Blogmas Days 11 and 12: Sickness Galore!

Hey guys, sorry I didn’t post yesterday (Wednesday 12/28/16). I was feeling feverish and really out of it by the time my family and I got home from a hot pot dinner party, so I went straight to bed after changing into my pj’s.

Yesterday was an eventful day. At 11:30 a.m., my two brothers and I had lunch at Amici’s, an Italian restaurant, with a childhood friend, Warren. We were all so used to the college eating schedule, so we were in and out of the restaurant in 45 minutes! In retrospect, speeding through a “catching-up” meal like that kind of defeats the purpose of the long-awaited reunion, but you’d be surprised at how much you can fit into a 45 minute conversation should you surpass the small talk and get right to the nitty-gritty. I’ve always wondered why it is socially implied to make small talk with people you just meet, instead of going straight for the real talk. I personally never enjoyed dabbling on the surface with cliché questions about the weather, the traffic, etc. Yet I still find myself doing it from time to time, mostly when I’m at a loss of interesting things to discuss. I guess that’s one purpose of small talk– filling in awkward silences. But then again, why must silences be uncomfortable? Why can’t we be OKAY with simply, being?

Excuse my little small talk digression. Just a thought I wanted to get out. It’s currently 4:34 p.m. as I’m writing this post. Today was pretty miserable. I pretty much stayed in bed the entire day, plagued with fever, cold sweats and non-stop coughing. I’m totally reminded of the period of sickness I endured at UCLA, except now I’m home on break, with my mom here to make me hot soup and tea with honey and lemon. Earlier today, the entire family was scheduled to have dim sum with one of my dad’s old high school classmates and his wife. I decided to forgo the lunch, however, since I was still feeling really sick. Last night was rough. Slept first thing when we got back from the dinner party. Woke up at 3:00 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep. Basically just tossed and turned until morning came. My room is a total war zone. The blankets are kicked off the bed and I have cups and bowls strewn every which way.

So, back to yesterday (I apologize about the complete lack of organization of this blog piece. Parallels the current state of my room, I guess). After the lunch of Caesar salad and New York Cheese Pizza, my bro’s and I made a quick Nob Hill run, where we bought almond milk. When we got home, I went back to bed. I slept until 4:30 p.m., when Chris woke me up, telling me to get ready for that night’s dinner party. We were invited to the Espiritu’s home for a hot-pot dinner. Dr. Espiritu is our family’s dentist. Auntie Maria is his wife, and they have two kids– Kyle and Kaitlyn, both in high school. We go WAY back with all of them, but we haven’t seen each other in years, after the busyness of life carried us our own directions. Thankfully, yesterday, we had the chance to catch up on lost time! I really did enjoy myself at the party. Dinner was amazing, courtesy of Auntie Maria’s incredible efforts. I absolutely adore the family dog, a Chihuahua and Poodle mix. Her name is “Sexy” and she is the friendliest (and might I add, sexiest) dog ever! The party went on till past midnight, as the adults had a lot to talk about, with their children all grown up. Towards the end of the night, I was feeling really sick again, so I took a nap on the family room sofa. All-in-all, though, I had a great night with old family friends!

Fast-forward to today. As I mentioned already, I stayed in bed the whole day, with the exception of getting up to go to the bathroom, drink hot soup, and take a shower (I couldn’t stand the sticky feeling of sweat all over my body). Watched some Fuller House. Did some social media dives. Listened to a TED Talk podcast. I dream of giving a TED talk one day. You know, once I’m cool enough to actually give one. And when I overcome my fear of public speaking. Next quarter at UCLA, I’d really like to join Bruin Toastmasters or something to get me up and speaking. I’m a lot better than I used to be, but I still get pretty nervous when I have to give a presentation or something like that. I have faith that with time and practice and the courage to fail, I will be able to overcome this!

Okay, friends. Sorry this post wasn’t more interesting, haha. If I don’t post tomorrow, it’ll be because I’m recovering. But hopefully I will be better before the New Year! Speaking of which, I’m currently writing a piece for the Daily Bruin on the psychology of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ll share with you guys my outlook on the whole tradition of resolutions in a later post. For now, here are some links to articles on New Year’s Resolutions that I stumbled upon during my research:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resolution.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201512/6-reasons-you-probably-wont-achieve-your-resolutions

http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

I hope these articles are able to give you guys some guidance on how to set more effective and realistic resolutions, thus boosting your chances of sticking to them!

3 Gratitudes:

  • my mom to take care of me when I’m sick!
  • my grandma, who makes the best anti-cough soup ever!
  • the Espiritu family for being so fun and loyal all these years

 

2017, BOY ARE WE READY FOR YOU!

 

-Belicia

 

Blogmas Day 10: Sick Day :(

Hey guys! This post is gonna be a quickie, because as you can tell from the title, I am sick!!!

I woke up around 11:00 a.m. and was feeling pretty okay. Mom, Dad, Chris, Grandma and I headed out to dim sum shortly after I woke up (Austin was at the gym, I believe). We ate at this dim sum place we’ve never been to, and the food was delectable! My appetite was up, and I didn’t start feeling sick until after we had finished eating.

On the way back home, we stopped by the Marina to pick up some food. My dad, grandma and I stayed in the car while Chris and Mom shopped. By that time, my head was pounding pretty badly, and I felt pretty weak and dizzy. The back of my eyeballs burned when I blinked– yet another tell-tale sign of sickness. I slept the entire car ride back.

When we got home, it was around 2:00 p.m. I went straight to bed and woke up at 6:00 p.m. Originally, I had planned to go out for a Vietnamese dinner with my high school friend, Denis. I was really looking forward to catching up with him and was super disappointed that I had to cancel the dinner due to my health!

The rest of the night has pretty much been comprised of intermittent naps and Netflix and YouTube binges. I absolutely adore figure skating, and I’ve been watching a lot of Evgenia Medvedeva, Elena Radionova and Yuzuru Hanyu– all incredible skaters. At 7:15 p.m., I phoned Chris from my sick room and asked him to bring me some Tylenol and water from downstairs. He kindly obliged, and after I took the Tylenol, my headache got ten times better. I managed to hobble downstairs for dinner at around 7:30 p.m.– Chris had baked some really delicious salmon, so I couldn’t miss out! I’ve been drinking plenty of fluids and going to the bathroom a lot, so hopefully my illness will be gone soon. I’ve had a cold for a really long time now, but it’s strange that only now it would progress into something worse (flashbacks to my 2-week period of sickness at UCLA). My grandma, Mom, and Dad are also experiencing varying degrees of illness. Something is definitely going around our household… Austin won’t stand two inches next to any of us sick folk, since he plans to play flag football on Friday with friends.

I’m sorry today’s Blogmas wasn’t all that interesting! I absolutely hate being sick, which is all the more reason why I should be thankful for my relatively good health.

I guess the one interesting thing that happened today was my questioning pre-med, yet again. Except, this time, I really did consider the alternative of a career other than becoming a doctor. If I decide not to go to med school, I’d probably major in psychology, go on to grad school, and get my PhD. As for what field of psychology I’d go into, I’m not sure yet. There’s counseling, research, teaching, all sorts of options to consider. I’m genuinely interested in psychology, and even though this field may have a bad rep among skeptics, I think it’s important for me to pursue what I love, despite what others think. Over dim sum, I casually brought up this idea to my parents. My dad nodded his head in approval. My mom didn’t object. See? No parental pressure, which I’m utterly grateful for. Plus, if I did just psychology, I’d have a LOT more time for dancing and writing. But again– these are just ideas. I’m not completely ruling out medicine as a career path. I need to explore the medical field and get more data before I make this big change.

Alright guys, I’m going to bed now. Hopefully I’ll be better by tomorrow! Have a good night!

 

4 Gratitudes:

  • supportive parents
  • Tylenol
  • general good health
  • Chris!!!

 

-Belicia

Blogmas Day 9: Oh, Happy Day!

I awoke from my restful slumber at 10 a.m. The first thing I did upon awakening was pull out my laptop and finish up Blogmas Day 7/8, which was actually due last night. This past weekend has been pretty draining, with Christmas parties and family outings and such. I had a great time, though, and am ready to get back to regular Blogmas posts.

Finishing up Blogmas Days 7 and 8 took me all the way until 12:30 p.m. If you guys haven’t seen it yet, please check it out! Although, fair warning: this post is a doozy.

After writing, I did my morning routine and headed downstairs. I had originally planned on going to San José to meet with my friend from UCLA, Ivy, who happens to be in NorCal this week. However, I didn’t know my parents had made plans to take us out for lunch! So I had to reschedule with Ivy. It’s okay, though– we have the next four years to bond!

For lunch, it was between Japanese, Pho noodles, dim sum, or ABC café, which serves a whole variety of Hong Kong-nese style dishes. We ended up settling on ABC. I ordered a beef/tomato sauce over white rice. Dad had a similar thing, except his rice was covered with two different sauces. Mom and Chris had wonton soup noodles. Austin was not present– he went running with some friends. I was in good spirits throughout the meal. I had good food and a great family. What more could I ask for?

After lunch, we headed to the Marina to do some grocery shopping. I never like going to the back of the store, where the fish market is, because it wreaks of raw seafood. When I grimaced at the smell, my mom told me I had to get used to it, as I’d be doing this someday. I told her that I did not care for fish, and thus would never find myself in this section of the market. She replied that I still had to cook fish for my family. It’s like, seriously?! Why must I do that?! Anyway, after leaving the grocery store, my mom, Chris and I walked to a nearby bakery, where we bought a Black Forrest cake and coconut bread.

We got home at almost 4:00 p.m. By then, with our lunches sufficiently digested in our tummies, Chris, Dad, Austin and I decided to go to the gym! Chris and Austin took one car, while Dad and I took another. I drove us there and back. It was a smooth sail both ways, although I had a little trouble parking the car. Dad and I worked out until 5:30 p.m. I warmed up on the elliptical, and focused my workout on abs exercises. Lately, I’ve been incorporating a lot more machines into my workout than I’d used to. I struggled with using the device that resembles a single wheel with two handles on the side. You know which one I’m talking about? You go on your knees and, holding the device, roll out as far as you can go while keeping your core tight, and then roll back in. I can’t go out very far, lest I want to fall flat on my belly. I took the device over to my dad and asked him if I was using it correctly. While he was assessing my performance, a kind man walked up to us and suggested I put a slightly elevated cushioning underneath my knees, which should help me go out further. And it did!

At 5:30 p.m., my dad and I called it a day. Austin and Chris, who were still in the middle of weight training, said they’d come home at around 6:00 p.m.

I got home to the sound of my mother cooking on the brand new stove top. My grandma is usually the one who cooks dinner, but since she’s a bit under the weather, my mom took over. She was a making sautéed veggies, clams, greens, and abalone. As she cooked, I helped do the laundry (something I couldn’t do before college) and set the dinner table.

After my chores were completed, I plopped on my bed and read an excerpt from Dr. Pamela Wible’s book, Physician Suicide Letters Answered. The book discusses the huge problem of mental health illness among medical students and practicing physicians, and how many of these health care professionals suffer in silence with depression and suicidal thoughts. There was one story about a 3rd year medical student, Kaitlyn, who suffered from depression her entire life, unbeknownst to her parents. On paper, she was incredibly accomplished. In addition to being a stellar student, Kaitlyn was an artist, poet, writer and dedicated marathon runner. To her parents, she was always happy. But inside, Kaitlyn suffered. And so, she decided that the only logical way out was not to seek help, for doing so may harm her medical career, but to kill herself. And so, she took her own life. This seemingly happy, highly-accomplished young woman with a promising future as a physician, ended her life at the ripe age of 23. Her mother, so grief-stricken that she had failed to notice her daughter’s signs of depression, just couldn’t cope with the ensuing guilt, and ended her own life.

This tragic story definitely illustrates the mental health crisis faced by nurses, doctors, and aspiring doctors. It’s a field where mental health stigma runs the deepest. Doctors are obligated to report any mental health illness they may have. Many doctors worry that should knowledge of their mental health struggles become public information, they may have their medical licenses revoked. And so, many choose to suffer in silence. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The suicidal doctor. The one who heals and vows to do no harm, yet wanting to end his/her own life. Makes me question whether or not I, as an individual with a history of mental health problems, am well-suited for this particularly demanding profession.

It’s about 8:15 p.m. right now, and I really want to watch some Harry Potter before I go to bed. My favorite of the series is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, because the triwizard tournament is thrilling to watch.

3 Gratitudes:

  • Having my father in my life, who, despite facing physician’s burnout, is still powering through each day and staying strong.
  • Having a family and community of friends so understanding and compassionate about my issues with mental health. Never have I felt the urge to hide it or treat it as something to be ashamed of.
  • My warm bed

 

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow!

 

 

-Belicia

Blogmas Days 7 and 8: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!!!

Hey guys! I apologize for not uploading a blog post for the past couple days. My family and I spent an entire weekend celebrating Christmas! So today’s blog is gonna be a double-whammy Christmas special! Also, stay tuned for a regular Blogmas Day 9 later tonight!

Christmas Eve

I woke up at around 10 a.m. to  Chris yelling at me to get up, as we had to leave soon for a family outing in San Francisco. So I got out of bed and did my usual morning routine. After breakfast, I finished the movie Amelie, which I have officially deemed one of my all-time favorites. By 11:30 a.m., my family was still not ready to get going, leaving me wondering why Chris had rushed me out of bed. At a little past noon, we all piled into the white van and headed to the city for a day of sight-seeing and eating! I fell asleep on the car ride to SF. Once we arrived, the first order of business was to find a restaurant to eat at, just to keep us mildly satiated before the big Christmas Eve dinner we’d be having that night. We walked around Fisherman’s Wharf in search for a not-too-crowded eatery. Austin and Dad led the crew, as they’ve always been the ones to make most of the executive decisions in the family. I’m trying harder to play a bigger role in decision-making and contributing my opinion when we have to make family decisions, instead of letting others call the shots and mindlessly following. Finally, we found this seafood restaurant that had no waiting time! For lunch, I had fish and chips, fried calamari with ketchup and tartar sauce, crab cake, and some clam chowder. I had originally not intended on eating such a large (and unhealthy) meal, as I wanted to save room for dinner, but alas! I couldn’t control myself!

After lunch, we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf and did some sight-seeing, took some pictures. If you knew my mom, you’d know that she’s obsessed with taking pictures. Everywhere. I swear, she was a photographer in her past life! Anywho, her picture-taking antics can be quite annoying at times, especially when she insists on taking a gazillion photos of me and my brothers– so much so that our faces hurt from artificially smiling at her Samsung smartphone! That’s why, for Christmas, my brothers and I got her an intro to photography book. But more on that later…

We drove to downtown SF, where my mom used to hang out when she was attending SF State University, back in the olden days. We arrived at this scenic area overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and got out of the car. My mom led us along a trail, where she claims she used to jog at night when she was a student. I asked her if she had to “bundle up” in warm clothes when she jogged (my mom always makes us wear lots of layers when there’s even the slightest breeze outside), but to my surprise, she said she usually didn’t! As I don’t know much about my mom and her college days, I really appreciated her sharing some old stories. She recalled how, some days, she would walk along Broadway Street with friends, and her friend Cindy would shout her name really loudly. Unbeknownst to her, a “short Italian man” working as a strip club bouncer soon caught on. Every time my mom passed by the strip club to get back to her apartment after class, this bouncer would call her by her name and attempt to converse/flirt with her! At first, my mom was polite and smiled back, but eventually, she became “annoyed and angry” at this man, whom she did not care to associate with. One day, she called him off, telling him, “Stop talking to me!” That, I must say, was pretty bad-ass of my mom.

At around 3:30 p.m., we headed back home to get ready for the Christmas Eve party at our family friends’ house. I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say that we were all exhausted from the few hours we spent in SF. Chris and I fell asleep the entire car ride home. I felt sorry for my dad, who had to drive us there and back, and was probably even more tired than us kids. But the thing is, my dad never complains, even when he comes home from a long and hectic day at the hospital. I really admire that about him.

Once we arrived home, we all got dressed and dolled-up for the Christmas Party, hosted by long-time family friends, Auntie Ella and Uncle Henry. I always love their annual Christmas parties! Uncle Henry is an amazing chef, and Auntie Ella is always the most welcoming host and charismatic M.C.

When we arrived at Auntie Ella and Uncle Henry’s home, people were already filing in, and the kitchen was busy with preparation for the feast. Austin, Chris, my grandma and I got our own little table in corner of the house, while my parents sat at the large roundtable with other adults. Appetizers were already laid out– white grapes, little slices of sourdough bread and cool ranch flavored nacho chips with blue cheese dipping sauce. In the beginning, as not a lot of people were present yet, my brothers and I mingled amongst ourselves, nibbling on appetizers and trying to teach my grandma how to use the internet on her smartphone (a lost cause, as we soon discovered). My mom insisted on taking a plethora of photos, as the house was so beautifully decorated for Christmas. One thing that ticks off me and my brothers is my mom’s tendency to take FOREVER to snap a single photo on her phone. You would think that, with smartphones, it would take less than two seconds to take a picture. But no!! My mom has to get the lighting perfect before taking the photo. The problem is, you can only hold your smile for so long until the muscles in your face start to tire, and your smile because painfully fake. I’ve found that in such cases, when the muscles of my face start quivering with exhaustion and I feel like I can hold my smile no longer, squeezing the shirt hem of the person standing next to me (usually my brother) can help. Or, I just laugh at Chris’s loud grumbling that naturally follows when my mom is being slow. A third trick is to have someone, usually Austin, say something funny to make me laugh, so my smile is no longer so forced. Little things like that help a lot.

Later, as more guests arrived and familiar faces of people we see once every year at these Christmas parties appeared, I left our assigned table to work the room and mingle. Take that, social anxiety!

At nearly 8:00 p.m., the feast was ready. Boy, was it one heck of a dinner! Everything was cooked by Uncle Henry, whose birthday we were celebrating in addition to Christmas! Laid out buffet style were an assortment of salads, mushroom stew, corn bread, lobster, king crab, beef tenderloin, grilled vegetables, lobster soup, oysters, linguini, and lots lots more. Before lining up to fill our plates, Uncle Henry said a prayer, in Cantonese. The thing is, not everyone at the party understood Cantonese! So, mid-prayer, one lady said “Amen” prematurely. It was all I could do to stop myself from laughing out loud. I accidentally let a laugh or two escape from my mouth, and Austin, who was grinning himself, kicked me under the table. I feel bad that I would find something like that funny, instead of sympathizing with the poor woman, who must have felt quite embarrassed. Why couldn’t I have acted a little more maturely? Well, anyway, I asked my dad later if he found the incident funny, and he replied, “Kind of.” Which, if you know my dad, is saying A LOT, since he is very serious most of the time.

After the prayer, tables were called up randomly to get food. Despite eating a large lunch earlier in the day, I still went for two complete rounds of main course and one round of dessert. I tried pretty much everything, except the mushroom stew, since I’ve never liked mushrooms since as long as I can remember. I also stayed away from the seafood, since I’m not a huge fan of the creatures of the sea. Nonetheless, everything was so marvelously presented and tasted even better than it looked! It was so funny– before the masses were unleashed to have at the food, everyone crowded around the kitchen to take pictures of the incredible feast. It was like a freaking paparazzi party in the house! For dessert, I had fruit (good Belicia) and two slices of cake– tiramisu and chocolate (naughty Belicia). I tried Uncle Henry’s homemade orange cream soda, which tasted absolutely delicious!

After dinner was game time! In the past, game time (in any context) was always an ordeal for me, as it involved interacting with others and letting your personality loose, which I wasn’t always comfortable with doing. Tonight was testament to how far I’ve come in overcoming my social anxiety, as I didn’t find myself nearly as nervous as I used to be during game time! Sure, I did feel that momentary flurry of nerves during the raffle game, when Uncle Henry read out the winning ticket numbers. A part of me wanted to win a prize, while another (more familiar) part of me didn’t want to, as winning entailed walking in front of all those people and being the center of attention, if only for a single moment. In the end, no one in my family won a raffle prize! It was definitely a stark contrast to last year, when our family won several prizes between the five of us!

After games were over, we decided to check out for the night. It was a night of great food, great fun and great people. Christmas spirit was in the air, and I really appreciate Auntie Ella and Uncle Henry for their tremendous efforts to impart such joy to their friends each holiday season. I fell asleep on the ride home and was so tired that I decided to call it a night once I had changed into my pj’s and zoomed through my night routine.

 

Christmas Day

I woke up around 10 a.m. to rays of sunlight seeping through the cracks of the curtains. After finishing my morning routine, I headed downstairs and saw my dad and two brothers  already up and about. After wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, I sat down at the dining table and ate some cereal with almond milk. My mom was still upstairs, probably sleeping in.

After breakfast, I headed out to the living room for present-opening time! This year, we didn’t put up a Christmas tree. I’m pretty sure we discontinued the tradition a few years back. Our family is not super enthusiastic about Christmas, but we still celebrate. As usual, stockings hung above the fireplace, beckoning to be emptied. I spotted some presents from our Uncle Richard and Auntie Ruth sitting on the table. Being the impatient person I am, I decided to open my present first. Auntie Ruth got me these super comfy and fashionable Adidas sweat pants! I immediately put them on (well, I went back to my room first to put them on) and wore ’em for the rest of the day!

Once I had opened the first present, the others filed into the living room and followed in suit. From our Uncle and Auntie, Chris got this snazzy black bow tie (great for his piano recitals) while Austin got an equally snazzy skinny black tie. My dad usurped my mom’s role of photographer during this present-opening ritual. But where in the world was my mom?

Shortly after we started opening presents, my mom came rushing down in her nightgown and, without a word, started opening Macy’s boxes and digging out old Christmas-present bags. She later apologized for not having the presents ready on time. She was so tired the night before, she wait straight to bed without wrapping presents! We forgive you, Mom! Meanwhile, Austin, Chris and I all pitched in for Dad’s present– a Warrior’s hoodie! He put it on, and we were glad to see that it fit like a charm.

While Mom continued her last-minute wrapping of presents, I tried my hand at the baby grand piano sitting in the living room. I opened a hymn book and played the right hand melody of “Noel”. I started piano when I was six years old, but quit in 8th grade when gymnastics and school became too time-consuming. Chris was the only one of the three of us who continued, and look at where he is now! Anyway, the only two pieces I can play on piano now are Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata (first movement). My dad was pleasantly surprised that I could still play some. When Chris sight-read “Noel” from the hymn book, he could immediately do both hands at a decent tempo. Compared to Chris, my piano skills are nothing, lol.

Eventually, my mom brought out five large, present-filled bags into the living room’s center. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting any more presents besides the one from Uncle Richard and Auntie Ruth, just because I explicitly told my mom and dad that I didn’t want anything for Christmas this year. Going to UCLA in itself is the best present anyone could ask for. My mother disregarded my wishes (although, I am not complaining). Before we started opening more presents, we wanted our grandma to be with us for the ceremony, but she was in her room, asleep. My grandma has been feeling under the weather for the past few days, so we decided to not disturb her as she convalesced.

With each present we opened, my dad snapped a picture of us holding our respective gifts. Austin, Chris and I also pitched in to get our mom an intro to photography book, since she just LOVES taking pictures. She was very pleased when she opened her gift.

To my surprise, Austin had so lovingly gotten presents for both me and Chris! He got me this book-shaped desk organizer, since I love reading and my desk is pretty cluttered, with random pens and pencils and other stationary scattered every which way. He also got me this UCLA tote bag that he’d received for free during move-in weekend, lol. I felt kind of bad for not getting Austin anything this Christmas. I’m thinking of getting him and Chris a belated-Christmas present.

While material presents are wonderful, Christmas is about the spirit of giving, loving, and being together with those you care about. I honestly could not ask for a better Christmas. For once, my dad was not working on Christmas Day, so it was a treat just to have him spending the holiday with us this year. I really wish my grandmother wasn’t sick, so she could’ve been a part of the festivities.

After opening presents and throwing away the shreds of wrapping paper, Austin had the ingenious idea of watching the Christmas classic, Elfas a family! So we gathered round the dining room tv and watched the movie while eating dim-sum leftovers for lunch. My mom brought out fresh black cherries and salted edamame as movie snacks. It was a great family bonding time.

The movie ended around 3:30 p.m. We had about an hour before we needed to get ready for another Christmas party at a family friend’s home! I used that hour to take a nap. After waking to the sound of Chris yelling at me to get ready, I scrolled through my closet in search of a festive outfit for the party. I eventually settled for a bright red top and black pants. I put on my new dangling golden earrings from Forever 21. For makeup, I kept it really really simple. Pretty much left it at lip gloss. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of make up. I have acne, so piling foundation on top of my face just clogs up my pores and causes more breakouts. Plus, I’m a believer in natural beauty. Sometimes, I find that I look better fresh-faced without an ounce of makeup on my face, than I do with makeup on!

At around 5:30 p.m., we finally left the house. My grandmother, who originally did not want to go to the party because of her cough, decided last-minute that she was strong enough to go.

We arrived at Uncle Peter and Auntie Eva’s home at around 6:15 p.m. Also present were Uncle Peter and Auntie Eva’s son, Justin; Uncle Peter’s sisters, Auntie Theresa, Auntie Mary (who is my godmother), and Auntie Moi; Auntie Theresa’s husband, Uncle Ken, and their son and daughter, Mark and Michelle; Peter, Theresa, Mary, and Moi’s father; Auntie Mary’s Pomeranian, Cream, and Uncle Peter’s Pomeranian, Beanie. It was indeed a full house.

We were greeted with joy and Christmas spirit. Everyone was wearing Santa hats and ugly sweaters and red and green clothing! There was a Christmas tree at the corner of the house with presents piled underneath. The dinner was hot-pot style, so there were two dining tables set up, each with a pot of boiling soup base at the center. The set-up of the tables was amazing! The big plates and wooden chopsticks were designated for holding raw food, while the little black plate and red chopsticks were for cooked food. The utensils were wrapped really nicely in festive cloth napkins. In the kitchen were raw meats, veggies, fish balls and tofu that we put on our plates, brought back to the table, and placed in the hot pots for cooking.   Also in the kitchen was a sauce-making station where we could mix soy sauce and other spices and oils together to dip our boiled meats and veggies in.

While I did have my reservations about how conducting a hot pot dinner with so many people would play out, I have to say, this dinner was marvelously organized and ran very smoothly! The only hiccup of the night had nothing to do with the dinner itself. Towards the beginning of the evening, when we had just arrived and taken off our shoes and coats, my grandmother missed a step and fell down on her back, crashing into some chairs in the process. Because of her illness, she was more disoriented than usual, and thus was less aware of her surroundings. During her fall, she grabbed onto the nearest object, which happened to be Austin. Austin was unable to fully catch her, but he did break her fall significantly. My grandma’s fall was further cushioned by the puffy black jacket she was wearing. The incident was scary, unexpected, and caught everyone off guard, but thankfully, my grandmother emerged unscathed.

For dessert, we had homemade tiramisu cake, courtesy of Uncle Ken! There were two cakes, actually– one with rum and one without. The one without rum was circular in shape with “Lady Finger” cookies lining the circumference. I helped myself to 2 servings, since it was THAT good! Also for dessert was homemade fruit salad, which was equally delicious and just a tad healthier.

Uncle Peter and Auntie Eva got the three of us these awesome mug-bowl fusions that are perfect for college students. Will definitely be putting mine to good use once I head back to school!

At around 9-something p.m., it was time to say our goodbyes. I really enjoyed spending my Christmas with some wonderful and kind-hearted people. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the car ride home (I do that a lot nowadays). Either that, or I listened to Katy Perry’s Rise on repeat whilst doing some mental dance choreography. Once we got home, I did my night routine and started writing this Christmas-extravaganza blog post! At around midnight, I decided to call it a night, after a weekend of fun and celebration!

6 Gratitudes:

  • my family
  • our family friends
  • my godmother
  • the wonderful memories of this past weekend that I can hold on to forever
  • my Christmas presents
  • good food!!!

 

Thanks for reading this super long Christmas Blogmas Special, and have a great last few days of 2016!

 

*RIP George Michael. A talented soul departed too soon.

Blogmas Day 6: Bonding Galore!

Greetings, dear friends, and welcome to Blogmas Day 6! I hope all of you are getting pumped and prepped for the coming holiday festivities- I know I am!

Today, like yesterday, was a great day. I woke up around 10 a.m. but fell asleep again until 11:00 a.m… silly me! As I didn’t feel the motivation to leave the warmth of my bed, I grabbed my Elenor Roosevelt autobiography and read it in bed until nearly noon.

At noon, my mom suddenly called my name in a frenzy, as we were in a hurry to eat lunch at this interesting hot pot place called “Fashion Wok”. While my mom told me she had informed me of our lunch plans the day before, I honestly had no recollection of such prearrangements, and thus was very confused! My brothers, who had both gotten up before I did, were all ready to leave the house, while my dad and I were still getting ready. So Mom, Austin and Chris left for the restaurant first in a separate car.

My dad and I finally arrived at the restaurant at 12:30 p.m. This restaurant is really interesting, because unlike traditional hot pot, where you have one giant pot filled with boiling soup base that everyone shares and cooks their raw meat/veggies in, this restaurant serves each person their own little pots, each with a different combination of meat/veggies/noodles. I ordered #10, the “Korean Army Pot”, which contained ramen noodles, sausage, baloney, bok choy, tofu, and this random slice of cheddar cheese! Each order also came with a bowl of rice.

I hardly had time to finish my meal because I had a therapy appointment at 1:00 p.m. with the new therapist!  So I tried my best to gobble down the really really hot food, and was bummed when I had to leave at 12:45 p.m., without indulging in my meal to its entirety. My mom said she would doggie bag my food, which she ended up NOT doing (since I guess it’s difficult to take home the hot soup base).

My dad dropped me off at Kaiser at 1:00 p.m. sharp. I walked up to the 4th floor to fill out a bunch of paperwork, since this was my first time in adult psych. As usual, I felt a bit jittery before the therapy session, but more so because this was my first session with the new lady, whose name I still don’t know how to pronounce!

As I was sitting in the waiting area, this female therapist walked out of the door leading to a wing of offices, and I presumed she was my new therapist. She approached me, and I was about to introduce myself, when she cut me off and told me, “Hold on one sec,” and walked back through the swinging door she’d just come from. I was a bit confused, as this didn’t seem too professional. I waited for about ten more minutes, continuing to complete the paperwork, when she reappeared and led me through the doors, to her office.

The session lasted around 45 minutes. As usual, I told her what was going on with me, as well as my family background and some other relevant info. I’d say my former therapist was a lot warmer and easier to talk to, but that may be because I’ve been with her for over two years, and I’ve developed a deeper connection with her. The vibe I got when talking to this new therapist was that I was talking to an equal, as opposed to a professional whom I’d be able to trust with my deepest thoughts… I don’t know why I felt this way. Maybe it was her nonchalant, borderline “fake” tone of voice, as opposed to the sincerely empathetic and understanding one of my former therapist. And when I asked her how I could get out of the depressive cycle I’ve been in for the past couple of weeks, her reply was simply, “Do stuff.” Of course, she elaborated on what she meant by “do stuff”, but just the delivery of her advice seemed devoid of sympathy or understanding of the crippling nature of depression. Sure, it’s easy to say “do stuff”, but when a depressed person can’t even find the strength to get out of bed in the morning, the very task of “doing stuff” is probably the hardest thing in the world. That said, I think her advice is legitimate. My depressive cycle is like a positive feedback loop (credits go to my LS 30A class for teaching me this concept). My depression is often triggered when I find my life devoid of structure or a goal to fight towards. After ten weeks of hardcore studying and getting the hang of college life, I came home for winter break, unsure of what to do with all the free time I suddenly had. That was the primary trigger for the depression. The more depressed I felt, the less motivated I was to do anything, which in turn exacerbated the pre-existing depressive feelings. It was this endless cycle that has been very hard to break. I know that once I go back to college and start the daily grind once more, my depression will likely fade. However, I don’t want to wait that long to feel better. I hate letting my circumstances dictate how I feel. I wish I could develop an inner core so steady and unshakeable that no matter what situation I find myself in, be it winter break or during the school year, I will be able to control my emotions, remain level-headed, and live productively and happily. I’m determined that, starting tomorrow, I will get back on my feet and force myself out of bed, even if I don’t feel motivated. If I feel that my life lacks structure, I will create my own structure! The new therapist told me to make a very structured schedule for each day that I will abide by. The key is to force myself to stick to the schedule, even if I don’t feel like it. Only then will I be able to get out of the unhealthy cycle I’ve been entrapped in since the start of winter break.

Once the therapy session ended, my mom picked me up and drove me home. By the time we arrived home, our high school friend, Noa, was already waiting in his car to take me and Chris to his house for a baking party! We planned on baking blueberry scones, but I decided to bring along the molasses cookie mix I’d bought from Nob Hill, just in case we had time after the scones were finished.

Upon arriving at Noa’s place, introductions were made and formalities exchanged. Noa’s mom and dad were home, as well as his sister and her friend. Their family dog, Piccolo, was super friendly to me and kept giving me kisses! He wasn’t as friendly to Chris, however… lol. But Chris has had a history of making dogs angry, so I wasn’t terribly surprised. After washing our hands and reading the instructions, we proceeded to make the scones from scratch. The procedure wasn’t terribly difficult to follow, and I’d say the three of us made a pretty A-OK team! Since Chris’s livelihood depended on his hands (he’s a pianist), I made sure he was super careful when using the grater. After the dough was made and placed on the pan in little “wannabe-right-triangle” shapes, it was time to bake ’em! The whole process took no longer than half-an-hour, I’d wager. Thus, we had plenty of time to make the molasses cookies from the cookie mix I had brought! While Chris showed off his piano skills on Noa’s electric keyboard (he has a habit of playing piano at whosever house he goes to), I tried my best to follow the seemingly simply instructions to make the cookies. The recipe said to put 1 stick of butter, 1 tablespoon of water, and 1 egg into the cookie mix. But did these measurements correspond to the entire bag cookie mix? I wasn’t sure. So I measured out 12 teaspoons of mix, which yields approximately 18 cookies. Once everything was mixed together, the resulting dough was far too liquidy for cookie dough. However, I didn’t think much of it, and Noa suggested we put the dough in the refrigerator for it to firm up a bit. Meanwhile, the scones had finished baking, and, after letting it sufficiently cool, the three of us had a little tea party with freshly-brewed tea and our homemade blueberry scones! The scones themselves were not too sweet, but once we lathered lemon curd on our pastries, they were perfect. Soon after, the molasses cookies were ready. Boy, were we unprepared for what we saw!!!! Because the dough was so liquidy, the cookies essentially “spread out” and blended with one another to create one really flat and gigantic molasses cookie, with one or two rogue individual cookies that transcended this unfortunate fate. Shape aside, the cookies were delicious, although their extreme softness caused them to taste more like pancakes than cookies! Next time around, we’ll know to add the ENTIRE bag of cookie mix, instead of just however much we pleased, to create cookie dough of the correct consistency.

While we waited for our mom to pick us up from Noa’s house, Chris, Noa and I sat on the sofa and watched the French movie, Amelie. You know, I’ve been meaning to watch that movie for a long time now, and I’ve even fallen in love with the soundtrack. However, something about its being in French turned me off, because I thought that having to read the English subtitles would detract from the movie’s experience. Well, boy was I wrong. From the beginning of the movie, I fell in love with the unique style of this film. It’s third-party, omniscient narration was quite interesting. The soundtrack, as I mentioned, was so beautiful. I was entranced by the title character, Amelie, who is super eccentric but kind-hearted and beautiful. We only watched about 15 minutes of the movie at Noa’s house before it was time to go. I plan on finishing the movie either later tonight or tomorrow.

After saying our goodbyes, we left Noa’s house and headed back home. Both Chris and I were yawning continually during the ride back! I’m not sure why we were so exhausted… Maybe a post-sugar crash. Anyway, once I got home, I took an hour-long nap from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., while Chris, whom I presume was still in his “cooking mode”, made semi-raw tuna with handmade dipping sauce. I woke up at 7:30 p.m. to his voice yelling at me to come downstairs and try his creation! He was very excited, in an almost adorable way.

Now don’t get me wrong– I’m a huge fan of Chris’s cooking. He’s got a real knack for it. However, when it comes to anything even the slightest bit raw, I will refuse to eat it. I’m the person who likes her steak well-done. I’ve never tried sashimi in my life. My childhood obsession with the Animal Planet program, Monsters Inside Me, that documents cases of worms and other disgusting parasites that enter the human body, has scarred me for life. Anyway, I really didn’t want to disappoint Chris, who was hovering over me like an eager puppy. So… I ATE THE TUNA! I gobbled it down really quickly, quickly rinsing my mouth with soup right after. I told Chris that I liked his cooking, especially the seasoning. I wasn’t totally lying– the semi-raw tuna wasn’t as gag-inducing as I expected it to be. Still wouldn’t eat it if I had the choice, though. When my brother Austin came home shortly later, Chris hustled Austin over to his masterpiece and urged him to try it, as he did with me. I found the whole spectacle adorable, and it warms my heart whenever I think of Chris’s childish grin as he watched our reactions to his cooking.

At around 8:00 p.m., I drove to the gym (with my mom in the passenger’s seat), where I met with my good friend, Linda. The two of us worked out for about an hour and a half and caught up on our winter breaks! Linda also goes to UCLA, so I have four more years to bond with her! After completing our workouts, Linda gave me a ride home.

Upon arriving at the foot of my garage, I decided I wasn’t ready to step foot in the house yet, as I wanted to take a stroll under the stars, and do some thinking. I put my gym bag down and walked around for probably 40 minutes, just reflecting. It was a bit chilly outside, but I was wearing a super thick marshmallow jacket, so I braved the cold with ease. My neighborhood is super safe, so I didn’t worry too much about potential kidnappers, although I was taking a risk by not bringing my pepper spray with me. The night sky was absolutely gorgeous. There was no moon visible tonight, but hundreds of shimmering stars dotted the dark backdrop of night. In that moment, I felt at one with nature.

After the walk, my head was a lot more clear, and I was ready to go back home. The rest of the night has consisted of writing this blog post and helping my mom vacuum the house. Now seems like a good time to end this post, especially since it’s now 12:25 a.m. and I’m nearly 30 minutes past my deadline! Thanks for readying, everyone, and I wish you all a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah!

3 Gratitudes:

  • close friends
  • living in such a safe neighborhood
  • planet Earth

 

 

-Belicia

Blogmas Day 5: New Therapist and Family Bonding

Today was one of the best days I’ve had this break!

The morning didn’t start out too well, though. I wasn’t able to get out of bed until 11:30 a.m. The good news is, at least I got nearly 12 hours of sleep!

Upon waking up, I opened the curtains and did my usual morning routine of brushing my teeth, cleansing my face, applying moisturizer, etc. I cleaned my room so that my clothes were no longer piled at the foot of the bed. By the time I reached downstairs, it was lunch time, so I had a brunch of cereal, boiled tea egg, my mom’s famous smoothie, an egg roll and some Shang Hai style stir-fried green beans.

After brunch, I headed back to my brightly lit room and watched a 25-minute episode of “Fuller House” (that show gives me the feels…) while awaiting my phone call appointment with my therapist of the past two and a half years. I made a list of all the things I wanted to discuss with her, including:

  • the depression that started at the commencement of winter break
  • my questioning of pre-med
  • my despondency towards dancing

At 1:30 p.m., my therapist called. We hadn’t spoken since week 3 of fall quarter, so about two months ago. Basically, I spilled out everything I needed to get off my chest and asked her how I could get out of the depressive rut I’m currently in. She suggested that I force myself to leave the house by planning at least one activity each day that involved spending time with friends or family. She urged me to continue dancing, even if not as a profession. She told me to treat dancing as exercise, social engagement and a fun outlet. I don’t need to turn everything I do into a competition, with an end goal in mind. Even 45 minutes of dancing is better than none at all.

My therapist has faith that I will be able to get back on my feet, as I’ve always taken to heart the behavioral suggestions she’s given me. I also found out that my therapist is currently pregnant with a baby boy and will be gone for maternity leave starting in February! She thought it best, then, to transfer me to a new therapist, in case I needed help again down the line. Also, since I’m 18 years old, I’ve technically “graduated” from child psychiatry and am eligible for adult psychiatric services. So my therapist found me a new lady, whom I will be meeting tomorrow for the first time.

I cried over the phone when I found out that I’d no longer be seeing my current therapist, who’s helped me for nearly three years. I came to her July of 2014, when I was about to start my junior year of high school. I was a very grief-stricken, bitter, closed-up and socially inept girl suffering from depression and anxiety. Through weekly one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy sessions with my therapist, as well as an intensive outpatient group therapy for teens and their parents (I’m so grateful for my mom and dad, who never missed a single meeting), I slowly recovered. If it weren’t for my therapist, no way would I have the courage to tackle my social anxiety by facing head-on the situations that scared me most. She gave me the tools and the emotional support to fight my anxiety, even when things seemed hopeless. She helped me see my many distortions and crawl out of an extreme, unhealthy way of living. She’s the reason why I’m able to enjoy my life more today. She saved me.

I really do miss my therapist, because over the years, we’ve developed the most intimate relationship. She knows my greatest fears, struggles, thought patterns and behavioral habits. I’ve entrusted in her things I dare not divulge to even my parents. However, I’m glad I will still be able to keep in touch with her via email. Even though my case will be handed over to a new therapist, I will keep her posted on my progress, and hopefully, eventual conquering, of my mental health problems.

After the phone call was over, my dad took me to Best Buy to buy a new laptop, because on Friday 12/9, I stupidly left my MacBook Air on the plane that took us home from UCLA. I know, I know. Very absent-minded and inexcusable. I called and emailed Virgin America several times inquiring about my laptop, but to no avail. My laptop is gone. We all make mistakes though (and this one was quite an expensive mistake), but the key is to LEARN from them. Next time, I will TRIPLE check that I have all my belongings before exiting the plane.

We went to Best Buy and got the laptop, as well as a pink case. The total amounted to $956.77, which I plan on paying back to my dad (when I get a job this summer, of course).

At 3:45 p.m., Austin, Chris, my dad and I headed to the movie theaters to watch Dr. Strange. It was originally supposed to be an ENTIRE family activity, but since my mom had to monitor Ken, the handyman installing a new stove-top in our kitchen, she had to opt out this time.

The sci-fi/fantasy movie was pretty epic. It’s about this brilliant but insanely arrogant and self-centered neurosurgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange, who, after suffering a (self-induced) freakish car accident that ruined his hands, was forced to retire from his profession. He struggled to find meaning in life after the career that constituted his identity was taken from him. By word of mouth, he discovered this spiritual place in Nepal that is known to heal “broken” individuals. While he thought the “Sorcerer Supreme” would heal his hands so he could go back to his former way of life, he was in for a LOT more than what he’d originally bargained for. Watch the movie to find out more about Dr. Strange’s fate!

As we exited the theater and braved the bitter cold walk towards the car, I asked my dad if neurosurgeons were usually arrogant. My dad, who’s met quite a few at the hospital, said that most were indeed quite full of themselves. “Probably because they make so much money,” he deduced.

From the theaters, we swung by our house to pick up my mom and grandmother, who’d be joining us for a buffet dinner in Daly City. We were all pretty hungry by the time we arrived at Moonstar Buffet (we purposely didn’t buy popcorn or other overpriced movie snacks to save our appetites), but thankfully, there was no wait time, and we could dive straight into the Asian cuisine!

For the first time in a while, I was in good spirits throughout dinner. Austin and I joked about my dad’s pronunciation of “newbie” (he pronounced the “bie” like he was saying “pie”). The three of us also played a game where we stared at my mom with poker faces as she was eating and observed how long it would take for her to notice. It was really difficult trying to keep a straight face! I could tell my mother was very pleased that my spirits were up. My happiness is her happiness. If I’m hurting, she’s breaking inside.

As for the food, I indulged in:

  • ramen soup noodles with wontons and seaweed strips
  • sweet and sour pork
  • a variety of greens, including steamed bok-choy, string beans, and stir-fried broccoli
  • corn on the cob
  • giant clam over transparent rice noodles (not sure what these noodles are actually named)
  • pan-fried flat rice noodles

I was able to exercise some self-restraint by staying away from the buffet’s ice cream bar. For dessert, I had a single almond cookie. Nothing earth-shattering. My sweet tooth was surprisingly mellow tonight!

On the car ride home, I attempted to sing Sia’s Titanium, to my brothers’ horror. I’m thinking of auditioning for UCLA Hooligan Theater’s production of Footloose this coming quarter, so I gotta get those chops ready! Austin and I shared several laughs about the movie. Chris fell asleep mid-car ride, and I was pretty wiped-out myself by the time we got home.

Now it’s 11:21 p.m., and I’m typing away this blog post!

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. At 1:00 p.m. I’ll be meeting my new therapist. At 2:30 p.m., my brother Chris and I will be going to our friend Noa’s home to bake blueberry scones! In the evening, I’ll will meet my friend at the gym for a workout. I’ll be out of the house, fighting my demons by building relationships. Honestly, life doesn’t get much better than that. Sharing simple pleasures and making memories with people you love. As I’m learning to live in the moment and stop obsessing about “achieving success” in life, I’m also realizing that the beauty of life lies in the NOW. You don’t need to have loads of money or a prestigious career to ultimately be happy.

Thanks for reading today’s Blogmas, and I’ll see you all tomorrow!

3 Gratitudes:

  • my therapist
  • good food
  • my family

 

 

-Belicia

Blogmas Day 4: Reunion, Shopping, and Movie Night!

Hey guys, welcome to the 4th day of my Blogmas series! I want to start off my thanking those of you who took the time to read Blogmas Day 3: Family Love, Depression, and Epiphany. It was the longest piece I’ve ever written, and a heavy one too. I appreciate all the positive, encouraging feedback from you all while I’m sorting out a lot of things in my life.

Today was pretty eventful and a lot more light and fluffy than yesterday was. At 10:00 a.m., my brother Austin so fondly coaxed me out of bed by coming into my room and opening the curtains, letting in the bright rays of sunshine. He told me that today was gonna be a great day. He doesn’t know it, but his words, while simple, gave me courage and positivity. It showed that my brother empathized with what I was going through, cared about my recovery, and did all he could to brighten my day. Thank you, Austin.

At 12:30 p.m., Austin, Chris and I headed out to have lunch with our former college counselor, SAT English tutor and family friend, Dr. Chow. We ate at this restaurant called Grill House, which serves a mixture of all-American/Italian food. Lunch was pleasant. We briefed Dr. Chow on our first quarters (for Chris, first semester) of college. We discussed everything from grades to professors to potential budding romances (a big fat zero from all three). Chris naturally dominated the conversation, ranting about his computer science project and how, for one part of the four-person group project, he had done ALL of the work! I told Dr. Chow about how difficult it was to find time for both pre-med and competitive Latin dance, and she concluded that to do both to the degree I would like is virtually impossible. Compromise is unavoidable. It is reality.

After lunch, Austin went home, while Chris and I headed to the mall with my mother to get some clothes altered. Originally, only Chris was scheduled to go, but my mom asked if I’d like to join, and I figured anything would be better than sitting in my room doing nothing.

Going to the mall, taking in the holiday festivities and doing some window shopping was very therapeutic. It felt uplifting to be surrounded by happy people decked in red from head to toe. I explored the wide variety of fragrances from my all-time favorite fragrance store, Bath and Body Works. I did some “window shopping” at Forever 21 and tried on a lot of clothes as my mom finished up her errands. I dream about the day when I can actually afford to buy such clothes, lol… In the end, I bought a pair of dangling gold earrings for myself, as well as two heart-shaped necklaces– one silver and the other gold– for my two friends, Callista and Cassandra, whom I would be seeing that night.

The mall outing took us to about 5:15 p.m. On the way out, I ran into one of my childhood best friends’ mother! We hadn’t seen each other in several years, and boy did we have much to catch up on!

As I was scheduled to meet Callista and Cassandra at the movie theaters that evening, our reunion was ended prematurely. My mom drove me to the theaters, and in my haste to exit the vehicle, I left my phone (aka, my lifeline) inside the car! I only realized what had happened after I had entered the theaters and bought my ticket for the new animation movie, Sing. As I sat on a chair in the theater lobby, grumbling over my absent-mindedness, my brother Chris suddenly stormed in, muttering and shaking his head in disapproval as he handed me my iPhone. Thanks for saving my butt, Chris!

Once Callista and Cassandra arrived and got their tickets, the three of us headed to Chipotle to eat an early dinner before the 7:00 p.m. movie. As we munched on our delicious burritos, we caught up on the past 2.5 months of college. Callista and Cassandra, who are identical twins, just completed their first quarter at UCSB. I always enjoy talking to the twins, as they are two of the sweetest people I know, and also share a similar sentiment and understanding of my experiences.

At around 6:30 p.m., we headed back to the theaters, expecting a super long line for the new movie, which just came out today. To our surprise and relief, no such line existed! We just flounced on in to Auditorium 19, where we found very good seats near the top row. As we were pretty early, we watched about 30 minutes worth of advertisements and trailers. We split one medium popcorn between the three of us, but, as we had nearly completed the entire bag before the movie even began, we decided to buy another medium-sized popcorn.

(the next paragraph contains spoilers from the movie Sing. If you didn’t watch it yet, feel free to skip over this paragraph!)

The movie Sing, in my opinion, was very good. The beginning was a little bit meh… nothing too special. But as the plot progressed, I grew to love the characters more and more, especially the elephant, Meena, who suffers from really bad stage fright. She has an amazing voice and shows the greatest talent and potential among all the singers, but because she never mustered enough courage to perform, her gift remained hidden from the world. Such a travesty it would be if the world was forever deprived of Meena’s angelic yet powerful voice. I loved her development from a super shy, insecure and complacent elephant to one that radiated confidence and passion on the stage. My new motto whenever I’m afraid to try something: “Think of Meena!”

I don’t know what it is about films, but not matter how cliche the story of characters who overcome personal barriers to ultimately reach their dreams, I never fail to walk out of the auditorium inspired.

After the movie, the Callista, Cassandra and I had frozen yogurt for dessert. I had pomegranate-raspberry, cake batter, and pink-lemonade flavor fro-yo, topped with cookie dough, brownie bits and little jellies. We indulged and continued catching up/bonding until the twins’ mom arrived to pick us up.

As I walked up the driveway to my home, I smiled at the joy of having a carefree day of simple pleasures. Reconnecting with old friends. Going to the mall. Watching a movie. Doing these things made me feel a LOT better than I would have, had I chosen to wallow alone in my room.

I arrived home to the sound of my brother Chris, hard at work at the piano. How greatly I missed that music (and to think I used to find it irritating!). After completing my night routine, I plopped down at my laptop and began typing my blog entry.

In the middle of my writing, my dad knocked on my door, asking if he could come in. These moments are rare, as my dad is always away at work, working at his computer, or sleeping. It’s difficult to have one-on-one bonding time with my dad, like I often do with my mom, so I greatly cherish these moments when they happen.

We talked about a lot of things, like how I was questioning pre-med. When I told my father that I was having second thoughts about pursuing a career as a doctor, he replied, “Then don’t do it.” There was no malice or disappointment laced in his voice, like I sometimes hear (or maybe just imagine) when I tell my mom the same thing. His statement was matter-of-fact, nonchalant, even. He really didn’t mind if I didn’t want to be a doctor. That’s something I really appreciate about my father. Even though he is a doctor himself, he never, ever, gave any of his children pressure to follow in his path. In fact, he told me that if a young person were to tell him that he or she were interested in pursuing medicine, his first reply would be, “Think twice.” He stated that I have many other qualities that would serve me in fields other than medicine– writing, being one of them. He emphasized that college was the time to explore, and that it wouldn’t be wise to put myself in a box and limit my options to just pre-med. When he was an undergraduate student, he took random GE courses in geography and communications. The point is, at age 18, no one expects you to know for certain what you want to do for the rest of your life, and college is the optimal time to explore different interests. He described careers in writing, psychology, and even performing arts as “fabulous”! Why close the doors to such career paths, just because they aren’t medicine? What is it about medicine that attracts me? For my dad, it was obviously the passion for healing, but it was also his penchant for problem-solving and his “investigative” and “diagnostic” mind, always hungry to solve puzzles and find the root cause of problems. This is why he chose internal medicine, which is not just about performing procedures to correct an ailment, but also determining the cause of a problem based on symptoms presented and creating a treatment plan from there. In high school, he loved learning about human anatomy– a passion only strengthened by the human anatomy and physiology courses he took in college. These are some of the main reasons why he chose medicine. Now I must ask myself the same question. Why medicine?

It’s 12:16 a.m. right now, so I will end the post here and get ready for bed. Thanks for reading today’s entry!

3 Gratitudes:

  • my dad, who encourages me to do what I love in life, and not just go for medicine because he did it
  • my close friends
  • Austin
  • (and a fourth one because you can never have too many gratitudes) finally reaching the point where I’m able to look in the mirror and accept my body the way it is

 

Blogmas Day 3: Family Love, Depression, and Epiphany

I woke up at 10:00 a.m. to the sound of my mother calling for me to get dressed for my 11:00 a.m. dental appointment. As with the past week, I had very little motivation to get up. When I eventually did, I went through the motions of my morning routine, hoping that the coming day would be an “up day” instead of the usual “down day”.

I checked the UCLA website for final grades, and FINALLY, all my first quarter grades were published. The verdict:

Chem 14A: A+

LS 30A: A

GE Cluster 80A: A-

First quarter GPA: 3.88

In all honesty, I was disappointed at the A- I received– in my GE, of all classes! It brought my GPA down from a 4.0 to a 3.88. I know, I must sound ludicrous, complaining about an A-. But when you are hoping for an A and fall short of your expectations, disappointment is only the natural human response. The takeaway from this– study harder, study smarter, and take care of your health! When I got sick for two weeks, I fell WAY behind in my readings for the GE. As a result, I ended up cramming for the final, which, history has proven, does not work for me. I could blame external circumstances– namely, the illness– for hindering me from performing to my greatest ability… but even the illness could have been prevented, or the severity of the illness mitigated, should I had made my health a greater priority. At the end of the day, though, I realized that, A- or not, I still worked very hard for the grades I earned and am happy to walk away from first quarter knowing I gave it my all. Besides, it’s only the first quarter! I have plenty of opportunities to boost my GPA. My father, back when he was a freshman undergraduate student at the University of Utah, got a B in economics during his first quarter! He still was able to make a comeback, get his GPA up, get into medical school and become a great doctor. And, as Chopra the anesthesiologist told me, grades are just a number. Yesterday, when I told him that I had earned an A+ in chemistry, he dismissed it, stating that in the grand scheme of things, grades say nothing about the human intellect, character or potential for greatness.

At 10:45 a.m., my two brothers and I piled into the Volkswagen that Austin so affectionately named “Leon” and headed to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned.

The good news– no cavities! I was actually a bit worried, since after 2.5 months at UCLA, home to the best university dining in the nation, I suspected that all those irresistible cookies, doughnuts and ice cream (yeah, what a dancer I am…) would take their toll on my pearly whites. Thankfully, I got lucky, as did my two brothers.

My brothers and I got lunch at Nob Hill foods. Austin and Chris ate healthy greens, while I made my way to the “hot foods” section and indulged in turkey bolognese, spare ribs, pasta and chicken salad with tomatoes. Chris eyed my lunch with disapproval (and, I suspect, envy), to which I say, “There’s no shame in a gal with an appetite, okay?”

After satiating my growling stomach, I made my way up to my room. Ahh, my room… it’s the place I go when I feel down. And, despite having a good meal and being reunited with Chris, there was still a suffocating heaviness that weighed down on my chest. And so, I gave in to the emotions. I crawled under my covers, not really asleep, not really awake. I was in a limbo state, ruminating.

Whatever happened to get me to this low? And when I think of the effect that my polarized moods have on my mother, I feel guilt beyond measure. My poor mother, who has long since renounced all expectation of me, other than that of being happy. Any parent would hate to see their child hurting. I wish I didn’t have to put her through this. I wish my recurring depression doesn’t have to impact those close to me… but alas, this is the nature of love and family. When one suffers, all suffer.

Eventually, I dragged myself out of bed and mustered the willpower to continue working on one of my winter quarter pieces for Daily Bruin. At around 4:00 p.m., my mother urged me to go to the gym and get some exercise. At first, I was unwilling. But then I figured, any physical activity is sure to boost my spirits at least a little bit. On the way out the door, I complained to my mother about how, despite having my driver’s license, I wasn’t able to drive without a licensed adult in the vehicle, as my parents only paid car insurance for Austin. I don’t know why I whined at that moment. I believe it was the depression talking. When you’re depressed, you tend to be very negative about everything and think the whole world is conspiring against you. That’s why I complained about how unfair it was that Austin got insurance, and I didn’t. He could drive anywhere he wanted, while I still had to rely on my mom or brother whenever I needed to go somewhere. To add fuel to fire, my parents had canceled all three of our gym memberships when we went off to college, but, during winter break, paid an extra $200 to extend Austin’s membership so he could work out whenever he pleased. I, on the other hand, had to use my father’s guest passes to enter the gym, and in order to do that, my mom had to call the front desk in advanced before I could use the facilities. There was just a lot of unnecessary hassle, having to deal with guest paperwork upon arriving at the gym. Basically, due to my irritable mood, I was complaining about nothing. It happens, guys. I’m only human. But I still feel bad for spreading my negative energy to everyone during what’s supposed to be the “happiest time of the year”.

Austin was sweet enough to let me drive Leon. I made a premature left turn and had to weave through a busy parking lot to get to the gym. Didn’t get into an accident, though!

Upon arriving at the gym, I was pleased to see a former AP Psychology classmate, Nathan, working at the front desk. After checking in, I headed to the locker room, only to realize that I had left my key-card at home. Thus, I left my bag inside an unlocked locker, hoping that no one would steal my things.

I left my phone in the unlocked locker as well (I know, genius move), as I didn’t want distractions during my workout. I ran a mile on the treadmill, did my usual stretching and conditioning routine and concluded with a machines circuit that centered on my abs. Gotta cut down on that belly fat!

I was a bit nervous working out at the gym I’ve called home for the past fourteen years, and I’ll tell you why. Last week, when I was at the same gym, I was in the middle of my warm-up routine, when a man who looked about 70 years old walked up to me. I can’t remember his exact words, but he basically said, “[something something] beautiful women like you”, gave me his card (he’s a florist) and suggested we “grab a cocktail sometime.” I was mortified! As I was in public, I didn’t want to outright reject the man, nor did I wish to comply. So I simply gave him a strained smile and walked away, dumbfounded at what had just transpired. Another strange thing happened that day in the gym as well. As a former gymnast, I have a set warm-up routine that consists of splits and kicks and other moves that may seem perfectly normal to me, but to others, unusual. Anyway, I was sitting in middle splits, engaged in the stretch, when I suddenly heard the voices of three men behind me, chattering away. They were talking so loudly, it was impossible for me not to catch some of their words. One asked another, “Can your wife do that?” I presumed they were referring to my middle splits. The other replied, “No, my wife’s not a slut.” At first, I thought I had misheard. A slut?? Did that man– that grown man with a wife and children– just call me, an eighteen year old girl, a slut, simply because I was stretching? Of course, I pretended not to hear them, but in that moment, my mind raced and my blood turned icy. The more I thought about it, the more bothered I became. I didn’t want to make a scene by confronting the three grown men about their discussion, but I certainly did not feel comfortable training in front of those men any more, so I promptly exited that section of the gym, finding a dark and quiet corner to continue my workout.

While I still have a lot to say about the strange and offensive encounters that happened last week, I’d rather not dwell on unpleasant memories. All I can say is, this world is filled with crazy people, but you can’t let these guys get to you. Know how to be assertive and defend yourself when needed. Thankfully, I did not run into any of the men at the gym today, and if I had, I already planned to simply ignore them and continue my workout in peace.

At around 5:45 p.m., I finished my work out and felt a lot, lot better than I did coming in to the gym. Physical activity, while not a panacea for depression, MUST be practiced by all, especially the clinically depressed. It helps SO much.

I went back to the locker room to grab my bag, only to find my bag strewn on the ground! Some lady had come into the locker room, opened the unlocked locker and saw my bag, and instead of choosing a different locker, she had thrown my bag onto the floor and filled the locker with her belongings instead. Thankfully, my phone and wallet were still safely in my bag. I still was a bit salty about the incident, but it’s such a trivial matter, I won’t waste any more mental energy on it.

My brother told me he’d be finished at roughly 6:15 p.m., so I used the extra time to go to Nob Hill and buy some cookie mix for baking. I stopped by Starbucks and splurged on an overly-sweetened but still delicious peppermint-mocha frappuchino. I headed back to the gym lobby, but Austin still wasn’t finished with his workout. So there I sat, twiddling my thumbs, not wanting to call my mom to pick me up, as she was probably busy preparing dinner. It was too dark and chilly to make the twenty minute walk back home, so I decided to just wait it out.

By 7:15 p.m., Austin still didn’t come out, nor did he answer the texts and calls I sent him (he doesn’t bring his phone inside the gym). So I finally called my mom and asked her to pick me up. Downsides of not having car insurance…

I got home and had a home-cooked meal with my family. I had a heart-to-heart talk with my dad (those are rare) about the ineptitude I felt with regards to my social life. Basically, on the way home, I received a text from a good friend, who recounted something that had happened while she was out with a group of high school friends. What exactly happened is not important. What struck me was the fact that my high school friends were hanging out together, and I wasn’t invited. I know, I know. I sound very needy right now, letting myself get all riled up over something so trivial. In the past, I would have brushed this aside with some high-sounding self-reassuring words like, “Oh I don’t need people like them in my life.” Now, however, I recognize the importance of building relationships in life, and I’m making an effort to form new ties and rebuild old ones.

About a week ago, before I caught a cold, I invited a group of friends over for a baking party! I was a bit nervous to host the party, as I have little to no experience as a hostess, but I really wanted to reach out to my friends and bond over the common joy of baking cookies. So a few friends said they would come, but when I asked the group what they wanted to bake, nobody replied, even on the scheduled day of baking! I took this lack of response to mean that no one was really invested or enthusiastic about the baking party I had in mind. In the end, I canceled the party since I caught a cold that same day. It was probably for the better, anyway, since nobody seemed excited to come over. So how does this minor digression relate to anything at all? Well, one of the girls I had invited over for baking last week was also at today’s reunion. You know, the one I wasn’t invited to. And because of that, I felt a little bit left out… a little bit like an outsider. Here I was, making an effort to build a relationship, but the high school friend I had reached out to seemed too busy with her own friends.

I will admit that throughout high school, I was never part of the “group” that had reunited today. I find cliques to be a petty and superficial. I love being a floater and having the chance to meet a diverse group of people from various “groups”, instead of being tied down to the same people. But that’s just me. Anyway, in high school, I didn’t do great with forming relationships with my peers, largely because of my social anxiety. So I understand that maybe the friend I had reached out to last week may have felt more comfortable hanging out with her “people” than she did with me.

That’s what I love about college, though. You get the chance to start over a make new friends from scratch. The friendships I’ve formed in my first quarter at UCLA run deeper than most of my high school bonds. While many of my college friends were excited to go home and hang out with high school pals, I thought, I want to stay here, with my Bruins, where I feel accepted for who I am! 

Anyway, that’s basically the gist of my dinner-table convo with my dad, who thought I was overreacting about the entire situation. And maybe I am. But sometimes, I wish I had made a greater effort to form deeper friendships in high school. You know what, though? High school is nothing. COLLEGE is where the real stuff is at… the life-changing, defining moments of your life; the deepest friendships; the grandest adventures. So to anyone reading this who is having a rough time socially in high school, know that it gets a GAZILLION times better once you go to college.

Ok, so back to my day. After dinner, I went to my room and started writing this blog post. In the middle of my writing, my two brothers came into my room and told me that no matter what, I will always have them to count on. They urged me not to be upset about my relationships with others– or lack thereof. And in that moment, I loved my brothers beyond imagination. We fight, but we’re also the greatest of friends.

Later that night, my mom called me downstairs to spend some quality time with her. So engrossed I was in my writing that, at first, I turned down her offer. Then, I came to my senses and realized that I only have about two weeks left with her, and it’s off to college once more. So I made my way downstairs and sat on the leather sofa in front of the burning fire. Mom made some green tea for us to share, and we basically had a long heart-to-heart conversation about lots of things.

We talked about my dancing, and how I haven’t been dancing much lately. I know this post is already super long, but I’ll give you guys the back-story. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when I returned to UCLA, I was studying for one of my finals when I suddenly had an epiphany– I wanted to be a dancer. In that moment, it seemed so clear. Dance was my calling. It would be a crime if I didn’t try to pursue a dance career. Life was too short to not pursue what made me happy. And dance made me happy. I’d put the premed aside and focus my energies on dancing whilst pursuing a B.S. in psychobiology. After college, I’d continue dancing on the competitive circuit (given that I’d found a partner) and go as far as I could. After I retired from dancing, I could always go back to school and get a post-bacc, if my heart still wanted medicine. I had this whole plan laid out for the future. Most importantly, I was GENUINELY HAPPY. For the two weeks I believed I would pursue a career in dancing, I felt completely liberated. My heart was at peace.

Then, the reality sank in. When I called my mom and told her about the plan, she was completely against it. I talked to more people in the dance community, and they all stressed how difficult it would be to make a living as a dancer. There was neither comfort nor luxury nor stability in a dancer’s life. And what about a family? Did I want to have children? Did I want a steady income? Did I want to go to med school at age 40? These were all very real considerations I failed to take into account when I made that spur-of-the-moment decision to pursue dancing.

In the end, I decided I was deluding myself. In all honesty, I lack the courage to make that leap of faith and attempt to pursue a career in art. Now, if I were already a highly accomplished dancer, then this option may be more viable. But I’m not! I just started two years ago. I’m still a fledgling beginner with LOTS to learn. And I’m sure that if I gave up school and focused 100% on dancing, I could get somewhere, because I have the potential, thanks to my foundation as a gymnast. But that’s not the point, is it? Just because you have the potential to do well in something, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to make a living out of it, right?

So, once I came to the realization that dancing as a career wasn’t going to work out after all, I completely stopped dancing. My delusion: If I’m not going to dance as a profession, might as well not dance at all. As Chris so rightly observed, I live my life in “absolutes”. I always pursue things with an end goal in mind. I never just do something for the fun of it, or because it makes me happy. If dance isn’t to become my profession, then screw it, I’m just gonna switch gears completely to medicine (which, by the way, I’m also unsure of), and channel my energies to something that’ll give me CONCRETE benefits.

Despite my claims of destroying my former illusions, I feel like I’ve been living under the umbrella of one gigantic illusion that I only became aware of tonight, when Chris pointed it out so clearly and eloquently.

I wonder if I ever truly loved dance for dancing’s sake, or if I just liked the idea of becoming a professional dancer and living the seemingly glamorous dancer’s life. Maybe my entire life, I’ve been so obsessed with achieving goals and seeing end results, that my fight to STRIVE for success and achievement actually backfired. It took away the beauty of simply doing things for the purest reason– because you derive happiness from it. How else can I explain this 180 degree shift from being super motivated to pursuing dance as a career, to not dancing once during this entire winter break?

Chris is currently studying computer science and music. Unlike me, he actually has a real shot at making a career in art, as a concert pianist. At University of Michigan, he was taken under the wing of the accomplished American classical pianist, Arthur Greene, who sees great potential and talent in Chris. Big things are coming for my brother– he’s performing with an orchestra in Italy this summer– and I’m honestly so excited for him.

Tonight, I asked him the following question: “What if music were NOT your primary career path? What if your main focus was computer science, and piano was rendered something secondary?” In reply, Chris stated that he’d still find time to play, because music gave him joy and fulfillment. Just because he wouldn’t be pursuing a career in music doesn’t mean he’d stop. And that’s when he pointed out to me my tendency to focus only on the end results, without enjoying the process. He couldn’t be more right. For it’s the PROCESS that PRODUCES the end result. The end result is something that ensues, rather than something actively pursued. I’ve been living my life as one big tunnel-vision towards my goals, without stopping to ask myself, why am I even doing these things?

This post is especially long, and it reflects the current anguish of my mind… About 15 minutes ago, my mom came into my room, frustrated that her daughter was depressed. I get it. She doesn’t understand it, and she’s upset because she doesn’t know how to help. And in her frustration, she said some things I know she didn’t mean. I forgive her.

Quite frankly, writing this blog post has been incredibly therapeutic, for when I write, the void and emptiness I usually feel is suddenly filled. Writing is my sanctuary. This is why I never envision myself as becoming a professional writer. I don’t want that label to entrap me. Writing is the one thing in my life where I’m completely focused on the process, instead of the end result. I don’t care if I become a NY Times bestselling author one day. I don’t care if I don’t make a penny off of my writing. I just need to write. I fear that once I set my mind on making writing a career, my shrine will be shattered. I write for me. I write because I truly love it. Can I say the same about dance or medicine with such unwavering certainty? I can’t. Because I’ve turned these pursuits into extrinsically motivated goals, which in turn, destroyed the light that made me start in the first place.

I will conclude this post before it hits midnight.

3 Gratitudes 12/20/16:

  • the gift of writing
  • my mom
  • my brothers

Blogmas Day 2: Shadowing Dr. Nwynn/Return of the Bro-ski!

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep until 3 a.m. for some reason. Thus, it was super difficult to get out of bed this morning in time to shadow Dr. Nwynn, the OBGYN doctor I’ve been shadowing for the past year and a half. I remember hearing the 7:45 a.m. alarm and just telling myself, “No way am I getting up.” If it weren’t for my mom, who urged me to get out of bed, I probably would have stayed under the comfort of my warm covers and missed out on what was to be an an amazing opportunity.

I just want to hone in on that moment, though, when I couldn’t muster the willpower to kick off the covers and start my day. THIS is the kind of slipping discipline I’ve been talking about. In the past, I’d always jump out of bed each morning with enthusiasm, ready to make the most of the coming day. Lately, my fight has disappeared. I’ve been struggling pretty hard with motivation… It’s just day after day of low spirits. It could be the depression creeping back in, as it usually does during the holiday season. I don’t know. Not only did I not want to get out of bed this morning, I was playing a lot of negative scripts over and over in my head. Things like, “Wow Belicia, if your emotions are so unstable, there’s just no way you can be a doctor one day.” Or, “Why can’t you just get your ass out of bed? Is it that hard? Where’s your self-discipline?”

It’s true that I need help. I don’t know if I’m just biologically predisposed to depression and anxiety. Neither of my brothers suffer from mental health illness, nor do my parents. However, I’ve long accepted my battle with mental health problems, so the question I ask myself is not “Why me?”, but rather, “Why?” What is the root of my depressive thoughts and how do I break the cycle to ultimately live a happier, healthier and more productive life? A hundred dollar question, indeed, to be pondered in future therapy sessions.

So back to my day. After I finally got out of bed and ate breakfast, my mom drove me to the hospital, where I shadowed Dr. Nwynn in outpatient surgery from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. I’ve been in the OR a few times now and know the staff pretty well. There’s the scrub nurse, John, who stands by Dr. Nwynn during the surgery, providing suction to clear excessive bleeding so the surgeon has a clear visual field. John is also in charge of handing scalpels, clamps, gauze, sutures and other surgical tools to Dr. Nwynn throughout the procedure.

The first procedure I watched was an enterocele repair, a procedure that stops a prolapsed small intestine from bulging into the vagina. Because I was late after the morning’s events, I had to step in to the OR while Dr. Nwynn was in the middle of the procedure. However, Dr. Nwynn and the rest of the OR staff were very welcoming nonetheless.

The second procedure was a mid-urethral sling, which corrects urinary incontinence (when a woman has trouble controlling her bladder). As the OR staff was prepping the patient for surgery (positioning her on the OR table, trimming the pubic hair, injecting her with anesthesia), the unexpected happened– the power went out! While the power outage itself lasted only a few seconds, the entire hospital thereafter was running on a back-up generator. The protocol was, only surgeons performing emergency operations could proceed on back-up power. Non-emergent cases, such as the mid-urethral sling procedure, had to wait until further notice was given. So basically, the patient remained in the OR, while the OR team waited for the green light to proceed. According to Dr. Nwynn, this kind of thing rarely happens. What a day for me to shadow!

One of my favorite people to talk to whenever I shadow is Chopra, the anesthesiologist. He’s a 74-year-old Indian man and immensely knowledgeable. Ever since I’ve started shadowing, he’s the only one who seems to be convincing me out of medicine! Although, that’s not exactly a true statement. Really, he implores me to “think outside the box” and not just go for medicine because it feels safe and familiar. He urges me to explore other fields and really look within to see if medicine is my passion. If I find that medicine is my calling, then by all means, go for it. But he also urges me to stick with my writing and dancing, even if I decide to become a doctor. In that way, I’ll expand my mind in multiple dimensions, instead of staying tunnel-visioned with medicine. Chopra tells young people to never live in fear. Don’t let fear of failure, fear of poverty or fear of death hinder you from doing what your heart speaks. According to Chopra, one should never live for material wealth. The person with the most amount of money on Earth could live a most impoverished life, if his mind, spirit and relationships are devoid of nurturing. Seriously, this man is incredible. In a later post, I will share with you guys the beads of knowledge he has graciously imparted to me.

At 12:30 p.m., my brother Austin (grudgingly) picked me up from the hospital– much appreciated, bro! I then went out to lunch with my mom. Great girls’ bonding time!

Once I got home, the food coma set in, and I really wanted to take a nap. Instead, I watched a Netflix Christmas movie, an episode of “Fuller House” and part of a documentary on Auschwitz concentration camp. Yup– lots of mindless passing of time.

At around 6:00 p.m., the whole family– mom, dad, Austin, grandma and I– piled in the white van to pick up my brother Chris from the airport. Chris is currently studying piano performance and computer science at the University of Michigan, and his school’s winter break just began. On the way to the SFO, my low spirits seeped in again, probably due to a day of physical inactivity. Life tip: it is super important to exercise every day, ESPECIALLY when you have a propensity towards depression. It’s also important to keep doing things that make you happy– for me, it’s dancing and writing– even when you don’t feel like doing anything at all. Obviously I have not followed my own words of advice, but I will try better tomorrow to put these words into action.

When I saw Chris standing outside the Delta terminal, my low spirits immediately disappeared! We hadn’t seen Chris in nearly four months, since he started school in early September. He donned a new hairstyle, with the hair on the sides of his head trimmed short and the front grown out long. If you ask me, the new haircut makes him resemble Lang Lang, the famous concert pianist! Moreover, Chris visibly lost weight, as he disciplined himself on a healthy diet and made a habit of running.

The car banter on the way to the Chinese restaurant flowed hurriedly and eagerly, as we all had a lot of catching up with our brother to do after four months of separation! Growing up as a triplet, the three of us were pretty much inseparable. We attended the same schools K through 12, had overlapping friend groups, shared the same teachers and sometimes, found ourselves in the exact same classes. While Austin and I ended up at the same university, Chris decided to attend a school 5,000 miles away. During the academic quarter, I didn’t have much time to really miss him. The reality of his absence actually sunk in when Austin and I arrived back home for winter break 10 days ago. The house, usually filled with classical piano, felt eerily empty without Chris’s playing. Without college life to occupy every cell of my brain, I finally realized how much I missed Chris these past four months. And as much as I love Austin, life just isn’t the same without Chris in the picture.

We arrived at a Chinese restaurant in Millbrae, but because the wait time was too long, we decided on another Chinese restaurant called “The Kitchen”. To celebrate Chris’s long-awaited return, we ordered a myriad of dishes, including:

  • Peking Duck
  • Sweet and sour pork with red and green peppers and pineapple
  • Fried rice
  • Steamed fish
  • Spicy chicken over broccoli
  • Pork stomach and wasabi chicken
  • Red bean soup

I definitely splurged on that meal, but I have long since given up on my many futile attempts to lose weight. Quite frankly, I have learned to accept my body type for what it is. For a long time, I wanted to go back to my former “stick figure” I had as a gymnast, but I’ve realized that to go back to that body was unrealistic and unhealthy. While I can’t say I’m 100% happy with the way I look now (cough cough “freshman fifteen”), I do see that I’m taking steps towards greater self-acceptance.

Upon arriving home, I brushed my teeth, and now, I am writing this blog post! After I finish, I will take a shower and finish Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. If I have time, I’d like to finish the documentary about Auschwitz.

Well, I think now is a good time to check out. Thanks for following me on today’s journey, and stay tuned for what’s to come tomorrow! Also, I’ve decided to conclude each post with a “3 Gratitudes” section, highlighting three things I am grateful for in my life. Studies have shown that gratitude and happiness are positively correlated, and that incorporating the “3 Gratitudes” exercise to your daily routine is one way to create long-lasting happiness.

3 Gratitudes 12/19/16

  • my brother Chris
  • the opportunity to gain clinical exposure through shadowing
  • delicious food!!

 

 

-Belicia

Blogmas Day 1

Hey friends!

So I’ve decided to try something new this holiday season. Those of you who are avid YouTube lovers may have heard of this little thing called “Vlogmas”, whereby YouTubers upload a video-blog (vlog) highlighting their daily lives throughout the month of December.

I’ve decided to do the same thing, except in blog-post form– aka, “Blogmas”! This routine will keep me motivated to write a little bit each day, as well as get out and share exciting adventures with you guys!

As I mentioned in Climbing Out of a Rut, I’m currently going through what I think is a bit of seasonal depression and post-finals “existential crisis”– basically low motivation to do, really, anything. It’s been pretty difficult to drag myself out of bed lately. This cycle of depressive feelings is nothing new to me, but the hole I’ve dug myself into is taking a little longer than usual to climb out of. But, you know what? I have faith that I can get back on track. I still have 19 days of winter break left, and I plan on making the most of it!

Today was pretty uneventful. I actually caught a cold a few days back, after making the poor decision to go running outside at 5 a.m. without wearing enough layers. So these past few days have been devoted to recovering from the cold. Yesterday, I had a really fun Christmas-outing in San Francisco with some old friends from high school! We took Bart from Millbrae to Powell Street in SF and soaked in the beautiful holiday decor of the city. My favorite memory of that day was the sitting down inside a Mediterranean restaurant and doing a Christmas gift exchange. The seven of us were all smiles, with the spirit of giving, laughter and friendship permeating the air.

The only downside of yesterday was that, due to the chilly SF breeze, my cold got worse. Upon arriving home last night, I ate dinner and went straight to bed, as the excitement and exhaustion of the outing caught up to my already-depleted immune system. I fell asleep at 8:00 p.m. and woke up at nearly 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. Talk about a late start to the day!

I’m proud of myself for getting some work done today. I got a head start on an upcoming article for the Daily Bruin (UCLA’s premier newspaper), which discusses the psychology of New Year’s Resolutions. To rebuild my focus stamina, I downloaded the free app, “Focus Keeper”. It’s basically a timer that sets 25 minute intervals, during which time you are 100% focused on your work. Following the 25 minutes of work are 5 minutes of break time. The app has really helped me build the habit of refraining from distractions while reading, studying, or writing.

In addition to writing, I continued to look for potential undergraduate research positions of interest. A big part of being a pre-med student is boosting your resume for med school with the “pre-med extracurriculars”, one of them being undergraduate research. A lot of my freshman pre-med friends have already started working at a lab this past fall quarter, which makes me feel a little behind. No matter, though! I still have fifteen quarters (including summer quarters) left of my college career, so there’s no need to stress.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Currently finishing up Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. In this eye-opening read, Frankl chronicles his harrowing experiences inside Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Through his travails, he came to the conclusion that no matter how terrible man’s external circumstances, nothing can take away “the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” I highly recommend this book to everyone. If you read Albert Camus’s The Plague, you’ll see many apparent similarities between Camus’s literary existentialism and Frankl’s idea of “self-transcendence”, or rising above one’s circumstances.

In addition to Frankl’s book, I’m in the middle of Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography. One of my all-time favorite quotes of hers is, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” As a person with anxiety, I definitely have my fair share of fears to overcome. When I get nervous before a big performance or speech, I always remind myself of what Eleanor said. In fact, when Eleanor was young, she disliked being in the public eye and absolutely hated public speaking! But through lots of practice and “[looking] fear in the face”, she was able to battle her formerly gripping fear.

At around 7:15 p.m. I had dinner with my mom, dad, and cousin (who is going back to China tomorrow morning). My brother Austin was out watching a movie with friends, while my grandmother was asleep in her room. She seems to have caught a cold after heading to Chinatown this morning in the super windy weather. We were worried about her, since she slept the entire day without eating anything! At around 8:00 p.m., she finally emerged from her room and looked a lot better than she did earlier.

After dinner, I read a bit more and started writing this blog post. At around 8:45 p.m., my mom decided to take me and my cousin out to look at Christmas decorations. I didn’t want to risk getting sicker, so I stayed in the car, while my cousin walked around the San Carlos neighborhood and soaked in the stunning lights. In China, people do celebrate Christmas, but it isn’t common practice to put up extravagant Christmas lights like they do here. My cousin, then, was understandably fascinated by the holiday enthusiasm of Americans!

We got back from sight-seeing about fifteen minutes ago, and I’ve since been typing this blog post. Austin is still not home, and my grandma is watching television. My dad is preparing for work tomorrow– he’s currently in the middle of a seven-day work week before he can take a Christmas break. Words can’t describe how tremendously grateful I am for my dad and all he does for the family, as well as other people. I feel guilty that he’s supporting three kids in college at the same time… Once I learn to manage my time better and get acclimated to the college quarter system, I will definitely look into getting an on-campus job, working either as an EMT or a writing tutor at UCLA’s Writing Center.

It’s 9:43 p.m. right now, and I want to go to bed early so I can wake up on time tomorrow. I plan on shadowing an OBGYN doctor in outpatient surgery tomorrow morning, so I definitely want to be well-rested to get the most out of the experience. I’m also looking forward to reuniting with my other brother, Chris, tomorrow night! He’s over at University of Michigan, which runs on the semester system, so his winter break starts much later than mine and Austin’s. Chris was actually scheduled to return on 12/22, but since his last final– a piano performance– is tomorrow morning, my mom decided to book an earlier flight so he could come home earlier and spend more time with us! I haven’t seen Chris in nearly 4 months, and I was completely ecstatic upon hearing that he’d be returning earlier than expected.

So I hope you guys enjoyed my first “Blogmas” post of this month! Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

-Belicia