to our glorious apartment. I changed out of my clothes, took a hot shower, removed my makeup, changed into my PJ’s and sat down to do homework. Before getting into study mode, I checked my Facebook status and scrolled down to see the most devastating news. My godmother had died that night, at 6:56pm. My heart dropped, and my first phone call went to my mom. I asked her if she knew, and she said she did, but did not wish to tell me, for fear of upsetting me. The rest of that night, I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I’d think about the sobering, heartbreaking reality– that my godmother was no longer here on Earth with us– and start crying. The following day, I wrote a eulogy for her, which you can read here. I am glad that my godmother no longer has to suffer in the prison of her cancerous body that’s been slowly withering away these past seven years.  She is in a better place now, at peace, and smiling down on her loved ones.

Wednesday

Nothing too crazy about today. Went to class, studied, danced, cooked. Oh yes, you heard that last one right, guys– I actually cooked something today! French toast– I know, nothing earth-shattering, but hey, it’s better than nothing! I also fried an egg and made some avocado toast. Points for no longer having to starve to death in my apartment!

Thursday and Friday

Not gonna lie, friends, but I don’t remember much of what happened on either of these days– not because I was drunk or wasted, but because I’m finishing this post on Tuesday, 10/10/17, and I can’t recall the events of three/four days ago. Case in point– probably nothing significant happened on those two days, otherwise I would have better recollection. I just studied and danced and cooked and cleaned. No big.

Also, an update: I DIDN’T GET INTO EITHER THE MUSICAL OR THE A CAPELLA GROUP! CUE THE TRUMPETS OF TRIUMPH AND VICTORY BELLS!

Why, you may well ask, am I so darn happy over such “failure”? Because that’s just it, guys. My “failure” is rightly sandwiched in between quotation marks because I didn’t lose anything at all. For once in my life, I look at rejection as a marker of growth and a lesson to be learned from. My true victory stems from the fact that I courageously tried my hand at something absolutely terrifying– singing and acting in public. Well, I survived! And not only that, but I really enjoyed this new experience and, most importantly, had great fun with it.

In the past, I used to hate being in the vulnerable state of beginner-hood, unsteady and unsure of everything, looking up at everyone from the bottom of the food chain. While I admit that trying new and daring things, like starting a new job, taking on a new research position, giving a big speech, or auditioning for a singing and theater group, still gives me the jitters, I now recognize the tremendous value of embodying the beginner. Without being strapped down by the shackles of expectation, pursuit of perfection and protection of a status, the beginner is completely free to experiment, learn and grow. The moment you begin cowering from risk, whether out of fear of failure or uncertainty, you stop growing.

There’s a lot more I wish to say about the topic of beginner-hood, but I must get back to my studies now. I will end this post with some words by Steve Jobs.

In his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, Jobs said, “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life.”

This is one of my favorite quotations of all time, as the depth of its truth knows no end. When you’re at rock bottom, the only direction you can go is up. When you’re at the very very top, the potential for growth is shadowed by all sorts of bullshi* like the need to defend an empire and reputation, and the crippling expectation of protecting your mask of perfection. As I grow, I learn that being the “best” does not necessarily live up to all the pomp and glory placed on this revered, abstract concept.

I’ll continuing writing weekly updates throughout the rest of my sophomore year at UCLA! Talk to you all soon!

 

 

 

Best,

Belicia

 

Eulogy to My Godmother

It is with a heavy heart that I write today of my late godmother’s passing, last night at 6:56pm.

Her name was Mary. As kids, my brothers and I would, in accordance with the Chinese custom, call her Auntie Mary. When I was 8 years old, on May 1st, 2006, Auntie Mary became my godmother, and from that point on, I addressed her not as Auntie Mary, but as “K Ma”– the Chinese word for godmother.

In 2010, doctors found a tumor in K Ma’s thymus. She was diagnosed with thymoma, or cancer of the thymus. Sadly, the tumor was deemed inoperable. And so she fought, for seven long years.

These past couple years have been especially tough for her. The cancer spread, fast. K Ma lost so much weight– my hand could almost wrap completely around the diameter of her forearm. Her blood platelet levels dropped to a mortally low level. She was constantly in and out of the hospital, receiving transfusion after transfusion.

On the outside, her body withered away before our very eyes. Inside, though, stood a resounding spirit that screamed resilience and steadfast hope and bravery. Never once did she lose heart, in spite of the monster that ate away at her from the inside out.

I admire her positivity and love for life till the very end. She was so confident– a people person indeed. She always smiled and had a witty, sometimes biting sense of humor.

I remember our last meal together at the Sheraton Hotel in San Francisco. Service was slow, and K Ma was not afraid to call out the waiters for not doing their jobs right. You show em’ how it’s done, K Ma!

I will miss our May 1st anniversary lunches and dinners in the city; birthday celebrations and 4th of July BBQ’s with her and her family, whom we are lucky to have in our lives; shopping sprees and expensive haircuts with the Japanese hair salon artist, Yoshi, whom she introduced me to; laughs and talk of boys and my barren love life.

I will always remember how she flew down to Irvine, despite doctors’ warnings against traveling, to watch me compete at my first ballroom dance competition.

I will truly miss having K Ma color my life.

I am grateful that I was able to see my K Ma one last time, the day before I left for my sophomore year at UCLA. 10 days ago. She was going to get a new iPhone so we could Facetime while I was away at college. That time never came. I had no idea that September 24th would be the last time I’d see her. I refused to believe that our time together on this Earth was reaching an end. I knew K Ma was very very sick, but I was in complete denial. Facing the truth simply hurt too much. I was hopeful that she’d bounce back, like all the other close calls she had in the past. I regret that I was not by her side when she died.

I am comforted, however, by the knowledge that K Ma is no longer in pain, and lives peacefully on in a better place. She now watches over her loved ones, and I know that she will love, protect and guide me until my dying day.

Oh, K Ma… how I wish you could have remained on this Earth longer. I wish you could be there when I experience love for the first time. I wish you could proudly watch as I walk across the graduation stage, UCLA diploma in hand. I wish you could stand by my side on my wedding day. I wish you could have met my firstborn child, and given him or her the undying love you gave me.

K Ma, if you can hear me now, I want to tell you how much I love you and how much you inspire me to be better. Your last words to me were to study hard and become successful… for you. I know you’d want me to be happy and live a rich, fulfilling life. Please know that I will not fail you, and I WILL make you proud one day. 

Life Update 10/2/17: Apartment Life, Yacht Party, and Theater/Acapella Auditions !!!

Hi guys! Happy October! It’s currently 8:25am on this serene Monday morning here at UCLA. I’m sitting at a desk inside Powell library, doing some early morning writing before I head off to Russian class at 9:30am.

I apologize for not having posted in several days. Life has been super hectic since the day I moved into my university apartment, a week ago.

Some little life updates:

Mental Health: I’ve been a lot more stable since my psychiatrist upped the dosage of my Lamictal and added on the Abilify. Now, I don’t know if my newfound stability is completely attributed to the medication, or if I’m also adapting to my manic-depressive illness and learning to better cope with the demons. I do hope that the latter is true, to some extent. I have no aspirations of relying on medications forever– I hope that, one day, I will be cured of the illness and be able to live a steadier life, without the mitigating effects of drugs.

Dance: Last week was a whirlwind of dance tryouts, one right after the other. While I have yet to make a final decision about a partner, I have a pretty good mind on which one to choose. It is not only skill level I must consider when looking for a partner– it’s largely logistics, including physical distance and availability to practice. As a college student, I have neither the time nor money to commute long distances for a partner, which is why it is so adamant for me to find a guy close by UCLA. Of course, I cannot be too picky– as long as the guy can dance to some degree and is willing to work hard and improve quickly, I am satisfied.

Daily routine: I’m happy to say that I’ve cemented down my daily routine of sleeping early (latest 11:30pm) and waking up early, at around 5:00am. I make myself breakfast– usually Greek yogurt, fruit and/or granola cereal– then head to the on-campus gym for a morning workout/dance training session. Afterwards, I take a shower at the gym, lug my 3+ bags of things to Powell library, and busy myself with homework, writing and research until classes begin. I love the feeling of being unstoppably productive. Exhausted as I may be at the end of the day, I feel that, in pushing myself hard to achieve my goals and improve myself, my life becomes a fulfilling one. It is only when such states of productivity go to the extreme modes of madness and mania that I tread a steep, slippery slope. But more on that later.

Social life: Week 0 is the week that boasts various festivities and back-to-school aplomb. Each day held something new in store– the Enormous Activities Fair, the first football game of the school year, the Westwood block party, and much more. I didn’t partake in most activities, as I was busy with dance tryouts and training. Gotta prioritize my dance life over my social life, you feel? Last Saturday, however, I broke routine and decided to have a good time at a friend of a friend’s birthday party. Melody, the birthday girl, was turning 21, and to celebrate her big day, she invited a ton of people to her lavish party, set on a four-level yacht! The over-the-top celebration was more “bourgeoise” than any college event I’d ever been to (although, that’s not saying much, as I haven’t done much else beyond attending the occasional frat party). There were casino games; a fancy buffet; a cotton candy machine; a candy-jewelry-making station; a dance floor with flashing lights; a sky deck where guests could take Instagram-worthy photos; a red carpet that covered the gangway leading to the boat; and every dessert you could possibly imagine. I’m telling you, the party was fit for a queen. It was more lavish than some weddings, I must say! I had a wonderful time that evening, especially on the dance floor. You know what they say– work hard, play hard! And play hard, I did!

Apartment life: So, confession time. I still haven’t learned to cook, nor do I plan to anytime soon. I know, it’s really bad of me, and worse yet that I’ve consciously resigned myself to the sad fate of eating Chinese take-out and cold leftovers for the rest of my days. This past week, I’ve been subsisting off of oatmeal, granola cereal, Greek yogurt with Mannuka honey, fruit, tea eggs, water with Vitamin-C powder, energy bars and tortilla chips. Not a balanced diet at all. I’ve actually been losing weight over the short course of seven days, because of the very fact that I can’t cook food. Terrible as this may sound, I’m actually thrilled about the weight-loss, though I know that I’m not losing weight in a healthy, controlled and conscious manner. Thankfully, my mother sent down a care package– actually, three boxes’ worth of care packages– filled with food and other apartment-life staples. She even sent down a Swiffer mop, which I thought was hilarious. Anyway, despite the new responsibilities that come with living in an off-campus apartment, I still do not regret my decision to leave the dorms early. Not one bit. As I always say, I LOVE the feeling of independence and privacy that comes with living in your own place. You really feel like you’re residing in a home, instead of a small, cramped room amidst many.

Theater auditions: Yes, you heard that right, guys. On Tuesday night, I will be auditioning for the same production I’ll be helping choreograph: “Cabaret”. My primary motive for auditioning was simply to get out of my comfort zone and do something absolutely terrifying and in direct opposition to my natural instinct of staying far from fear. I will be performing Velma Kelly’s famous monologue from the musical “Chicago”, and singing Cher’s “Welcome to Burlesque”. In addition to auditioning for “Cabaret”, I’ll be trying out for one of UCLA’s acapella groups, “On That Note”. It’s one of the easier groups to get into– fitting, seeing as I have zero formal training in singing, and the only audience I’ve performed for is my showerhead. The auditions are tomorrow night, so wish me luck!

Alright, I must get back to studying. Gotta remember that, while all these extracurriculars I’m taking on are well and good, my top priority here at UCLA is academics (as my parents incessantly drill into my artistic, dreaming brain). I’ll talk to you guys soon! Ta-ta!

 

 

Best,

Belicia