Hi friends! Happy New Year’s Eve! Hope y’all are ready for 2019, ’cause it’s just around the corner!
Sorry I’ve been totally slacking on the blogmas series. I’ve just been so busy building my website and writing feature articles about athletes, I haven’t had the time or energy to keep up with my daily blogs!
As usual, I end each year with a year in review. The good thing about blogging is that I can look back on past blogs and jog my memory of everything that happened this past year. So. How was my 2018, you may ask?
Let’s start with January. I watched my very first figure skating competition at the beginning of the month, right before heading back to school for winter quarter. And what a competition it was! The US Figure Skating National Championships 2018 was right in my hometown of San Jose, CA. Since 2018 was an Olympic year, nationals was a big determinant of who would get on the Olympic team. I watched the ladies singles’ free skate portion of the competition, and was sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time! Right then and there, I told myself that I would begin taking figure skating lessons once I got back to school. The sport is simply mesmerizing.
In my post, “Rejected, Yet Again”, I talk about my experience of being rejected by a guy I had a little crush on. It was not the first time I had been rejected, but those two painful letters, “N-O”, still stung like a bi**. I concluded that learning how to handle rejection is an important life skill. You can’t fall into a pit of despair and self-pity when someone else doesn’t like you. Screw what they think! The only opinion that matters is your own, and if you love yourself, then no one can hurt you.
February was a rough month. In “Slipping Into the Underworld” , I talk about losing myself in a hedonistic world of partying and drinking. The typical “college experience”, if you will. This kind of life is like a whirlpool. It sucks you in, and once you’re caught up in the cycle, it’s so difficult to get out. Especially when you previously came from a super sheltered background. You just can’t believe all that you’ve missed out on, throughout all those years of discipline and focus– first as a competitive gymnast, then as a high school student vying for a spot at a top university, and THEN as a pre-med gunner shooting for that 4.0. This wild life is new, fun, exciting, intoxicating. It’s like a whole new land you had never traversed. Here’s the thing, though. This underworld is not reality. Stay in it for too long, and you lose sight of the important things. Your goals. Your ambition. Your self-respect. Your friends.
So yeah, February sucked. I wrote several blog posts about how unfulfilled I felt living that unwholesome life, and how I wanted more than anything to get out. I won’t make excuses for my behavior, but a part of me does wonder if my mania had anything to do with this wild, reckless behavior. It could have been a factor. I even wrote, in “I’m Manic Again”, that my mania was flaring up, causing me to experience feelings of grandeur and overly ambitious thoughts.
Yay for March! My birthday month! I began age 20 with a list of goals to facilitate self-improvement: take better care of my body, become more financially responsible, and take care of my mental health. If I’m being real, I haven’t accomplished any of these goals to the degree I had hoped. My eating habits remain poor. I continue to spend money without checking my budget (my parents gave me a big lecture about it, yesterday). As for mental health, towards the end 2018, I really began tackling this goal in earnest. I stuck by my medication regimen. I scheduled therapy appointments. I made sure I got enough sleep each night. I plan to carry this healthy pattern of behavior into 2019.
The remainder of winter quarter was challenging, academically. It was the first time I took 4 upper division psych classes in one quarter. And the classes were not the easiest. I finished off the quarter in the end of March and ended up getting my very first B+. Not my proudest moment, for sure. I blame myself and my lack of focus and discipline, that quarter, for I had every capability of getting straight A’s. I just didn’t apply myself. Plus, I was manic most of the time, which alone affected my ability to sit down and study. Winter quarter 2018 was rough, indeed, and I’m glad I can now put it behind me.
Spring break 2018 was fun. My then-friend Chiana (yeah, I won’t go into the details of that friendship breakup…) and Jung came over to my home in the Bay and stayed over for a few days. We explored SF together, did high-tea at the Rotunda, and shared deep, meaningful conversations. It was a great time.
Ah, spring quarter. ALSO difficult academically. I was taking the notorious Psych 100B, arguably the most challenging psychology major requirement. I struggled and toiled throughout the class, and ended up with a B. I was satisfied.
I only took 3 classes that quarter, but on top of academics I had joined a beginner’s hip hop dance team that met for training 8 hours a week, not including outside practice. It was difficult, balancing my challenging classes with dance.
Week 3 of spring quarter, I made the decision to switch back to pre-med, for like the umteenth time. In my post, “Back to Pre-Med”, I talk about my roller-coaster relationship with pre-med and why I kept hopping on and off that darn path. I basically spill out my entire college history, in that long post. I justify my decision to be pre-med again by saying that having medical school as my goal, even if I didn’t end up going, would pull me up by the bootstraps and get my head back in the game. Once I made that decision to be pre-med again, it was like a flipping a switch in my head. I became so much more focused in school. I stopped going out as much and chose studying over partying.
May / June
I notice that I didn’t write as much during the months of May and June. Only three blog posts, the entire two months. This is probably because I was so busy studying, after I made my proclamation to be pre-med again, alongside dancing on the hip hop team. I distinctly remember writing “Enamored and Intoxicated” one night, after I had just finished watching two-time Olympic gold medalist ice dancers, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, perform their Moulin Rouge free dance at the 2018 Olympics. Even through the computer screen, I was so deeply moved by the beauty of the program… the subtle nuances in the music that were masterfully hit; the tragic love story these skaters told through their dance; how they were able to bring my favorite movie to life on the ice… I may have also been a little manic, when watching this program. But my emotions were real. My soul was touched, and right then-and-there, I knew I had to figure skate, so I could find another medium beyond dance to feed into my creative side.
Joining the beginner’s hip hop team was definitely a new and fun experience! We ended our ten weeks of training with performing out set in front of over 900 people. It was a new experience, sharing the stage with 40 other individuals, as I’m so used to being alone in the spotlight. I did have my spotlight moment, however, in one of the dances, “Partition” by Beyonce. In addition to being exposed to hip hop, I had the chance to meet many new individuals, which is always a good time.
My sophomore year ended with me coming down from the mania at last, and falling into a depressive state of burnout and stress. Getting through finals was a hardest thing ever, but I made it out alive. I remember being the first to finish my Psych 133A final, and my professor asked me if I checked my work, and I said I did. In reality, I was just so ready for school to be over, I zoomed out of that classroom as fast as possible. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, in that class. But given everything that happened, is it really that surprising?
Once finals ended, my brother Austin and I flew back home to the Bay. The following day, we caught a flight to Hong Kong, where we met up with the rest of our family, who had been there already for a couple weeks. It was always great to catch up with relatives overseas. I was actually very nervous to see everyone, as I knew I had packed on a considerable amount of weight, since the last time I saw them, two years earlier (summer before freshman year of college). I knew that my mainland Chinese relatives were not above body-shaming. That’s a major cultural difference between China and the US, the former of which is less in tune with mental health and body positivity. As expected, a few relatives commented on my weight gain– comments that I tried hard to stave off. In spite of my efforts, it was still difficult, hearing other people’s rude remarks. But, whatever. It’s in the past. Time to move on.
After vacation in China, I headed back to UCLA the following week, for summer session. I enrolled in a philosophy class for session C, which began in August. But I decided to go back to school early because history has shown that, when I stay home for too long over the summer, I get depressed. So I decided to make a change this summer, and kept busy while away from home. It worked, for the most part. For the month of July, I was skating every day and reading books, like Aly Raisman’s autobiography, “Fierce”. Blog-wise, I think the month of July was my “advice-giving” month, because I wrote several posts dispensing random advice, like “3 Things I Do When Feeling Down or Depressed” and “7 Truths About College”. Having all that free time left lots of room for self-reflection. I also began making my own dance choreography, which is a challenging but stimulating and rewarding experience. Towards the end of July, I started to miss home, and spontaneously decided to fly home for a week before summer class began. It was great being home for a short time. Really helped me get in the right headspace for the next six weeks of crash-course philosophy.
My Philosophy 7 class started in August. It was a challenging class, just like most philosophy classes are. The reading was overwhelming and difficult to understand. I had to go to office hours regularly to clarify concepts and run paper ideas by my TA. I ended up with an A- in the class, which I’m honestly happy about, since I struggled so much with the readings (if you didn’t know, I love writing, but struggle more with reading).
By August, my social anxiety had started to return, largely because my bipolar diagnosis I had received the previous summer shook up my sense of identity and made me question whether or not I was truly confident, or if my “confidence” was just the mania talking. So the anxiety slowly began to creep back into my life, until it stared me straight in the face, when during the first day of discussion for philosophy class, I found myself gripped with fear, while introducing myself to the class during icebreakers.
I capped off that month eager to break free from the shackles of anxiety and freshly motivated to develop my social confidence.
September was… interesting. I went to my first male strip club, where I was “discovered” by one of the strippers, who wanted to recruit me to a ladies Burlesque dance group he was managing. Against my better judgement, I decided to give it a go. One rehearsal later, I realized I was mixing with the wrong kind of people, and ended up leaving them completely. It was a good learning experience. Never fill your life with toxic people, unless you want your life to go to sh**.
Junior year of college started in end of September. I was both anxious and excited to begin my third and final year at UCLA. I was motivated to put behind me the academic flop that was sophomore year, and end my college years strong, with a solid GPA. More than that, I wanted to experience as much as I could during my remaining 9 months in school. And no, I’m not talking about unwholesome things. I’m talking eye-opening, enriching, fulfilling experiences that you learn and grow from. And so, I decided to start my own dance club, “Bruin Burlesque”, where I share my knowledge of femme and Burlesque dance with members of the UCLA community. The idea to start my own dance club had been in the making for a while, but I didn’t have the courage to bring it to life, until I was able to adopt a “what do you have to lose” mindset. So I jumped. And, as I grow older, I’m finding that the more times you “jump” without overthinking, the greater you grow and the more unique experiences you have. So, keep on jumping, you guys!
Most of my October blog posts were about studying. Always studying. Which was a good thing, as it showed that I had left behind my past unwholesome life for good, and regained my focus in academics. I remember going to a few parties in October, but enjoying none of them. I guess that really shows that partying is no longer my scene. I have effectively exorcised that demon.
In “Heartbroken”, I reflect on how far my social confidence has diminished since my freshman year of college. The night before I wrote the piece, I had attended a party hosted by my friend’s film fraternity. This wasn’t your typical get-yourself-as-wasted-as-humanly-possible frat party. Here, you actually had to mingle with people. And I realized how uncomfortable I now was, meeting new people. I saw some people I had known during my freshman year, and stuck by them. They were introducing me to their friends as the “super confident British accent girl” (if you don’t know the story of my British accent… I’ll tell you some other time. It’s a pretty fun story). And in that moment, I realized that yes, my mania during freshman year of college drove many of my “out-there” and “ballsy” behaviors, but in believing I was a confident person, I started to act like one. Which made me put myself in situations that I’d used to cower from– teaching dance to the UCLA gymnastics team; becoming a choreographer for the fall musical; accosting a neurosurgeon and grilling him with questions; following an oncologist to his car, also asking him the same questions. For that period of time, I WAS confident, not because of the mania, but because I put in the work to live outside my comfort zone. It’s so interesting, how powerful a single belief can be.
I started the month off with a life update post. Midterms season was happening, and I was studying, all the damn time. Fall quarter of my junior year was the second time in my college career that I took 4 upper div psych classes, one of which was a notoriously difficult class (not quite as hard as Psych 100B… but still a doozy). Funnily enough, that hard class ended up being my favorite psych class I’ve taken thus far, at UCLA. Anyway, back to November. I had found a dance partner the previous month– Mert, an extension student from Turkey– and we decided to compete at the UCSB Beach Ball competition in early November, after only 3 weeks of training together. We had good results at the competition, but I didn’t feel confident on the floor, at all. I was stressed, because I didn’t feel prepared with such little training. Practices with Mert were pretty negative, since I get frustrated easily and usually take it out on my partner. So after the competition, Mert and I terminated our partnership. It’s funny– we didn’t even have a conversation about it. We LITERALLY just stopped talking to each other. Oh well.
I had my mental breakdown of the quarter during midterms season. It was the week after Beach Ball. I had spent the entire weekend competing in Santa Barbara, which meant I did very little studying. I had a midterm for my Psych 188B class the following Tuesday, and I was SO underprepared. The most underprepared I’d ever been, for any exam in my life. The exam was a flop. I ended up with an 80%, which was 3 percentage points below the average. Because of that exam, I ended with an A- in the class. Thank god I did well on the final and got the full extra credit points!
And now, here we are, on the last day of December. This month has been wonderful. During week 9 of the quarter, I taught my first Bruin Burlesque workshop, and it was a success! I gained a tremendous amount of social confidence after that, and I expect to continue this momentum as I host more workshops this coming quarter.
Finals were AMAZING. I studied the hardest I’d ever studied, with a “failure is not an option” mindset. I did well, and ended fall quarter with 2 A+’s, 1 A, and 1 A-. Not too shabby, and definitely a huge improvement from last year. See, Bel? If you apply yourself, you WILL succeed!
This past break, I did a LOT of writing. I started my own website, “The Athlete’s Corner”, which y’all probably know about, since I talk about it so much! It’s basically a website where I share the stories of members of the athletic community and their experience in competitive athletics. I want to give athletes, coaches, and parents of athletes a VOICE. Because there’s so much the public doesn’t know about what goes into shaping a competitive athlete. When I reached out to members of the athletic community, be it gymnasts, figure skaters, synchronized swimmers, dancers, Cirque du Soleil artists, or coaches, I was completely unaware of how people would respond. Surprisingly, most of the people I reached out to were enthusiastic and supportive of my website idea, and gracious enough to agree to an interview so I could share their stories! I’ve gotten many interviews lined up, with former national team members and elite athletes, a former DWTS professional, and even current world champion ballroom dancer, Victor Fung! I feel like I’ve been given a new purpose– to share these stories and give athletes a voice. This newfound sense of purpose has further developed my confidence and my sense of purpose in this world. I feel like I’m actually doing something impactful, which is a great feeling to have. So, I end this year with great hope and excitement for what’s to come. From my new website to my new club on campus, I truly believe things are going to look up for me, in 2019.
I’m also ending this year still completely single… but instead of feeling like a lousy wallflower about it, I celebrate my life as a single woman. People ask me if I think 2019 will be my “year”, in terms of getting a boyfriend. I just tell them that, in all honesty, I have no idea. I am open to the idea of dating casually and seeing where it leads me. But at this point in my life, with all the new and exciting projects I’m taking on, a boyfriend is the last thing on my mind.
It’s 5:23pm right now. A little less than 7 hours ’till countdown. For the first time, I’ll be spending New Years Eve with friends! Going to their house at 9pm and gonna have a grand ol’ time. Here’s to health, happiness, and growth, this coming year. I wish you all the very best!