Bel’s Post-Grad Plans!!!

Hey guys! It’s been a couple days since I dropped the bomb about my decision to graduate from UCLA a year early. Since then, I’ve received an outpouring of support from friends and family about my difficult decision. Thank you to everyone who’s stuck with me along this crazy journey and have exhibited nothing but love and support as I navigate my way through life.

So, your next question may be, what am I to do, after I graduate?

In all honesty, I don’t have a clear-cut plan yet. I have a general idea of what I want/need to do. First and foremost, I need to get the bipolar disorder under control. Learn coping mechanisms and identify triggers and figure out a lifestyle that will allow me to function at maximum potential, while keeping the bipolar at bay. My psychiatrist in LA has already linked me to an intensive group therapy program for when I move back to NorCal. Until I get my mental health in order, forget about career plans and ambitions. Health comes before all else. If I am not healthy, I cannot possibly function at maximum potential.

So the main focus of my gap year is to heal and get mentally stable. During this time, I will fill my life with things that make me happy and give me purpose, including writing, dancing, figure skating, acting, reading, and spending time with family. I must be careful not to overload myself with activities, though, because the whole point of this gap year is to heal mentally, not spread myself thin across a million different activities.

In terms of work and making money, I have a couple options. I plan on starting a small essay-editing business, geared towards high school students applying for colleges. I already have several parents of high school juniors asking me to help their kids with their college essays, so that’ll be a good way for me to utilize my writing skills whilst making a bit of money on the side.

In addition to tutoring, I plan on becoming a dance fitness instructor. In a couple weeks, I’ll be getting my certification as a LaBlast Dance Fitness instructor. LaBlast is a fitness program created by former Dancing With the Stars pro, Louise Van Amstel. It’s basically like zumba, except more ballroom dance focused. I took a LaBlast class about a month ago, and really enjoyed it! Becoming an instructor will be a great way for me to share my passion for ballroom dance in a fun, healthy way with the general public. So that’s another thing I’ll be doing, when I get back home.

Finally, I plan on reuniting with my rhythmic gymnastics community and working as a gymnastics coach at a local gym. I also plan on getting my judge’s certification and becoming a gymnastics judge! All very exciting things to come.

I don’t know if I will be taking a single gap year, or perhaps two/more gap years. Depends on how things work out. But my ultimate goal is to earn my PhD in sports and performance psychology, and work with athletes and professional performers on mental toughness coach, teach coaches and mentors more effective and less abusive ways of coaching students, and chip away at the mental health stigma that surrounds mental health in the world of sports.

I am truly excited about graduating in seven short weeks. Can’t believe college has flown by. Freshman orientation feels like just yesterday. Truly.

Alrighty, guys, gonna go back to studying for my two midterms next week! Take care!

 

 

 

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia

Big Life Decision: Doing What’s Best for Me

Hey guys! It’s been almost a month since my last post. I apologize for being AWOL as of late. I’ve missed talking to you guys, but my life this past month has been riddled with chaos and mental illness, so I needed to take time off for myself.

My psychiatrist had me on a regimen of medications that unfortunately wasn’t working well for me. That, coupled with the immense stress of academics and running my own dance club, was enough to send me spiraling. It all came to a head two weeks ago when I broke down crying over the phone, while talking to my mother (if you knew me, you’d know that I don’t cry very easily). I felt so deeply depressed and dissatisfied with everything about myself– my looks, my body, my inability to control my moods and get a grip on the bipolar disorder. It didn’t matter how much I had achieved in the past. In that moment, I felt hopeless… as if everything in my life was out of my control… I felt powerless. I am a huge dreamer and have always wanted to achieve so much, but what of the follow through? My plans always get derailed by the onset of a depressive or hypomanic episode. I’ve always prided myself on not letting my mental illness hinder me from achieving everything I’d envisioned for myself. Two weeks ago, I realized that I could not longer just ignore my bipolar disorder and act like it wasn’t a big issue. I would need to make some adjustments in my life to accommodate my illness and avoid the triggers that send me over the edge.

So, in a concerted effort to prioritize my mental health, I have made a major life decision that I think I am ready to share with you all.

I have decided to graduate a year early this June, with a B.A. in psychology. No more staying another year at UCLA and picking up a minor. That was the original plan. But after discussing my condition extensively with my psychiatrist, I realized that the immense stress I face at a competitive university is a huge trigger for my mood shifts. To really get my bipolar under control, I need to go through intensive therapy and focus my energies solely on my mental health. I need to be home, where access to therapy is much more convenient (no need to spend money and time on Uber rides to the off-campus psychiatric clinic). Moreover, I’ve found that being close to my family gives me stability, support, and comfort, and helps ground me in reality. As much as I love my friends at UCLA, I need to leave behind the lifestyle of partying and drinking that is ultimately detrimental to my mental and emotional well-being.

Of course, there was the option of taking a leave of absence from UCLA, and returning to school in the fall. But because I am only a few classes away from graduating, it made more sense to me to stick out one more quarter and bring my college chapter to a close. Plus, I didn’t want to rush my recovery process. You can’t impose a deadline on healing.

I do not regret coming to college. I’ve grown and matured tremendously, learned so much about myself, and made some truly unforgettable memories. But I have to say, my college experience was hard. Hard, because it came during a very turbulent time in my life, when I was grappling with my new bipolar diagnosis and figuring out how to manage the illness, on top of the million other things consuming my mind– academics, dance, career plans. Bipolar made everything so much more difficult. When I was manic, I’d feel on top of the world. I would take on so many different commitments; make promises to other people that I later wouldn’t be able to keep; forgo food and sleep; and tackle life head-on at the speed of light. A couple weeks later, I’d fall into a depression, and all that passion and fire and energy that ignited my soul would suddenly extinguish. I’d be left with a bunch of projects I’d just begun, but was unable to finish, in my depressed state. I think I let a lot of people down, when the depression hit. I’d cancel plans. Fight each day to maintain productivity, so I could keep my grades up and continue achieving. Living with bipolar is hard. Especially in college, which is a chaotic time in and of itself. To manage my bipolar, I need to be in a stable environment of minimal stress. At least, that’s what I need for the time being, until I have mastered the art of coping and effectively identified my triggers.

Will I miss UCLA? Sure. I’ll miss my friends, who will continue their last year without me. I’ll miss Bruin Burlesque, the dance club I started last winter. There are things I wish I could have done in college, that I wasn’t able to do. But at the end of the day, I need to prioritize my mental health, and I know in my heart that going home is the best thing for me.

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking on a panel to high school students, sharing the story of my college experience. I will share with them all my struggles and triumphs with the utmost honesty– not in an attempt to scare them, but to let them know that while college can bring the best of times, it can also bring the worst of times. And should the latter come to pass, they need not feel alone. Because we all struggle in college. College pushes us to the edge. But we grow stronger from it.

So I thank you, UCLA, for shaping me into the strong woman I am today. I leave with mixed emotions– gratitude, frustration, relief. In seven weeks’ time, this brief roller-coaster of a life chapter will draw to a close. And I can tell myself, “I did it. I survived what has been both the best and worst three years of my life.” Then, and only then, can I finally release my breath, and commence the healing process.

From Competitive Athlete to UCLA Student

Last night, I watched the documentary “Over the Limit”, which follows Russian rhythmic gymnast, Margarita Mamun, and her difficult path to Olympic gold.

Seeing the kinds of verbal and psychological abuse Mamun endured in training and competition and the crippling pressure she faced in representing her home nation, brought me back to my own days as a competitive rhythmic gymnast. My feelings were mixed.

On the one hand, I felt grateful for my career-ending injury, which took me away from the toxic and abusive culture of high-level competitive sports. As a gymnast, I faced all sorts of verbal abuse from my Eastern European coaches, who utilized punishment as a means of shaping mentally and physically tough athletes.

On the other hand, though, I felt a twisted sort of nostalgia for my life as an athlete. I do not miss being yelled at to the point of tears during training or being humiliated in front of all the other gymnasts and coaches at competition, if I failed to deliver a clean routine. I am glad I left all that abuse behind, six years ago. What I do miss, however, is being pushed to the breaking point— mentally, physically—each and every day. I know, sounds weird, right? Especially for someone who always preaches the importance of caring for mental health. The thing is, in spite of the pain and suffering I endured during my time as an athlete, I went to bed each night feeling accomplished, fulfilled, and proud of myself. In many ways, I romanticized pain and suffering. I believed that the more I suffered honorably, the more success I would attain. I was proud of the person and athlete I was. I had clear-cut goals, and there was nothing more fulfilling than achieving those goals, after so much sacrifice. Sacrifice of normalcy. Sacrifice of health. Sacrifice of well-being and fun. The pain and suffering I endured—it made the fruits of my accomplishments all the sweeter.

I was never the most talented rhythmic gymnast, and I knew the Olympics was a long-shot. My long-term goal instead was to make the USA National Team and represent my country internationally. I lived and breathed this dream, and woke up each morning with purpose, passion, and resolve. I knew exactly what I needed to do to achieve my long-term goal: train hard and stay focused. Life was simple. Every minute of every day was planned out, from the blaring of my 5:00am alarm, to the sweet comfort I felt crawling into my bed at the day’s close, physically and mentally exhausted, but completely at peace with myself.

I was always the hardest worker at the gym. The little girls looked up to me as a role model. Was life easy? No. But in many ways, I was living my very best life, during my time as an athlete. I was focused. I was disciplined. I was committed. Most of all, I was passionate. Every day, I got to live my passion. I loved gymnastics with every fiber of my being, and I poured my heart and soul into my sport.

My passion drove me to push myself beyond all physical pain, and even when the excruciating knee pain that started in 2012 eventually rendered me incapable of walking up the steps of my home, I continued to push. After a certain point, it was too much. At age 15, my knee injury forced me to leave competitive gymnastics.

To say I was devastated was an understatement. I fell into a deep, deep depression, and went through an identity crisis. For a long time, I felt totally lost without my sport. I didn’t know who I was or what my purpose was, without gymnastics. My momentum stopped, and I without a dream fueling my spirit, the fire within me extinguished. I continued to excel academically, as I always had. But school didn’t provide me with the same kind of fulfillment that gymnastics did. I missed training, I missed competing, I missed doing what I loved. My heart cried for something my body didn’t allow.

It took two years for my mind and body to heal from the trauma of the injury. The turning point in my recovery came when I was 17 years old. On Valentine’s Day of 2015, I discovered Latin-Ballroom dance. Never could I imagine that I’d find something that gave me as much fulfillment and meaning as gymnastics did. In many ways, dance is very similar to rhythmic gymnastics. Both are aesthetic, performance sports, allowing the athlete to express themselves through music. Dance, like gymnastics, is both physically and mentally demanding. If one is to succeed as a dancer, one must train and work hard and stay focused and disciplined. In pursuing dance competitively, I found something that rekindled my fire and competitive spirit. Because that is who I am, to the core—a competitor and performer.

Fast-forward to September of 2016, when I came to UCLA for university. I was freshly determined to be a pre-med student whilst continuing to dance competitively. In the beginning, I truly believed I would be able to do both. That I would be able to train 4 hours a day at the dance studio whilst maintaining a 4.0 GPA. I had no concept of limits. I believed that my time as a competitive athlete trained me to be superhuman, and that the rules and constraints of reality did not apply to me. And so, I pushed myself to my breaking point. Again, however, I pushed myself too far. This time, it wasn’t physical injury that broke me down. It was mental burnout. The culmination of 18 years of strict discipline and constant work, catching up to me. I snapped. I fell privy to the myriad of temptations surrounding college culture. I started engaging in vices like drinking and partying. I quit premed and stopped dancing. My grades started dropping. My whole life, I prided myself in being a great athlete and excellent student; a warrior and soldier with an iron will and unbreakable mental strength. The person that now stared back at me in the mirror, was unrecognizable.

I think the worst feeling one can experience is self-shame. After stepping into the underworld, I no longer felt pride in myself. Most nights, I’d tumble into bed, completely drunk, waking up with a pounding headache and little recall of the previous night’s events, and a deep, deep feeling of self-shame and self-loathing. I was a far-cry from the disciplined 13-year-old warrior I used to be. I hated the person I had become.

It is only now, during my third year at UCLA, that I’ve begun to straighten out. I’ve dug myself into a deep, deep hole. I don’t blame anyone or anything but myself. But I’m taking steps to crawl back out. I’ve committed myself to abstinence. I’m getting back into a healthy lifestyle of daily exercise and healthy eating. I’m cutting out the partying. Picking up dance once more. Studying hard. My academic performance these past two quarters have been excellent. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to recognize the person in the mirror—no longer a girl, but a woman. Coming to university opened her eyes to a whole new world. She experienced much and made many mistakes along the way, but in the process, she grew tremendously.

Watching “Over the Limit” brought me back to my roots as an athlete. It reminded me that deep inside remains the passionate fighter I once was. And so, I will fight. I will fight tooth-and-nail to regain my discipline, my work ethic, my integrity, morals, bravery, health. I will apply myself to my new goal of becoming a sports and performance psychologist, whilst continuing to grow as a dancer, writer, and figure skater.

My ten years as a gymnast were difficult. But they were also some of my best years. With that deep pain came deeper joy and fulfillment. Gymnastics taught me so, so much. I will always identify as a gymnast, for that part of my identity is my anchor that brings me back to the right path, when I go astray.

Winter Quarter 2019: Reflection

Hello, dearest friends! It’s been almost a month since I last wrote a blog post. Man. Lots have been going on in my life since I last checked in, on February 26. I took my last final exam on Wednesday and have since been enjoying the start of spring break!

This past quarter has been formative, to say the least. I pushed myself far out of my comfort zone, from running my own dance club, to speaking at a student TED Talk event, to being an assistant choreographer for the school musical! All have been fulfilling experiences in their own right, and together have helped me so much with self-confidence. I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: if you want to live your best life, you must push yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s where true growth begins, and it’s the only way you will recognize what you are really capable of. Is it scary, doing something totally new and unfamiliar? Of course! In the past, any type of uncertainty would scare the living hell out of me. I’ve since realized, though, that it is these moments of not knowing, these moments of blind trust in the process, that we learn the most about ourselves. You know those butterflies you feel in your stomach and the adrenaline coursing through your veins, right before you’re about to do something terrifying? Well, that’s a physical manifestation of personal growth. It feels scary, but it is not something to be afraid of. It’s something to be celebrated. I think a key difference between ordinary and exceptional people lies in the very fact that most people are afraid to take the initial terrifying step out of their comfort zones. It’s human nature to fear uncertainty, and it takes a great deal of mental strength to fight the instinct of comfort. But let me tell you– once you start saying YES to opportunities, you will be greatly rewarded. You will grow along so many dimensions. You will surprise yourself with the things you are capable of doing. Most importantly, you will learn what it means to be self-confident.

So, that’s my little rant on the power of stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s what this past quarter has been all about! Moving on to the next topic– academics. Overall, I think I did very well academically this quarter. I took my last two requirements for the psychology major– Psych 120A (sensation and perception) and Psych 136A (social psychology lab). I also took Chinese 2A for my foreign language requirement.

I did very well in Psych 120A, despite having a subpar professor who didn’t really know what was going on. For the midterm, I earned the second highest score in the class, with a 95.5% (average was 79%). Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to do so well. I had so much going on extracurricularly around midterms season, that I literally had to cram 9 lectures and 8 textbook chapters into two nights’ worth of studying! I know, not my proudest moment. In the past, I’ve never had to cram for exams, because I’d know how to manage my time effectively. This quarter, however, I think I took on one too many commitments, hence the need to cram. I was so worried about failing the midterm that I nearly changed the class to Pass/No Pass, as I did not want to risk ruining my GPA. In the end, everything worked out. I also managed to do well on the final exam, scoring a 94%, despite not attending any lectures since the midterm. Most important of all, I learned a lot about memory and cognition in this class, and found the material surprisingly engaging. I actually gained newfound confidence in my intellect, after doing so well in the class. For the first time ever, I thought to myself, “Hey Belicia, maybe you aren’t as dumb as you think.” Well, you know, maybe I’m just a good test-taker. Either way, I am beginning to identify more as an academic and scholar, in addition to being an athlete and artist. School and learning is becoming a source of great pleasure, rather than a chore and obligation.

Psych 136A was truly a fun class. It was a capstone social psychology lab class, where students conducted their own experiments and captured their findings in a 12-page research paper. I enjoyed how independent students got to be in this class. We formed small groups based on common interest in a particular social psychology topic, and worked with these groups to conduct an experiment. It is a course that’s meant to give undergraduate students a first glimpse into the world of psychological research. Before this class, I had no intention of doing research; now, I recognize the great impact researchers can make via scientific discoveries. Knowledge is power! Of course, I still intend to focus my energies on the clinical side of psychology, working closely with athletes and professional performers in building mental tools to optimize performance under pressure (among other things). But it would be really cool if I could do research on the side, write books about my findings, and maybe even become a professor of sports psychology! And of course, in my spare time, I will continue my passions for creative expression. Wow, sounds like I have my whole life mapped out, LOL!

The third class I took this quarter was Chinese 2A, to fulfill my foreign language requirement. I was so intimidated at the beginning of the quarter about taking Chinese. I had taken the placement test two years ago during my freshman year, and was placed into level 2A (advanced). However, during the span of two years of little-to-no Chinese practice, my skill level understandably declined. When I finally got around to taking Chinese during my third year, my level was no longer that of 2A. I actually went to the professor’s office hours during week 1 and asked her to place me into level 2-regular. She did no such thing, as she believed I could succeed in 2A. So I stuck through it, and though it was a lot of hard work, I managed to do pretty well!

It’s spring break now, and I have many goals laid out to help me stay motivated. I know I haven’t been keeping up with my writing, given my super busy schedule this past quarter. However, writing is something that I can’t live without. I want to experience the world deeply, and it is through constant self-reflection and turning the mirror inwards that I am able to do this. So, this break, I will write at least one blog post every day detailing my day-to-day adventures. I will also continue to build my website, “The Athlete’s Corner”, and share the stories of athletes. In addition to writing, I will get back into my passions for figure skating and dancing. I went to the skating rink yesterday for the first time in three months and skated for a few hours. Surprisingly, I have not lost all my skills! I also will be taking dance classes all around LA and explore styles like jazz funk and heels. Recently, I found a new amateur dance partner, and will commence with the partnership after spring break. I plan on working as a tutor to fund all my expensive hobbies. I also really need to get on the professional development thing– i.e. looking for internships, doing research, building connections with professors, the whole shebang.

Alright, folks! Thanks for reading today’s post. It feels so great to be writing and sharing my life with you all, again! Talk to you tomorrow.

 

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia

February Life Update!

Hi everyone! It is Tuesday February 26, 2019, 12:41am, as I begin this blog post. How are you doing? It’s been a while since I last updated you guys on my life! I’ve been the busiest bee EVER this quarter, what with running my own dance club, choreographing the musical, staying on top of my studies, and being invited to be a student speaker at a student TED talk event!

Man… where do I even begin? The month of February has been a whirlwind! Earlier this month, I auditioned to speak at a student TED Talk event, and to my greatest joy, I was selected to be one of the four speakers! The event is actually happening this Wednesday (aka tomorrow)! I am feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. Though I’ve performed and competed my entire life, I’ve never spoken in front of a large crowd before. I’m always nervous when doing something completely new, and sometimes overthink it, but hey, that’s only human! I’m going in with the following mindset:

  • People are there to hear me speak about a topic I am both immensely passionate about, and am an expert in. It’s a friendly audience!
  • People are rooting for me to succeed.
  • It’s not a gymnastics competition. You aren’t being judged. So toss that perfectionism out the window!
  • Don’t judge yourself. It’s a new experience– again, no need to try to be perfect.
  • Be conversational, and be yourself. You have a great personality! No need to try to be someone you are not!

I believe if I go in with this healthy mindset, I will be fine. Everyone I have spoken to has believed in me, and has told me I will be great up there. I will let my passion for my topic, which addresses mental health in the world of competitive sports, carry me beyond any fear. I know I will feel nervous beforehand; but it’s just like performing in gymnastics or dance. The anticipatory anxiety is there, but the minute I step on the floor, I transform!

I am slowly but surely gaining so much more social confidence! This is the metamorphosis I have been waiting for, for so long. In addition to speaking at SPIEL, I will be speaking at several mental health events. There is one on February 28 (the day after SPIEL), one on March 9, and one on April 16. I’ll be sharing my journey of surviving the deep depression that followed my gymnastics injury; the social anxiety and identity crisis, also following my injury; the trauma and abuse I faced during my time in gymnastics; being diagnosed with bipolar II disorder during my sophomore year of college, and going through yet another identity crisis; and my experience of mental illness in the context of my Asian-American background, where mental health stigma is unfortunately so strong.

I am finding my voice. I’ve been writing for a long time, and now, I am learning how to speak. I feel more empowered than I ever have in my life! It’s a wonderful feeling, and I will look back on this time of my life– my early 20s– as some of the greatest, most transformative years.

This week is so tough. I have a Chinese reading test and big exam for Psych 136A, both happening tomorrow; SPIEL on Wednesday; a Chinese quiz Thursday; and dance performance Friday. In addition to all that, this week the theater is having full run-throughs of the musical that I am choreographing, and I have to be at all the rehearsals. I will be SO SO proud of myself once I get through this week. It’s gonna be a doozy, but I am no stranger to stretching myself thin. Not that it is necessarily the healthiest way to live… but desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

Alrighty, folks. That’s my little update for now. Gotta go to bed to prepare for tomorrow’s long day. Stay tuned for a reflection post about SPIEL!

 

 

 

Love,

Belicia

January Month in Review: Staying Afloat, Handling Rejection, and Living with Courage and Passion

Hey friends! It’s the last day of January 2019, and I can’t believe I have not posted a blog this entire month, save for the first day of 2019!

I am sitting inside the Hedrick Study right now, sipping away at my black coffee, supposedly studying for my two midterms next week– but in reality, just procrastinating hardcore by writing this post. Honestly, though, I have a lot to get off my chest, and there was no way I could possibly concentrate on my studies with my thoughts racing the way they have been, as of late.

Well I guess I’ll catch you guys up on my life. Let’s start with academics. I had originally planned on taking 4 classes, but ultimately decided to drop my Astronomy 3 GE, as I had too much going on this quarter. And quite honestly, that was a smart move. I’m doing so many extracurriculars this quarter, from running Bruin Burlesque, the dance club I started at UCLA, to being the assistant choreographer for the school theater’s winter musical. These are all activities I am super passionate about, but they are pretty time consuming.  So yeah, I cut down my courseload to 3 classes: Chinese 2A for my foreign language requirement, along with my last two requirements for the psychology major.

Chinese class is pretty challenging. We have two quizzes each week, one for new vocabulary, and one for grammar. I had placed into level 2A (advanced) back in freshman year, when I took the foreign language placement exam. However, it’s been 2 years since I took that exam, and I have not practiced any Chinese since, so understandably, my skill level has deteriorated. I find myself in a class filled with students more advanced than I. So worried was I about performing poorly in the class, I went to the professor’s office hours during Week 1 of the quarter and practically begged her to assign me to Chinese 2, which is less advanced than 2A. My professor did no such thing. Instead, she told me that she believed I had the potential to succeed in her class, if I put in the work. And put in work, I did. I study at least 3 hours of Chinese per day. I had to relearn vocabulary that had been taught in Chinese 1A the previous quarter, on top of keeping up with the 2A curriculum. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I am happy to say that I’ve been consistently doing well on the quizzes, homework, and essays. We have our midterm next Thursday, and as nervous as I am, I know that if I try my hardest, the outcome will be A-OK.

In addition to Chinese, I am taking Psych 120A, sensation and perception, and Psych 136A, social psychology lab. Neither are easy-A classes. Let me just go on a heated tirade, for a hot second. My Psych 120A professor is quite possibly the worst professor I’ve ever had at UCLA. It’s not totally his fault. He is new and has never taught a class before (at least not to my knowledge). And we all know that the first time you do something is the worst, which can be forgiven. It just kind of stinks that my classmates and I had the unfortunate fate of being his “guinea pig” students. What was supposed to be an interesting topic of study has turned into a chore. Truly, the quality of your professor matters a lot, when you are learning a brand new subject. A bad professor could very easily turn you off to a particular field of study, which is really a shame.

Psych 136A is my capstone social psychology lab. We are expected to conduct our own experiment and write a 12-page research paper by the end of the course. I know, sounds daunting. And it is. But the professor is really good at breaking down the process with us so the task is not so very overwhelming. There’s definitely a lot of  group work and collaboration in this class, which is a nice change from the usual lecture-hall style learning.

In all honesty, I’ve been lacking in motivation to study every day. And now, here I am, four weeks into the quarter, with the snowball effect in full force. That is, I am drowning in schoolwork. Have numerous chapters of textbook reading and lectures to catch up on. I don’t think I’ve ever found myself in such a position, as I am usually so on top of my studies! Not to make any excuses for myself, but it is an established fact that winter quarter is always the hardest term of the academic year. It’s smack in the middle of fall and spring. Even after a month of winter break, you still find yourself slightly burned out from the intensity of fall quarter. There really isn’t much to look forward to in terms of vacation, as you only get a week off after winter quarter ends before spring quarter hits. So yeah, winter quarter sucks. But you fight and push through. I’ve just been lacking a little bit of that internal drive, lately. The first three weeks of the quarter, I danced and skated a lot, and partied a little more than I should have. And so, I fell behind in schoolwork. Now I gotta pay the price.

It’s interesting, because I always know that I can do well in school and perform well at the end of the day, no matter how dismal the circumstances. I guess I’m good at pulling through when the going gets tough. Except in this case, I was the one who made my situation unnecessarily difficult. I COULD have been a diligent student from the beginning and studied just a little every day, so that when exam time came, I’d be ready. Welp. No use in beating myself up. I can only move forward from here.

Onto the next topic– Bruin Burlesque! My new dance club is going GREAT. The club is slowly increasing in popularity. I enjoy teaching members of the UCLA community how to dance in the Burlesque and femme style. It’s a lot of work, from coming up with fresh choreography to teach each week, to marketing the club, to booking rooms for rehearsal, but I go to bed each night feeling so fulfilled. I love seeing the smiles on my students’ faces after they master a new choreography and perform it in groups at the end of workshop. My goal with this club is to not only teach dance, but also to impart confidence to my students. Dance is a big reason why I’ve been able to come out of my former shell and be the outgoing person I am today, and I want other people to experience this magic.

Choreographing the winter musical has also been a fun experience! We have our first large group rehearsal tomorrow evening, and I’m excited to assist in teaching the big number. A lot of my friends are part of the cast of the musical, so it’ll be super fun to work with them.

And how is my love life, you may ask? Nothing much going on in that department. I was interested in a guy at the beginning of the quarter, and even asked him out to HOOLIGAN theater’s formal dance, which will take place in March! Sadly, he rejected me, on the grounds that he “did not know me well enough”, which is fair (I’ve barely spoken two words to him in my life). I guess my mindset when I decided to message him and ask him to the dance was, “Well what the hell do I have to lose?” So I pulled the trigger and shot my shot. And I’m honestly so proud of myself for doing so, as I would have regretted it if I didn’t at least try. That’s one of my most salient life mantras: Don’t let fear of failure or rejection hinder you from seeking out opportunities. Take risks. Step out of your comfort zone. Live courageously, which doesn’t necessarily mean living in the absence of fear, but rather, being guided by a passion that transcends all inhibition.

What else has happened, this past month? Oh! I auditioned for SPIEL, which is an annual event put on by the Regents Scholar Society. It’s essentially TED Talk for students, where students can speak about ANY topic they are passionate about. I want to speak about mental health in the world of sports, and how more has to be done to ensure the mental and emotional well-being of our athletes, who are human, just like the rest of us. I will communicate this message through sharing my own experience as a rhythmic gymnast, as well as the stories of some of the athletes I have interviewed for my new website, “The Athlete’s Corner”. It’s pretty funny– I hate public speaking and certainly do not consider myself the greatest of orators. But my confidence and passion in the message I wish to share transcends this fear, which is why I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and audition for SPIEL. Regardless of whether or not I am chosen to be a speaker, I am glad I at least tried.

Alrighty, friends. Time to get back to work. Wish me luck!

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia

Bel’s 2018 Year in Review

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? 

January

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 

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. 

March

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. 

April

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. 

July

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. 

August

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

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! 

October

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. 

November

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! 

December

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!

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia