Tuesday 10/17/17 Reflection

It’s 9:45 am as I sit on the grassy area next to UCLA’s famous Janss steps. I woke up at 7am today, ate breakfast consisting of Vanilla Greek yogurt with granola, and two slices of cinnamon raisin bread. After changing into my outfit of the day– cozy black Harvard sweatpants (it’s kind of a joke that I brought them to UCLA, but hey— at least they’re comfortable!); a floral crop top from Hollister; and my pink unicorn flip flops.

I studied a bit more for today’s stats midterm, but honestly, I don’t think there is much else I can do to prepare, as I’ve pretty much exhausted the material. I’m trying this new thing called “not going overkill with studying”. Work hard, but no need to go overboard and live and die with each exam. Do what is necessary, and leave it at that. What is the difference between a 98% and 100%, after all? When you’re strategic about how much time you devote to studying, and how much you allot to enjoyable pastimes, you end up with the best of both worlds! Last night, I told myself that I would not do any Russian homework that night, as I had just taken a Russian quiz that morning. Instead, I focused on doing some brush-up studying for today’s stats midterm and read some of my textbook assignment for my LS 15 class (science for non-science majors).

At around 9:30am, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day outside, and took my phone and laptop to the lawn. I called my mother and made plans for this coming weekend (I decided to fly back to the Bay Friday night and return to school Sunday evening). Afterwards, I opened my laptop and began this post!

Well, it’s almost 10:00am now. I have class in one hour. Better get back to the library and prep for lecture. Talk to you guys soon!


11:30pm

Hey guys. A very exhausted Belicia here talking. I feel a legitimate heartbeat on the tips of my two big toes– they’re throbbing badly after a long, painful dance practice. Got back to the apartment about an hour ago, actually. Did my Russian homework, took a shower, got ready for bed, and now I’m here, finishing off today’s entry.

Today’s stats midterm was not half bad. Questions were reasonable. I think I did well, and I didn’t kill myself over studying. Sign of growth! Go me! My only qualm is the size of the desks we took our exams on. We had to squeeze papers, pencils and calculators on those sad excuses of desks that can barely fit the length of my forearm. That was the main distraction I had during the midterm, what with papers flying around and writing stationary rolling on the ground.

I had dinner with my friend Grace, who swiped me in to one of my favorite dining halls, De Neve. Every time I eat at a dining hall now, I feel so blessed to be surrounded by piles of real, steaming, gourmet food. It’s a great change from the usual canned goods I call my dinner. Lol. My eating habits have been pretty poor– I no longer watch my diet or restrict my calories. If there’s food around, I will eat it. In some ways, this is good, as I’m no longer practicing the self-harmful behaviors of purging or starving myself. I’m growing to love myself wholly, and that includes caring for my body. Which means I should probably cut down on the sweets and carbs, and load up on protein, fruits and veggies. New goal, starting tomorrow!

Dance practice was good. My partner and I made progress. I think I was a little less impatient today, or at least tried to be. Sometimes, I think I take myself much too seriously. I need to let loose sometimes and just let the journey take me places, instead of constantly trying to CONTROL everything that happens to me. In that sense, I really admire my brother Chris– the one studying music at U of Michigan. I don’t think he’s ever lost a wink of sleep over worrying about things out of his control. He kind of just goes with the flow and enjoys his life. A happy medium between me and Chris would be ideal. I think Austin fits that mould perfectly. He’s cognizant enough about his future and responsibilities, but not to the point of stress and anxiety. Goodness… why must I worry so much? Oh right… my anxiety. That was as dumb question. It may also be temperament and personality. Maybe I’m just inherently a more high-strung, nervous, uptight person. Nothing wrong with that, as long as I’m keeping myself mentally healthy. Doing things that require me to let go, trust in my intuition and embrace uncertainty- things like dance, writing, improv, and activities completely out of my comfort– helps me develop the skill of adapting to novel environments and letting go of the need to plan everything out.

Alright, guys. I think I’ll end the post here. Gotta get sufficient shut-eye, so I don’t fall asleep in lecture tomorrow, the way I did today. Have a great night!

XOXO,

Belicia

Monday 10/16/17: Lessons Learned about My Mania

The older I get, the more I value the importance of daily self-reflection as a means to live the most authentic life you could possibly lead. It’s a way to ensure that you’re continuously growing and bettering yourself each day; checking yourself when you feel you’re headed down a wrong path; making sure you are living life, day by day, the way you’d always envisioned it.

For that reason, I am henceforth committing myself to posting on my blog once a day, no matter how busy or tired or stressed  with college I may be. Just a couple hundred words is fine. I needn’t churn out a personal masterpiece each time I write. This’ll be the “Daily Life of Bel” segment of my blog, if you will, and I’ll keep it simple. Anything interesting, funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking, formative, enlightening, or simply worth sharing, I will put forth for you all to mull on.

It’s actually in times of stress and tumult like these (we’re approaching the first round of midterms season) that self-reflection is ever-so important. Caught up in the circus act of juggling classes with work, internships and other extracurriculars, many college students don’t leave sufficient time for self care. And a big part of caring for oneself, I believe, is by practicing regular self reflection. Even huge societal figureheads– business moguls, politicians, professionals– integrate introspection into their busy lives. I read somewhere that Bill Gates routinely sets aside one week away from his work to reflect on his day-to-day performance. What went well? What could he have done better in both his work and personal life? And after this one week grace period, he springs back anew– equipped with greater self awareness to perform at a higher maximum potential.

So, here I am, incorporating the practice of the greats into my own little life.


 

Today was a good day. I woke up at 6:30am, studied for my Russian quiz, took my Russian quiz in the morning, screwed up the oral portion of the exam but quickly forgave myself, and headed back to my apartment. At home, I did laundry, cooked myself some chicken breast and asparagus (I screamed when the olive oil started jumping up and down on the pan), and took a quick nap to catch up on needed sleep. At 12:30, my therapist from NorCal called, and we had a thirty-minute conversation about my hypomania. I really felt supported and cared for when talking to Margery.

While talking with Marg, I learned some things about my mania that I think is worth sharing with you all. To give you some context, allow me to help you better understand what being “manic” feels like. While riding the huge wave of mania– in its early phases– one can feel absolutely euphoric. In her memoir, “An Unquiet Mind”, Kay Redfield Jamison, a renown clinical psychologist and recovering patient of manic-depressive disorder, eloquently illustrates the addicting nature of her volatile illness:

“My manias, at least in their early and mild forms, were absolutely intoxicating states that gave rise to great personal pleasure, an incomparable flow of thoughts, and a ceaseless energy that allowed the translation of new ideas into papers and projects. Medications not only cut into these fast-flowing, high-flying times, they also brought with them seemingly intolerable side effects. It took me far too long to realize that lost years and relationships cannot be recovered, that damage done to oneself and others cannot always be put right again, and that freedom from the control imposed by medication loses its meaning when the only alternatives are death and insanity.”

Her words perfectly embody my sentiment towards my own manias. I know that, with every high I experience– the mania– will inevitably come a painful crash– the depression. There you have it. Manic-depressive disorder.

Up until now, I always saw the onset of a manic episode as a POSITIVE thing– a strength, an asset. Mania was motivation. Mania was my key to achieving much in short stretches of time. Mania… it was my best friend.

I’ve always been unusually motivated and driven from a young age. Gymnastics gave me the discipline to see my goals to fruition. It seems I was destined to be a powerhouse, an unstoppable force.

People oftentimes have called me “crazy”, in reference to my hardcore work ethic. I always took that as as compliment. Never did it cross my mind that I may, in fact, actually have a mental disorder driving me into these manic episodes of increased goal-oriented behavior, superhuman motivation and drive, and feelings of being unstoppable– all at the expense of my physical and mental health.

When people see me working my butt off and putting my absolute all into everything I do, they shower me with respect, admiration and praise for my commendable dedication. It’s a simple case of operant conditioning– I do something that wins me a reward (others’ praise), which drives me to do more of that special something. In this case, it’s working hard. Like, insanely hard. I’ve had a long-time history of being a people pleaser and yearning for external validation from others as a way to feel good about myself. In working super super hard at what I do, I am able to get really really close to achieving things that the “average” person cannot. This, in turn, wins me even more praise from my peers and superiors.

But, I digress. Let’s get back to my manias. I can’t pinpoint exactly when my innately driven character morphed into the realm of dangerous, self-harmful behavior… I want to say it was sometime during my peak as a gymnast, in 2011/2012. In their early phases, my mood swings were much more manageable. At the illness’s inception, I never really experienced the depressive lows, just the highs. When I started dancing in 2015, my highs started getting more extreme. I remember, when first starting Latin-American dance, I already had unreal aspirations of becoming the next world champion Latin dancer. As mentioned before, gymnastics gave me the discipline to work towards my lofty goal– I’d wake up every day at 5:00am to practice before school; then, at lunchtime, I’d practice in the school’s dance studio; after school, I’d head straight to practice and train for a few hours before going home and doing homework. Pretty extreme behavior, for a 16-year-old. Driven, indeed. Admirable, even. And I knew all this. I loved my highs. I wore them like a badge for the world to see. Except, at the time, I didn’t know that my increasingly intense highs were signs of a festering illness. The more I played into the mania and reinforced such states as POSITIVE phenomena, the more severe they became. And soon enough, I began to experience mania’s evil twin– depression. I’d work and work and work and push myself over the edge, until I’d inevitably crash and burn.

Here’s an analogy. You are situated at the top of a mountain. Something tips you over the edge, and you begin to fall. Your descent represents the mania. You fall slowly at first, then faster and faster. The ride may be exhilarating. The adrenaline’s rushing and you love the feeling. Eventually, though, your ride will end with a painful crash. That’s the depression. And it hurts like hell. Somehow, though, you find a way to get up, and climb back up the deadly mountain. You get up and brush off the dust. Then it’s up, up, up once more, until… boom. You are back where you started. Maybe perching on the peak of an even higher mountain than before. It’s an unstable and dangerous position to be in. Even the slightest trigger– an upcoming competition, an important project deadline, a big exam– will drive you over the edge again. And soon enough, you will find yourself on the hard concrete once more. Limbs and soul alike, crushed. The magnitude of such ups and downs only get worse over time, until one day, you may never be able to pick yourself back up from the fall. Then it’s all over.

This is what it feels like to live with manic depressive disorder. I know that my “highs” are not really my friends. They are dangerously addictive toxins. My manias, exhilarating and thrilling they may be, are NOT on my side. They will always lead me to depression. They will lead me to insanity. Left untempered, they will lead me along the path of suicide.

So… is a short period’s worth of heightened motivation, productivity and creativity, worth it when you put everything– your relationships, your health, your life– at peril? I must ask myself this, each time I find myself longing for my past manias, and on the brink of throwing away my mitigating medications. Each manic episode I experience is not a step forward, as I’ve hitherto believed– it’s a huge step backwards on my path to recovery.

Whoo. That was one lengthy, draining rant on the nature of mania. Here I was, telling you guys about my day, until I got on the topic of mental health, and BAM!!! The train started chuggin’ away. Apologies, guys, for the frenetic tirade I just powered through. To sum up– speaking to my therapist today helped me gain more insight on my relationship with my illness, and in turn, learn how to better manage it.

I was going to continue talking about the remainder of my day– dance practice, followed by a pretty useless study session for tomorrow’s stats midterm, followed by a professional development night– but it’s 9:44pm now, and I really should get back to studying.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s reflective piece! And I promise it won’t be as lengthy as today’s!

 

 

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia

UCLA Sophomore Year: Fall Quarter, Week 2– Mania, Medical School, and Anti-Romance

Hello lovelies!

It is exactly 9:00pm here at Powell library as I begin this hasty post. I must be brief with today’s post, as I have a Russian quiz tomorrow and statistics midterm on Tuesday to study for!

One major theme of this past week is that of time management.

When I first decided to move into the university apartments, I didn’t consider the new responsibilities of apartment life– namely, the cooking and maintenance of the place– to be much of a time suck. Turns out, I was wrong. The time you spend cooking your meals, sweeping the floor, doing groceries and washing dishes, DO add up. I’m only taking three pretty chill classes this quarter (plus dance outside of school), yet I still find myself working till odd hours and waking up extra early to fit in more study time. It’s probably just a transitional bump in the road. I’ll learn how to better juggle the newfound responsibilities that come with living off campus, and all will be well soon enough.

Second point of discussion– my manias. Oh, how I miss them so. The emotional highs, periods of heightened motivation and waves of free-flowing creativity. I began taking the mood stabilizers shortly before heading back to UCLA, and I’ve since stopped experiencing my manic episodes. I can’t seem to tell whether or not this is a good thing… Sure, my moods are more stable, and I’m no longer knocked around by the dangerous emotional roller coasters that have characterized most my life; but I miss feeling unstoppable. We all know this aspiration of being “unstoppable” is simply another of my illusions, as no human on Earth can go on full throttle, forever. Without maintenance and self care, we burn out. I know that, without my stabilizers, there is a good chance I will continue along my path of mania, until one day, those very manias that I long for at this moment will morph into insanity. Still. I wonder if I can still achieve the things I do, without the mania driving me. I question whether or not my past achievements were genuine. Have all my accomplishments in school and gymnastics been just the manic Belicia talking? Am I and the mania one in the same? Have I just been “cheating” my way through life, with the heightened emotional states serving as a turbo booster and driving force? Is that the only reason why I’ve been able to achieve?

No. I don’t need my manic episodes to be an accomplished person. I must free myself from the chains of the highly addictive manic drug. I must learn to thrive without my intoxicating best friend and worst enemy.

There’s so much more I wish to say on the topic of manic depression and bipolar disorder. But that’s a story for another day.

This past week, I’ve also been reconsidering the path of medical school. I’m taking a greater interest in the field of psychiatry– definitely an underserved, underappreciated field with higher demands than ever. I’ve been blessed to have been seen by only the best psychiatrists, but I know that, more often than not, psychiatrists do not provide adequate mental and emotional care to their patients. Many psychiatrists see their roles as simply that of the robotic “pill dispenser”, and leave the deep talk therapy stuff to the clinical psychologists. I would like to be the psychiatrist who not only can help her patients on the physical scale, but also be able to provide emotional support to those in need. I don’t see why I can’t provide individuals with physical, mental and emotional care. I want to empower myself in all different dimensions to best help those around me, just as my past and current therapists/psychiatrists have.

Psychiatry or not, I am certain of one thing– my fascination with the human psyche. How cool would it be to look deep into the souls of people from ALL walks of life? To collect so many stories, some touching, some inspiring, some rife with tragedy and pain– what a gift that would be. In many ways, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are what I call the “Transcendents”. They’re the ones holding the access card to the workings of the human mind. They are the special people we go to when we need to release our greatest inner turmoils; the individuals we divulge our deepest, darkest secrets and truths to. What a special thing it is to peer into another human’s pain-stricken soul and fix the underlying issues to ultimately bring that person happiness.

On a whole different note– DANCE! Well, is dance really that different from the former topic of discussion, though? Dance is an art that makes visible to world the raw, human soul of its perpetrator. I love dance, and I know I will continue to dance as long as my body can handle it. Lately, I haven’t been dancing as much as I wish I could, with my time management askew and all. Today, I had dance practice with my new partner. I surprised myself with my impatience and snappiness during our first practice outside of lessons. I was not intentionally trying to be a bitch during training today. I am a passionate person with great expectations and an eagerness to see immediate results. That mindset is all well and good when I’m alone, like in gymnastics. Put another person in the equation, though, and things get trickier. I can’t expect everyone I work with to carry themselves with the same focus and expectation of perfection– the latter, not something to boast about, by the way. While my impatience and grouchiness was in part justified by the fact that my partner showed up an hour and twenty minutes late for practice, I still admit that I must learn to control my explosive passion, which can often sweep me off my feet– and my wits, for that matter.

Alrighty, friends. Lots more to say, but so little time. I must get back to my studies. Oh, one more thing– romance. I can confidently say that I’m absolutely terrified of the prospect of bringing a significant other into my life at this moment. As much as I mope about never having had a boyfriend before, a huge part of me longs to stay in the comfort of the single life. The single life is great! You get to focus on you, and ONLY you. The idea of sharing my heart and life with another person at this point in my life is just too much for me to handle. It’s scary. It’s terrifying. No thank you. Maybe I’m just not emotionally ready for a relationship right now. Will I ever be, then? Oh, how to reconcile personal ambition with the human need for intimate companionship… One of my friends told me the other day that, if I wanted to, I could get a boyfriend in a day, being the “cute Asian girl” I am. Thanks for the compliment, Ishan! Let’s focus on the first part of his statement– that I could get a boyfriend, “if I wanted to”. Do I want to? I don’t think so. The very idea of having a serious boyfriend is so foreign to me, it’s enough to get my palms sweaty and heart racing. At this rate, I’m pretty sure my brothers will be married by the time I begin to feel ready to open my heart to another person. Lol. Well, anyway… it’s 9:46pm now. Better get back to studying! Apologies for the rushed nature of tonight’s blog post… there’s only 24 hours in the day, right?

 

 

 

Best,

Belicia

 

UCLA Sophomore Year: Fall Quarter, Week 1

Hey guys! It’s currently 6:30am as I sit here in Powell library. The study room is nearly empty, as it is only week 1 of the quarter. Aka, the calm before the storm. For me, though, I’ve been playing a game of catch up these past few days, as lots have been going on extracurricularly!

Monday

The week began with a pretty chill day. I had only one class that day– Russian 1. We continued learning new letters of the Russian alphabet, as well as a few basic vocabulary words, like мама (mom), папа (dad), это (this) кто (who). The remainder of my day was spent studying, preparing for my two theater/singing auditions the following day, working out and dancing. Life was good.

Tuesday

Tuesday was a formative day, full of firsts and lasts, triumph and tragedy. First, the bright side: I survived my first ever auditions in the realm of theater and music! At 8:30pm, I auditioned for UCLA HOOLIGAN theater’s fall quarter production, “Cabaret”. I performed Velma Kelly’s famous monologue from “Chicago” and sang Cher’s “Welcome to Burlesque”. Both artistic choices aligned with the very, VERY strong sex appeal of “Cabaret”– right up my alley, considering my background in Latin-American dancing. The audition went pretty well, considering it was my first ever audition of the like. I forgot some words of my monologue, but I glided right through the blunder. As for the song, I knew I didn’t have a strong vocal background, so for what I lacked in singing ability, I made up for in dancing and strong, sexual seduction. I pretty much danced my way through the song, improving sexy dance moves along the way. The panelists seemed caught by surprise by my unique approach to the vocal performance, and many exchanged glances and smiles at one another. Hopefully that was a good sign that they enjoyed the performance, sprinkled with winks and hip gyrations.

After “Cabaret” auditions were over, I headed over to the acapella audition, with my best friend and roommate Chiana by my side for moral support. Decked head to toe in “Cabaret” attire– black crop top, black shorts, black fishnet tights, black high heels, a red and black boa scarf, short fishnet gloves, and theatrical makeup– I quickly explained to the friendly panelists that I’d just come from a theater audition. After pleasantries were exchanged (the audition was a lot less formal than anticipated), I began to sing. We were required to sing a few scales, perform a prepared choice of song, and imitate a few piano tunes on the spot. My scales were alright– not terrible but not perfect either. I chose to sing “West Coast” by Lana Del Rey, one of my favorite artists. I was to sing one verse and one chorus– a relief, as I had expected to sing the entire piece. The song was probably my strongest portion of the audition, as I had prepared extensively beforehand. After the song was the tonal exercise– one of the panelists would play a short tune on the keyboard, and you were to imitate the tune through song. I think I did pretty well on that final portion of the audition. No major flubs or anything of the sort. I walked out of that audition room feeling victorious, regardless of the result. I had done something I’d hitherto been afraid of doing, and in the end, it wasn’t all that bad! I had put myself in a novel, vulnerable position and did so not in spite of being nervous, but BECAUSE I was afraid. As I grow, I’m learning more and more each day that living– real living– does not happen when you stay in the cave of comfort. One must summon the courage to take those first steps out of the shadows and into the light. As I write this, I’m envisioning Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. You all should read his short work– it’s immensely enlightening (pun intended). Anyway, I see tremendous self growth in that I no longer cower from fear, but am in fact drawn into it, like a moth to a flame. I no longer view the racing heartbeat, sweaty palms and tight throat as signs of weakness, but rather as signs of courage and strength. Simply showing up is half the battle. I encourage you all to take small steps out of your comfort zone each day. Raise your hand to ask a question in class. Say hi to your crush. Have a civil, diplomatic, assertive conversation with your boss about that well-earned raise you’ve been wanting. Attend that acting class you’ve always wanted to try, but were too afraid to do. In doing such things, you are adding on layers of empowerment and confidence to your skin. Oftentimes, the best opportunities in life lie well beyond the circle of comfort, so becoming best friends with the uncomfortable is actually a very important life skill, in my opinion. Have courage. Don’t take yourself all too seriously. Enjoy the process of growth! Rant, concluded.

After auditions were over, Chiana and I headed back to our glorious apartment. I changed out of my clothes, took a hot shower, removed my makeup, changed into my PJ’s and sat down to do homework. Before getting into study mode, I checked my Facebook status and scrolled down to see the most devastating news. My godmother had died that night, at 6:56pm. My heart dropped, and my first phone call went to my mom. I asked her if she knew, and she said she did, but did not wish to tell me, for fear of upsetting me. The rest of that night, I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I’d think about the sobering, heartbreaking reality– that my godmother was no longer here on Earth with us– and start crying. The following day, I wrote a eulogy for her, which you can read here. I am glad that my godmother no longer has to suffer in the prison of her cancerous body that’s been slowly withering away these past seven years.  She is in a better place now, at peace, and smiling down on her loved ones.

Wednesday

Nothing too crazy about today. Went to class, studied, danced, cooked. Oh yes, you heard that last one right, guys– I actually cooked something today! French toast– I know, nothing earth-shattering, but hey, it’s better than nothing! I also fried an egg and made some avocado toast. Points for no longer having to starve to death in my apartment!

Thursday and Friday

Not gonna lie, friends, but I don’t remember much of what happened on either of these days– not because I was drunk or wasted, but because I’m finishing this post on Tuesday, 10/10/17, and I can’t recall the events of three/four days ago. Case in point– probably nothing significant happened on those two days, otherwise I would have better recollection. I just studied and danced and cooked and cleaned. No big.

Also, an update: I DIDN’T GET INTO EITHER THE MUSICAL OR THE A CAPELLA GROUP! CUE THE TRUMPETS OF TRIUMPH AND VICTORY BELLS!

Why, you may well ask, am I so darn happy over such “failure”? Because that’s just it, guys. My “failure” is rightly sandwiched in between quotation marks because I didn’t lose anything at all. For once in my life, I look at rejection as a marker of growth and a lesson to be learned from. My true victory stems from the fact that I courageously tried my hand at something absolutely terrifying– singing and acting in public. Well, I survived! And not only that, but I really enjoyed this new experience and, most importantly, had great fun with it.

In the past, I used to hate being in the vulnerable state of beginner-hood, unsteady and unsure of everything, looking up at everyone from the bottom of the food chain. While I admit that trying new and daring things, like starting a new job, taking on a new research position, giving a big speech, or auditioning for a singing and theater group, still gives me the jitters, I now recognize the tremendous value of embodying the beginner. Without being strapped down by the shackles of expectation, pursuit of perfection and protection of a status, the beginner is completely free to experiment, learn and grow. The moment you begin cowering from risk, whether out of fear of failure or uncertainty, you stop growing.

There’s a lot more I wish to say about the topic of beginner-hood, but I must get back to my studies now. I will end this post with some words by Steve Jobs.

In his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, Jobs said, “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life.”

This is one of my favorite quotations of all time, as the depth of its truth knows no end. When you’re at rock bottom, the only direction you can go is up. When you’re at the very very top, the potential for growth is shadowed by all sorts of bullshi* like the need to defend an empire and reputation, and the crippling expectation of protecting your mask of perfection. As I grow, I learn that being the “best” does not necessarily live up to all the pomp and glory placed on this revered, abstract concept.

I’ll continuing writing weekly updates throughout the rest of my sophomore year at UCLA! Talk to you all soon!

 

 

 

Best,

Belicia

 

Eulogy to My Godmother

It is with a heavy heart that I write today of my late godmother’s passing, last night at 6:56pm.

Her name was Mary. As kids, my brothers and I would, in accordance with the Chinese custom, call her Auntie Mary. When I was 8 years old, on May 1st, 2006, Auntie Mary became my godmother, and from that point on, I addressed her not as Auntie Mary, but as “K Ma”– the Chinese word for godmother.

In 2010, doctors found a tumor in K Ma’s thymus. She was diagnosed with thymoma, or cancer of the thymus. Sadly, the tumor was deemed inoperable. And so she fought, for seven long years.

These past couple years have been especially tough for her. The cancer spread, fast. K Ma lost so much weight– my hand could almost wrap completely around the diameter of her forearm. Her blood platelet levels dropped to a mortally low level. She was constantly in and out of the hospital, receiving transfusion after transfusion.

On the outside, her body withered away before our very eyes. Inside, though, stood a resounding spirit that screamed resilience and steadfast hope and bravery. Never once did she lose heart, in spite of the monster that ate away at her from the inside out.

I admire her positivity and love for life till the very end. She was so confident– a people person indeed. She always smiled and had a witty, sometimes biting sense of humor.

I remember our last meal together at the Sheraton Hotel in San Francisco. Service was slow, and K Ma was not afraid to call out the waiters for not doing their jobs right. You show em’ how it’s done, K Ma!

I will miss our May 1st anniversary lunches and dinners in the city; birthday celebrations and 4th of July BBQ’s with her and her family, whom we are lucky to have in our lives; shopping sprees and expensive haircuts with the Japanese hair salon artist, Yoshi, whom she introduced me to; laughs and talk of boys and my barren love life.

I will always remember how she flew down to Irvine, despite doctors’ warnings against traveling, to watch me compete at my first ballroom dance competition.

I will truly miss having K Ma color my life.

I am grateful that I was able to see my K Ma one last time, the day before I left for my sophomore year at UCLA. 10 days ago. She was going to get a new iPhone so we could Facetime while I was away at college. That time never came. I had no idea that September 24th would be the last time I’d see her. I refused to believe that our time together on this Earth was reaching an end. I knew K Ma was very very sick, but I was in complete denial. Facing the truth simply hurt too much. I was hopeful that she’d bounce back, like all the other close calls she had in the past. I regret that I was not by her side when she died.

I am comforted, however, by the knowledge that K Ma is no longer in pain, and is lives peacefully on in a better place. She now watches over her loved ones, and I know that she will love, protect and guide me until my dying day.

Oh, K Ma… how I wish you could have remained on this Earth longer. I wish you could be there when I experience love for the first time. I wish you could proudly watch as I walk across the graduation stage, UCLA diploma in hand. I wish you could stand by my side on my wedding day. I wish you could have met my firstborn child, and given him or her the undying love you gave me.

K Ma, if you can hear me now, I want to tell you how much I love you and how much you inspire me to be better. Your last words to me were to study hard and become successful… for you. I know you’d want me to be happy and live a rich, fulfilling life. Please know that I will not fail you, and I WILL make you proud one day. 

Life Update 10/2/17: Apartment Life, Yacht Party, and Theater/Acapella Auditions !!!

Hi guys! Happy October! It’s currently 8:25am on this serene Monday morning here at UCLA. I’m sitting at a desk inside Powell library, doing some early morning writing before I head off to Russian class at 9:30am.

I apologize for not having posted in several days. Life has been super hectic since the day I moved into my university apartment, a week ago.

Some little life updates:

Mental Health: I’ve been a lot more stable since my psychiatrist upped the dosage of my Lamictal and added on the Abilify. Now, I don’t know if my newfound stability is completely attributed to the medication, or if I’m also adapting to my manic-depressive illness and learning to better cope with the demons. I do hope that the latter is true, to some extent. I have no aspirations of relying on medications forever– I hope that, one day, I will be cured of the illness and be able to live a steadier life, without the mitigating effects of drugs.

Dance: Last week was a whirlwind of dance tryouts, one right after the other. While I have yet to make a final decision about a partner, I have a pretty good mind on which one to choose. It is not only skill level I must consider when looking for a partner– it’s largely logistics, including physical distance and availability to practice. As a college student, I have neither the time nor money to commute long distances for a partner, which is why it is so adamant for me to find a guy close by UCLA. Of course, I cannot be too picky– as long as the guy can dance to some degree and is willing to work hard and improve quickly, I am satisfied.

Daily routine: I’m happy to say that I’ve cemented down my daily routine of sleeping early (latest 11:30pm) and waking up early, at around 5:00am. I make myself breakfast– usually Greek yogurt, fruit and/or granola cereal– then head to the on-campus gym for a morning workout/dance training session. Afterwards, I take a shower at the gym, lug my 3+ bags of things to Powell library, and busy myself with homework, writing and research until classes begin. I love the feeling of being unstoppably productive. Exhausted as I may be at the end of the day, I feel that, in pushing myself hard to achieve my goals and improve myself, my life becomes a fulfilling one. It is only when such states of productivity go to the extreme modes of madness and mania that I tread a steep, slippery slope. But more on that later.

Social life: Week 0 is the week that boasts various festivities and back-to-school aplomb. Each day held something new in store– the Enormous Activities Fair, the first football game of the school year, the Westwood block party, and much more. I didn’t partake in most activities, as I was busy with dance tryouts and training. Gotta prioritize my dance life over my social life, you feel? Last Saturday, however, I broke routine and decided to have a good time at a friend of a friend’s birthday party. Melody, the birthday girl, was turning 21, and to celebrate her big day, she invited a ton of people to her lavish party, set on a four-level yacht! The over-the-top celebration was more “bourgeoise” than any college event I’d ever been to (although, that’s not saying much, as I haven’t done much else beyond attending the occasional frat party). There were casino games; a fancy buffet; a cotton candy machine; a candy-jewelry-making station; a dance floor with flashing lights; a sky deck where guests could take Instagram-worthy photos; a red carpet that covered the gangway leading to the boat; and every dessert you could possibly imagine. I’m telling you, the party was fit for a queen. It was more lavish than some weddings, I must say! I had a wonderful time that evening, especially on the dance floor. You know what they say– work hard, play hard! And play hard, I did!

Apartment life: So, confession time. I still haven’t learned to cook, nor do I plan to anytime soon. I know, it’s really bad of me, and worse yet that I’ve consciously resigned myself to the sad fate of eating Chinese take-out and cold leftovers for the rest of my days. This past week, I’ve been subsisting off of oatmeal, granola cereal, Greek yogurt with Mannuka honey, fruit, tea eggs, water with Vitamin-C powder, energy bars and tortilla chips. Not a balanced diet at all. I’ve actually been losing weight over the short course of seven days, because of the very fact that I can’t cook food. Terrible as this may sound, I’m actually thrilled about the weight-loss, though I know that I’m not losing weight in a healthy, controlled and conscious manner. Thankfully, my mother sent down a care package– actually, three boxes’ worth of care packages– filled with food and other apartment-life staples. She even sent down a Swiffer mop, which I thought was hilarious. Anyway, despite the new responsibilities that come with living in an off-campus apartment, I still do not regret my decision to leave the dorms early. Not one bit. As I always say, I LOVE the feeling of independence and privacy that comes with living in your own place. You really feel like you’re residing in a home, instead of a small, cramped room amidst many.

Theater auditions: Yes, you heard that right, guys. On Tuesday night, I will be auditioning for the same production I’ll be helping choreograph: “Cabaret”. My primary motive for auditioning was simply to get out of my comfort zone and do something absolutely terrifying and in direct opposition to my natural instinct of staying far from fear. I will be performing Velma Kelly’s famous monologue from the musical “Chicago”, and singing Cher’s “Welcome to Burlesque”. In addition to auditioning for “Cabaret”, I’ll be trying out for one of UCLA’s acapella groups, “On That Note”. It’s one of the easier groups to get into– fitting, seeing as I have zero formal training in singing, and the only audience I’ve performed for is my showerhead. The auditions are tomorrow night, so wish me luck!

Alright, I must get back to studying. Gotta remember that, while all these extracurriculars I’m taking on are well and good, my top priority here at UCLA is academics (as my parents incessantly drill into my artistic, dreaming brain). I’ll talk to you guys soon! Ta-ta!

 

 

Best,

Belicia

Start of Sophomore Year at UCLA

Hi guys! These past few days have been pretty hectic. With moving into my university apartment and getting prepped for the coming academic year at UCLA, I’ve been left little to no time to write.

As usual, when I haven’t written or reflected in an extended period of time, my hunger to write is magnified. I don’t even know where to begin with tonight’s post!

It’s 9:41pm as I sit at my desk. My best friend and roommate, Chiana, is jammin’ to Marina and the Diamond’s famous hit, “Primadonna Girl”. The smell of vinegar permeates apartment 108, owing to one of our apartment-mate’s late night cooking shenanigans. I just finished my night routine, so I feel fresh, clean, relaxed and ready for bed. But first, I must write, lest I wish to stay awake with my screaming thoughts pounding to be let out.

University Apartment Life

This is my first year in the university apartments. I’ve got to say, since the minute I moved into this two-bedroom two-bathroom nook, I’ve LOVED every aspect of apartment life. The independence. The privacy. The large(r) space. The quiet. The locale.

Chiana and I share the apartment with two other girls, Linda and Van. They are the apartment-mates from HEAVEN. The four of us get along so well. Before meeting the girls, I wasn’t sure how well we’d get along. Of course, I knew Chiana and I would be fine, as we’re practically sisters. I’d never met the other two gals, though, so I was really hoping we’d jive well. Thankfully, Linda and Van are so kind, genial and cooperative. We’ve developed an effective grocery shopping methodology: we buy our products individually with our own money, and just share each others’ food/supplies (unless otherwise specified). I think this method works well for those who wish to evade conflict, as it removes the potential issue surrounding “fairness”– what if it was your turn to buy the groceries, but you barely used the products you’d bought with your own money, while your apartment-mates devoured them whole? That wouldn’t be fair to you, now would it?

Move-in was smooth, for the most part. Like last year, I brought a crapload of things to college. My brother Austin moved in before I did, on Wednesday of last week. He and my parents drove down and took my four boxes with them, which Austin then stored in his spacious dorm room until my arrival. My friend Shirley graciously took my large blue luggage with her when she drove down to LA last Saturday morning. After performing at a wedding on Sunday, I spent Monday finishing up my packing, and on Tuesday, I was out the door by 8:30am, one large luggage and one small luggage in hand. Yeah. I definitely pack lightly.

I arrived at my apartment at 1:00pm. After dropping off my things, I headed to the residential dining halls to eat lunch with my brother Austin and our good high school friend, Roy. After that, the three of us moved my four boxes and one big luggage (stored in Shirley’s room) from the residential halls to my apartment. It’s so funny how easy it was to write that out– the actual process of moving my things down a hill in two oversized carts was anything but easy. Let’s just say, I ended the trek damp with sweat and barefoot with my pink Calvin Klein shoes in hand (the rough fabric of my seemingly innocuous shoes had scuffed off the skin of my heels to reveal two angry, painful blisters).

I spent the rest of the day moving in, with minimal rest. I’m the kind of person who likes to unpack and organize and “homify” everything within 24 hours of moving into a new place (that’s one way I’m like my paternal grandmother). Miraculously, I finished most of my unpacking by evening-time. I then headed to John Wooden Center for an hour-and-a-half dance practice. After arriving back at the apartment at 10:00pm, I did some more room organizing, made a grocery-shopping list, called my mom, and went to bed.

Ok– why did I suddenly go into narrative mode, recounting the events of the past few days? That’s a post for another time. Back to apartment life.

I love everything about living off campus. We are conveniently situated in the heart of Westwood Village, with restaurants and movie theaters and beauty salons and outlets a short walking distance away. No longer must I live in the confined quarters of the residential halls, with the noise of rowdy neighbors doing God-knows-what blasting through the paper-thin walls and germs of disease crawling through the stained carpets to wreak havoc on its residents during flu season. Start-of-school festivities are magnified in the residence halls, which are occupied by predominantly underclassmen. As much as I enjoy a little joyous cheer, I feel that the back-to-school histrionics are a bit much for my taste. I loved it as a freshman. Now, as a sophomore, I’d rather just quickly and quietly move in and proceed onward with my mission at UCLA– earn my degree and grow immensely, whilst ardently pursuing my passions for writing and dancing– and now, as it turns out, musical theater! But I will get to that story in a little bit.

Only problem with apartment life is, I CAN’T COOK! I haven’t cooked a single meal in my life. Aside from a fried egg. Yeah. Kind of a big issue. On the bright side, at least this situation will force me to learn how to cook, seeing as I’ve had little to no motivation to do so in the past. Learning how to cook is one of the first steps towards becoming independent.

Speaking of independence… I think living in the apartments is a perfect segue into living in your own place as an adult. It’s a nice transition from dorm life– you have your own kitchen and bathroom to stock; you must do groceries on a weekly rotation; you must vacuum and keep the apartment tidy; you learn how to cook on a user-friendly stove/oven. The good thing is, the uni apartments come fully furnished, so you don’t have to concern yourself with the daunting task of buying furniture.

 

Goals for Upcoming Year

As usual, I’ve laid out a list of goals I’d like to tackle this coming academic year at UCLA.

  1. Take care of mental health. I NEED to make this a priority. No matter how busy I am, I must make time for self-care. Health before all else. How can I operate effectively if I am on the verge of a mental breakdown? Thankfully, I’ve already set up appointments with my psychiatrist down in LA, as well as with a new therapist. I discovered that there’s a Kaiser Permanente in Santa Monica, which is a LOT closer to campus than the one I went to in the past. Having survived the tumult of freshman year, I go into my second year at UCLA with greater confidence in my ability to juggle all my commitments, without mentally killing myself.
  2. Do well in school. Obviously, this is a must. Doing well in school is something that I value highly, and no doubt my type A personality and perfectionist character drives me to do the best I can in whatever I do.
  3. Continue my growth as a dancer. Many of you guys who follow my journey closely may be wondering, “What the hell is going on with you and your dancing?” Well, I did do a lot of dancing over the summer. I competed at a big competition and performed at a 200-person wedding. I went to New York for a week to scout for dance partners and buy a new Latin dress. I immersed myself in the dance business to see if such a world is for me. The verdict: at this point in time, I’d like to put my education as my first priority before dance. I have no aspirations of dropping out of college to pursue a dance career. As a fellow dance friend eloquently explained to me, “I do think developing your mind is extremely undervalued in the ballroom world. A lot of people never get an education or they feel like their time at university is like a punishment that is holding them back from developing in dance. I believe it’s completely the opposite. If you want to make waves in the dancing world it’s not only about your physical training but also the breadth and depth of your life experience and knowledge which allows you to connect to the people around you.” I couldn’t agree more with her. My education will undoubtedly add meaning and richness to my dancing. It’ll give me something to express– dancing, after all, is not merely a series of technical steps, but an art of creative expression. So, I have decided to major in psychology– a field of immense interest. It is also a much more manageable workload than pre-med, which will leave me a lot more time for dance training, competitions and performances. While the job prospects for a psychology degree are questionable, I trust that, in three years’ time, things will work themselves out. I needn’t know what I will do after college, at this very moment. As I always say, “Lean into the uncertainty.” Embrace it. Live it. Love it. Words much easier said than done, but we must try as best we can to embody them.
  4. Push myself out of my comfort zone. Forever and always. I used to hate the very idea of discomfort and uncertainty. It scared me, as it scares most. Humans, by nature, crave the comfort and safety of certainty. But where’s the growth and excitement in that? I have planned plenty of extracurricular activities designed to cut away at the safety net holding me back from growth. This coming quarter, I’ll be one of the choreographers for UCLA HOOLIGAN theater’s fall production of the musical “Cabaret”. I’m also auditioning for the very same musical– my audition is next Wednesday at 8:10pm, and I have to prepare one song and one monologue. Seeing as I’ve never sang or acted in public before, I figure the experience should be fun. I’m also going to audition for the easiest a cappella group on campus. Not because I actually want to join, but because I want to do something that absolutely terrifies me– singing in public (without instrumentals to drown out my untrained voice). Also, my best friend Chiana and I made a deal– if she auditioned for “Cabaret” with me, then I’d audition for an a cappella group with her. She’s WAY better at singing than I am, by the way. But no matter. Life is not about limiting yourself to the things you’re good at. Challenge yourself and don’t be afraid of imperfection!

I must go now, friends! Gotta get some shut-eye before classes begin tomorrow. I will keep you updated on the many exciting events that’ll ensue this coming year.

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia