Journey to Copenhagen

Hi friends! It is Wednesday June 28, 9:16pm local time as I write to you guys aboard an airplane headed to Copenhagen, Denmark. Currently, we’re somewhere above Canada, headed north.

I made friends with the little girl sitting right in front of me in aisle 41! Her name is Natalia, and she is the most talkative, energetic and outgoing three-and-a-half year old I have ever met! She actually spent the last 15 minutes sitting on my lap in her adorable Christmas PJ’s, watching “Beauty and the Beast”. Her exhausted father used this window of opportunity to take a much-needed power nap. Unfortunately, my two brothers, seated on either side of me, were engaged in some violent movies involving guns and blood, and I had to shield Natalia’s curious eyes from the gore. I’d hate to taint and corrupt the mind of a child so pure and innocent. Indeed, I marvel at the goodness of a child. There is something magical about a child– in them, you see an ethereal being, not yet tainted by the darkness of life’s evils and cruel realities.  Looking into Natalia’s big green eyes, I now understand many parents’ insistence on sheltering their children from all things bad. Unfortunately, by force of nature, a child’s innocence is the fastest to go. I really do believe everyone is born good and pure, though, like a fresh white rose petal. Slowly but surely, as time goes on, the petals fall and the white rose withers to brown. By college, I am sure most young adults are stripped of their childhood innocence. Then you look at drug dealers, pedophiles, terrorists, murderers, and ask how these humans came to perform the evils they have. It’s our circumstances and ideologies shaped from external influences that dictate our actions and mold the people we become. I do not believe that humans are born with a predisposition for evil. I simply cannot believe that.

Anyway, Natalia has been the highlight of my plane ride thus far, though, the flight has not been half bad! It is my first time riding with Scandinavian Airlines, and I am thoroughly pleased with the in-cabin service. Greeting us at our seats were a bottle of water, a blue blanket and blue earbuds. The flight attendants were all super friendly and graciously accommodated the young family seated in front of us, who was traveling with an eight-month-old baby boy and an uncontrollable Natalia.

Dinner was served a couple hours ago. Unlike Cathay Pacific airlines, which offers a (limited) variety of dining options, this airline served every passenger the same meal of mildly spicy salmon and bok choy atop steam white rice; salad with thousand island dressing; a toasted bun with a frozen block of butter; cream crackers; and chocolate-glazed cheesecake. The meal itself was pretty good, but I am far from satiated.

I watched about 75% of the critically acclaimed movie, “Hidden Figures”, which dramatizes the true story of three colored women in the 1960s, who, in all their mathematical genius, helped NASA successfully land the world’s first man on the moon. Along the way, these women faced countless racial and gender barriers that would have halted most individuals. Beyond countless odds, these three women, through indefatigable tenacity and an internal fire demanding justice, not only proved their worth to their white male colleagues and superiors, but also inspired millions of young women and racial minorities to transcend their circumstances. I plan on finishing the movie after I’ve finished this post.

While we were checking in our bags, I did have a couple air-head moments that merited a thorough self-scolding. I insisted on printing out our luggage tags, as I wanted to learn how to operate a kiosk with ease. Air-head moment #1 happened when I tried to scan our passports on the scanner. No matter how long I held the passport in the position indicated, the barcode would not scan! As my dad quickly pointed out, I was not placing the passport in the correct scanning area, which explained the dilemma. So I printed out 5 luggage tags for our five checked bags. All was swell until I began tagging the bags. Ready for air-head moment #2? I disregarded the instructions explicitly printed on the tag telling you to cover the “red box” with the adhesive, and made up my own method of sticking on the tag. After that, we had to keep part of the luggage tag as a receipt, but I handed the receipt to my mother, thinking it was trash. There’s air-head moment #3. As if things could not get worse, I mistakenly tagged a carry-on luggage, and had to take off the tag and put it on the correct bag. I’d say air-head moment #4 was the most face-palm-worthy of them all. Definitely not one of Belicia’s proudest moments. Thankfully, we went to the airline desk and got everything sorted out. It’s through mistakes that I learn, though, and I now know how to: a) print out luggage tags, and b) stick on a luggage tag. Seemingly no-brainer things, but when you’re so used to having your brother or dad take care of these tasks, you never give yourself the opportunity to learn self-sufficiency. So, I’m glad I screwed up the way I did today, in a low-stakes situation (we arrived at the airport three hours before boarding, so time was not a big issue). I hope to screw up more in the future, so I can emerge more knowledgable of what NOT to do. I think that’s the beauty of being in college– you are in a new environment facing a higher level of independence, but because you’re young and still learning, you are allowed the flexibility to make relatively easily-forgiven mistakes. Imagine going straight from high school to the real world. I’d be clobbered dead out there! Which makes me all the more grateful for my chance to go to college, not just to earn a degree, but to learn maturity and professional development.

It is now 10:31pm, local time. When we arrive in Copenhagen, it’ll be roughly 2:00pm origin time. To my understanding, we will check in to the hotel, freshen up and catch up on some much needed sleep. To make this trip a more educational experience, I plan on doing extensive research on the major cities we will visit, including Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; and St. Petersburg, Russia. Oh man, am I excited to see Northern Europe! I’m especially eager to watch the Russian ballet– not sure which ballet company is performing, but Russians have dominated the field since ballet’s inception.

I may go freshen up now in the tiny airplane bathroom, which, to my pleasant surprise, is cleaner than expected. Gonna try to take a nap, as it is nearing bedtime, but the prospects are unlikely, with a wailing baby sitting right in front of us. No malice there, just calm resignation to reality. Man, traveling with baby triplets must have been a nightmare for my parents!

 Origin time: 2:51pm

Greetings from Copenhagen! I’m currently sitting in the lobby of Crowne Plaza hotel, a little ways off from the airport. Dad, Mom and Austin are at the front desk, checking in, while Chris and I are keeping watch of our seven pieces of luggage. Man, am I eager to get to our hotel room and freshen up.

The flight ended pretty uneventfully. Natalia and her baby brother ended up falling asleep, and I took a quick nap as well, after struggling for a bit to find a comfy position. I woke up to the smell of warm bread, just as flight attendants were passing out breakfast trays. We had a quick filler meal of strawberry Greek yogurt with granola; ham, lettuce and Swiss cheese; bread with (again) frozen solid butter; fruit salad; and orange juice. After breakfast, I finished the remainder of “Hidden Figures” and started watching Tim Burton’s timeless classic, “Beetlejuice”. The plane landed before I had a chance to finish this eccentric Burton-esque horror-comedy, so I’ll have to watch it on the way back.

So, Copenhagen. What stood out to me about Denmark’s capital was the luscious greenery of the city, peppered with black and orange rooftops of Danish houses. Even while the plane was landing, I caught a glimpse of the green backdrop, and thought, “We really are in Denmark now.” The landing was a bit shaky, but the point is, we arrived safely and soundly.

And now, for a moment of boy-crazy indulgence. Also seated in front of me, right next to Natalia’s family, was a young man with a slight beard, looking dapper in his smart-casual business attire. He was playing with Natalia, and I heard a distinct British accent in his voice. If you know me, you know that I’m into men with light facial hair and exotic accents. This guy fit both criteria. I stole glances at him throughout the plane ride, and totally would have struck a conversation with him, if my parents were not seated next to me. Lol. Once we landed, he got a chance to turn around to face my direction. We shared a brief, knowing smile with one another, partly referencing the silliness/cuteness of Natalia, and (at least for me) memorizing the other’s face for keepsake. Welcome, friends, to the world of Belicia’s fantastical dreams, where a girl meets a handsome, kind, intelligent suitor on a plane, falls madly in love with him and ends up staying in Copenhagen forever, where she resides in his 15-acre mansion and lives the rest of her life following her dreams, whatever they may be. Andddd… *snap. Back to reality. Probably never going to see this man again in my life, but hey, a girl can dream, right?

 It is now 1:08am here, and I’m going to get some rest for tomorrow’s self-guided tour. Looking forward to exploring more of Copenhagen tomorrow!






Developing (or Regaining) Self-Discipline

Hey everyone! Hope you all are having a great start to the week.

Today, I woke up at around 9AM. I’ve been trying to discipline myself to get my sleep schedule back on track– i.e. sleep by 10:30PM, wake up at 5:30AM. I have yet to succeed.

After a light breakfast of oatmeal with dried cranberries, I drove to the gym (with my mother in the passenger seat), where I took my first-ever cycling class! The one-hour cycling session was intense, and I don’t remember when the last time I sweated that much was. Attached to the head of each bike was a light bulb that changes colors based on the bike’s speed and resistance level. Throughout the class, the instructor told us to maintain our bikes at a specific color, within a certain RPM (revolutions per minute) range. White is the least challenging color (low resistance, low RPM), while red is the most difficult (high resistance, high RPM). I think I did a fairly good job of keeping up, though there were moments when I thought about hopping off the bike and leaving. Of course, I didn’t let myself give in to such thoughts.

A goal of mine this summer is to develop (or, rather, regain) my mental toughness. That is, learning to push through both physical and mental pain and forcing myself to do things I don’t necessarily want to do, but that will serve me in the long run. It’s strange. I think back to my days as a gymnast– I couldn’t be more than 10 or 11 years old– and I marvel at the discipline by which I lived my life, even at that young age. I’d make commitments and rarely go back on them. I’d never slack off at practice. Perhaps discipline is in my character, but gymnastics helped me realize this quality and nurture it. I guess, back then, I didn’t see any alternative to discipline and structure, as that was the way I was brought up since the age of five. I look at myself now, at 19 years old, and wonder where all that former self-discipline went. Lately, I’ve been struggling to get out of bed in the morning. During workouts, I struggle to push myself to do that extra pull-up, or hold that plank for 30 more seconds. I am ashamed to admit that, this past year, I’ve backed out of preexisting plans– outings with friends, office hours, dance lessons–  more times than I am proud of. I’ve also slacked on my fight against my anxiety, not grabbing every opportunity to challenge the anxiety as I should be doing. I ask myself, “What happened to the strong-minded girl I used to be?” Perhaps, after I quit gymnastics, I was able to relax a little more and live a life of greater balance. Maybe this “slipping” from my young militaristic self to the freer, more liberated being I am now is actually a sign of growth. Still, deep down, I (and all of us) know when we are making excuses for ourselves, and that’s the one thing I hate about the person I feel I’ve become. I’m constantly making excuses to justify lazy behavior or escape challenges. This can’t happen, and I must put a stop to this spiral right now. I detest the sleepy summer days when I seem to idly waste my time away, not really being as productive as I know I can be. I like to be busy, and I like to know that I’m always pushing myself as hard as I can. There are simple lifestyle changes one can make to develop one’s mental strength. Here are a few I plan on incorporating into my own life:

  • Work out. Pushing yourself to run that extra lap when your legs and lungs are screaming for you to stop directly translates to building mental toughness. There will be many times in life when you are forced to do things you really, really do not want to do. Why not learn to grind through challenges with integrity, strength and a positive spirit?
  • Take cold showers. This one may sound strange and may not be for everybody. I got this idea from Eleanor Roosevelt herself, who, in her autobiography, recounts her childhood experience of taking cold showers each morning. I presume the practice was intended to help her develop character, and it sort of makes sense. Who honestly likes to stand under running cold water for an extended period of time? With cold showers, you grit your teeth through the stinging cold pain, and are in and out of the shower in two minutes– Californian’s, behold, another ingenious way to save water! Plus, it is an effective way to wake up in the morning, maybe even more effective than coffee. I’ve tried the cold shower routine several times in the past, but have never been able to maintain it for more than one month. Perhaps I should reward myself each week with a “cheat” day of warm showers?
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. It goes without saying that maintaining a healthy diet requires one to exercise some level of self-discipline, given all the wondrous goodies glaring at us every which way we look. Just like with cold showers, I’ve tried eating healthy many, many times, but have always relapsed into the usual sweets and carbs. So, instead of doing the cold-turkey method of abstaining completely from guilty pleasures, I will allow myself one cheat day each week– probably Friday– to indulge. That way, I’ll still have the simply pleasures of chocolate cake and ice cream in my life, just not every day.
  • Limit screen time. Don’t you hate it when you go on your phone or computer, and what started as a little “break” time turns into a marathon of YouTube videos or deep, deep Facebook/Instagram dive? Yeah. Guilty. I also know many adults who, despite all their talk of the “evils” of technology, have also fallen victim to the beckoning screen. Indeed, there’s a whole science on why electronic devices are so easily addicting. It’s all about moderation and self-control.
  • Ditch the snooze button. I’ve yet to figure out an effective way to do this. Somehow, someway, it’s become a habit for me to hit the snooze button, even when I’m semi-conscious. It certainly does take a lot of mental strength to get yourself out of bed each morning, especially when you’ve grown used to succumbing to sleep’s soothing voice. I have a friend in college who uses a crazy-loud alarm clock that comes with a vibrator you can put under your mattress to physically wake you when the alarm goes off. I’m actually thinking of investing in one of those.
  • Meditate. I read somewhere that regular practice of meditation increases one’s tolerance for physical pain. It must have something to do with meditation’s focus on the breath, so that you learn to breathe your way through physical pain. Back when I did contortion, my teacher (who was a world-class Mongolian contortionist back in her day) told me that, while this sport may not be as “exciting” as gymnastics or dancing, it is unique in its emphasis on mental calmness, mindfulness and focus as you close your eyes through the pain of stretching/contorting your muscles. Back then, I hated the feeling of stretching and devoted all my mental power to willing myself not to cry out of pain. Looking back, had I focused my energies less on the physical pain of stretching, and more on the steadiness of my breath, such stretches would probably have been more bearable.
  • Follow through with commitments. It’s so easy to make excuses for yourself– I’m too tired; I have too many things to do today; I don’t feel like walking all the way across campus to an office hour that may or may not help me understand the material. Sometimes, excuses are legitimate. You may actually be sick, or you know that going to the really inexperienced TA’s office hour would just be a waste of your precious time. I don’t know about you guys, but most times, the excuses I make for myself don’t hold much water. They’re simply self-constructed ideological detours that open pathways to laziness. It is difficult to discipline yourself, but even more difficult to stay disciplined. Once you’ve start making excuses for yourself to justify lazy behavior, you’ve stepped on a slippery slope, until making excuses for yourself becomes the new normal. In reality, excuses are just delusions, barriers to authenticity. You don’t need them in your life.
  • But… because we are human, we are going to slip up from time to time. If you insist on making excuses for yourself, I suggest you own up to it and acknowledge that you’re making excuses, instead of lapsing into a self-constructed reality that exists merely to protect your pride. (By the way, when I say “you”, I’m talking to myself as much as I am my readers. I don’t mean to sound domineering or condescending in any way!)

As my family and I are flying to Copenhagen, Denmark, tomorrow for a two-week-long Northern European cruise, I don’t know how feasible it will be to adhere to the above behavioral patterns, while on vacation (excuse, or valid reason? I’ll opt for valid reason. I would like to enjoy my vacation to the fullest!). So I’ll have to wait until after the vacation to fully get on board my plan to regain my mental toughness.

On a more positive note, I think pushing through the cycling class today was a great start to building mental strength, and I look forward to achieving more victories like these as the summer goes on. Training mental toughness is exactly like developing a habit. Once you’ve incorporated discipline into your daily routine, such things like completing a cycling class, waking up at 5:30AM and eating healthy will not seem as grueling and toiling as it does in the beginning, when you are just starting to form these habits. And, because we’re not robots, we all will have slip-ups from time to time. When this happens, just brush em’ off and use them as fuel to keep motivating yourself to stay mentally strong in the future!

I hope you guys enjoyed my thoughts on how to build mental strength. I must get back to packing for tomorrow’s trip. As my family and I will be on a cruise ship, I don’t know how reliable wifi will be, but I will try my best to keep you guys updated on our many adventures in Northern Europe! If not, stay tuned for more on Europe, after I get back!







Self-Reflection 6/23/27: The Joys of Giving

Hi everyone! It is approaching 11:00pm as I sit at my writing station, tapping away at the keyboard. Chris is practicing Mephisto Waltz on the downstairs baby-grand for what has to be the hundredth time this week! He is traveling to Italy by himself later this summer to perform with an orchestra at a music festival, and I believe this is the piece he will be playing.

Anyway, I wanted to somehow encapsulate and share with you guys my present feeling of overwhelming warmth, joy and gratitude, after coming home from a long day of coaching, followed by dinner with a high school student seeking advice on college applications.

The greater chunk of my day was spent coaching rhythmic gymnastics for six hours at a local gym. Of course, maintaining some degree of control over little 6/7 year-olds was no easy task, and by hour 3, I was exhausted. At such a young age, with attention spans lasting no longer than a few minutes, it was difficult for the girls to exercise discipline and focus.

As about 80% of the girls/coaches at the gym are Russian/Ukrainian, I managed to pick up a few words of Russian from the native-speakers. Some words I learned today:

“Ya nie zna yu”– I don’t know

“Na teyni nasky”– point your toes

“Shto ti delayesh?”– What are you doing?

“Oodachi”– good luck

“Koleiny”– knees

“Zhivot”– stomach

“Pazhalasta”– please/your welcome

“Kak tie bia zavut?”– What is your name?

My family and I will be going on a cruise to Europe next Tuesday, and St. Petersburg, Russia, is one of our ports of call. Perhaps I may be able to put some of my very, very limited Russian vocabulary to good use!

My favorite part of coaching today was bonding with all the girls on the team. I think coaching is a balance between disciplining/inspiring students to work hard and improve their skills, and serving as a mentor and role model whom students can trust and look up to. There were many times when I had to yell at the little girls to get in their lines,  stay in their over-splits and not laugh/talk loudly as I was demonstrating/giving instructions. Some girls outright objected to doing as they were told, to which I simply said, “Ok. You can sit there and do nothing, but you’re only cheating yourself.”

The girls and I had fond moments as well. I loved coaching the few hard-working girls, who were always attentive and willing to do what I said, without objection. This is discipline, and it’s something serious athletes must learn from a young age, in order to succeed in their respective sports. It’s also the reason why, I think, many retired competitive athletes find it difficult to think for themselves, as they had been conditioned from early on to obey rules and commands from their superiors without question (at least, this is what happened to me, when I quit gymnastics).

When we were doing oversplit stretches (aka, doing the splits from a higher surface, like a mat or a chair), many girls were lazy or didn’t like the pain of stretching.When I pushed them down into oversplits, I had each count to ten, and the Russian-speaking girls count to ten in Russian, so I could pick up some more Russian words. To entice them to stay in their splits, I rewarded each girl with a single almond if she showed good form and effort (of course, we made sure no one had any nut allergies). This method of positive reinforcement worked quite well, as the girls had an external motivation to push through the pain. When they get older, though, I hope they won’t need the enticement of almonds to motivate them to stretch, as we all know that extrinsic motivation alone is not sustainable in guiding long-term achievement. At 6 or 7, however, most kids are either forced into club sports by their parents without any personal commitment to it, or are in it just to release energy, make friends and have fun. Knowing this, I guess I should check myself when I find myself getting frustrated at their lack of attention and seeming unwillingness to work hard.

I thought it was really cute how, at the end of practice, the girls were eyeing my bag of almonds hungrily, and I told them to each give me a beautiful gymnastics salute, before taking three almonds from the bag.

The older level 8 and 9 girls worked hard on their routines throughout the day. One of the girls, Anya, was at the gym from 10:30am to 6:30pm, as she will be competing at National’s next week. She is one of the hardest workers I know and reminds me a lot of myself during my gymnastics days. I do admire her positive spirit when training– something I never had at 15 years old. Watching her, I wondered if I could ever possibly regain the athletic discipline that, for my first 15 years, was all I ever knew. Having been out of training for four years already, I marvel at the mental strength required of athletes to push through hours and hours of grueling practice and physical pain. My whole body aches just from bending down to stretch the girls! I doubt my body will ever be in the shape it was when I was at my prime in gymnastics. A lot of former gymnasts suffer from early-onset arthritis and joint pain due to the extreme mobility and intense bodily stress of their younger days. Physical ability is fleeting. But I do still retain the learned discipline from all my years of athletic training and can now apply that discipline to my life beyond gymnastics.

After finishing coaching at 6:30pm, I took the Caltrain home, where I met with a rising high school senior who had reached out to me for advice on college applications. Our acquaintance was actually made possible through this blog! Though I didn’t know her personally, she had apparently been following my blog closely, and was proactive/courageous enough to reach out to me for advice. We had dinner together, and I shared my high school/freshman college experience with her, as well as advice on the college application. She was so sweet, so down-to-earth and is currently facing some similar stresses of young adulthood I went through back in high school/the first half of freshman year at UCLA.

Most of those stresses revolve around uncertainty of the future, and I’m sure many young adults can resonate with this topic. I used to be absolutely TERRIFIED of uncertainty. It is human nature to crave certainty. Most people like to plan out every step of their life, because when you plan, you have control, and when you’re in control, you feel safe and less vulnerable to failure. When I decided, two quarters into my freshman year of college, that I no longer wanted to be on the pre med track, I was thrown into a state of internal turmoil and fear. I lost a good amount of sleep just thinking and wondering what I could possibly do with my life, if not medicine. When I finally learned to let go and accept the uncertainty for what it is– a natural part of life that cannot be altered– I was liberated. I’m in a much better place now, living with a lot less fear and eager to see where my heart takes me next. I am ready to explore.

All this I told my high school senior friend, who listened intently. At 19 years old, I am still very young and have a lot to learn about life, but tonight, I felt a real sense of purpose in sharing my story with this girl, who was but two years younger than me. I feel that college has helped me mature profoundly. In fact, I’d wager to say that college, despite all its challenges, is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m so grateful I have the chance to grow myself at a great university like UCLA.

Sharing my story and my itty-bitty beads of 19-year-old wisdom (if you can even call it that) with someone young and filled with immense potential, was so fulfilling. I’m really developing a voice, and it’s fascinating to experience this internal change. Each day, little by little, my self confidence growths. I’m getting to the point where I’m confident enough in myself to give back to others, be it in gymnastics coaching or advice on college applications, relationships, and life in general.

It is nearly 12:30am as I wrap up this post. It’s been a long day, and I’m eager for tomorrow to come, so I can continue on my path of self-development.

Have a wonderful night!





The Beauty of Self Exploration

Hi everyone! It is a beautiful Wednesday afternoon as I write from the comfort of my desk, the sounds of a distant airplane and my brother’s tempestuous interpretation of Franz Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz intermingling in a discordant symphony.

Regretfully, I woke up this morning feeling slightly under the weather. As the day progressed, my illness worsened. These past few days have pushed me, from gymnastics coaching, dance training, my writing internship to commuting all over the Bay Area via Caltrain and Uber. I love the feeling of working hard and staying busy, so I hope to recover from this bug as quickly as possible.

This morning, I had the greatest pleasure of eating breakfast at the Café Borrone with an amazing friend, mentor and fellow dancer, Liz.

A Stanford University alumnus and graduate from Harvard Law School, Liz perfectly embodies society’s ideal of “success”– a mould that so many young people today wish to fit in. But Liz is so much more than her career success as a trial lawyer. She is a wife, a mother of two, a musician, dancer, performer and life-long learner. As much an artist as a professional, Liz is a multi-talented being graced with a brilliant mind and, most importantly, the kindest heart. She has helped me tremendously through my first year of college, providing me with guidance, direction and whole-hearted support as I embark on this beautiful journey of self-exploration.

We discussed many topics over breakfast, including dance, career paths, boys, mental health and writing. My conversation with her was one of complete clarity and utmost honesty. Without fear of judgement, I relayed to her my current state of mind regarding my decision to dance.

In this post, I want to share with you guys the same conclusion I’ve shared with Liz this morning. So, here it goes.

Dancing is not where my heart lies.

I know. Let it sink in for a moment.

This may come as a shock to those who’ve been following my journey closely. Not long ago, I made the decision to take a break from UCLA to explore dancing further, as I suspected it was in this art where my heart wanted to be. Now, here I am, not even a week into summer vacation, declaring that dancing, in fact, is not my calling.

Before I go on, I need to say this. I realize that, in choosing transparency, I make myself vulnerable to the scrutiny and judgement of the outside world. Of course, the way those outside ourselves perceive us is a mere shadow of our true stories, which can only be crafted from within.

So, you are absolutely allowed to think what you will of my latest life decision. Of the few friends I’ve disclosed this to, some have expressed support, others confusion, and still others disapproval at my seemingly cowardly decision to “give up” on dance so soon. I know how this may look from an outsider’s perspective. For so long, I’ve been rambling on about how dance is my calling, and finally, at the end of my freshman year at UCLA, I gathered the strength and courage to make the bold decision to put my education on hold to chase my dreams. I’ve received countless messages of support, admiration and respect from friends, classmates and mentors regarding my decision to be a trailblazer, a renegade, a maverick. I’ve very publicly said goodbye to UCLA, a school I love with all my heart. And now, here I am, telling you guys that, in reality, I don’t believe a professional dance career will give me maximum life fulfillment. I will be back at UCLA this coming fall to continue onward on my journey of exploration.

I aim not to convince you why I’ve come to the conclusion I have, nor do I seek anyone’s approval in any way. Throughout this whole journey of finding myself, I’ve learned the important life lesson that you don’t owe anyone an explanation of what you do or why you do it. You don’t need others’ approval to justify your actions. You do what you must to stay true to yourself.

But, my dear readers, so many of you have supported me greatly through my angst, questioning and uncertainty during this scary, adventurous and thrilling life chapter, and for that, I am beyond grateful. I’ve already shared so much of myself with you guys, and I’d think it an injustice to withhold my  thought processes that have guided me to my latest development. I hope that, in my story, you will find courage to follow your own hearts and never, ever settle, until you’ve found that special something that gives you a reason to wake up each morning. Also note that there is no shame in exploring and choosing to turn around once you hit a dead end, rather than trudging along a path that, in your heart, you know is not right for you.

So, without further ado, here is the ending of one chapter, and the beginning of another.

When I first made the decision to leave UCLA during the beginning of spring quarter to focus on dancing, I was ecstatic. I had declined my housing offer for the 2017-2018 academic year, and in my mind, I was on track to pursue professional dancing. Whether my parents were completely on board or not did not matter to me. I was going to be a dancer, and nothing was going to stop me. I distinctly remember walking to my dorm room one evening and suddenly being overwhelmed with emotion– happiness and excitement at the start of a new journey, sadness and regret at the necessary sacrifices I’d have to make for my dream. In that moment, though, I felt that I had made the right choice in picking dance. Something clicked in me. When I was no longer fighting this great divide between passion and career, art and reality; when I finally asked myself, “Well why can’t my passion also be my career?”; when, for the first time in my life, I decided to put everything into dance, I felt… relief. Peace. Excitement. Anything was better than the limbo state I’d been in for the past year. I was finally carving a path for myself, completely different from the one I’d been raised on. It was a lot to take in, indeed. It was thrilling.

As the weeks of spring quarter went on, I continued to experience a roller-coaster of emotions. There were good days and bad days. Sometimes, I’d be running laps at Drake Stadium, when all of the sudden, I’d find myself gasping in tears, unable to hold it together. How could I leave UCLA and all the amazing people I’ve met here, when my journey had only just begun? Bathrooms became somewhat of an emotional purging station for me. My heart ached for the school I loved. For the first time in my life, I had made true friendships. Why was it that, just as I was starting to feel belongingness, I had to leave? Of course, I didn’t HAVE to do anything— the decision to dance was completely my own, which almost made whole thing so much harder… I didn’t want to leave UCLA, but I also didn’t want to live with the regret of not giving myself the maximum chance at success in dance, which (I thought) necessarily entailed moving back to the Bay Area to continue with my teachers. The anthem of my waking moments were the lyrics, “Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on…” (The Show Must Go On, by Queen). I haven’t a clue why that song in particular came to mind. But every time I’d feel regret or nostalgia or sadness with my big decision, those three lines would start blaring in my head like a broken record.

I doubted my decision many times, even before I started living the “dancer’s life”. I thought to myself, “Dance better be freaking worth it, for everything I’m about to leave behind. I don’t have any option but success. If I’m going to leave UCLA and throw away the countless opportunities presented to me at this institution, then I’d better become something in the dance world. I have to give my sacrifice meaning. There’s no other choice but to succeed.” The anthem of my life became Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”: “Success is my only motherf***in’ option, failure’s not.”

And that, my friends, is the moment when dance ceased to become a passion and creative outlet, morphing into this big ugly ball of stress, pressure and work. What began as something pure and good became tainted with the desire for external validation, for titles, for glory. How else would I be able to survive, living as a dancer? The income’s gotta come from somewhere. If I win, my name will carry more clout, and I’ll attract more students for dance lessons. So the goal is simple: win. The path to becoming a champion— not so easy.

When dance became less about a means of expression, and everything to do with achieving, it lost its special magic that drew me to it in the first place, two-and-a-half years ago. Practices became work. I struggled a lot with negativity and frustration. Where did the enjoyment of dance go?

That was the first red flag– losing my love of dance once, in my mind, I declared it my destiny. Initially, I was very confused. I had always thought that, if I could dance every second of the day, I’d be happy. That’s the way it was with gymnastics. All throughout middle school and high school, I begged my parents to let me do online schooling so I could focus solely on my training. When that dream was about to become a reality, this time with dancing, I should have felt more excited, right?

The thing is, though, I am not the same person I was five years ago, when I was still a competitive gymnast with great aspirations. I’ve developed an identity apart from that of gymnastics. College was time for me to explore myself further. It was freedom. The first two quarters were pretty miserable, as I didn’t enjoy my pre-med courses. But I had to go through that, in order to confirm my suspicions that a career in medicine was not for me. Spring quarter was time to explore completely different avenues that piqued my interest. At the start of the quarter, I was enrolled in two theater classes, a philosophy class, a class on HIV, a freshman seminar on Donald Trump and another one on the neuroscience of movement. I was in exploration mode and boy, was I excited.

A series of events that culminated during the first couple weeks of spring quarter led me to reconsider the dance path. When I chose dancing as my main focus, I ended up dropping several of my classes so I’d have more time for dance training. Now, with so much free time to dance, I should have been happy as a clam, as this was what I’d always wanted, right?

Wrong. As aforementioned, I experienced a lot of sadness. In fact, I relapsed into depression and went to the ER for a few hours for immediate psychiatric evaluation/treatment. Dance practices became an ordeal. My relationship with my parents quickly deteriorated. Every phone conversation I had with them ended in a fight. They obviously wanted me to stay in school and continue on the fast track towards graduation and, ultimately, financial independence. Still, despite how miserable I felt with my decision to dance, I chose to believe that this suffering was a necessary step on the path to a greater calling.

Towards the end of the quarter, I’m not sure what kept me in the dance illusion. At that point, thanks to my glorious proclamation on social media, nearly everyone I knew believed I was leaving school to pursue dance (which was not entirely true— the plan was to take a gap quarter to explore dance further, and if I decided that dance was my calling, I’d leave UCLA completely). It was no longer just an internal battle. In being so public about my journey, other people were brought in to my narrative. I felt a sense of obligation to epitomize the trailblazer that everyone saw me as. Each time someone would come up to me, expressing their respect for me and my decision, I’d smile politely, appreciative of their support… but inside, I’d wince a little. If only you all knew what I was thinking. I still questioned dance, even though I said I had made the decision to pursue it fully. I began to confuse what I really wanted with what others wanted for me.

Towards the end of the quarter, I felt as though I were living a lie. A lie that had begun as a self-perceived truth, but was in fact a stepping stone on my path of self-exploration. In the beginning, I truly believed dance was where my heart was. Upon exploring further and peeling back the layers of illusion, getting to better understand the industry and its difficult politics-infected reality, I realized that dance wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight.

Looking into my past, I realized that, perhaps, my desire to dance was a mere extension of my unfulfilled Olympic dream in gymnastics. The injury took me out of the sport prematurely, and in dancing, I saw another route to achieve the “glory” I had yearned for, but couldn’t find, as a gymnast. But if that was the only reason I was dancing— to fill a void— then it is not worth the sacrifice. The analogy I like to make is that of a bad breakup. Losing gymnastics was like getting dumped by a guy I loved. It hurt a lot, and I was wrought with worry to find something to fill the void. I’m so grateful for finding Latin dance on Valentine’s Day of 2015, for the art has given me many special gifts, including another mode and language of expression. But the thing is, dance was kind of a rebound for gymnastics. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I ever truly loved dance for dancing’s sake, or if I liked it because a) it was an extension of my unfulfilled gymnastics fantasy, or b) I felt confident in my ability to dance.

Let’s hone in on point b for a second. I think we often confuse what we are good at with what we’re passionate about, for oftentimes the two are one in the same. I mistook dance for my passion because it felt familiar. My first 15 years were spent in the gymnastics world. I’ve always been very confident in my physical ability as an athlete, but less so in the intellectual realm of academia. Perhaps, when I realized pre-med wasn’t what I wanted to do at this time in my life, I was so scared of the ensuing uncertainty. What could I do, if not medicine? Not knowing the answer to the question, I defaulted to the next-most familiar avenue— dance– without thinking if this was what I really wanted.

Of course, the gut feelings I felt at the time of making the decision to dance were real. There was indeed something about dance that kept drawing me in. For whatever reason, I couldn’t let go of the dancing dream… but were my motives pure? If I wanted to dance for any reason other than love for the art, then dancing professionally would not be a good idea. Did I truly love dance? I had to live the reality to find answers.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the dancing was not my calling. Even before my final day at UCLA, I had a feeling that to dance as a career would take away the joy of the art. In fact, it had already done so.

And so, I continue my search. I thought I wanted to dance as a career, hit a wall, turned around, and am now carving a path anew. I’m very excited to come back to UCLA this fall. The short time I thought I’d leave UCLA made me appreciate my school and its people all the more profoundly. My parents are understandably relieved at my change of heart. The thing is, I’m the kind of  person who won’t accept things as truth until I uncover it myself. My mom could’ve preached at me all she wanted until she was blue in the face, but she couldn’t have swayed me away from dance. I needed to come to the decision by myself. I needed to be enlightened on my own terms, and nobody else’s.

I don’t believe I’ve failed. Not in the least. Some may call me whimsical, flaky, or afraid of commitment. Others may see me as one who preaches one thing, but lives a different reality. Believe what you will. I know that to follow your heart is no easy task, especially when you’ve lived most your life a people-pleaser, devoid of confidence in your ability to choose for yourself. This past year alone, I’ve flip-flopped on the dance decision God knows how many times– just ask any of my closest friends/family, and they’ll tell you. I look back on it all, and realize that what I’ve experienced is completely normal and healthy. Sleepless nights and all, I truly believe my experience with uncertainty, this early in life, was a blessing in disguise. When one is blessed with having so many different options, the choices can easily feel overwhelming. Is it chocolate cake or ice cream? Medicine or dance? Or something else altogether? This is the uncertainty that, for so long, I was afraid to embrace. Now, I realize that uncertainty is all part of the human condition. Why torment yourself over something you can’t control? Embrace it! Live it! Love it!

Dance will forever remain an integral part of my identity. I can confidently say that I will not regret my decision to turn by back from professional dancing, for it was a conclusion I reached on my own, after much-needed exploration, thought and soul-searching. I love dance, and I love UCLA. I can continue dancing in LA for nothing/no one but myself, whilst getting a degree at the perfect-fit university and expanding my mind along different dimensions. I am excited to see what the future holds. While I have yet to decide on what I wish to major in, I am thinking of something along the lines of doubling majoring in English and psychology.

The anthem of my heart is now a famous line from  Hamilton: the Musical: “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now!”

Indeed, I am so lucky. So lucky that I can keep dancing, so happy I’m doing it with pure intentions, and eternally grateful that I can do it at a place I love.




First Day of Summer 2017!!!

Hey guys! It is currently 11:38pm as I sit at my desk, inside my dimly room, a gentle breeze flowing in from the two open windows. Today was my first official day back from college, and I definitely enjoyed it.

I had planned on waking up at 6am to dance, but because I had stayed up until 2am last night, I ended up getting out of bed at 9am. My mom made us a homemade breakfast of her infamous smoothie, fruit, boiled tea eggs and oatmeal. It felt nice and somewhat strange to sit together as a family again after several months apart. I had not seen my younger brother, Chris, since January, but it was like no time had passed between us.

After breakfast, I drove to the gym, where I worked out for a couple hours. I’m working hard to get my body back in shape for dance!!! As I was working out, though, a thought occurred to me. I realized how much it sucks to be a woman sometimes. I’ve been a member of my local gym since the age of four, so I practically grew up there. The gym used to be my safe space where I’d feel completely at ease and in my element. Now, however, I can’t get through a workout without at least one older man gawking in my direction. Or so I presume. I’m sure many young women can relate to my experience. I still remember clearly how, over winter break, I was called a “slut” by a group of middle-aged married men, just because I was doing the middle splits in the stretching area. I’ve never quite recovered from that experience, and I’m always on my guard now whenever I go to the gym. Yeah. It really sucks to be a woman sometimes. College has definitely made me less naive about men and their intentions. This is not to say that all men are ill-intentioned; but I’ve learned that, sometimes, being my usual friendly self may falsely lead on men, which is the last thing I want. In that sense, college has necessarily hardened me.

After working out, I made pit-stops at the local Jamba Juice, Togo’s, Nob Hill and Starbucks, to pick up job applications for me and my brother Austin. Both of us want to work this summer. I need to work to support my dancing, which is not cheap. Not at all. Once I begin my training, I will be taking four dance lessons per week, totaling to $340/week (actually a really good deal, compared to some other rates). To financially support my dancing, I plan on working part-time as a rhythmic gymnastics and dance coach. I also plan to work remotely as a paid writing intern for a company aiding high school-age students with the college application process. I am tutoring some high school students in math, chemistry and writing. If I still have time and energy after all of that, I hope to get hired as a barista at either Jamba Juice or Starbucks and work the early morning shifts. Any time left will, of course, be devoted to training. I haven’t quite mapped out my schedule yet, but I have a feeling I’ll be stretching myself very thin, and may have to drop some commitments to preserve my sanity.

[Side note: Isn’t it funny how, in our society, people pride themselves in how MUCH they do, rather than, other (in my opinion) more salient qualities, like character and relationships and mental health)? I remember being that person who’d brag about the sheer number of commitments I’d take on, wearing them like a badge of honor. “I slept three hours last night,” I’d boast. Is that really a noteworthy achievement? Throwing your mental and physical health under the bus to get a little bit ahead with studying? Why is it that our society places so much value in our work, rather than building character success? There’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself hard… so long as you’re doing smartly and doing it for yourself, not for others’ validation. Your work does not define you. For the first time, ever, I’m finally starting to believe that statement. My self-worth is independent from what I do.]

So, I have a busy summer ahead, but I’m excited for the challenge, as any test of inner strength builds character. I don’t want to financially burden my parents with supporting my dancing, as they’re already paying for three kids’ college tuition, which is no easy feat. Just today, I paid $410 for a round-trip ticket to NYC in early August, where I will attend a dance camp/competition, scope out the dance scene and hopefully try out with some potential dance partners.

After making my job application run, I walked to the local library, where I checked out a few summer reading books– “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brönte, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. I began “Dorian Gray” today, and found Wilde’s flowery language and poetic style to be both elegant and somewhat detracting. I watched the 2009 film adaptation of the book, so I know the general storyline. Looking forward to reading the rest of Wilde’s only novel!

Austin picked me up from the library in the Volkswagon. My parents have finally agreed to pay for my car insurance, as I’ll need to transport myself throughout the Bay Area this summer, with dance and work and community college come fall (should I decide to stay in the Bay, that is). The problem is, they don’t trust me enough behind the wheel to let me drive alone on freeways. I always tell them that they need to let my try, or else I will never learn! They can sit in the passenger seat the first couple times, to make sure I know what I’m doing. Eventually, though, they’re just gonna have to let me do it. Sometimes, I feel like my parents try too hard to shelter me and my brothers. They can’t protect their kids forever, though. At some point, they’re just going to have to take a leap of faith and trust that all will be fine in the end, even if their children stumble and make mistakes.

Speaking of family. I definitely noticed an unfamiliar tension at the dinner table tonight, between me, my brothers and my parents. I think it is normal for kids who’ve just come back from their first year of college to feel a discord with their parents upon coming home after several months away. This past year, we’ve been tested in many ways and have learned to live independently from our parents. We’ve dealt with crises without our parents’ help. We’ve set our own daily routines, established our own dining preferences, developed our own social circles and communities. When we come home after college and find our parents treating us like little children, we understandably feel stifled and irked at the clinginess and hovering. Of course, parents who haven’t seen their babies in many months understandably want to spend every second with their children.  While I doubt the family dynamic will be the same as it was before college, I think it’s actually a beautiful thing to witness the growth of children into mature, independent young adults. However old you are, you will always be your parents’ babies, and they will never stop treating you as such. I’ll understand this better when I have my own children.

After dinner, I went swimming at our local pool. As I swam laps, I mulled over how I could possibly make the money necessary for dance. I’ll admit that, going in to this, I was oblivious to the difficulties of financially supporting my dance career. It’s so easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just work several jobs to pay for lessons and traveling and costumes and the like.” The reality is so much harder. I haven’t even started my many jobs, and I’m already anticipating difficulty. It’s okay. I’m sure my parents will help pay for some of the expenses, but I just don’t want to burden them financially when, morally, they are not happy with my decision to give dancing a try.

I got back home at around 9:30pm, took a shower and FaceTimed my BFF, Chiana, who lives in Connecticut. Apparently it was foggy and raining over there, whereas here in the Bay, we’re experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures soaring in the high 80s and 90s. I definitely miss my friends at UCLA, but thanks to the wonders of social media and instant communication, it has never been easier for people to remain in touch across long distances. I watched an episode of this Netflix original show called “Santa Clarita Diet”, starring Drew Barrymore as regular mom/realtor who, after presumably contracting a mysterious zoonotic virus, turns into a flesh-eating zombie-like being. The show is pretty funny and satirical, with quick and easy 30-minute episodes. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a summer TV show.

After watching one episode, I decided to write this blog post! Now, it is 1am. Goodness, time flies when I’m writing. I absolutely love it! Maybe writing is my calling. If dance doesn’t work out, I will most definitely explore writing further.

Have a good night everyone, and Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there!





Thank You to My Readers!!!

Hi guys,

I want to dedicate this post to all of you who are reading this right now. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking time out of your day to read my blog.

I started the blog during my junior year of high school. At its inception, the blog was merely a way for me to mourn the loss of my life and identity as a gymnast, after a career-ending injury took me out of the sport I loved.

Before I knew it, the blog took on a life of its own. Little did I know how many people actually cared about what I wrote, and how much they could relate to my own joys and struggles. I am always humbled when I receive a message from a friend, classmate, or even someone I’ve never personally met, telling me how much my story resonated with them.

The thing is, I write from the rawness of my soul. This blog is composed of nothing but brutal honesty, clarity and self-reflection. This is me. It is the story of a young woman trying to find her way in this vast universe, whilst staying as true to her heart as possible.

I used to write only for me. Now, I still write for myself, but I also write for others. For you guys.

Through writing, I’ve gained a voice. I feel more empowered than I ever have in my life.

But I could never have found my voice without you guys. Without your guys’ endless support, I could never have understood how a mere individual like me could possibly make any imprint in the world. This blog is not just about me. It’s about all of us. It is an homage to everyone’s struggle to hear their quiet inner voices over the noise of external forces. It is an ode to Life– the human condition of creating individual meaning in an inherently meaningless world. It is about the beauty of personal growth and the incredible capacity to stretch ourselves beyond any and all preconceived limitations.

I don’t believe I am special. I am simply a woman enduring, like the rest of us, and learning to appreciate the little moments that give life its greatest meaning.

So thank you all, many times over. I love you and wish you the best in your individual life journeys. It is a gift to be alive each day, and it is the realization of life’s fragility that keeps me grateful for each moment I have with the people I love.

Expect lots more blog posts to come! This summer will be a very busy one, indeed. I will keep you all updated with my journey of self-discovery, for I am still finding myself. Whether or not dance truly is my calling remains to be seen. These next 7 months are a trial period. I will immerse myself in the dancer’s life, training and coaching and competing, and see if such a career is for me. If not, UCLA is always waiting for me, and I will continue my search. I refuse to settle until I’ve found my “Why”. And I am so grateful that I have the opportunity for such exploration– not everyone does.





Spring Quarter 2017 Reflection

Hey guys! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Saturday. To my fellow college students still grinding through finals– hang in there, you’re almost done!

I’m happy to say that I finished my last final exam on Wednesday. It was a theater GE final, and the exam was a lot easier than expected. All I have left is a paper due next Wednesday, so I’ve been taking it easy these past couple days and letting the reality of completing my freshman year of college sink in.

UCLA’s theater department has been putting on “Carrie: The Musical” for the past week, and I am absolutely obsessed with the show! Just like in Spring Sing, the level of talent displayed in this production is inspiring. I enjoyed this rendition of “Carrie” so much that I saw the show 3 times! Watching the performers– all UCLA students– makes me long to be up on the stage with them. It’s a shame I can’t sing… yet. One long-term goal of mine is to improve my singing skills and gain better control over my voice. If I am going into the entertainment industry, I’d best develop my artistic talents as much as I can. My mom, though never formally trained, is a wonderful singer. Hopefully she’s imparted some of her talent to me!

Now, on to reflection time. All-in-all, this quarter has been VERY relaxing academically, relative to the previous two terms. I needed time for soul-searching and self-reflection before reaching the ultimate decision to leave UCLA to focus on dance. I needed to give my inner voice a chance to speak.

Now, the real talk.

Some say that suffering is good for the soul; that those who suffer most also experience the greatest joys in life’s simplest beauties. I believe there is truth to this statement. When you’re constantly pushing yourself to your limit, stretching your bounds and working hard to reach your goals, the sweet periods of rest are long-awaited and hold much more meaning than if you are never challenged at all. This quarter, I lived safely. At least in terms of academics. My GE classes interested me, but I wasn’t challenged as I had been the previous two quarters. And I don’t think that suits me. Not being challenged, I mean. It doesn’t suit me at all.

I never function well when I am not busy or under pressure. I fall into a depressed state when my life lacks structure and discipline. I need to be living under a pressure-cooker to feel at my maximum potential. Ironically, I am also pretty bad at handling stress. When there’s a job to be done, be it in school or dance or work, I push myself to complete the necessary task, but the journey is rife with hair-pulling and mental breakdowns. In the end, I achieve. But at what cost? It’s a strange irony. Stress is both my best friend and worst enemy. What if stress is simply a way for me to distract myself from deeper issues, from closets that don’t want to be opened? Whenever I have time for myself to think– and this quarter, I’ve had a lot of that– I get swept into a downward spiral. I question every decision I make. I wonder if I’m lying to myself about my calling… what is my calling? Must we have a single calling? I am exploring. This is the beauty of life– carving your own path and learning about yourself along the way. All is well. Why stress?

My next goal in my journey of growth is to be able to find beauty amidst hard work. From this past quarter I’ve learned that living an “easy” life is not for me. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with a life of relaxation and hedonism. It’s just not the life I choose. I love working hard towards my goals. From achieving I find fulfillment. Now, I must rise to the next level and learn to find beauty amidst the pain. Instead of treating life as one endless path of suffering to reach goals, I must learn to smile along the way. Only in this way will my accomplishments hold lasting meaning.

It’s so easy to get caught up in your problems and worries that you lose sight of the privilege you have to even feel such perceived pain. Every day I hear classmates complaining about how difficult their classes are and how much they hate school. Believe me, I am guilty of this as well. Has anyone ever stopped to think, though, of how lucky they are to be in college in the first place? Not to mention being at UCLA, a university many would only dream of attending. I think a fundamental root of unhappiness is lack of gratitude, or blindness towards the big picture.

Enough of these directionless musings for now. Let’s go back to the events of this past quarter.

While I’ve still managed to screw up my sleep schedule and relapse into carbs and sugar-binging after a week of effectively starving myself (note to everyone– starvation diets don’t work!), I am happy that I haven’t gone as “wild” as I had during winter quarter. I’m starting to feel more like myself again. I dabbled in the usual college vices and have now effectively relinquished my curiosity. This quarter, I focused on me.

Two weeks ago, I posted in UCLA’s “Free and For Sale” page on FB, offering free private dance lessons to individuals or couples in the UCLA community. I figured, as I wasn’t taking too heavy a courseload this quarter, I might as well give back to the UCLA community in a unique way. I had no idea how people would respond to my post. To my pleasant surprise, the post was popularly received, and an overwhelming number of UCLA students requested lessons from me. I didn’t mind teaching for free, because:

a) I understand the whole broke college student situation. I’d hate for someone to give up the opportunity to learn how to dance because of financial limitations.

b) I’m actually NOT working for free. Through teaching beginners, I am gaining valuable coaching experience and forming bonds with people of all walks of life. For instance, I met a 3rd year medical student who’s passion for magic (think David Copperfield magic) spurred him to go into medicine. There was a UCLA law student and her boyfriend, whom I taught the basics of salsa dance to. The way they laughed uncontrollably at each other throughout the lesson was priceless. Through teaching dance, I am giving young individuals the gift of creative expression. Dance has done so much for me, and I love being able to give back to my community through something I’m so passionate about.

Next week, I am teaching an actress who performed in Spring Sing, and in return, she will be giving me an acting/improv lesson. Super excited for what’s to come– expect a blog post highlighting the experience!

This past quarter has been an emotional roller coaster, as it may very well be my last at UCLA. These past four weeks, especially, have been rough. It hurts to say goodbye to a school and a community I’ve grown to love. These are the kinds of sacrifices one must make, though, in the pursuit of one’s dreams. Remember Mia and Sebastian in “La La Land”? The two had to call off their romantic relationship as their individual dreams pulled their lives in separate directions. It was a heart-wrenching, sobering ending… but also very, very realistic. Life is about making these hard decisions and choosing the path that’ll maximize long-term happiness.

The next 7 months will be a trial period for me. I will consume myself in the dancers’ life– train harder than I’ve ever trained, coach for income, perform and compete in the amateur dance circuit. Gain a complete immersion in the ballroom dance industry. Learn the ropes and make connections. Hopefully find a partner. At the end of it, I will see if dancing as a career is something I really want to do. If, at the end of the 7 months, I decide that I love dancing, but only as a passionate outlet, and not as a career, then UCLA will welcome me back with open arms. If I decide (likely to my parents’ dismay) that a dance career is where it is at for me, then I will transfer to a university closer to home and continue my growth as a dancer under the tutelage of my current teachers.

This summer, I plan on going to New York for one week to scope out the dance scene and try out with potential partners. There are some male dancers in Italy who are interested in trying out– I’ll have to convince my parents to let me travel to Europe. I will try my best to finance my dancing through 2 coaching positions, possibly a writing internship and self-employed tutoring in writing/math. It’ll be tough, though, and I hope my parents will help support me financially, even though they’re not too enthused about the dance path. They are great parents, and I know they want nothing but my happiness and success. I’m working to mend my rocky relationship with them after all the verbal fights over the phone regarding my decision to dance. I’m in the process of writing them a letter. In this letter, I aim not to convince them that dancing is indeed an amazing career that they should fully support, but rather to help them better understand why I’ve chosen this path. I apologize for the pain and distress I’ve inevitably caused them in my decision. Recently, I found out from one of Austin’s friends that my mom has been calling Austin every day, discussing what she should do with me. I hate that I’m creating such a ripple in a hitherto peaceful life. I was doing well in my pre-med classes. My mom was excited that one of her kids would end up a physician. Life was good… but at the same time, it wasn’t. It lacked authenticity. I wasn’t happy. I was living a lie, telling myself that I wanted to be a doctor, when my heart wanted something very different. Who knows? I may still be living a lie. I don’t know. What I do know is, in making this decision to give dance a real shot, I will finally uncover the truth of whether or not dancing is my calling. Dance will always be my passion, no doubt about it. But whether or not a dance career is for me is another question. It is a question I will soon find answers to in the next 7 months. The trial period, I call it.

Alright guys, I must conclude my post here. I’m going out to dinner tonight with a guy I met a couple weeks ago at the Hedrick Study. I hope it’ll be fun, though I know there is no sense in starting anything serious right before I leave.

I will keep you all posted on my dance journey, my thought processes along the way and upcoming competitions/performances. Until then, keep smiling and living life as authentically as possible. In the words of the current World Champion ballroom dancer (and UCLA alumnus) Victor Fung, “Life’s too short to not be happy with anything that you do. Also, you owe it to yourself to give yourself every opportunity to pursue any career that you desire. After all it is your life and only you know what will make you happy deep down inside.”