Hello everyone! Welcome to Days 10 and 11 of the quarantine. Hope you all are doing alright.
I apologize for not posting yesterday. The depression was especially hard-hitting, and I basically stayed in bed all day, watching movies. One of the movies I watched was “Grown Ups”, a 2010 comedy starring Adam Sandler and other superrrr hilarious actors and actresses. That kept me up until 3am, so I woke up pretty late today, around 1pm. That’s been my sleep schedule as of late– stay up late watching movies, and wake up late feeling groggy and unmotivated.
In other news, I finally picked up my medication refills from the pharmacy today, so I look forward to feeling more like myself, once I get back on track with my medication regimen. Depression honestly sucks. You don’t have the mental energy to do, well, basically anything. These past four days, I haven’t been exercising. I haven’t been writing my book, or making progress on my website, or studying for the GRE. And it’s so hard to quiet the self-judgment, which only intensifies with negative moods. I judge myself when I’m depressed for not being productive, for acting like a lazy bum, just sitting in bed all day, goals left unaccomplished. I hate every second of it. And despite having dealt with depression since I was 16, I have yet to find a good way to get out of the funk, besides letting the dark cloud slowly and naturally pass.
Right before writing this blog post, I re-watched the movie “Divergent”. The film is based off of the hit trilogy written by Veronica Roth. Fun fact– she started writing the first book at age 21, when she was in college! Anyway, I feel super inspired after watching the dystopian sci-fi action film. It is set in a the futuristic city of Chicago, where the people are divided into five factions: Abnegation, Candor, Amity, Erudite, and Dauntless, with each faction serving a particular role in society. The Dauntless are the brave warriors, the soldiers who protect the people of the city. Tris, the protagonist, was born into the Abnegation faction, but defects into Dauntless when she is of age to choose for herself which faction she belongs to.
The Dauntless initiates have to undergo ruthless physical and mental training to become true members of the faction. Failure to make it through the two stages of training will render one Factionless– aka, a person who has no place in society, and is essentially homeless. So, if one wants to survive, failure is not an option.
Tris starts off the training process at the bottom of her class. She is physically weak and lacks innate ability. But her drive to succeed and perseverant, dogged character pushes her to the top of her class. She puts in countless hours of practice, waking up early every day to squeeze in some extra training time. She fails, and fails, and fails again, but she refuses to lose heart. She is beaten down and belittled by her superior, who derives pleasure from picking on the runt of the litter. At the end of the day, though, she proves everyone wrong and emerges on top.
Tris reminds me of the person I used to be. A fighter. A warrior. As a gymnast, I was far from the most talented. I didn’t have the right body for my sport. I lacked innate flexibility and had to work twice as hard as my teammates to succeed. But work, I did. I didn’t achieve my Olympic dream, but I like to think that I got close to my potential– before an injury took me out of the sport prematurely, that is. I worked my body to the point where I couldn’t continue. That just shows how much mental strength, passion, drive, and discipline I used to have. I had grit. But I am light-years away from the person I used to be.
These days, I am lost. I thought I knew what I wanted– get my PhD and become a psychologist. Why, then, am I struggling so much to find my footing? I used to identify strongly with Tris. A fighter. I’d identify a goal, and let nothing get in the way of me achieving it. Now, I am but a shadow of my former self. I can’t get out of bed. I can’t commit to goals. My self confidence is the lowest it’s ever been. I don’t have faith or trust in myself. I’m growing distant from my family. I feel so… alone. And that gnawing feeling of shame… it’s the worst. I know what I am capable of. I’m just going through a transitional phase, a huge rough patch. I just can’t seem to pick myself up, and I don’t know why. Every time I seem to be making progress, something happens, and my momentum fades. The budding flame flickers into smoke.
Maybe I’m not the fighter I thought I was. But deep down, I don’t truly believe that. Not for a second. I know I’ll make it out of this… but the question is, how?
Another thing I learned from the movie “Divergent” is that no one, not even the strongest-willed person, can succeed when going solo. Tris relied on the support of her friends to get back up when knocked down to the ground. I think when we are at our lowest, social support is integral to being able to rise again. I need help. I need guidance. I need inspiration. In college, I was inspired each day. That culture of hard work and focus that characterized UCLA pushed me to strive for excellence. As much as I’d like to attribute my successes to my own work ethic and determination, I’d be kidding myself if I said that was the only factor leading to my success as a student. I had a lot of help along the way, whether I was consciously aware of it or not. I think that’s a big reason why I haven’t been feeling like myself these past 7 months back home. I am all alone, and as a result, I am left feeling stagnant and uninspired.
I can confidently say that I have hit rock bottom. But it’s not the first time I’ve fallen to the ground. The good news? I can only go up from here. What I need to do right now is set a goal for myself. The first one I can think of at this moment is grad school. I want to earn my PhD. Then, I need to break down that long-term goal into smaller, more concrete goals. Studying for the GRE is the first step. So, I’ll channel all that present pain I feel into my studies. And I mustn’t lose focus. I must strengthen my mind, regain my discipline, and control my mercurial emotions, which often get the best of me. How do I do that? I gain back my momentum. As an athlete, I know exactly how to do it. You set a daily routine. Daily habits. It’s hard in the beginning to get started, but once you exercise repetition, those actions– getting out of bed on time, exercising daily, eating healthily, getting work done– will become second nature. Habit is how we build momentum. It is the underlying driving force. You can’t be lazy. You need to have the self-discipline to fan a flame. To nurture a seed. Once you start, you can’t quit. I know all this. I just need to put it in action.
Now, can I go about this process of transformation alone? Can I WILL myself out of my depressive funk, without the help of others? I like to believe I am strong enough to do it. But why put myself through that torture, when I can turn to others to support me? I need mentors. Peers who I can look up to. Watching “Divergent” today… it made me long to be a part of something greater than myself. Interestingly, the first thing that came to mind was the military. Let’s just entertain this silly notion of me enlisting in the military. I have a feeling that if I were to do it, I’d feel right at home. I love a good challenge. I love the culture of self-discipline and striving for excellence. I’d have people to look up to who challenge me to be better every day. I am inherently a super competitive person. When I see someone who’s achieved more than me, I immediately want to push myself to their level. I know that, when placed in the right environment with the right kind of people, I will be unstoppable. But I can’t go it alone.
I guess that’s why I’m feeling stuck right now. The earliest I can start grad school is fall of 2021. That leaves me about a year-and-a-half of fighting a lone battle. I’ve already squandered 7 months of my two gap years. I’ve spent enough time nursing my wounds. I’ve validated the fact that transitioning out of college was hard. But now, it’s time to rise again.
As I’m writing this, my motivation levels are sky-rocketing. In the back of my mind, I’m already laying out a plan. Wake up at 8am every day. Take a cold shower. Sit down and study for 3 hours. Then write for 2 hours. Then run 4 miles. Then dance and stretch for a couple more hours. Then study some more. And rinse and repeat, every day. It’s the brute force, competitive athlete’s method of going about achieving a highly-coveted goal.
In the past, I’d actually be able to follow through with these insane schedules I’d lay out for myself. Nowadays, it’s all talk. I can’t trust myself anymore. I can’t trust myself to live up to my own expectations.
I guess I should start small. Instead of studying for 3 hours, maybe start with 1. Instead of running 4 miles, start with 2. Take warm showers, instead of icy cold ones. Then, work my way up from there. Even when I trained in China, the coaches told me to start slow in the beginning. No need to burn myself out unnecessarily.
Alrighty, folks. Enough talk. Time for action. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.