Hey guys! Hope y’all are doing well. I apologize for not having written in so long— life’s been pretty hectic. When is it not, though?
Anyway, I have some big news for y’all. I’ve decided to hop back on the pre-medical track (for like the sixth time!).
For some, this major life decision may not come as much of a surprise. In fact, many of you must be face-palming so hard right now, thinking to yourselves, “Really Belicia? AGAIN?!”
I’ll tell you guys why I’ve decided to make medical school my goal once more. At the most basic level, I’ve always been one to aim high. It is simply in my nature. Being a pre-med student at UCLA is probably one of the most ambitious paths to take. I am ambition, and ambition is me. Simple as that.
Let’s go back to spring quarter of my freshman year of college, when I first renounced pre-med. What propelled me to make such a drastic switch in career paths? I had taken a couple quarters of chemistry and biology. During those two quarters, I practically lived and breathed studying. I was not dancing nearly as much as I wanted to. As is often the case with me, my life was completely out of balance, with academics consuming a disproportionate amount of energy in comparison to other important life pillars. I came into UCLA a crazy pre-med gunner, so utterly determined to get into medical school. My long-term goal blind-sighted me, and I lost myself in the tunnel-visioned pursuit. I gave up my passions and threw my mental and physical health under the bus. Two quarters into my pre-med journey, I had already burnt out.
So, I decided to take a break from the pre-medical track to explore other career options. My first instinct was to turn to dance, if not medicine. Dance was the next-most familiar thing in my life, and, as one who does not sit well with uncertainty, I figured that to have an idea of what I wanted to do was better than having no clue at all. So, after renouncing pre-med, I set my eyes on a professional ballroom dance career.
At one point in time, I truly thought that a dance career was what I wanted. I went so far as to almost leave UCLA after my first year to pursue my artistic dream. There is no doubt in my mind that I love dance. This art has done so so much for me, and I wish to spread my passion to as many people as possible. But to make dance my livelihood, my means of survival? That is a whole different story.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I took to immersing myself in the world of competitive ballroom, learning anything and everything I could about the life of a professional dancer. I was quickly disillusioned— behind the glamour and glitz of the ballroom, the dance world is an ugly one, ridden with politics, drama, corruption. I decided to return to UCLA that fall.
Come sophomore year, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Despite seeing the true colors of the dance world, I still couldn’t let go of the possibility of becoming a dancer. I didn’t want to live my life regretting not going for my dreams, while I was still young and capable. I knew that there was no such thing as the perfect profession. Everywhere you turn, be it medicine, performance arts, academia, there will be politics and there will be stressors. Such is the way of life. I couldn’t let that stop me from pursuing dance, now could I?
By then, though, my burning passion for dance had fizzled out, lending way to doubt and hesitation and the sobering recognition of reality. It wasn’t so much a question of could I become a successful dancer, so much as, did I even want to?
Fall quarter of sophomore year, I switched my major from psychobiology to psychology, so I wouldn’t have to take any more science classes. So negative my experience as a premed student was the year earlier, I was convinced that I hated science. Upon further reflection, though, I’ve come to realize that maybe I don’t hate science— maybe I just went too hardcore during my freshman year with studying science, causing me to burn out. Maybe, if I gave chemistry, biology, and physics one more shot, making sure to go slow and steady this time around, I’d actually find enjoyment in learning about the workings of the natural world.
I am now seven weeks away from finishing my sophomore year. This past year, I’ve taken mostly upper division psychology classes, further corroborating my interest in human behavior. What I’ve learned, though, is this— I miss the structure and straightforwardness of my STEM classes. You learn the concepts in lecture and solidify class material through problem sets. With enough drilling, you will do well. With reading-heavy psychology classes, however, there is not as much structure with regards to studying. Humanities classes have their own set of challenges, indeed. Try reading a thirty-page research article, eyes squinted and glazed, unable to comprehend the long text of scientific jargon glaring back at you. Or a fifty-page essay written by some old white dude from the 19th century. After this year, I realized that my ideal course load would be one with a nice balance between humanities and STEM classes. The idea of switching my major back to psychobiology is starting to grow on me.
More than that, though, I miss feeling the pressure that comes with being a premed student. As I mentioned earlier, I have never been one to shy away from challenges. Gymnastics taught me that. As a psychology major, I just didn’t feel challenged enough. Don’t get me wrong— when I first gave up pre-med and psychobiology, I was absolutely thrilled to fill my course load with so-called “easy-A”, non-science classes. Life was so much easier! There was no more pressure to get into medical school. More time to party, more time for fun.
Eventually, the initial euphoria of my newfound freedom wore off. Even worse, I began to lose my drive and motivation to study. I felt lost without the direction of medical school guiding me. I had too much time on my hands— time I squandered on maladaptive behaviors. I didn’t feel like my old ambitious, competitive, driven self anymore. I didn’t know what to look forward to when I woke up each morning. What was my goal? I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. All I knew was, I was so done with school. So done. I didn’t see the point of studying. I was past the point of bitterness. I grew ambivalent towards school, towards UCLA. I wanted out.
This Belicia I’ve just described— she is light-years away from the young, bright-eyed girl who first entered UCLA, two years ago. She has strayed far from her path, and is only beginning to find herself once more. And who is this girl, anyway? WHO AM I?
I am Belicia Tang. I am a fighter, a dreamer, a brave soul who does not cower from adversity, but tackles it with resolve. I am immensely goal-oriented, and work best when I have goals to keep me on track. Whatever I do, I want to do it to the best of my ability.
This reckless party animal and hater of school… this is not me. I know it isn’t.
Two days ago, I made the decision to get back on the premed track. Since then, I’ve found a part of myself once more. I feel… freshly motivated. Eager to study, eager to learn. I know the path to becoming a doctor is incredibly long and difficult. But I also know that such a path is one most suited for a person like me.
I can’t say that I will necessarily go to medical school. Perhaps my path will change again (and knowing my past history, it very likely will). So long as I have medical school as my goal, however, I will be forced to work hard in school, to fill my time with conducive extracurriculars, to develop leadership skills, to be on my A-game. At the core, what’s happened to me is a mindset shift. There’s a lot to be said about the self-fulfilling prophecy. I envision myself as a future doctor, and thus aim to live up to the label. The ideal of becoming a doctor… it is what drives me to approach my studies with a more positive outlook; to abstain from non-wholesome, self-harming behaviors; to wake up each morning with a sense of purpose.
I want to become a doctor because such a profession entails helping others in the most profound and direct way.
And dance… dance will always be a part of my life. It will surely keep me sane as I grind my way through medical school, residency and fellowship. I’d even argue that dancing will make me a better doctor.
And so, my narrative continues. I think getting back on the pre-med track this time around has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can feel it, in my gut. This is right. At the very least, it has gotten me out of the rut I’ve been mired in, for the past two quarters. Time to get up, Belicia. It’s time to move forward in my pursuit of greatness.