Disclaimer: My apologies in advance for the disorganization and typo’s in today’s post. I have midterms next week to study for, so unfortunately I could not spend too much time perfecting my writing. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy, and as always, feedback and thoughts are greatly appreciated!
Hi guys! It’s currently Friday, January 27, 2017, at 12:07 p.m. I have finished my two classes of the day– math and chem – and am now sitting inside the biomedical library. The rest of the day will be a study day, since I have a chem quiz and math midterm next Tuesday.
This week was emotionally rough. Last Friday, I called my parents and expressed to them that I no longer wanted to continue the pre-med track, and that I had aspirations to pursue a professional dance career instead. They were okay with me not doing premed– my dad was actually relieved! But, as you could imagine, neither were pleased with my decision to pursue dancing. They just don’t think such a career will provide me with stability and any real guarantee of success. My mother went so far as to tell me that she knows I can’t “make it big” as a dancer. The thing is, though, when you love something, success does not necessarily mean becoming the BEST dancer in the world and gaining external rewards like money, fame and prestige. Would it be nice to one day rise to the top and share the floor with some of the best dancers in the world? Of course! But even if I never get there, which is a real possibility, I believe I will be happy regardless, because dancing, plain and simple, brings me joy. To me, personal success is doing what makes you happy and finding meaning in the pursuit of your passion, no matter how difficult or uncertain the path. What others think is absolutely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you go into medicine or some other field deemed “prestigious” by society. If you yourself are not happy, everything loses meaning.
Screw what society says. Why CAN’T I become a professional dancer, if my heart wants it enough? All my life, things like gymnastics and dance have been labeled by others as mere “hobbies”. They were extracurricular activities rendered secondary to school. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not discounting the value of an education. I am currently enrolled in a wonderful university, where I will expand my knowledge capital, delve into academic disciplines on genuine interest and master my skills in critical thinking and writing. More importantly, I will meet so many people during my time here and enrich my life with lifelong friendships and mentors.
The thing with dance, though, is that this path has a time limit to it. If I really do want to give professional dancing a real shot, NOW is the prime time to pursue that dream– not four years from now.
But going back to my parents. My dad made it clear to me that as long as I am enrolled in UCLA, academics must be my number one priority. He told me that he is not paying all this tuition for me to go to college to dance 100%. He said, if I wanted to dance full time, I might as well just drop out of college, live at home, and dance. At least then he wouldn’t have to pay $30,000 in tuition each year. Now, I have no intentions of dropping out of college and renouncing the incredible opportunity of higher education that I’ve been blessed with. College is indeed my backup plan, should dance not work out. I’ll get a degree in something that interests me, whether it’s English, psychology, business, or some undiscovered passion, and go from there. However, at this point, medicine is not in my cards. Ever since freeing myself of the “pre-med” label, I’ve felt liberated. By being brutally honest with myself, I was able to admit that I just didn’t have a passion for medicine like I had originally thought. With this liberation came feelings of fear and uncertainty. For my whole life, I thought I would become a doctor like my father. Coming in to college, I was certain about pre-med, bent on getting into medical school. I had the next twelve years of my life laid out. I never stopped to ponder what I would do if not medicine. Having renounced this long-standing plan, then, I have definitely felt overwhelmed at the uncertainty of my future. I don’t want to say I am 100% done with pre-med, because I can’t predict the person I may be several years from now. Maybe, later in life, I’ll decide that I want to go back to school and become a doctor. As of right now, however, I know that my passion for dance transcends all inclinations towards medicine.
Things with my mom aren’t going so well. Every time I call her, we end up arguing, leaving both of us frustrated. I usually phone her because I feel absolutely miserable about the classes I’m taking this quarter– science and math courses that, because I’m no longer pre-med, seem completely irrelevant to my future. Unfortunately it is too late in the quarter for me to drop these science and math classes, so I just have to grind it out for the next 7 weeks. I know that the chemistry and math classes I’m taking are not utterly useless– the chem counts as a GE, and the process of learning about thermodynamics and modeling biological systems will train my problem-solving skills. I’m just struggling with adopting a more positive attitude when I have to study for subjects that really don’t pique my interest. Each study session is an ordeal. This quarter, I started drinking coffee, in spite my religious values. It’s been so difficult to channel the willpower and motivation to study efficiently for chemistry and math… On Wednesday night I stayed up until 5:00 a.m., grinding and cursing and pulling my hair out while solving thermodynamics problems. Last night, I stayed up until 2:30 a.m., pretty much doing the same thing. It’s definitely a mindset problem. Ever since I decided I was no longer pre-med and admitted to myself that I really am not passionate about science, I began to live this self-fulfilling prophecy. I go into each study session thinking, “Why am I even doing this?” Instead of studying chem, I wish I could be dancing or writing or learning about topics that really interest me. Procrastination– something which, up to this point, I have spurned with a passion– has crept into my daily life. Dancing, socializing, writing and tutoring friends have all become mechanisms for me to avoid the dreadful reality of the next seven weeks. It’s interesting because last quarter, I was probably the most enthusiastic and driven premed student you could imagine. I was so laser-focused on the goal of getting into medical school, because I forced myself to believe that pre-med was path I had to take. I doubt I enjoyed chemistry any more then than I do now, but the difference was, so long as I still wanted to go to medical school, I had the long-term goal to motivate me. Sure, chemistry wasn’t fun, but it was just a necessary obstacle to overcome on the long journey to the eventual destination. Now, I don’t have that goal of medical school to motivate me to get through chem. I’m relying on sheer willpower, and willpower is a limited resource. If I don’t want to burn out by the end of the this quarter, I’m going to have to change my attitude. Maybe treat this whole quarter as a test of strength, and have faith that I can get through it and succeed academically if I really apply myself.
I still will try hard to get good grades this quarter. I want to keep my options open, should I later decide to pursue medical or graduate school. Maybe that will be my motivator whenever I have to sit down for a dreaded five-hour chemistry study session.
On the bright side, I’ve been doing tremendously well socially! I’m gaining a lot more confidence each day. Talking to strangers has now become a natural part of my life, and I really do enjoy getting to know people. Yesterday, we had a debate for my human aging GE class. I felt nervous before getting up there with my group. However, I realized that nearly everyone in the class felt the same way. One of my debate teammates and I compared each other’s hands right before it was our turn to go. Her hands were glistening with sweat, and my hands were cold as ice and slightly trembling. We both ended up performing very well– as rebuttal speakers, nonetheless! When it came my turn to speak, I got up out of my chair and paced in front of the room, putting on my best “trial lawyer” act. I turned the sass level to full throttle. I channeled the initial nervousness into positive energy that fueled my debate performance. I was met with applause from the audience, who my friend later told me, was “blown away”. I still marvel at the fact that this is the same girl who, not too long ago, found the idea of raising her hand in class utterly terrifying.
Ever since I was diagnosed with social phobia, I had always thought I had it worst when it came to public speaking anxiety or other socially challenging situations. The truth is, though, everyone has some degree of social anxiety. In fact, I’d say some people were more nervous than I was for yesterday’s debate! It’s completely normal to feel nervous before a speech or debate or performance. I’m really starting to get the hang of embracing the discomfort instead of being repelled by it. Discomfort breeds growth, and with each experience I have outside my comfort zone, I gain confidence in my ability to push through the discomfort. So my hands shake and my voice trembles when I’m anxious. I feel awkward and my mind sometimes goes blank when I have to talk to attractive guys. So be it! It’s called being human. The point is, by pushing myself to do things that scare me, I am growing. My shyness is rapidly shedding. I’m blossoming into the outspoken, confident and shameless individual I always dreamt of becoming, and it’s really a beautiful thing to experience.
While I still have much to tell you guys, I mustn’t put off studying any longer. Tomorrow, I have a double private lesson with my new dance partner. We are shooting for our first competition in May. Until then, I will continue to study hard, dance, and continue my upward trajectory of personal growth. Never again will I twist myself into a being I am not, in the name of conforming to societal and familial ideals of success. I am Belicia Tang, and this is my one shot at life. I have no intention of wasting it on anything that doesn’t make me happy.