The November Diaries: Final Day (and coping with a “breakup”)

Hello friends,

It’s Wednesday, December 1, 2021, as I begin this post. Had an emotionally tough and jam-packed past couple days, which is why I wasn’t able to properly conclude The November Diaries!

Beginning this post, I’m seated in United Airlines Gate G6 at SFO. I’m headed to New York for a 5-day trip! Gonna visit family and friends and have a nice little reprieve from everything that’s happening in the Bay. I’m happy to say that I was able to finish my final paper for grad school, so I don’t have to worry about it on my NY trip. I scrambled to create all the study guides I need for my final exam, which is on December 10. Told myself I wouldn’t study (too much) while on vacation, so the only times I’ll pop out those study guides are on the plane rides to and from New York. And maybe when I’m bored on the New York subway.

Okay, so I’ll cut to the heart of why I’ve been having a rough time at home. Two days ago on Monday, I had a “breakup” with a wonderful guy I had been seeing for nearly 4 months. I use quotation marks because we were never officially a couple. Label or no label, I still cared deeply for him and was disappointed it didn’t work out. We were simply on different pages in terms of what we both were seeking out of the relationship. I wanted something more serious, and he didn’t, at this moment. Timing was off, and that stings. But such is life. We parted ways amicably, and I honestly have no ill-will towards him in the slightest. He’s just an amazing guy, through-and-through, with the kindest heart. Truly the salt of the earth. We shared so many laughs and adventures, and he pushed me out of my comfort zone by introducing me to many new hobbies and interests. I will forever treasure the memories we made together. *cue watery eyes

We still want to be friends and hope to meet up sometime at the end of the month, after we both return from our respective holiday travels. I’ve been doing a lot of journaling and reflecting surrounding the relationship/breakup, and it’s been helping a lot. I think getting away from the Bay will be a chance for me to reset, stay occupied, and meet new people. I have a rule of no dating for at least 3 months post-breakup to prevent the possibility of a rebound relationship. 3 months is the minimum time for me to honor my past relationship and partner, reflect and draw lessons/takeaways, and breathe in a big dose of personal growth, so that I’ll be more ready for the next relationship.

As this is only my second breakup ever, I don’t have much experience to draw from in terms of coping. But like I mentioned, journaling has been helping a lot. Staying busy— and busy I have been, past couple days– is a welcomed distraction. Meditation grounds me in the present when my emotions get too intense; coming back to my breath and noticing my thoughts/emotions without getting too deeply attached to them, is calming. Self-compassion is also key during rough patches, and it is comforting to know that the pain will subside and wounds will heal, with time. Time truly is the best medicine there is. I tell myself to take it one day at a time and congratulate myself for coping healthily (meaning, not turning to drugs/alcohol/rebounds as a means of escape).

I’ll conclude this topic with the words of two: a dance student, and David Bowie.

My dance student: “The most beautiful thing in life, is love. For me, every second of love is worth it, even if it doesn’t work out in the end.”

David Bowie: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” ~lyrics to “Nature Boy”


This takes me to 5:32am, and I board the plane in 10 minutes, so gonna conclude this blog here. November was a busy month that met a bittersweet end. No regrets, and only gonna move forward.

Will keep a daily account of my New York trip! Excited to write to you from aesthetic coffee shops in the city.

Talk soon,

Bel

The November Diaries: Day 10

9:10pm on this Wednesday evening. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I know I’ve said it before, but truly, there is so much to be grateful for this year. Both my brothers are home, as is my grandmother. The Tang (nuclear) family is all reunited for the holidays and I can’t be happier about it.

Tomorrow is an exciting day, as it marks the first Thanksgiving that my brothers and I are completely taking over the reigns with cooking. I expressly told my parents, this year, that they could sit back and chillax while we kids cook the Thanksgiving meal. I’m in charge of mashed potatoes and cornbread. Austin will do the veggies. And Chris is Turkey Boi! We got it covered!

Another thing I’m looking forward to tomorrow is my reunion with my besties, Callista and Cassandra, who are driving up from Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving holiday. Gonna catch up with them at 3pm tomorrow!


But… why so future-oriented with this blog post? I’m completely skipping over the events and happenings of today! Today… boy oh boy, it was a doozy. I had a study session in the morning, worked on my final paper, and exercised for nearly 4 hours at the gym. I’m trying to get in shape rapidly, as I recently was invited to choreograph and participate in a contortion show, directed by my former contortion teacher, Serchmaa. I must look my tip-top shape before taking the stage. So, it’s time to diet, and it’s time to exercise the shit out of this old 23 y/o bod. The timing is a little unfortunate, as I am kickstarting my training right around the holidays, which is usually a time of heavy feasting and treats. Must exercise restraint and moderation.

I’m also having a mini “crisis of desire”, as I described it to my friend, Mikey. I’m not gonna get into the details of it. But basically, I’m feeling things that I hate myself for feeling, and I don’t know why I feel them, which leaves me confused and self-critical beyond imagine. I’m gonna turn to my private journal to hopefully unpack what’s going on in my brain, at the moment. Usually, cathartic writing and honest introspection does the trick, and I’ve gotten pretty good at examining the truths of my own mind, and recognizing denial patterns and distorted thinking when they pop up. Everything will be a-okay!

Aaaaand, it’s officially 9:20pm. I’m literally a grandma, these days. I’m in bed by 10pm, which is amazing. One thing I discovered about myself today is that if I eat too heavy a breakfast (i.e. heavy carbs), I am highly susceptible to a morning food coma. Unless I can offset the drowsiness with caffeine, I am almost certainly going creep my way back into my bed and go to sleep. To fix this little fault of mine, I will make sure to keep my breakfast light and protein-rich, drink hot caffeinated green tea, and bolt out of the house before my brain goes back into hibernation mode.

Of course, I can also get back into my cold shower habit as a surefire wake-up method, but honestly, cold showers in the winter are BRUTAL. If I were half as masochistic as I once was, I would totally subject myself to such physical misery in the name of character-building. But therapy has softened me up a bit, and I’m now recognizing that balance and moderation is the way to go, at least for mental stability and long-term, sustainable happiness. It’s a new concept, not going 200% with goals and taking things to the extreme… but the practice of holding back and approaching my goals slowly and steadily has done wonders for my mental health, and I don’t care that I’ve lost a little bit of my competitive edge, in the process. To make peace with my new way of being, I try to look at it this way: I can’t be competitive and achieve my goals if I’m bedridden with depression and burnout. So, I choose to pace myself. And I try also to remind myself that life and meaning derived from it is not just a sum total of the goals you achieve; there is more to life than achievement and endless striving… striving, trying, fighting… there can be honor in the struggle, but you have to know why you are struggling. Don’t blindly struggle because it gives you self-worth, or that you hate yourself so much that masochism is the only reality that can bring you a semblance of peace. If your self-worth is contingent on you throwing yourself, your health, and your happiness, under the bus, then that is a sign of toxic thought patterns that may stem from emotional abuse and brainwashing (hello, gymnastics).

Anyway, enough of this rambling. I’m gonna head to bed soon (after reading some of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson– amazing book, by the way). Oh, and also do some journaling so I can get past my crisis of desire. Sending much love and gratitude your way!

Love,

Bel

The November Diaries: Day 9

12:44pm on this Tuesday afternoon. Decided to pop on here during my study break and give you those life updates, as promised!

1. Life Update #1: Grad School, No More (for now)

Okay, so I’ll cut to the chase. I will not be returning to San Jose State’s Sport Studies Master’s program following this semester. In short, I realized the program is not a great fit in terms of what I wish to do, after graduation. The program is Sport Studies, which encapsulates sport psychology, but is not specifically focused on athlete mental health / mental performance enhancement. There are not many opportunities for students to engage in applied work in the program, and most of the two-year program is classroom learning, which is not totally what I’m looking for. Lastly, the program is designed to get students into PhD programs, and is not a terminal degree in itself. Meaning, I won’t be able to get certified as a sport psych consultant upon graduation. So, I discovered all these things a couple weeks back after speaking to the professor of the one class I am taking. I took a silent/meditation retreat to Santa Barbara shortly thereafter, and the answers to my career/education dilemma were elucidated. Quitting SJSU’s program was one conclusion I came to.

I am presently in the process of applying to different sport psychology Master’s programs that are a better fit for my career and education goals. There’s a program Massachusetts– Springfield College’s Athletic Counseling program– that is intriguing. This morning, I actually had a Zoom call with a professor from the department, who is a good friend of my current professor at SJSU (it pays to know people!). Dr. Van Dyke, who insisted I call her Erika, explained in detail what the program entailed, what the outcomes upon graduation were, and what kinds of doors the program would open professionally. My meeting with her further confirmed my interest in the program, and I look forward to applying for Fall 2022. If I get in, there is a chance I will be moving to the East Coast next year! Exciting!! Astounding!! Earth-shattering (in Bel’s world)! And not a decision I will come to lightly. But I won’t worry about that until I reach that juncture. For now, it’s just about applying, so I have options. And, of course, finishing off the school semester strong. I know I won’t be returning to SJSU next year, but with everything in life, I strive to try my hardest and give maximum effort, to the best of my ability.

2. Life Update #2: Upcoming Travels

I will be doing a lot of traveling this holiday season! The big one is my New York trip from December 1-7. Last time I went to New York by myself was 2017. I can’t wait to finally meet my young nieces (daughters of two of my cousins, both of whom live in NY with their families)! I also plan to meet up with friends on the East Coast, take dance lessons from the best Latin ballroom dance instructors, watch Broadway shows, and take a campus tour of Springfield College. I have a one-day layover back home on December 8, before heading to destination #2: Mammoth Lakes for a ski trip w/ my brothers and their friends! That trip is from December 9-14. My final exam is December 10, which I will be taking remotely. So basically I need to be ready for the final by November 30, as I don’t want to be cramming for my final exam while on vacation.

3. Life Update #3: I Have a Boyfriend!!!

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Kidding! Hah! Did I fool you guys again?? Sorry to disappoint. Your girl is still officially uncuffed this cuffing season. Even though I’m seeing a guy I met back in August, our relationship is unofficial, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. I suppose we are what you call, “exclusively dating”. He’s a wonderful guy and I am enjoying the time I spend with him, without pressure or expectation for the future.

I’ll leave you all with that! It’s 1:19pm– time to return to studying! Have a great rest of your Tuesday, and I can’t believe Thanksgiving is in a couple days!

-Bel

The November Diaries: Day 8

3 minutes to 10pm on this Monday night in November. We are 3 days shy of Thanksgiving 2021. And boy, is there much to be grateful for, this year. Approaching year 2 of pandemic, and I am blessed to have stayed healthy throughout. Family and friends are also all healthy.

I apologize for falling off the momentum of TND. I had started this series with the goal of writing one blog a day for the month of November. Clearly that didn’t happen (it’s November 22nd, and I’m only on Day 8 of the series). But, no matter. The good thing is, I’m making an effort to write something… anything. Which, given all the dark and twisty and chaos in my life of late, is good enough.

I don’t even know where I left off with this series, so I will just start with the happenings of today: Monday, November 22, 2021. Today was a study day. I am frantically preparing for my December 10th final for the one grad school class I am taking this semester. The reason I am preparing this early (frantically, no less), is because I will be taking a trip to New York on December 1-7. I’ll be home for a grand total of one day on December 8, before taking off again to Mammoth Lakes for a ski trip, Dec 9-14. I’ll be taking the final exam remotely on the 10th. So, you can see now how little time I have to study before my upcoming travels (no, I do not plan on studying much while on vacation). My goal is to have all the study guides made and concepts internalized by November 30, before I leave for New York. Still gotta finish planning my New York trip itinerary. Excited to see family and friends on the East Coast, take dance lessons from the world’s best instructors, watch a couple Broadway shows, and work/write in aesthetic New York coffee shops. So much to do, and so little time!

Back to my day. I took a study break from 12-1pm, when I headed to the studio and helped my friend choreograph a yoga routine. I’m actually thinking of getting certified in yoga teaching, sometime in the future!

After yoga, I headed back home, where I had lunch (kung pao chicken and noodles from Safeway’s Panda Express knock-off) and did some more studying. I tutored a student from 3:30-4:30pm. Then headed to Bay Club for a dance/workout session. Excited to teach my dance fitness class there tomorrow, as my brothers, both of whom returned home for Thanksgiving, will be making an appearance in my class!! (or so they say. not sure if they were serious or not. i would pay big money to see them dance, especially in my class. hopefully they follow through with their word.) From 7-9pm, I had a nice dinner with a very nice guy I’ve been seeing for a few months. We went to an authentic Mexican restaurant, where I ordered 2 tacos (chicken and BBQ pork), and he had a “wet” burrito (basically a burrito with a bunch of saucy soup poured all over). It was a short but sweet time together, and I came home happy.

And now I’m here, blogging before bed, so I can go to sleep with a lighter conscience (I always feel a little unaccomplished if I don’t write something in the day). Speaking of which, I actually wrote a new feature article for Athlete Voices, which went live earlier today! So, really proud of that.

Okay, that’s all for tonight, folks. Have some major updates regarding grad school and future plans that I will inform you of sometime this week. Take care, and good night!

Also, SPOILER ALERT:

Congrats to Daniella and Iman on winning Season 30 of Dancing With the Stars!

-Belichka (my Russian nickname, which also means “squirrel”)

The November Diaries: Day 7

Though this post is labeled as Day 7 of TND, today is actually Thursday, November 18, 2021. I completely fell off the momentum of TND and skipped nearly two weeks of blogging! For shame, Bel! Lots to catch you up on, so I won’t even try, for this post. But there have been many recent developments in my life that I’m excited to share at a later date.

Anyway, it’s 10:16pm right now and approaching my bedtime. Aiming for before 11pm, these days… I know, you can call me Grandma Bel. So gonna keep this post short, sweet, and real.

Today and yesterday were both meh, mood-wise. I think this recent dip in mental state might be attributed to winter weather, shorter days, less sunlight. Seasonal depression is the technical term, and I’m beginning to think I have it (like many others). Another potential cause of my low moods is that I was triggered after watching the sports documentary, Over the Limit, yesterday. The film follows Russian rhythmic gymnast, Margarita Mamun, in the months leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games, which she ended up winning. It’s a film about Rita’s journey, and what stands out is the abuse she faces– verbal, emotional, psychological– at the hands of her coaches. Watching what she was subjected to brought me back to my own gymnastics days; my 10 years in the sport left me emotionally and psychologically traumatized. Nearly a decade after retirement, I’m still dealing with the fallout of my gymnastics days, battling what I call my “gymnastics demons”, and working through these demons with extensive therapy and journaling and meditation. Some days are better than others, and the past couple days were mere low points in the never-ending up-down cycle of my mental states.

So the past couple days were tough. My tendency when headed towards depression is to isolate myself from others. Past two days, I didn’t want to answer any phone calls or see anyone at the dance studio or gym. My social anxiety came was turned on blast. I had planned on visiting my grandma at her apartment, but bailed on that as well, as all I wanted after a long day was to retreat to my room, crawl into bed, and watch Netflix. What is sometimes tough for me is the highly public and performative nature of my job as a dance fitness instructor. If I’m feeling depressed, I can’t show it in my class, because people don’t pay to watch Depressed Bel dance. That’s, well, depressing. And not to mention, unprofessional. So I suppress whatever personal shit I have going on at the moment, and put on a brave face for the duration of my 50-minute class. The remarkable thing is, I always end up feeling better after teaching! I’m teaching another class tomorrow morning at 9:15am, so I’d better get to sleep soon.

I guess I’ll conclude with a thought I had today. Lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of positive remarks and compliments from my students, which has boosted my self-confidence. I hear the words “special”, “gifted”, and “talented” used often to describe me. For the first time in my life, I believe it. What I also believe is that unless I get my mental health under control, none of that talent will materialize into success. It just won’t. This is evidenced by my last depressive episode that forced me to drop two of my three grad school classes at San Jose State. And now, as I hit yet another low point in my sinusoidal mood cycle, I’m doubting whether I should bother dreaming big at all. Why bother with ambition, if it will just leave you disappointed and embittered when your goals are inevitably left unaccomplished? **victim mentality much?

I told my mom tonight, “Maybe I should just live with you guys and work as a dance teacher/tutor until I get married and only then will I move out of the house.” Lol. Definitely the depression talking. But my thoughts, erroneous and misguided as they are during this time, feel so real. Hopelessness shrouds my soul, causing me to retreat into the shadows and recesses of my dark-and-twisty mind. That is depression in a nutshell. (Don’t mind my terrible poetic lingo– I am not a poet, though I aspire to be).

Well, what comes around goes around, and depression for me is no different. It shall pass, and an upswing is just around the bend. A highlight of my day is that I was invited by my former contortion teacher, Serchmaa, to help choreograph and participate in her annual contortion show in January 2022! I’ve really been getting my feet wet with choreography, and I can see this as a potential money-making avenue to monetize my talents. Now is all about building experience, and I’m super excited Serchmaa gave me this amazing opportunity to not only choreograph, but perform in her show!

10:39pm– time for my night routine! Brush teeth, skin routine, journal/meditate (I’ll consider this blog to be today’s journal), light reading if there’s time (but most likely not, tonight), and finally, lights out by 11pm. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit better.

Toodles,

Bel

The November Diaries 2021: Day 6

Dear friends,

It’s 9:47pm on this Saturday night (I need to find a more original way to open my blog posts, haha). So, I’m gonna keep this post short and direct, with very little sugar-coating. Today was hard. It was yucky, it was dark, it was twisty. I was exhausted after my night out in SF last night, and when I got home at 1am last night (or early this morning, rather), I wrote the following in my private diary:

Feeling yucky yucky yucky. Got back from SF partying and I didn’t even go that hard but honestly I’m so sick and tired of living this kind of life. Balance is one thing, but going out every weekend instead of doing things that are actually meaningful and shirking my other responsibilities and diet and training is just… not okay with me. I draw the line here. Going out to SF, spending so much money on transportation and expending all that energy that leaves me physically and mentally exhausted the following day just isn’t it. I’m not living my best life right now, and I recognize that. I’m not living in accordance with my values, and it feels gross. No. It’s a new leaf from here on out.

Anyway, I woke up this morning, exhausted (understandably). I had acupuncture treatment in SF at 10:30am, so I woke up at 9:30am, and my dad was such a dear for giving me a ride. I slept on the car ride there and back. I tried taking a nap upon coming home, as I needed energy for my busy day ahead. But anxiety kept me awake, and after an hour of tossing and turning in my sheets, I decided to plunge into action mode. Got dressed, did my makeup to look less death-like, and headed to the dance studio. I taught one private lesson at 1:30pm (subbing for another teacher), then taught 2 Latin dance group classes from 2:30-4pm. I then headed to Bay Club, where I taught another Latin dance group class from 5-6pm. After finishing my day of dance teaching, I drove home, took a shower, and then tutored a kid remotely from 6:30-8:10pm.

Okay, now filling in the blanks. Cry session #1 happened on the drive to the dance studio, around 1pm. Was feeling exhausted and hated myself for going out Friday night which left me drained and completely not in the mood to stand up in front of people and put on an enthusiastic and happy face for teaching. Thank god for my best friend, Mikey, who has been my rock throughout this mess. I gave him a call, and I told him to transmit some good vibes through the phone to help me get through the day. And transmit, he did.

Cry session #2 happened on the drive from the dance studio to Bay Club. I was wiped out– physically, mentally, emotionally– after teaching those group classes. I’ve been teaching dance and dance fitness since May of this year. I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident standing in front of my people and teaching. But the insecurity never fades. I feel it in the moments during my class when I face my students and ask if anyone has any questions, and am left with blank stares and dead silence. They hate me. I’m doing a terrible job at teaching, because everyone looks confused. I’m a terrible teacher. I feel it when someone comes up to me after class and makes an offhand remark: “[The former teacher] used to teach like this. Will you be doing the same?” They hate my style of teaching. Why doesn’t someone more qualified teach this class?

I arrived at Bay Club a bit early, got to the studio, pulled out a yoga mat and laid down, hoping to get some shut-eye before my last hour of dance teaching. To my dismay (and I feel like a terrible person for saying this), an enthusiastic student walked into the class early and struck up conversation with me. Bless her soul, she was so sweet. But I really just wanted to rest before teaching, and after so much teaching and talking, I was socially exhausted and running on fumes. From 5-6pm, I taught a samba dance class. After holding it together for my last class of the day, I felt better after receiving some positive remarks from my students. I exited the gym and sped-walk to my car, as I needed to hurry home for my 6:30pm tutoring session. Got home around 6:10pm, then took a shower. I sat on the bathtub floor, where cry session #3 commenced. When I finally pulled it together, I hopped out of the shower, dried off, wiped away my remaining mascara, and got ready for my tutoring session. Tutoring went from 6:30-8pm– helped a student with his Romeo and Juliet essay, which was due tonight at 10pm.

After concluding tutoring, I headed downstairs for dinner, where I very candidly told my parents that I wasn’t doing alright mentally. My efforts at honesty were reciprocated with stern lectures from my parents: “Belicia, you’re feeling this way because you’re not getting enough sleep. You keep going out to San Francisco and you are tiring yourself out. If you didn’t go out, you would be more well-rested and wouldn’t feel like this.” Back and forth my parents volleyed, taking hits at me. What they were saying may have all been true, but sitting at the dinner table, picking at my cold food head resting dejectedly in hand, everything my parents said was noise. Noise, noise, noise. I didn’t want to be lectured. I wanted emotional support. I wanted them to listen without judgment. I wanted a hug. Maybe that’s too much to ask. But after my failed attempt at seeking help from my parents, I left the dinner table and had cry session #4 while trudging up the stairs back to my room.

I sat down at my desk and opened my computer, prepared to write this post. I looked up at my wall, where I had taped various notes, affirmations and sources of validation from over the years to remind myself of my worth. I re-read teacher “shout-outs” from high school: one from my calculus teacher, Mr. Ramroth, who was instrumental in helping me through my social anxiety, and commended me for my efforts to raise my hand in class. There was the guest judge’s positive comments from a dance showcase I had performed in, back in 2016. There was my Regents’ Scholarship recipient letter from UCLA, which I had worked hard to obtain. There was the National Merit Scholarship finalist letter. There was a letter written to me by a former high school friend, Shirley, who expressed deep appreciation for our friendship (how I wish we had kept in touch, after high school).

As I read these various acknowledgements of my past accomplishments, I started crying (cry session #5), as I saw what I was then, and the person I had become since. Bipolar happened at the start of college, and that diagnosis shook up my world, my self-concept, and my confidence. College was also a time when I was introduced to a world of “degeneracy”, and I regretted my regression from model (stencil) child to hedonistic, vagabond sinner. At age 23, I am as confused as ever regarding my life path– do I continue grad school next semester? If I do, should I do it part time so I can continue working and pursuing my passions, or should I plunge back into a full-time track, and speed through my graduate program like I did undergrad?

And now, here I am, recounting the events of this yucky day. The magic of writing, particularly expressive writing, is that even in the worst of times, I can always count on the healing power of writing. I began this post feeling a 3/10 in terms of mood. Now, I’m about a 4.5/10. A modest increase, but uplifting, nonetheless.

I am grateful for a lot of things in my life, and I find counting my blessings to be a healing practice during rough patches. Following are 3 gratitudes:

  1. My students. Especially those who express their appreciation for me and remind me that I’m not a terrible teacher.
  2. Social support. Friends, parents, brothers, mentors. It’s the people you love who get you through.
  3. Dance. I can’t imagine life without it. Even if it doesn’t become my profession or primary source of income, I know I will dance until I die.
  4. Tacking on a fourth gratitude because this one is too important not to acknowledge: writing. As stated above, writing makes me feel better. In my toolbox of coping skills, writing sits on the top shelf (alongside physical exercise, deep breathing, and social support).

It’s 10:30pm now. Gonna sleep soon, as I have an early-ish morning at the studio. Thank you for reading, to anyone out there who has cared enough to stick around until the end of this post. Sending much love to you all, and I wish you all nothing but health and happiness and peace of mind.

Love,

Bel

The November 2021 Diaries: Days 3 and 4 (and 5)

Dear friends,

Today’s a double whammy post because I fell off track and skipped yesterday’s blog! It is 7:24pm on this Thursday evening and I’m about to head out to watch the new movie, Dune. Gonna start this blog now, and hopefully I’ll have energy later tonight to finish it!

Yesterday (Wednesday) and today (Thursday) are what I describe as “passion and personal development days”. In the past 48 hours, I went figure skating twice, had two dance practice sessions, attended my first aerial silks class, and took a Latin ballroom private dance lesson. The more I live, the more I realize how inextricably linked my identity and soul is to movement, and more specifically, movement as a vehicle for self-expression. Gymnastics was a solid base from which this passion for movement germinated. My ten years in the sport gave me the foundation– strength, flexibility, coordination, body awareness, discipline– to pursue all that my heart desires. And what a journey it has been. I’ve pursued many hobbies, explored different avenues, and hopped on many an adventure: dance, figure skating, circus arts, choreography, and more. I love challenging my body in various dimensions, and never have I felt more connected with my inner desire to move, express, and create, than I do at age 23.


Following day, 2:08pm

Okay guys, this is getting to be a bit much. I’m seriously falling behind on TNDs, so in a major effort to catch up, let’s tack on Day 5 of the series to this post, as well.

Okay, so where was I? Ah, yes. Passion for movement, galore! So Wednesday and Thursday were magical and my body was challenged in ways I didn’t know it craved. Thursday was what I call a “traverse the Bay” kind of day, because I did SO much driving from morning to evening. Started off the day with a morning figure skating session at a rink in Palo Alto. It’s called Winter Lodge, and it has easily become my new favorite skating rink in the bay. Just the cozy winter cabin vibe of the rink gives you the warm and fuzzies as you skate… I remember the very first time I went there, a few weeks back, there was literally no one else in the morning session! I had the entire rink to myself, and since I was the first skater of the day, the ice was pristine and smooth like glass, giving it the appearance of a frozen lake. Yesterday’s morning session had more people, but it still was a great time!

Having fun at Winter Lodge ⛸

Okay, back to Thursday. So after skating was over, I drove from Palo Alto to San Mateo where I had therapy. After therapy, I drove to Belmont, where I picked up my dance shoes I had left at the studio. Afterwards, I drove from Belmont to San Jose, where I had a private dance lesson. Right after the lesson, I had an online grad school class from 2:15-3:30pm, which I did right at the studio. After that, I drove back to the studio in Belmont and did about an hour of dance practice (really trying to get back into my training). And I finished my night off with a movie date! We watched Dune, the new sci-fi action movie that everyone’s been raving about. It’s based on a book series, and I had aimed on finishing the book before watching the movie, but was ultimately unsuccessful (the book is over 600 pages). I got back from my date around 1am, and slept shortly afterwards.

That brings us to the present– Friday, November 5, 2021. TGIF!!!! Today got off to an early start, as I taught dance fitness from 9:15-10:05am. I’m so happy I was able to wake up on time for it (last week I nearly overslept my class and was 10 minutes late!). After teaching dance fitness, I took a shower at Bay Club and headed home. The first thing I did upon arriving home was take a much-needed nap to make up for lost sleep. I woke up not too long ago, and here I am, wrapping up today’s triple-whammy post! Rest of the day is chill: catch up on schoolwork and help a student with her college applications. Might be going out to SF later tonight for a house party hosted by a friend in the “SF Gang” (nickname for my friend group in SF). Talk to you all tomorrow!!

-Bel

The November 2021 Diaries: Day 2

Dear friends,

Hope you all had a great Tuesday! It’s 8:07pm as I begin this post, and I’ll start by telling y’all about a running reference I have to one of my favorite songs from the movie, Kill Bill. The song is called “The Lonely Shepherd”, and I often play this song when I’m feeling lonely or in need of company. I’ve even written a blog post called “The Lonely Shepherd”, because that phrase, for whatever reason, resonates with me during times of unsought solitude.

Today was a Lonely Shepherd kinda day. I’ll tell you what happened that made me feel this way. Basically, I have a friend group in San Francisco, and I love every single person in it. As the holiday season approaches, I grew excited at the thought of all the fun group activities my friends and I could do together: ice skating in Union Square, holiday movie parties, Secret Santa, etc. I expressed all this in the group chat, and even made a Google Doc where I listed out all the activities we could partake in together this holiday season. My excitement was met with lukewarm enthusiasm, evidenced by the lack of reply from my friends. Immediately I felt embarrassed, and wished I could rescind my enthusiastic messages, which honestly seemed innocuous and friendly to me, but could have been perceived differently by others. Maybe my friends don’t like the holidays as much as I do. Maybe the message was tone-deaf against the backdrop of a waning, yet still active, pandemic. Maybe people don’t like me as much as I like them, and thus do not want to hang out with me. I’m not sure if my feelings of anxiety/insecurity are justified, or if I’m just being my usual overly sensitive self. All I know is how I felt the remainder of the day, which was a little bit lonely, a little bit hurt, a little bit sad.

In an effort to process my feelings, I decided to walk, instead of drive, to Bay Club, where I taught a dance fitness class at 5:30pm. By the time I finished teaching and began my journey home on foot, it was dark outside, and with my body aching after an hour of non-stop dancing, I really did feel like The Lonely Shepherd, traversing the levee trail with nothing but moonlight guiding my way.

Despite the strain on my body, the 3-mile (round-trip) walk cleared my head, and I am no longer so emotionally distraught as I was earlier in the day. I also unearthed my FitBit today, which was buried in my desk drawer under a pile of stationary. I used the FitBit to count my steps, which totaled to 12,300, by the time I returned home. According to the C.D.C, 10,000 steps is the recommended amount for the average American adult. So yay, I beat that benchmark by a solid margin!

It’s 8:32pm now, and I am exhausted. I’m going to do some reading and hit the hay early tonight. Love y’all and talk to you tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Bel the Lonely Shepherd

The November 2021 Diaries: Day 1

Dear friends,

November is historically a month of goal and trend-setting, with classic challenges like #noshavenovember, #nonutnovember, #nonicnovember, and any other #no-‘x’-november habit-cancelling iterations flooding the internet as we approach the year’s end.

In the spirit of challenge and personal development, I have decided to come up with my own personal goal of the month, which is to write a blog post every day of November. These posts will be formatted like reflective diary entries– with private/sensitive information filtered out, of course. This will be a great segue into my annual Blogmas series that begins in December, which also involves writing a blog a day. A blog a day keeps the writer’s block away!! (lol, just thought of that and wanted to include it).

Okay. So without further ado, welcome to Day 1 of The November Diaries!


9:48pm

What a day, it was! After an entire weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) of Halloween festivities in San Francisco, today was recovery day. I don’t envy my friends who have to work Monday mornings. I had the liberty of sleeping in until around 11am. After mustering the willpower to get out of bed, I jumped in the shower, which is the best, all-natural wake-up method in my opinion. After shower #1 of the day, I went downstairs and made myself brunch: chicken noodle soup with ramen noodles!! Not to brag, guys, but I am becoming quite the chef. My repertoire of dishes includes:

  • scrambled eggs
  • omelettes
  • avocado toast
  • ramen noodles (not the instant Top Ramen kind, but the ones that actually take effort to make from scratch)
  • chocolate cake
  • corn bread
A breakfast dish I made a few weeks ago😋

It’s an extremely modest list, but as someone who has been stubbornly resistant to learning how to cook (until very recently), I’m proud of myself for developing this instrumental life skill. And I’m sure my mom is proud of me, too.

After brunch, I took a walk on the levee to ward off the food coma, and to get my spirits and energy up before commencing a deep-work study session. The weather was on-and-off rainy today, and it was lightly drizzling as I took my first walk of the day. It’s becoming a habit of mine to take strolls (both short and long) when in need of a pick-me-up. Nothing better than Vitamin D and endorphins and physical activity to get you feeling good. Oh, and the main rule with my levee walks is that I’m not allowed to have my phone on me, as those insidious, mind-numbing devices are stupidly distracting and defeat the purpose of mindful, soul-healing nature walks.

After returning from my walk, I did one hour of studying for my grad school class. From 2-3pm, I had a family therapy session, where we unpacked some heavy baggage that left me dazed, drained, and teary-eyed. Therapy can be intense, and therapy with parents is a whole other beast. But I am happy that my parents and I are finally engaging in much-needed open dialogue under the supervision of a clinician, who is there to facilitate the session and mediate if necessary. Upon returning home, I felt inundated by the deluge of intense emotions following therapy. I felt an urge to cry, without totally understanding why I felt that way, which was strange for me, as I am usually very attuned to my emotions precipitating a cry session. In moments of emotional distress, I turn to my toolbox of coping skills to get me through the discomfort. Today, I decided to do a multi-pronged approach, given the particular intensity of emotions (about a 7/10). I took a hot shower (shower #2), where I attempted to journal in my notebook at the same time, but I ended up splashing water all over the pages. So I scrapped that idea, and sat in the bathtub for about 10 minutes, just chewing over my thoughts and processing, and then doing the exact opposite by tuning out my thoughts and focusing solely on my breathing and the sensation of water trickling down skin. After my therapeutic shower, I put on some warm, comfy clothes, grabbed my water-stained notebook, and took a walk on the levee. I walked all the way to a wooden bench overlooking the water, sat down, and did some mad, cathartic journaling. After 30 minutes of bearing my soul onto the page, I looked up and felt… relief. Life is all good. It’s not easy, but it’ll be just fine. Having finally reached a state of zen, I walked home, notebook in hand, and smiled as the sun peaked out from the clouds. It was the first pocket of light I had seen all day, and my mood was uplifted.

My journaling spot on the levee💭

So after getting through the rough patch, I called my best friend, Mikey, who is one of my go-to people whenever I have emotional baggage screaming to be unloaded. While on the phone with him, I made myself a pre-dinner snack: two pieces of toasted naan bread lathered with Costco guacamole and sprinkled with ground pepper. At 6:30pm, I gave a stretching private lesson at a student’s house. Her parents were so kind and offered to have me stay for dinner, as it was Taco Monday! We bonded over talk of relationship/career advice, dance gossip and friendly banter. Then I watched the movie Cruella with my student, until it was her bedtime.

Now I’m back home, finishing up this blog post! Getting sleepy, so I’m gonna wrap this up. This concludes Day 1 of TND (The November Diaries)! Thanks to the few and far between people who actually read this blog. I appreciate your continued support and really enjoy sharing my life journey, especially as I navigate the Tumultuous Twenties, with you all. Take care, and have a wonderful night!

-Bel

I Got My COVID Booster Shot!

Hey folks! It’s 8:44pm on this Tuesday night as I begin this post. It’s been nearly two hours since I got my third COVID vaccine, aka, the booster shot. The shot is now available for people under age 65, and I literally just registered online two days ago and scheduled an appointment for 7pm today.

Right after teaching my dance fitness class, I drove to a local CVS that offered the Moderna booster shot and arrived in time for my 7pm appointment. I brought my physical vaccination card with me (you need the physical copy, not just a picture) along with my ID and health insurance card. There was no line at the CVS pharmacy, and the whole process from start-to-finish took about 30 minutes. Once they got me checked in, a guy took me to a private room where he administered the vaccine in my left shoulder. Quick and painless. I sat in the waiting area for 15 minutes afterwards so they could monitor me for serious side effects. Once time was up, they signed off my vaccination card to mark that I’d received my 3rd dose, and I was free to go!

I am already noticing some side effects: my cheeks are flushed and eyes are glassy, meaning I will likely have a fever, like I did after my second shot. My left arm is a bit sore, but not too bad at the moment. I expect that will change, come tomorrow. My head is pounding ever-so-slightly. I decided to go to bed early, and I’ve stocked up my room with fluids and Tylenol. Gonna drink a lot of water and take 2 Tylenol pills before sleeping. I rescheduled all my commitments for tomorrow in case I feel very sick after the vaccine. Will keep you guys updated on what happens. Have a great night, everyone!

Update: following day, 1:17pm

Hey guys! Just hopping back on this post to provide an update on my reaction to the third shot. I woke up this morning feeling exhausted, like I’d just run a marathon and was recovering. I had a mild headache and full-body soreness, but thankfully no fever. My left arm was throbbing, and on the pain scale I’d say it was a 7/10. I even had to do a tapping meditation to release some of the physical pain, before I realized I had a whole bottle of Tylenol right next to me, and popped a couple of those. I felt a little better after taking the meds. After a virtual therapy session, I took a hot shower which soothed my body aches. Now I’m ready to get my day started. I’m glad I un-scheduled all my commitments today, as I don’t know how I would teach dance with the pain in my arm. So the rest of the day is gonna be super chill!

In summary, I’d say my reaction to the second shot was a lot worse than my reaction to this one. For the second shot, I had a full-blown fever and was bedridden for most of the following day, whereas the fever never manifested for the third shot. If you live in San Mateo County and want to sign up to get the booster shot, literally just google “CVS booster shot” and you can schedule an appointment from there. Good luck, everyone, and happy vaccination!

-Bel