Where I’m At, and Where I Wanna Go

Hey y’all! Today is Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Can’t believe summer is ending so soon. Seems like just yesterday we were rounding out the 2017-2018 academic year. In some ways, I really wish I had been more productive this summer, in terms of personal and professional development. I had planned on studying intensively for the GRE, but my momentum for that quickly fizzled out. For shame, Belicia, for shame. I also had planned on brushing up on my Mandarin Chinese, since I’ll be taking Chinese this coming academic year. I studied one chapter every three days for about a couple weeks; then I got a really bad flu and lost all my studying momentum. I had also hoped to get back in shape. I can’t say that goal went totally unfulfilled, as I have indeed lost a bit of weight since the beginning of summer. But I had hoped for more progress. Figure skating was going great for the months of July and August, but once summer school started, I stopped skating regularly because of time constraints.

The one thing about this summer I am happy with is the fact that I was able to evade depression, for the most part. Every summer since junior year of high school has been rough. When I find myself want of a structured schedule and things to do, the dark cloud of depression resurfaces. Of course, it’s easy to then point to a logical solution– just keep yourself busy in the long summer months! But that’s the same thing as telling a person with a broken foot, “Just start walking!” Depression is an illness. There are times when its effects are less magnified than others. Even when you may not necessarily feel depressed, your illness is still there. Certain environmental factors may trigger the depression like a switch. For me, it’s summer (and, most recently, winter) vacation that turns on my depression. It’s not enough for me to simply fill my day top to bottom with activities and pray for depression to steer clear of my soul. Don’t get me wrong– keeping busy will surely help mitigate the effects of depression. But it’s definitely not an end-all-be-all solution. Nothing really is. There’s no such thing as a magic pill to cure depression. Likewise, you could have an entire arsenal of coping mechanisms for depression– mindfulness, meditation, positive thinking, etc.– and still not be 100% cured. My goal at this point is not to find a cure for depression. I simply need to manage the illness, so it doesn’t cause too many ripples in my daily life. I need to be able to stay as productive as I can, with the depression weighing down on me.

Speaking of productivity and working towards my goals… I thought today’s post would be a good chance for me to evaluate where I’m at in terms of professional development, and compare that to where I hope to be.

So I’m currently going into my third year at UCLA. In all honesty, I haven’t done nearly enough for professional development as I should have. A big part of that reason is because I spent most of my first two years at UCLA figuring out my path. Up until my sophomore year of college, I thought I wanted to become a professional dancer. For a while, I operated with a “get college over with so I can move on to dance” kind of mindset. All around me, I’d see my friends working in labs, getting summer internships, becoming learning assistants, working on campus, joining pre-professional fraternities, and I’d think to myself, none of this really applies to me, since I’m going to be a dancer. Which was, in retrospect, a terrible mindset to have– especially in college, when there are SO many resources for students to snatch. It’s really a shame I didn’t bother with any of the professional development and leadership stuff during my first two years. Don’t get me wrong– I did get involved in extracurriculars I enjoyed, including dance (ballroom and hip hop), the Daily Bruin, and HOOLIGAN Theater. I briefly worked at Bruin Cafe, mainly for the experience. But I feel as though I sold myself short. I never bothered pursuing leadership positions in the clubs I was involved in. At my lowest point, I was anxious and depressed, and my relationship with UCLA was strained, as I didn’t quite understand why my parents weer paying so much money to be at university, if I wanted to be a dancer.

Then came the enlightenment. I realized that a dance career was not truly what I wanted for myself. So I was no longer able to use the dance card as an excuse to avoid everything I really should have been doing in college– fostering relationships with professors, going to professional development workshops, taking on leadership roles, etc.

And now, here I am. Hungry to press the gas pedal and start down the road of self-improvement. I realize that I’ve fallen behind in comparison to many of my peers. And if you knew me, you’d know one thing– I HATE being at the bottom of the pack. Then again, I must look at my path leading me to my current point. In addition to being on a totally different career track than the one I’m on now, I struggled a lot with mental illness during my first two years at UCLA. It took just about everything in my power to keep from crashing, let alone do well in class and take on leadership positions. I have to say, to have come this far with the grades I’ve achieved is an accomplishment in itself. Now it’s time to keep on improving.

Here are some things I hope to accomplish by the time I leave UCLA:

  • become a seasoned public speaker through consistent practice at Bruin Toastmasters and speech and debate club
  • work at a job that emphasizes leadership (New Student Advisor, Bruin Ambassador, Undergraduate Learning Assistant, campus tour guide, editor for Daily Bruin)
  • continue pursuing my love for dance, and share that passion with others through teaching (maybe I can become a licensed dance instructor and teach a ballroom/jazz fusion class at John Wooden Center!)
  • form relationships with my professors. That means, at the very least, making my presence known to them. Go to office hours; participate in class; perhaps even join a research lab!
  • become much more confident in social situations. Rushing a social sorority may be a cool out-of-comfort experience. Again, taking on leadership positions will definitely help me develop a confident public persona. Even going to parties (sober, of course) will challenge my social anxiety.

You see, there are so many things I long to do before my short time at UCLA is over! I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of my bucket list. I had originally planned on graduating UCLA in 3 years instead of 4, just because I could. Now, I’m strongly rethinking that plan. Why would I ever deprive myself of a year of immense growth, opportunity, learning, and friendship? It’s an expensive year, yes… but the kinds of experience and connections you make in college are priceless. Besides, I’m thinking about double majoring in Psych and English! Believe it or not, I’ve never had formal training in writing. College is the perfect time for me to hone my craft and develop my voice under brilliant mentors.

So, here’s my college journey thus far in a nutshell. I got off to an excellent start. Did well in school. Made lots of friends. Partook in extracurriculars I enjoyed. Had so much potential. Hit a road bump when I began questioning what I really wanted to do in life. Several more road bumps ensued. Mental health suffered. Too much partying. Bad attitude. All this and more led me to put professional development and other things of import on hold, while I struggled to get back on track. Now, finally, I’ve found my direction again. And I have two more years to develop myself further. I’m on track. I’m fine. Everything is going to be just fine.

 

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