Fall Quarter 2017 Reflection Pt. 2

Hey guys!!! Hope you all have been enjoying your winter break so far. I know I have!

So part 1 of my fall quarter 2017 reflection explored the academic side of things. You can check it out here.

Part 2 explores my personal growth over the course of these past ten weeks.

To start, I’ll say that this quarter was pretty tough, mentally. Just like winter and spring quarter of last year, this quarter was an emotional roller coaster… but not in the same way as the former two.

Last winter and spring, I was going through a huge shift in career plans. I renounced pre-med, a track I had placed myself on since age 10, and opted for a very, VERY different career– ballroom dance. My parents completely opposed my decision, and our disagreement placed a great emotional strain on our relationship. I almost ended up leaving UCLA, in pursuit of a dance career… such a big decision was not an easy one to come to, and I remember crying every single day of the last few weeks of spring quarter, as I didn’t think I’d be coming back to UCLA– a school I’d fallen completely smitten with–the following fall. Eventually, I came to my senses and realized that I needn’t give up an education, a school I loved, and a community I cherished, for dance. I could graduate, and still be young enough to pursue dancing full-time, should I wish to do so. So, much to my parents’ relief, I decided to return to UCLA for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Now, with one quarter down my belt, it’s time to reflect.

As you guys may know, I was diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder shortly before coming back to UCLA. The disorder is characterized by a periodic trend of wonderfully intoxicating hypomanic episodes (euphoric moods, increased productivity and creativity, unrealistic goal-setting behavior, etc.), inevitably followed by depressive lows (low moods, low energy, lethargy, feelings of emptiness and hopelessness, etc.). Sylvia Plath once said, “Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.” I believe such words perfectly encapsulate the essence of bipolar disorder. Manic episodes of “wanting everything”, followed by a depressive episode of “wanting nothing”. Truer words have never been spoken. But I digress.

Basically, during the middle of the quarter, I stopped taking my mood stabilizers, thinking I’d be fine without them. The result was disastrous. Before I knew it, my mood instability crept up on me, until I found myself back in the dark hole of depression, unable to climb out. For several weeks, I struggled with day-to-day functioning. Getting myself to study was the hardest thing ever. I stopped paying attention in lecture. I spent most of my time sleeping, or cooped up in the apartment. It was suffocating.

Thankfully, my brother convinced me to start taking my medications again, and once I did, my moods improved, just in time for my final examinations.

I guess the moral of the story is, DON’T GO OFF YOUR MEDICATIONS!!!

My quarter wasn’t all bad, though. Some highlights include:

  • finding a new dance partner and competing with him at the UCSB Beach Ball dance competition
  • teaching the UCLA Gymnastics team some Latin dance moves
  • dipping my toe in the world of musical theater, as an assistant choreographer for the UCLA HOOLIGAN Theater’s fall quarter production of Cabaret

This past quarter, I was meaning to improve my public speaking skills through Bruin Toastmasters, but, with the depression and all, I found very little motivation and energy to attend the weekly Thursday meetings. Towards the end of the quarter, I attended a couple sessions, but didn’t get a chance to speak up either time, due to time constraints of the hour-long meeting. Next quarter will be my chance to really get more comfortable with public speaking, and take baby steps towards becoming a seasoned orator.

All-in-all, I’d say this quarter held a great share of learning experiences. It was my first time living in an off-campus university apartment, which in itself held a new set of responsibilities. I had to learn how to cook from scratch, do groceries, and communicate with apartment-mates. It definitely was a lot to take in, at first, which is why I am grateful I didn’t overload myself with a heavy course-load this past quarter.

Next quarter, though, I will be piling up on classes, to make up for the previous two quarters’ lighter course-load. I will be taking:

  • Philosophy 6, Intro to Political Philosophy
  • Psych 137C, Intimate Relationships
  • Psych 127B, Abnormal Psychology
  • Chinese 2A: Chinese for Advanced Beginners
  • Psych 130: Developmental Psychology
  • Film/TV 33: Intro to Screenwriting

SUPERRRR excited for all these classes! It’ll be a lot of work, and I’ll necessarily have to cut down on extracurricular activities, but because I genuinely am interested in the class material, I will actually enjoy studying, rather than dread it, like I did with chemistry and biology.

Alrighty guys! I’ll conclude my fall quarter 2017 reflection here. Talk to you guys soon!

 

 

 

Love,

Belicia

 

Blogmas Day 4: Sluggishly Dragging Onward

Hey guys! It’s currently 12:24pm. I’m sitting in my bed as I begin today’s Blogmas– it is quite chilly in the house, but I feel really warm under my covers.

Contrary to what I had planned, I did NOT manage to wake up at 5:30am. I woke up instead at around 9:30am, after falling asleep at around 11:00pm. I think I need to start waking up gradually, instead of going straight to 5:30am… And I need sufficient sleep, too. If I am to wake up that early, I must go to bed earlier… Hopefully tomorrow morning turns out better!

I had a breakfast of oatmeal, homemade soup and my mom’s famous smoothie, which was especially chunky today. I know, my brothers and I are so spoiled, having a mom who wakes up each morning to cook us breakfast. I think she really misses having her children home, and is thus going to extreme measures to pamper us. As much as I appreciate her efforts, I sometimes feel a little stifled from her hovering… being away at college, freed of parents and living independently for the first time definitely merits a shift in family dynamic, when we come home for holiday.

From a freshly-returned college student’s perspective, I would feel better if my parents would lay off, just a little… give me my space… not dictate what I should or should not wear outside, or what I should and shouldn’t eat. I know they all mean well… but after over two months of being away from home, parents should understand that, even though their children will always be their precious babies, they no longer wish to be treated as such. There, I said it. I don’t want to be treated like a baby. And I know that this will be a lifelong struggle… doesn’t matter if I am 6 or 46– my parents will always think they know what is best for me, no matter how much I may disagree.

Anyway, back to my day. After breakfast, and a heated argument over what jacket I should wear outside (I opted for a Northface, while my mother wanted me to wear something warmer– I acquiesced to her demands, by the way), Austin and I headed out for a dentist appointment. I ended up having a single cavity, that will be fixed this coming Thursday.

Upon arriving home, I finished reading the book, The Bell Jar (stay tuned for a book review), and promptly began this blog post. I will soon be having lunch. Can’t wait for the dinner-table argument that’ll likely ensue, with mother egging me to eat on, despite my complaints of how full I am.

After lunch, I plan on driving to the gym, where I’ll do some cardio and stretching and conditioning. Today feels a little sluggish, with the cloudy sky and cold weather… which is all the more reason why I need to get out of the house and get my blood flowing.

Don’t really feel like taking a break from writing right now, as writing gives me great pleasure, and also serves as a breath of fresh air amidst the mugginess and lethargy of my current state. But the day must continue onward… I need a set of coping mechanisms when such dysthymic moments settle in.

  • Exercise! No matter how little I want to, this is a must. Exercise will get my “feel-good” endorphins pumping, and from a physiological standpoint, I will feel better.
  • Write. As always, writing is a great catharsis. I lose myself in my words, and the suffocating emptiness characteristic of depression loses its sharp edge.
  • Dance? This one is a little bit iffy. Even when I’m not feeling depressed, dance practice does not give me much joy, at least not the way it used to, when I first began dancing, nearly three years ago. It’s not like gymnastics, where you’re training with a tight-knit team, with a coach overseeing your practice, dispensing critiques, criticisms and validations where deemed fit. Dance practice can feel quite lonely at times… no matter how many dancers surround you on the dance floor, each couple is on their own track. Dance training is definitely a lot more independent and self-structured than is gymnastics. You have your private dance lessons, and then are told to “go practice”. But how must one practice?? You must create your own structure, which can be a difficult thing to do. Lately, I’ve been struggling a lot with finding motivation to dance. It’s like dancing has become a chore, rather than a source of joy. Of course, I had my plateau periods in gymnastics, too– but then, I was a lot younger then, and I had coaches and parents to push me through such walls. Once I started getting better as a gymnast, I began to enjoy the sport more… It was a positive feedback loop– the better I got, the more I enjoyed training and improving, resulting in even more progress. I’ve been dancing for nearly three years now. The initial excitement of dance that once drove me has long since faded… The honeymoon phase is O-V-E-R-over. Now, is the long haul. I must find a new source of motivation to continue dancing. Dancers are inspired by different things. Some dance to create beauty. Others crave a means to express the language of music. Still others dance because they genuinely love the process of learning and mastering such a beautiful art. I believe my motivation lies in the competitive realm… I love competing, and I love performing. I shine brightest when I’m on the competition floor. I’ve always been a competitor, to the core. I need to get back out there, in the public eye, to find my “why” once more, with dancing.

4:00pm

Came back home from dance practice! Danced for about an hour. It was a very productive practice– cleaned my cha-cha routine and recorded videos of my practice. I basically broke down my routine into three parts, and repeated each part five times. On the fifth time each round, I’d record myself dancing. The structure of my practice really helped in terms of productivity and efficiency. Overall, I am very happy with how my training went for today– I got a lot done, in a short amount of time!

4:53pm

Just got back from a brief walk with my mom. What was supposed to be a nice leisurely stroll on the levee turned into a heated argument about how my mother never seemed to support me in my ambitions. It was always me pitted against her strict, conservative ideals, be it with gymnastics or dancing.

She asked me if I liked school. I told her the truth. I told her that, as much as I enjoyed college, a part of me never really enjoyed classroom learning. I told her that, if I had a choice, I would have pursued my gymnastics full-time, while doing online high school, just as Olympic athletes do. I would then postpone college, or do college part-time, whilst chasing down my ambitions– ambitions that can only be achieved in youth, seeing as my passions lie in the physical manifestation of art. Only then, when I’ve exhausted my dreams and were absolutely certain that I could go no further in perfecting my craft, would I be able to wholeheartedly focus my energies on school. But, because my passions for gymnastics and dance have always been tossed aside as mere “hobbies”, all in the name of school, a part of me resents being a student, despite being a scholarship student at UCLA. If I could do it over again with my own child (if I ever decide to have children), I would give them guidance and instill good values and morals in them, but I would never shoot down their dreams just because I happen to disagree with them. I’d reason with them, yes, and express my concerns… but at the end of the day, if my kid wants to put off school for a little while to pursue their athletic or artistic careers in their youth, I will fully support them in their endeavors. Financially, mentally, emotionally… I will do it. Because I don’t want my kid to live with regret, wondering what could have been. had they not given their dreams an honest shot. I’ll be the first to admit that I think not in shades of gray, but in black-and-white. It’s all or nothing. Either school or dance. Never both. You can go to school full-time whilst relegating dance to the status of a hobby, which is what I’m doing… but you can’t expect to become a great, professional dancer, if you’re going to be a full-time student as well. If you want to be the best at something, you give it your all. Which brings us back to the question of what entails a meaningful life. Be the best at one thing, or live a more diversified life, but renounce any shot at a gold medal in the process? Be a specialist, or a jack-of-all-trades? Questions to think about…

 

 

Blogmas 2017 Days 2 and 3: Recovery and Movie Nights

Hey guys! It’s currently 5:14pm on this lovely Monday evening. I’m all alone in the house– scratch that, my brother is sleeping in the next room.

These past couple days have consisted primarily of me catching up on much needed rest after the war called finals season. I slept in both Sunday and Monday morning till 10am, though, starting tonight, I will sleep earlier and be up and about by 5:30am. I love waking up early and getting a head start to the day… there’s something so serene and comforting about being the only waking being in the house, tip-toeing down the stairs, as if on a secret mission. No one to tell you what you can or cannot do… it’s just you. You and your inner monologue and your drive to seize the day.

Sunday, 12/17/17

On Sunday, I woke up, had a brunch of oatmeal and grilled salmon (definitely a breakfast-lunch hybrid), and headed to dance practice. I drove myself to the studio, but insisted that my mother sit in the passenger seat with me, as I lacked the confidence to drive all alone. After ten weeks of not sitting behind the wheel, my driving skills had collected dust. Thankfully, we arrived at the studio in one piece. I danced for about an hour-and-a-half, and could go no further. I’m trying to ease back into my daily dance routine… I know there was once a time when I could spend the entire day at the studio without tiring, but those days have since passed. It doesn’t mean I will never be able to train with such rigor ever again… it’s just that I must ease back into the groove. After over two months of dancing only during my convenience, it is understandable that I can no longer dance for six hours each day, or even a third of that time. I mustn’t be so hard on myself. I will slowly get back up there… two steps back, three steps forward.

After dance practice, I drove to the gym, where I went swimming. A big goal of mine this winter break is to get back into physical shape. Swimming is my favorite kind of cardio, as it is non-impact and thus, better for my knees. After swimming, I took a shower (our water heater at home is broken, unfortunately) and headed home.

At around 6:15pm, my friends Callista and Cassandra picked me up from my house, and we went to watch the movie, Murder on the Orient Express. It was an intriguing film, with a plot-twist ending. I’ll leave it to you guys to see what I mean.

By the time the movie ended, it was nearing 10pm. The twins drove me home, and we bade one another farewell. I headed up to my room and updated my iTunes music library. Before bed, I read The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. It’s definitely a dark story– triggering, even, for some– but for me, it is a mirror into my own soul. I sympathize with Esther’s downward spiral into what likely appears to be manic-depressive illness and borderline insanity. Can’t wait to finish the book and write a book review for y’all.

 

Monday, 12/18/17

Today, I woke up at 10am. I had planned on waking up earlier, at 5:30am, but that plan was foiled when I ended up falling asleep at nearly 1am. Between 10am and 11am, I ate breakfast, helped my mother fold laundry and got ready to go out to a family hot pot lunch. At 11:15am, Austin came back from the gym (oh, how I cursed myself at having missed an opportunity for an early morning workout), and together we went to pick up my grandmother from her apartment. My mother had to stay in the house to wait for the TV delivery guy– my dad bought a new TV for the master bedroom, as the old one’s screen had broken.

We had lunch at this cool place called Seapot. It’s basically hot pot– an Asian-style of dining, whereby the guests gather round a table with a steaming, sometimes intimidating, pot of boiling soup base placed in the middle, surrounded by small dishes of raw meats and vegetables, that are then cooked in the “hot pot” by the guests themselves. The difference between regular hot pot and Seapot is, at Seapot, each guest is presented with their very own mini hot pots, and are seated next to a conveyer belt of dishes filled with raw meats, veggies and noodles, that they can then pick up and cook in their pots. I told you it was as cool restaurant!

After lunch, I drove myself to the dance studio– no mom in the passenger seat this time– and, sweaty-palmed and all, made it alive to the studio. I danced for about an hour today, working on cleaning my samba routine. After dance practice, I drove to the gym, where I did some swimming and took part in a cardio sculpt class. I made it through about twenty minutes of the class, before I decided to call it quits. It was so embarrassing, being the only one to leave– in a room full of older ladies, no less, who seemed to be more in shape than me. How could I ever have been an athlete, once upon a time? My out-of-shape body just couldn’t handle the rigorous class… or, maybe, my mind couldn’t will myself to continue. Physical and mental stamina go hand-in-hand. After ten weeks of living the mostly sedentary lifestyle of a college student, my physical and mental shape have deteriorated. Of course, simply being a college student is not an excuse for getting out of shape– you must MAKE time for working out, if you have the will. But no use in mulling over what happened this past quarter… all I can do now is move forward. Take baby steps, little by little. I know I will get to where I want to be, eventually. Just takes patience and commitment.

At around 6:00pm, my friend Leyla and I headed out to watch the movie Coco. I managed to sneak the fish tacos I had bought from a neighboring restaurant inside the movie theater. Unfortunately, the food coma set in soon after the movie began, and I ended up falling asleep for most of the film! Leyla really enjoyed the movie, though, describing it as “one of the best [movies] I’d ever seen!”

Once I got home, I changed into my PJs and hopped into bed with my laptop, and am now finishing this blog post!

Today is day one of my three-week social media cleanse. The amount of time and energy you save when you’re not constantly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat is monumental. Seriously, I highly recommend you all to try getting off social media, at least over winter break. I promise you will emerge alive. Not only that, but your mind will be clearer, and you’ll have more time to do more meaningful things than stalking people’s self-constructed profiles. You’ll be able to focus more on building and growing yourself, rather than comparing your real life to others’ fabricated Internet presences.

That’s all for today, folks! It is 10pm. I will head to bed and wake up early tomorrow, for an early-morning workout. Am excited to get back in shape! Each day holds the promise of getting you one step closer to your long-term goals. Don’t let it pass you by!

 

 

 

Love,

Belicia

 

 

Blogmas 2017, Day 1: Thoughts on Graduating Early

Hi everyone! Welcome to Blogmas 2017! This series is one I began last December. A daily journal of my December days, this series serves as a way to keep me busy, productive and writing during my winter break. Check out Blogmas 2016, Day 1!!

I woke up this morning at 7:00am. My brother and his friends Dawei and Roy stayed the night at my apartment, since they got kicked out of their dorm rooms Friday night. By the time I woke up, my brother had gone out to Chick-Fi-La for breakfast with Dawei (Roy had left early in the morning for Disneyland). As I was still asleep, Austin brought back a grilled chicken sandwich for me. Thanks bro!

We left the apartment for LAX at around 8:40am. Security went smoothly, overall. Now, it is 10:05am as I sit at Gate 17B, typing away.

Just got off the phone with my mother. Had an argument over the phone with her about my plans to take two summer sessions, so I could graduate from UCLA one year early. It’s not just about the cost of taking summer classes– it’s the reasoning behind my plans to graduate early.

My heart is calling for me to move to New York City to pursue my writing and dancing full-time. I long to live the “bohemian” lifestyle of artistic passion. At this point, I can’t imagine myself finding a “conventional” job… My creative temperament just doesn’t suit the stifling confines of a monotonous desk job.

Now, I don’t have any plans to drop out of school, or even take a break from my education. My parents would not support me prolonging my stay in college, and I agree with them on that point. What about transferring to Columbia University, so I can get to New York sooner? Well, even if I did get into Columbia University, my parents don’t have the financial means for me to transfer there (remember, I have two other brothers in college at the same time). Plus, I’d likely have to stay in school for an extra year if I transfer to Columbia, as I’m sure some of my credits from UCLA will not transfer over to the latter school. So, leaving UCLA at this moment is not an option. The only other choice is to graduate early, then. From a financial standpoint, it is a smart move. Summer sessions are not as expensive as tuition for the regular school year, and you cover the same material, just at a faster pace.

Yes, this is what I will do. Graduate one year early. I just wish my parents would support me in my life decisions… but that is too much to ask. We must agree to disagree. Because it is my life, I’ll do what I want, whether or not I have their blessing. To a certain extent, of course. They are still my parents, after all… Which is why I’m so torn between what I want to do, and what they want for me. If I didn’t care at all about what my parents thought, I’d have no problem doing whatever I pleased.

Oh, to be 19 years old… A difficult age, indeed. We’re legally adults, and we feel as if we’re ready to care for ourselves and live our own lives and pursue our dreams, but the truth is, we are still very much limited by the prison of financial dependance. Money money money… how will I make money, after I graduate? At this point, I don’t know if I want to go to graduate school. With my current attitude of “getting school over with”, I definitely do not see myself pursuing anything beyond a Bachelor’s degree… then again, though, is anything beyond a Bachelor’s degree necessary, if I decide to pursue a freelance, self-employed career?

6:22pm

Hi guys! I just got back from the gym. Did some dancing, followed by a swim. Endorphins are pumping and I’m feeling good. A big goal of mine this break is to get back in shape. Right now, I’m in the worst physical shape of my life, and I’m ready to change that! Change my eating habits and start a hardcore physical training regimen. I’m also trying to fix my sleeping schedule– sleep early– say, no later than 9:30pm– and wake up at 5:00am. I can already tell that this break is going to be a productive one!!!

I’m gonna end today’s Blogmas here, as it’s almost dinnertime, and after dinner, I plan on working on writing my book.

Ta-Ta, for now!

 

 

 

Belicia

 

Winter Break 2017 Goals

Hey guys! Welcome back to my blog!

Winter break has begun, and I am very excited for the next three weeks. I’m eager to keep busy during these coming winter months. Last winter break, I fell into a deep depression… perhaps it was just my normal depressive cycles talking, coupled with the shorter days and cold weather. Seasonal depression, they call it. I am determined to not have a repeat of last year; my game plan is to keep myself occupied with goals and fun activities to celebrate what many consider the “happiest time of the year”. Here is what I have planned:

Dance

I haven’t danced seriously for the past three weeks, as my focus was on prepping for finals. Now that that (horrendous) chapter has closed, I can get back to pursuing my passion! It’s two steps back, ten steps forward. Am looking forward to spending my days inside the studio, perfecting my craft and improving my technique.

Write

OF COURSE, I will be doing a lot of writing this break. I’m actually working on writing my book, and I hope to have a rough draft by the end of break. I’ll be picking up Blogmas once more– i.e. writing every day of the month of December. Here’s a link to last year’s Blogmas series: Blogmas Day 1

 

YouTube

For those of you who don’t know, I recently started a YouTube channel, where I share my story and messages to a wider audience. It’s basically like this blog, but in video form. I’ll try my best to upload on a weekly basis. I think YouTube will also help me get over my camera-shyness!

 

Figure Skating

I absolutely adore figure skating. I’ve always wanted to try it, and even though I have zero talent, I hope to one day be able to skate at an amateur level, and maybe do some competitions at a very, very basic level. Oh, Belicia… always infatuated with these pipe dreams… But hey. It’s great to dream big. I truly believe that, when one has a will to do something, there is always a way to make it happen. I’ve just bought my tickets to the US Figure Skating Nationals, held in my hometown of San José, CA. I’ll be watching the Senior Ladies Singles event on January 3, as well as the Senior Ice Dance event on January 7. It’ll be my introduction into the world of figure skating, which I can’t imagine to be terribly different from the worlds of rhythmic gymnastics and ballroom dance, with all their glitz, glamour, performance, drama and beauty.

Family/Friends

And of course, what is the meaning of life if you go about it alone, without friends or family? I am slowly swallowing the hard truth that, as my brothers and I grow older, we are headed in our own respective directions. Too soon, we will have families of our own– spouses, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. I’m getting a little ahead of myself… but you know what I mean, don’t you? Our time together is quickly dwindling, so I must cherish each moment with tenderness, love and care.

Fall Quarter 2017 Reflection– Pt. 1

Hi guys! Today I finished my last final of the quarter, which means I have successfully made it through fall quarter of my sophomore year at UCLA!

I wish I could say I was ecstatic with pride and relief at having completed finals… but really, I am just wracked with anxiety over my final grades. See, I found out today that I had gotten an 85% on Thursday’s statistics final. I was, in truth, quite disappointed, as I thought I had NAILED that final, and expected at least a 90%. I then calculated my final grade, and ended up with a raw percentage of 90.56% I am praying that, with the class curve, my grade will be an A, and not an A-.

That’s the thing, though. Why the hell am I stressing so much over a LETTER? No, not even a letter. A stupid dash sign. Let’s be real. In the grand scheme of life, what really is the different between an A and an A-? I always preach to others that letters and numbers don’t define you as a whole… but am I really one to say these words, when I myself have trouble believing them, or at the very least, incorporating them into my own life?

It’s been eight hours since I completed my last final– LS 15. I’m not too confident that I will receive an A in that class, either. But let’s entertain this scenario for a second, shall we?

Say I end up with two A-minuses, or even a B+. What then? My major GPA drops a little… from a 4.0 to, say, a 3.9. Is it the end of the world? Far from it. Am I any less of a person than I was yesterday, when I still had that 4.0? It would be silly of me to think that. So, what’s the big deal, then? I don’t know, you tell me, Belicia.

Well, the thing is, I’ve always been a perfectionist. And it is this very perfectionism that’s driven me mad. All my past therapists have agreed that I need to fight this obsession with perfection. Not necessarily rid myself of it completely, as being a high-achiever is not innately a bad thing– but, when a competitive, high-functioning temperament is taken to the extreme, one becomes vulnerable to the dark forces of disappointment, insecurity, low self-esteem, and depression. Perfectionism is not my friend. And I know that the only way for me to fight it is to experience more failure. More imperfections. More A-minuses. More missteps on the dance floor. More wrong, inharmonious notes on the keyboard. I need to get used to failing, such that I am no longer paralyzed by the fear of underperformance.

I think that getting an A-minus in my classes might just be the best thing that could happen to me. I’m no longer on the pre-med track, so my GPA is not as important as it once was. The stakes are much lower now, than when I was striving to get into medical school. Of course, I need to maintain a sufficient GPA to keep my Regents Scholarship, but I can earn a 3.5 GPA in my sleep.

All I’m saying is, it is OKAY to be imperfect. It is OK to not get A’s in every class. I will keep repeating this mantra in my head until it becomes ingrained into my very core.

 

Love,

Belicia

 

Life is So So So Beautiful…

1:30am

Dearest friends,

I have just experienced one of those rare moments of clarity, the kind that keeps you awake and filled with warmth and excitement, so much so that you cannot find sleep without capturing the infinite moment.

Where can I start? It was around midnight, when my roommate/best friend and I took to bed. We had one of those beautiful, enlightening conversations that have lately been difficult to come by, with the pressure of finals consuming our lives. Our exchange of thoughts and deepest emotions ranged from topics like relationships, both platonic and intimate; ambition and life meaning; mental health and culture; pressure and expectation of perfection; bright hopes for the unknown future; and much much more.

The conversation continued in my mind, long after the exchange of words ceased to be. Here are the following lessons I’ve garnered in my rare glimpse of light:

One can live a meaningful and happy life without doing something “big”. One needn’t be an Olympic champion to be deemed a successful athlete, or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company to be considered a brilliant entrepreneur. Which leads me to my second point…

We are not wholly defined by our achievements and failures. If you told me this one year ago, I would never have believed you. Being a goal-oriented person by nature, I’ve long struggled to quiet the distortion of NEEDING TO ACHIEVE to deem myself worthy. Only now am I beginning to realize that one isn’t defined by external validation or rejection. Meaning is created from WITHIN. Self-love, by definition, originates from within. In the past, I could never have imagined how anyone could live without ambition, or a hunger to be “the best”. I am still driven by a need to achieve… but I am no longer doing so to gain acceptance and praise from outsiders, but rather, because I am intrinsically motivated to make this world a better place by nature of my existence. I have become more understanding of those whose lives are not driven solely by ambition, but rather, a longing to simply be happy amidst the people they love. A simple life. Sometimes perceived by others as a “small” life. Sometimes, though, the “smallest” lives are the richest by nature. How empowering is it to not feel the need to prove yourself to others? To simply be happy and at peace with oneself and one’s being.

The third thing I realized is, PERFECTION IS A PRISON. I’ve said this one before, but tonight, these words have never rang truer in my mind’s eye. Humans are, by nature, imperfect beings. To live in the pursuit of perfection is to set oneself up for disappointment, whilst creating undo pressure and negativity for oneself in the process. Mistakes, trial and error, FAILURE– this is how we learn and grow. Perfection is the ultimate hinderance to learning. If one is so afraid of trying new things, because being a beginner at something necessarily entails being imperfect, how can one live a full life? TAKE RISKS. SCREW PERFECTION. LIVE. In the past, I’ve been consumed by the “Olympic dream”– representing my home country on the world’s greatest stage, doing what I love. But the extreme amount of pressure placed on these super-human athletes to be perfect, is crippling. Can one call it living, to have every microsecond of one’s life scrutinized, judged, attacked, ripped apart? To carry the weight of the world on one’s shoulders? No wonder professional athletes need the help of sports psychologists to not only function at maximum potential, but to function– period. Makes me wonder if such romanticized ideals of “glory” and “fame” are really things to strive for, as a means to happiness.

I realized how beautiful and short life is, and how silly it is to spend it doing something that doesn’t make you happy. I’m grateful to have found my passions for creative expression this early, and to have the faith and courage to pursue my dreams. Life is truly wondrous. It would have been the greatest shame, had I chosen to end it, in my darkest moments.

Alright. Now that I’ve taken the time to release my thoughts, I will head back to bed. Tomorrow is my last full day of study before my last two finals commence. I hope you guys enjoyed my thoughts, and I wish you all a great rest of the week!

 

 

Love,

Belicia

 

A Day in the Life of a Manic-Depressive

Hey guys! It’s 9:37am. My Russian final starts in a little less than two hours. I’m already on campus– after a restless night, I woke up at 7:30am and couldn’t stand being cooped up in the apartment. So I’m here right now, sitting on the Janss steps grass, writing.

I’m definitely going through one of my manic episodes right now. Couldn’t sleep last night, so I headed out at 4:00am to go to Starbucks. Had a peppermint mocha, and was planning to do some work, but the drowsiness set in shortly after I drank my mocha (I know, weird right?), so I decided to head home to get some shut eye. My attempts at sleep were unsuccessful, however. I basically just laid in bed, eyes open, listening to music. Eventually, I managed to fall asleep for a few hours, which is better than nothing.

Once I arrived on campus, I couldn’t decide where to go. I basically strolled around for half-an-hour, unable to make up my mind on where to settle down. That’s the thing about mania— your mind is on overdrive, and settling down is not an option. I made my way to the Humanities building, and wanted to sit inside the auditorium where the final would take place, but a class was already in there taking an early morning final. So I sat outside the auditorium, trying to take a nap, but failing. Eventually, I grew tired of the blank, suffocating walls, and headed outside. I laid down on a bench, staring up at the clouds and trees. It was quite serene, and for a moment in time, I found peace. Then, I tired of my locale once more, and continued walking around. I called my brother, asking if he wanted to have dinner that night. He said he would confirm with me in a bit. Finally, I decided to write, as time seems to fly every time I engage in my creative outlet. So here I am now, writing, and waiting for my final to commence.

I don’t feel much pressure for this Russian final. During week 3, I switched the grade type from letter grade to pass/no pass. I was worried that, with my mental illness, I wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of my coursework, so I decided to lighten my load. Well, the other day, my teacher informed me that I was currently sitting at a 96% in the class, and he suggested I switch back to letter grade. “Even if you bomb the final,” he said, “you’ll still end up with an A- in the class.” So I tried changing my grading type back to letter grade, but apparently there’s a deadline for switching grade types, and that time has passed. So here I am, guaranteed a pass in the class, technically without even needing to take the final. I barely studied for this final– just a little bit of brush-up and grammar review on Saturday. No need to stress. Due to scheduling conflicts next quarter, I won’t be able to take Russian 2, which really sucks, since I’m eager to continue along the path of mastering the beautiful Russian language. The only other language that fits with my schedule is Chinese 2A, so that’s what I’ll be taking instead.

Ugh… so much time left… probably shouldn’t have left my apartment so early. Probably should have slept in a bit more. Oh well. What’s done is done. I’m gonna head over to Bruin Walk now, where there are dogs and donuts awaiting, to help stressed out students de-stress. Talk to you guys soon!

10:51am

Hello hello! It’s almost time to head into the auditorium! I can’t wait for this final to be over. Then I can head back to the apartment to sleep. Afterwards, I’ll head to the gym to dance, followed by a major study session. Sounds like a solid day. But right now, the immediate focus is the exam.

12:54pm

I’m done with the Russian final! Was in an out of there in less than an hour. Didn’t find anything surprising on the final, and I’m confident I did well. The Russian department is so nice– they were giving out piroshki’s, a type of Russian pastry filled with either meat or veggies, to students before the exam. Despite the difficulty of the language, I’m really gonna miss learning Russian… Perhaps I’ll pick it up once more, later in my college career!

I am about to take a nap, after which I will commence studying for the next two finals– LS 15 and Psych 100A! Good night!

4:18pm

Hey guys! Just finished dance practice. As I haven’t danced in a couple weeks, what with finals and my relapse into depression, today’s practice was about easing back into the groove… not pushing myself too hard, and not getting too frustrated with myself. 99% of my battles during practice are mental. I struggle to silence the negative mental script that plays back on a loop, oftentimes driving me to tears of frustration. In times like these, I need to take a step back, breathe, and ask myself if dancing must be this difficult. As so many others before have told me, dancing is a marathon, not a sprint. I won’t become a great dancer overnight– it takes time. I just have to be patient and believe that, slowly but surely, I will continue improving, and one day reach my greatest potential as a dancer.

I have a review session for LS 15 at 6:15pm… I’m debating whether or not I should go– on second thought, I probably should. It’ll be very helpful, and, as LS 15 is one of my major prerequisite classes, I would like to get an A in the class.

I think I’m going to end today’s post here. Gotta study for my last two finals!

 

 

Love you all!

 

Belicia

 

 

 

An Undying Olympic Dream

Hi guys! It’s currently 1:17am on this Monday morning. I have a Russian final at 11:30am today, which means I should probably have been long asleep… but my sleep schedule has taken at 180, and I find myself most awake at this late hour.

I was compelled to write this post after watching a video of the King and Queen of ice dance, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canadian ice dance world and Olympic champions. Their 2017 free skate to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack was nothing short of perfection. The skate touched my soul to its very core, moving me to the verge of tears.

I then splurged on Tessa and Scott videos– past skates, interviews, TED talks. The couple’s story is so inspirational. They’ve been skating together for 20 years now, giving up a normal childhood to get to where they are today. In their youth, they’d wake up at 4:15am each morning to practice at the rink before school, then head straight to the rink after school, followed by homework, then sleep. At the ages of 15 and 17, the two relocated to Michigan to train under the best Russian coaches. At the age of 20 and 22, the two won their first Olympic gold medal at Vancouver, and are hoping for another gold medal this coming Winter Olympics.

Hearing their story, I am reminded of my own. Having grown up a competitive gymnast, I know of the insane commitment and sacrifice one must make for one’s sport… Ever since retiring from gymnastics, I’ve struggled to re-find that structure and discipline that characterized my first 15 years of life. I look back quite fondly on those days of waking up at 5am for morning practice, followed by school, followed by 3-4 hour training, then dinner in the car ride back home, then homework, then sleep and rejuvenation for another long day. It wasn’t an easy life, for sure… but the structure of it created a sort of simplicity, a simplicity and certainty I so long for, at this moment. All was well. I had a long-term goal that drove and consumed my very existence, and I knew exactly how to get there, with the aid of a wonderfully supportive family and excellent coaches. All was well. I woke up each morning with a great sense of clarity, and a passionate “WHY”.

Coming to college has been an enlightening experience, indeed. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I sometimes think, however… how different would my life have been, had I never gotten injured? If I had continued gymnastics throughout high school, made the national team, and postponed college for a chance at the Olympics? Granted, I was never blessed with the body for rhythmic gymnastics, so even if the injury hadn’t hindered my dreams of Olympic glory, my bodily limitations would have. Even so… I’ve always longed for the life that Tessa and Scott– and countless other Olympians– led. Complete dedication to their passions. Ever since middle school, I begged my parents to let me do online school, so I could focus more on my sport. Being strict, conservative Asian parents, however, they adamantly said NO. So, I tried my hardest to balance school with gymnastics, and with a whole lot of hard work and discipline, succeeded.

Of course, the amount of pressure these Olympians face is insane, and one could only understand it fully by living it. These guys carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. That kind of pressure would be enough to make a mentally stable person crack, let alone someone with an anxiety disorder. As much as I’d like to believe that, with the proper support, I could handle the pressure, I don’t have much confidence that I’d make it in the pursuit of Olympic glory, without cracking. That’s always been the case with me. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my coaches chose a select few gymnasts to be on the competitive team. Skillwise, I was there. The coaches were reluctant to move me to the competitive level, however, as they didn’t think I was mentally ready. To this day, I still struggle with insecurity and lack of confidence in myself. I constantly question my ability, even if I’ve prepared extensively. It might be my anxiety talking… but either way, the truth is, I have a long way to go in terms of building mental strength, if I wish to become successful in life.

So, back to Tessa and Scott. They are incredible, brilliant athletes and artists. Watching them skate has inspired me to get back into competitive dancing– not necessarily as my career, but as a lifelong passion. I strive for continual improvement, and am eager to see how far I can go in the world of Latin-American dance.

That leads me to my next question– how am I to support myself, after college? I now am sure of where my true passions lie. Writing; dancing; and anything related to the performance arts, with an emphasis in creating beauty through movement and music. Beyond dance, I wish to learn how to figure skate, at some point in my life. I want to get back into contortion, and maybe re-visit ballet. I will get back in shape, regain my strength and flexibility… maybe become an artist in Cirque du Solei. I want to somehow, someway, one day, make my mark. I never got the chance to pursue my Olympic dream… it’s an unfulfilled dream that will continue to nag at me, until it is fulfilled. Or, at least have a genuine chance at pursuing it.

But all this, I can only do in my youth! My body is only good for so long. After a certain point, as strong my dreams remain, I will be physically incapable of pursuing them. I need to go for it, while I still can.

Of course, college is a must. I will earn my psychology degree– I’m almost halfway through college, anyway. After school, I can pursue my passions to my heart’s content.

But man… how ever will I support myself?

Olympians have sponsors. They are literally PAID to receive the best training, physical therapy, sports psychologists, etc. Unfortunately, ballroom dancers don’t have such a luxury. Training is completely self-funded. Most dancers teach full-time as a means of income, which they then use for their own lessons. It is a difficult life, indeed. Is this one I wish to pursue? In moments like theses, I truly long for a life like Tessa and Scott’s… Becoming Olympic champions was undoubtedly a difficult path rife with pressure and adversity, but at the very least, they had their basic financial needs met, and were generously supported along the way.

I may never have the honor of competing in the Olympic Games in my lifetime… but in spite of everything, the hunger remains. There exists an unfulfilled dream, an internal tension, screaming to be released.

Am I on one of my manic episodes, again? Is this burst of intense passion but a fleeting moment, only to be dampened by a deep depression in a few weeks’ time? Or is it a long-lasting, silent but steady drive? Only time can tell…

I don’t know what I want to do after college, at least in terms of a day job. Unfortunately, I was dealt a difficult hand– a beautiful one, at that– but still difficult, as my passions unfortunately don’t align with a life of financial stability. If only I could be passionate about something like… oh, I don’t know… computer science. Or medicine. Something that would put food on the table. Writing, dancing, performance arts… it is so so difficult. At this point, though, I know I need to go for it. I just know it. Otherwise, I will spend my life regretting… living with that undying dream, tearing me apart from the outside-in. That kind of regret holds an indescribable pain, and I know this, because I’ve been through it firsthand. The injury that took me out of gymnastics prematurely. It happened right after a great season, too. Things were looking great for me and my career– I truly believed I had a shot at national team… and then I didn’t. And every day, I regret it… I shouldn’t have trained through the knee pain. I should have listened to my body, taken time to rest and heal, before resuming training. Maybe then, I would not have had to retire. At the very least, I would have had a shot to pursue my dream.

A big reason why I am so bent on pursuing a dance career is, I see dance as a means of fulfilling this unfulfilled dream. But the question is, do I want to pursue dance out of love for the art, or because of the very fact that I never had a shot at fulfilling my dreams as a gymnast?

Let’s just conclude this lengthy post with this: I am a dreamer at to the core. And I fully embrace that part of myself (to my parents’ dismay). Why suppress it? Those who have ever achieved greatness did not do so in comfort and safety… maybe a life of financial stability, in spite of being conditioned to believe that such is the ideal life to strive for, is one I’d be willing to give up for the pursuit of my artistic dreams. Yes, that’s gotta be it… it’s the only way.

Alright guys. It’s 2:03am now. This post flowed like a hot knife through butter. I speak from the soul. I hope you all enjoyed.

 

 

 

Love,

Belicia

The Train Has Struck Again

Hi friends! Hope you all are doing well. Lots have happened in my life since we last spoke.

As some of you may have heard, several wildfires have been scorching through different parts of Southern California these past few days. Thankfully, everyone at UCLA is safe, with the only health hazard being polluted air from the smoke and ashes of the fire. My heart goes out to all those affected by this disaster, and I wish for everyone to take good care and STAY SAFE.

The reason I haven’t written these past couple weeks is because I’ve sunken into a pretty bad depressive low, and only now am I beginning to climb back up and put the pieces back together.

I read somewhere a description of manic-depressive illness that I cannot deem more accurate: “There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the light of an oncoming train.”

This round of depression was neither impactful nor sudden, like a train crash, but rather, a gradual downward spiral, like a virus that slowly invades your body, rotting it from the outside in. I can’t pinpoint exactly when the depression began, but I want to say it was around week 5 of this quarter.

Sometimes, depression has no concrete cause, but kinda just happens. I saw the depression manifest in my low motivation to do… anything. Getting up in the morning for class was a near insurmountable hurdle. I slept, a lot. Too much. Studying was an ordeal. Sitting down and getting myself to focus on my schoolwork was impossible. I tried studying in various places– my room, the living room, the library, the coffee shop– nothing worked. I knew my depression was bad when it started affecting my school performance. In the past, no matter how lousy or miserable my mood, I would always find a way to continue delivering as a student. These past weeks, though, I couldn’t even muster the strength to sit through a lecture without zoning out or falling asleep. Towards the end, I stopped going to lecture altogether, as I knew that to go would be useless. My mind was just gone. It was off, floating in another dimension, taking all my serotonin with it.

I found that going out to party temporarily alleviated my depressive symptoms. I’d lose myself in the music, dancing with reckless abandon amidst the cheers of the crowd, liquid courage flowing through my veins, taking me to a brighter place, away from the depths of my sick mind. It was all a dream, of course. I’d wake up the next morning, my pounding head a rude awakening, bringing me back to my dark reality.

I guess I am in large part to blame for all this. I stopped my medications in the middle of the quarter, thinking I’d be okay without them. Of course, I was dead wrong. Without Prozac and my mood stabilizers there to support me, I spiraled downward. I never hit the point of suicidal ideation, thank God, but I was at a loss of how to get out of the deep hole I’d fallen into. I guess living with bipolar disorder can be likened to trudging across a land of mountains and hidden potholes. It’s constantly up and down… never a steady, stable normal.

So there I was, well into the quarter, feeling absolutely miserable and greatly concerned about my grades. Now I understand why many students struggling with mental illnesses need to drop their classes and take an “incomplete” instead; the weight of depression and other mental disorders is crippling and pervasive. How can you bring yourself to study, when the mere task of rolling out of bed is impossible?

I had dinner with my brother a few nights ago. I told him about my depression, and how I had stopped taking my medications. He implored me to start taking them again, so that night, I did. Immediately after swallowing the three pills, I could feel the serotonin flowing into my brain’s synapses. The dead weight on my chest lifted, replaced by a light optimism and hope that all would be okay, after all.

So here I am, now. Eyes adjusting to the bright rays of sunlight (or is it the light of an oncoming train?) that seep in through the gaping mouth of the dark hole I’ve called my abode of these past few weeks. I’m starting to feel normal again. Not 100% myself, but definitely a lot better. And it’s good timing too, seeing as my first final begins tomorrow. Wish me luck!!