Friday 10/20/17: Reflection

Omg guys. It’s 11:04 am, I just got out of Russian class, and I am freaking out because I didn’t understand a single thing the teacher talked about in class!

I feel so behind in Russian… I feel like everyone else in the class is grasping the material, and I’m the only one drowning. Maybe it’s because I haven’t taken a language course since freshman year of high school, and I’m really rusty at learning languages. But Russian is proving to be very, very difficult for me. I don’t even find office hours useful at this point, as I don’t understand the grammar well enough to know what questions to ask. I will get it eventually. That much, I know.  Just gotta put the pedal to the metal and study the living hell out of this stuff.

For that reason, I decided to not go home this weekend. I just called my mom, who agreed that if I had too much studying to do, I should stay at UCLA and focus, as traveling takes a lot of time. You know where to find me for the rest of the day– Powell library! I have a statistics discussion from 3-3:50pm, but aside from that, I’m done with classes for the day. Speaking of stats, yesterday’s lecture was pretty overwhelming as well. And LS 15 is not getting any easier either. Plus, my LS 15 group and I are debating next Wednesday, and we haven’t met up yet to rehearse. Clearly, I have lots to do this weekend. No dancing until I get my stuff done.

I know I’m not a genius. But right now, I feel well below average in terms of innate intelligence. If there’s one thing I can do, though, it’s work hard. So whatever I lack in innate ability, I will compensate with my discipline and work ethic. Thank you, God, and thank you, gymnastics. But I mustn’t go crazy, either. Gotta remember to take care of myself.

Speaking of caring for myself… I totally missed my appointment with my psychiatrist this morning at 7am. I should have known better than to schedule an appointment that early… I really need to reschedule soon, though, as I’ve run out of Prozac, the anti-depressant. Hopefully I don’t relapse into a depression as a result…

Alrighty guys. I can’t procrastinate any longer with writing. Gotta get to work. Wish me luck!


1:40pm

I’ve been studying Russian for a good two hours, with a ten minute walking break in between. I feel like my head is gonna explode, and I know I’m beyond tears when I start laughing at how ridiculously difficult this subject (придмет) is. I think it’s time to eat some lunch– I’m positively famished, and my brain needs the energy to continue to function.


4:55pm

Back at the apartment. Went to discussion section for Psych 100A (stats class), but I find studying on my own more useful than listening to the TAs regurgitate what the (really hot) professor said in lecture. Did some groceries and washed the dishes. Now gotta get back to studying statistics. At 8pm, my friend Michael from Russian class is coming over to study with me. After we finish studying, I’m probably going to study some LS 15. Doesn’t look like I’m going out tonight!


10:58pm

Hey guys! Currently sitting in Powell library. Just rode my bike here from my apartment. I ended up leaving the house for a couple hours to dance. After getting my sanity back, I went back to my apartment, took a shower and had a Russian study session with Michael. It helped a lot, actually, to study with someone who understood the material better than me. Plus, Michael’s a fun, nice guy, so being around him makes studying a lot more bearable.

After Michael left, I continued to study, only to realize that I had exhausted my productivity, and was in dire need of a change of scenery, if I were to study any more. So here I am now, at Powell, about to continue cranking away. Got my iced coffee by my side and a bag of snacks, toiletries, phone/laptop chargers, paper, pens and textbooks. Plan for tonight: do a few more hours of Russian, a couple hours of stats and call it a night. Well, by the time I finish, it’ll be morning. There are certain times in life that call for all-nighters. This is one of those times. I am determined to stay up until I understand the material. So, without further delay, I must end this post to accomplish my mission. Here I go!

 

XOXO,

Belicia

Thursday 10/18/19: Reflection

Happy Thursday, friends!

It’s currently 10:45am. I have 15 minutes to kill before my first class of the day starts. I went to my LS 15 TA office hours earlier– she held them at the Café Med, located in the David Geffen School of Medicine. Saw lots of cute guys in white coats walking around… potential boyfriend material? I think yes! Lol, just joking with y’all. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start spending some more time studying there…

Today was an all-black feels kinda day, so I’m wearing my velvet black boot-leg pants; fuzzy black cardigan from– dare I say it– Justice!; and a black fedora to cover my untamable hair. Going makeup free today, as my skin needs to breathe. It’s a sunny day, so I must pay for my choice of outfit…

Class ends at 12:15pm, and Bruin Toastmasters holds their weekly Thursday meetings from 12pm-1pm. I’m debating whether it’s worth attending– I really want to hone my public speaking skills, but the time conflict, coupled with the long walking distance to the meeting HQ, is a deterrent to my motivation. Perhaps I can practice my speaking in other ways! Grab every opportunity I can to get up in front of people and say a few words. You know, I dream of giving a TED talk one day. I have a feeling it’ll happen, once I become confident enough to speak in front of hundreds of people. I’ve danced and competed in front of hundreds– what’s giving a little talk in comparison?

Class is about to start. Hopefully I don’t fall asleep again. We have three more lectures until the midterm, so I gotta perk up and focus. Thankfully, I got 8.5 hours of sleep last night, so I’m feeling refreshed.


10:58pm

Hi friends. I just got back home from an evening dance practice at Westmor Dance Studio, over in Koreatown (about a 20 minute drive from UCLA). Midterm grades for my statistics class are up– I got a 44/50, which is 88%. I’ll be honest— I was a little disappointed, as the exam seemed easy enough, and I expected to have scored at least in the low 90s. In a way, this is really really good though. I’m more motivated than ever to study harder, find out which concepts are still fuzzy for me, and reassess my study/time management skills and see how I can better the two. Let’s actually do that right now, before I begin my marathon study session.

What’s been going on the past three weeks that have made me underperform academically?

  1. Adjusting to apartment life. Not trying to make excuses for myself, but I think this is a legitimate reason why my grades have not been at the level I want them to be. With apartment life comes added responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, taking out the trash, etc. etc. Things I never had to worry about while living in the dorms (or under your parents’ roof, for that matter). Sometimes, I find myself procrastinating from studying by cooking. This cannot happen anymore. Last year, in the dorms, the main distraction that came with studying in my room was my bed, which continually beckoned to me as I tried to concentrate on chemistry homework. This year, my apartment kitchen is the culprit. Once I learned how to operate a stove and actually make hot food, I became very excited, and enjoyed experimenting with new recipes. Just today, I made myself some stir-fry egg noodles with olive oil, soy sauce and ground pepper. Was not half bad. But I digress. Bottom line is, I need to cut down my kitchen time, so I’ll have more time to focus on my studies. And I can’t be using cooking and cleaning as procrastination tools that keep me away from my main priority, which is academics!   
  2. Study skills. Hm.. I’ve always prided myself on my good study habits, which have heretofore worked relatively well for me. I guess one thing I could do differently is cut back on the music I play in the background while studying. Not saying that I can NEVER, EVER listen to music while doing problem sets and such… but for things that require 100% concentration, like learning a new concept or reading the textbook, I should remove the earbuds from my ears and replace them with orange foam earplugs. Here’s a study tip I must incorporate into my own learning: study something until you know it well enough to teach it to someone. If you can’t explain the concept clearly in your own words, you have more work to do.
  3. Putting too much time into studying Russian. Russian is indeed a difficult language, and I have a strong desire to master it. But I mustn’t neglect my other two subjects! Maybe that’s why I didn’t do well on my first LS 15 quiz and Psych 100A midterm. On the bright side, I got a 100% on my Russian quiz, though it was pretty easy.
  4. Sleep. Yeah, my sleep schedule has seen better days. It’s improved a lot from last year, but still needs work. How can I understand concepts when I’m dozing off in lecture or nodding in and out of consciousness during my early morning study sessions? It’s not productive. Sleep is key. I need a well-functioning brain to perform well academically, and getting enough sleep is half the battle.
  5. Of course, we all could do with less social media time. I’m gonna delete my Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat apps from my phone, at least until things slow down. Gotta focus, Belicia!

Alrighty, guys. I will start studying now. Feeling the drowsiness starting to settle in, but I gotta push through it. Maybe brew myself a batch of black tea to keep me up. Have a great night!

XOXO,

Belicia

Wednesday 10/18/17: Reflection

Good morning guys! It’s currently 5:43am. And guess where I am? In my favorite spot on campus– the Janns steps grassy hill! I brought my yoga mat out here today, so I’m really looking forward to not having to saunter around in wet pants.

I’m all alone out here, but I feel completely safe. UCLA is my second home, and I’m so glad I decided to stay, instead of transferring to some other university.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is playing in the background from my MacBook Air. A dog and its owner have just trotted past me– cool to know I’m not the only one who likes to start their day early. I love waking up early, getting things done efficiently and having the rest of the day for my own enjoyment.

Game plan for today:

  • Meditate
  • Finish Russian homework (I was so tired last night I couldn’t finish my handwriting practice)
  • Read ahead for LS 15 and Psych 100A (stats)
  • Go to Russian class
  • Meet with a Daily Bruin writer for an interview on my sexual assault experience
  • prep for today’s LS 15 quiz (easy-peesy lemon squeezy)
  • Meet up with LS 15 debate group before our 2pm discussion to discuss our debate next week
  • LS 15 discussion until 4pm
  • Go back to apartment, eat food
  • STUDY!!!!
  • Dance practice at John Wooden Center
  • Dinner (in Westwood, maybe)
  • run errands (groceries, bank account stuff, etc.)
  • Call Mom sometime during the day

It’s getting a bit chilly. I just took my sweater off, as the walk to campus from my apartment warmed me up, but I shall now put it back on. Give me a sec.

Alrighty, I’m back. So a couple nights ago, UCLA’s Regents Scholar Society hosted a professional development night, where a couple finance companies– D.E. Shaw, and another one whose name I keep forgetting– came and spoke to us about internship opportunities. There, I crossed paths with the guy I liked for most of last year (and, to clarify, he did not share my sentiment).

I am 100%– no, 1000%– over him, but seeing him still brings up feelings of embarrassment, as he was my first real rejection. I wish we could still be friends, but it is what it is. Anyway, I did not so much as gaze in his direction (okay, maybe I did a couple times), but refused to say hello, as I was too uncomfortable. It’s okay. He’s graduating a year early, so this year will be his last at UCLA, and I’ll never have to see him again! Lol, Belicia. What is this, middle school? Real talk, though, this experience brings up memories of my awkward adolescence– ducking around corners and hiding from crushes, cute guys and good-looking teachers alike, instead of standing my ground and keeping my wits about me.

It’s 6:07am now, and the drowsiness is setting in. I’m gonna relax and meditate now, then start on my homework when the sun starts to rise. Talk to y’all soon!


3:53pm

Hey guys! Just finished the last of my classes for the day. Feeling: super motivated to study hard and learn. Why? Because today in my LS 15 discussion, I was the only one who answered the question about sex-linked traits incorrectly (the TA had everyone raise their hands for the answer they thought was correct. I was the only person who raised their hand for option “C”). I’m not angry or ashamed of myself for answering incorrectly. I’m just concerned that I’m not grasping the concepts thoroughly, which is why I must study harder. Granted, I have been putting the least amount of time into LS 15, as most of my time is allotted to studying Russian and Psych 100A. This is the consequence.

I know I’m very, very, VERY far from being a genius, by any standard. In some ways, I’m grateful for my lack of innate intellectual ability, as I’ve been forced to work hard for what I achieve, which makes my accomplishments all the more meaningful.

So, plan for the rest of the day:

  • Study LS 15. Read textbook and take notes; make flashcards for important vocabulary terms; type up last week’s free-response quiz answer and correct what I got wrong (I got a 10 out of 12 on last’ week’s quiz, which is at least better than the 7 out of 12 I got on my first quiz). (2 hrs)
  • LS 15 debate: research on debate topic and gather sources. Our group goes next week! (1 hr)
  • Russian 1: study today’s grammar rules– nominative and prepositional cases, as well as new vocabulary (2 hrs)

     

11:31pm

Hey everyone! I’m laying under my covers, finishing up today’s post, whilst listening to the soundtrack of “Crimson Peak”. LOVE that movie, btw. One of the few horror films that are actually decent. Anyway, today ended up being quite productive. As planned, I studied LS 15 and Russian 1. I managed to negotiate my quiz grade with my LS 15 TA via email. She ended up bumping up my grade from a 10/12 to 12/12. She had made a mistake in my grading, and I pointed it out to her. Gotta give myself credit where credit’s due, right?

The remainder of the night was spent editing some international students’ college admissions essays. I’m getting paid for doing something I enjoy– though editing can be a huge pain at times, especially when the writer has yet to grasp the basic fundamentals of the English language. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be, though, for international students to write essays in a foreign language. A for effort, indeed!

Tomorrow’s gonna be a long day. Office hours for LS 15 in the morning, followed by office hours for Russian 1, followed by LS 15 lecture, followed by a Bruin Toastmasters meeting, followed by Psych 100A class in the afternoon. Then study and dance. It’s a good life, and I truly mean it when I say it.

Alrighty, guys, I’m gonna end the post here. Gotta get some shut-eye before tomorrow’s long haul.

XOXO,

Belicia

Tuesday 10/17/17 Reflection

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

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

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

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


11:30pm

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

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

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

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

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

XOXO,

Belicia

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia

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

Hello lovelies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Best,

Belicia

 

UCLA Sophomore Year: Fall Quarter, Week 1

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

Monday

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

Tuesday

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

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

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

Wednesday

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

Thursday and Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Best,

Belicia