“I don’t know if I want to go to med school anymore.”

I held the phone inches away from my face the way I did when I was young, expecting my parents to scream through the phone to lecture me. That was always something I could appreciate about growing up away from my parents. The few times that I got scared of their yelling, I just had to hold the phone far away, imagining that they were only talking to me.

It was my fault, I haven’t been talking to my parents too much since college started. So many things have been happening in my life and I have only been giving them small glimpses of my thoughts.

I had talked to my professor the day before, a professor that I’ve worked for for the past two quarters. As I was talking to him, something clicked. I had always ignored the feeling that my reasons were all varieties of justifications for something that I had been convinced to do, but not actually something I wanted. Recently, I’ve realized that if I wanted to be more, I can’t keep lying to myself.

I am pre-med, and I guess the checklist goes: high G.P.A., sophisticated classes, incredible extracurriculars, mind-blowing participation in labs, countless hours of volunteering, a killer admission essay, a sprinkle of praising professors and P.I. recommendation letters, and maybe a dash of a Nobel prize and you MIGHT get into medical school, right?

Toward the end of my freshman year, I must say, after my last B+ in a Chemistry class, I started feeling it again: the impending doom of the thick confining layers of boxes that is my academic and medical career closing in on me. I spent oh, just thousands of hours calculating and recalculating the grades and classes that I would have to take to bring that G.P.A back up. I sent a few hundred texts to my pre-med friends as a call for help. Was I the only one feeling this kind of ridiculous pressure? Surely, this cannot be healthy. The feeling never went away.

In the past two years, I’ve felt the layers of the box shriveling away slowly. I’d like to think of this process in a Nanny McPhee transformation kind of way. The uglinesses that were in my life, pulling me down and keeping me from shining, disappeared little by little. To make this analogy easier throughout the article, think of the box as a stinky onion with me in the middle like so:

“What happened?” my parents panicked, “You are scared of graduation” they concluded, “Things are moving too fast for you.”

I was scared of honestly telling them what I’ve been thinking about these past few quarters and I panicked when they started getting upset. I started writing this originally as a letter to my parents. As I was writing and thinking about this, I thought about all the people I’ve met along my pre-med path who has been asking me similar questions that I have not been able to answer, people I wanted to help but couldn’t. So here it is.

I. Seed.

The summer before sophomore year, one of my closest friends asked me to start a design club with him. A design club. In what dimension does design have to do with medicine? Why is he asking me to be in a design club with him? Did he forget that I was pre-med? Aaron has always been a strange one. I never thought he had much logic. I decided that this wouldn’t really harm me. I could have a little fun and maybe just quit whenever I felt like I got too stressed out. Plus, I like spending time with Aaron.

This club took over my life.

I’ve always had a little thing for art, but I never really thought of it as anything more than impressive doodles that won some oohs and aahs when I got bored in class or at home. Somewhere along the med-school checklist, I forgot my obsession with projects. As the weeks went by, the little projects in InDe consumed my mind whenever I wasn’t doing homework. I looked forward to seeing the faces of the five and six people whose creative energy draw me ever closer to them. Something about them, full of love and excitement for life and creation instead of the dark and competitive aura of the pre-med clubs kept my heart warm.

Because of the small size of the group, we learned a lot about each other’s strength and weaknesses. When planning for events and assigning duties, I got to see the kinds of trains of thoughts that goes on around in our members. I found it particularly interesting that we didn’t just look at the final project of each of the members. We looked at the process they go through to get to the final project. In comparison to academics, this kind of examination shows such more holistic views about people. It has never really occurred to me that the concrete and final productions from teamwork is not all there is. In a team, we need all sorts of people to complement one another. I know this is such a cliché, but I never really understood it to this extent.

Getting close to my club members helped me realize what made me valuable to Aaron and why he recruited me. He saw every part of me: sad, angry, anxious — he’s seen me lose my mind. He’s seen me working, worked with me, in class, doing school work, doing artwork, working out, presenting. He’s seen me being a friend, a girlfriend, a sister, a daughter, and a roommate. He’s seen me in almost all the lights that I can think possible and he really sees me for who I am. He knows of all the good and the bad in me. He knows and cherishes me for the kind of friend I am and the person I try to be. He challenges me and wants me to be creative. He made me really realize my worth as beyond something that is just black and white, the way that I have always believed it to be: my grades and the finished pieces of artwork I had.

I learned that my personality is important to a team, and will be important to help create a better community. I learned the different factors of my personality that is of value. That is something that I never really thought I needed to find. I always really thought that it was about the product, and never considered the process. It was about the final letter on my report card, the one or two judgments from my parents, my siblings, and my family members. It was always black and white, concrete, and tangible. Nothing was ever about molding and shaping and the abstract and the process. Only after I joined this club have I really thought about the actual personality traits that are “productive” and should be cherished and not overlooked.

It’s strange because I’ve always really seen these kinds of things in other people. I loved and cherished my best friends because of the kinds of traits that they have, their personality and the kind of presence they bring to my life. I never saw myself that way and never believed that my traits were of value.

Blackstone Project: Blackstone Launchpad, UCLA. 5.27.2017

Lesson I: You are not just the beginning and the end, you are also everything in between.

The first layer of the onion started peeling away.

II. High.

Fast forward a few months, the deadlines for studying abroad were rolling in. I never really thought about studying abroad, other than the fact that it was a waste of a summer that I could otherwise be looking for internships while taking summer classes. One way or another, my friend convinced me to apply to Dublin. The thought of being on a continent I’ve never explored on my own before didn’t hit me until I sat down on my bed in the dorm room of UCD (University of College Dublin).

In the weekends abroad, I traveled to several different countries. While I was in Europe, I’ve discovered how much I love traveling, to be on my feet, to plan my next destination, and to enjoy all the sights I can find. I love seeing a different part of the world and feeling the place. Each place brought different ambiance wrapped by the culture, buildings, streets, and people surrounding it. This isn’t something that could be trapped up into a bottle and carried around. It is something that can only be felt and experienced right then and there. I felt it when I was in Copenhagen, Prague, Venice, Amsterdam, and Galway — the kindness of the people, the way the streets connected, the old buildings, and the history. In Europe, the little pieces of history remained and I can imagine myself back in those times, in the same place with similar views of those back hundreds of years ago. Imagining, while I was in the castles, how the prince and princesses used to live. I realized how fortunate I was to be able to experience all the different ways that people and places interact with each other, all the ways that history have left its mark in places and built up in cultures.

I loved how when I was traveling, I could get lost in every footstep, in the beauty of the buildings around me, in every little light-hearted spirit in me, dancing around and making me smile. I loved getting lost in the view and forgetting all the petty things that bothered me — how much I missed someone or how much pressure I have put on myself. I could just embrace the moment. Even when the rain-soaked every inch of my body, or when my toes bled from walking, or when my legs burned from chafing, the pain and rain was so minute for a few more seconds of the beauty. Out there in the midst of traveling with one or two friends, the little shallow things like pretty purses and dresses, or who is prettier than the other, or who is more popular, or who is wealthier, nothing mattered anymore. We are all in it together, our two or three bags and us walking and wandering around a place that we’ve never been, absorbing as much of it as we can — because moments are fleeting, and they can only be traces of memories left in the back corners of your mind.

It’s like walking into the fairytale and towns that I’ve created for myself when I was a child. When I didn’t have any care in the world except to absorb all the senses around me. Perhaps this is why our memories from childhood could stay so strong — because there was nothing else for us to think about but the present moment. Maybe this is why children are so happy and carefree, because the world should be a happy and beautiful place, and there are little wonders and treasures that have been taken for granted as we grew older because everything else has clouded our thoughts and made us forget to enjoy every little piece of beauty that is around us.

Being in the moment has never been easy for me, but being in Europe, I’ve finally got to experience that. When there’s overwhelming beauty around you, it is hard not to be in the moment. I guess this is why people love to travel. I’ve also learned how much my young body was capable of, to stay up so late at night just so I can enjoy the parties and see as much as I can see. I’ve learned how important my youth is, to use my young and healthy body, while it is still active; to walk, run, climb, and do all sorts of things before it is too late.

I’ve also learned about how buildings really are…just buildings. That dead in the middle of the night, when no one is walking around, and the cities and towns are quiet, these buildings almost look like a backdrop in a play, reminding me that the world really is just a stage. The mixed feelings — fear, sadness, stress, anxieties, are all part of something that is manmade. The world is what we want to make out of it. These houses, standing there quietly, looking like props in a play made me feel peaceful and like a child, walking into the center of a few dollhouses, propped up against each other.

I felt that maybe, maybe I belonged in the little towns. I’ve always known that I didn’t have much appreciation for the cities — the hustle of the people, the noise of the cars, the scrambles of the posters plastered all over the city to distract our minds, the way that the skyscrapers covered my beautiful blue sky, and the smoke and pollution of the air. Maybe I belonged where the top of the houses was within a few feet of the top of my head, where I can see the sky all so clearly and I can walk out my house without the wide streets and the busy cars.

Sometimes when I was near the coast or in a little town, I would feel like I have been there before. Almost as if I belonged there, and in some dream some long time ago, I’ve had seen the same views and felt the exact same atmosphere. And this is the feeling that I imagined for myself when I imagined myself living a different life. It’s almost as if the places were calling me to them, and I was finally at the home my heart wanted most. It’s like walking into the fairytale and towns that I’ve created for myself when I was a child. When I didn’t have any care in the world except to absorb all the senses around me.

Color Pencil: Nyhavn, København K, Denmark. 7.30.2016

It’s almost as if these places had souls
And they were calling me back.
They’re speaking to me in spirits
To draw me home.
As if it’s not people we fall in love with, but places
And our soulmates are the earth the borne us.

Traveling has made me age backwards and forwards at the same time. For the first time in a long time, I’ve learned what it’s like to be “living in the moment.” Someone I admire has this quality I never quite understood, how he could push away his anxieties and sadness and just simply be happy, how he could just see the beauty around him in the people and places, and simply enjoy all of it. Once, when I was younger, I’ve known how to do this, but it was so natural. Now I’ve had to learn once again how to do this. It’s a wonder, how I’m still so young, yet so clouded by all the anxieties and fears that I’ve forgotten to stop and enjoy myself. — 8.17.2016

Lesson II: There is so much more out there. So much more possibilities, so much more beauty, and so much more warmth. So enjoy and cherish the beauty of being alive.

The second layer of my onion started peeling away.

III. Lost.

I’ve never been in a relationship before I dated this guy. Never really knew what it feels like to “love” someone the way that I do with him. Never really understood what it felt like to be “loved” in that way. We all know that head-over-heels kind of feeling you have for your high school or college sweethearts. I put this guy on some kind of divine pedestal. It is not that he is not still someone who is nearly perfect to me, but it never occurred to me before that he was still human. So when he broke a promise to me, one I took for granted, everything came crashing down.

To be honest, when it came to him, I never really knew who to go to. I didn’t really know whether I truly wanted someone’s advice or if I just wanted someone to tell me that I should stay with him, that he loved me, and that this was just one of his ways of loving me. I was also scared that when I went to someone for an answer, the right answer would be “no,” and they would tell me to leave when in my heart, my bones, and my soul, I wanted to stay.

No one knows his love more than I do. I feel it in my bones, I feel it in his kisses, I see it in his eyes. His love is as real as any love that I have ever known and to question it is to question if the sky is blue or if the sun exists. Someone outside of this relationship will never understand. They will not have felt the same things I’ve felt. They will not have seen the little things in him that I appreciate. The way that he supports me, in every aspect of my life. The way he wants me to be happy in the career that I choose, in the people I spend my time with, in the things that I learn. The way that he shows his pride in me and encourage me to stand up for what I believe in. From teasing me in the background to looking at me with admiration. The way that he’s helped me grown, the way that he wants me to love life the way he can, the way that he wants to share all the happiness he’s known.

I’ve grown in the past two years and I can’t say that I would’ve grown this same way if I hadn’t had him by my side; if he hadn’t guided me to see the things that I see, to live life in the moment, to show me the way he enjoys his life; if he hadn’t allowed me to find my way to enjoy my life and guided me to find that happiness.

So in the million things he’s done right, what are these mistakes?

I felt my heart tearing into pieces and I found myself scrabbling in empty space — I couldn’t find an answer. I couldn’t find an answer because I was looking everywhere else but within. I was so busy asking everyone else what they thought that it never occurred to me that my own answer could be the right one. It was a scary thought — the thought of not relying on what someone else believes is right, the thought of autonomy. Yet, it was also a relief — I have the power to take charge or let go. And really, I have the power to choose any of my paths. I can no longer rely on someone else to tell me what to do because I won’t listen and if I do, it will only make me miserable. No one knows what I am going through or how I feel, just as what it is like to be loved and in love with him. Only I know what is best for me.

Inglewood, California, USA. 10.1.2016

Maybe I should start trusting myself,
To believe that what I’ve experienced is real
Not to question this
Maybe I should start trusting my guts
To listen to my heart
And stop looking for validation
Because why should I need validation for his love
And how can I seek validation from people who have never experienced the way he loves me?
— 9.26.2016

Lesson III: Trust yourself, listen to yourself.

With the flavor of a slightly trembling kind of courage, the third layer of my onion started peeling away.

IV. Whale.

EVACUATE!!” the lifeguard screamed seconds after the 10 feet whale flopped itself onto the deck of the cruise. She dropped out from the sky just milliseconds before I finished the last bite of my ice cream. I picked up my baby cousin and headed to the nearest locker room. From the little window of the locker room door, I peaked at the suffocating whale.

The manager of the locker room instructed that all of us clean up the space and prepare for the whale to be brought into the nearby aquarium. I was told to hide my baby cousin in a laundry cart nearby, but she could hear everything. The baby whale, who was just a little taller than me was brought in a few moments later, filling up the entire hallway. She was struggling and has already turned into a different color.

The employee struggling to pull the whale in slapped and kicked her to get her to go in the right direction. She cried and started flapping her fin furiously. The employees shocked her with a taser gun. My baby cousin started screaming and crying in pain, and a little mark showed up on her the same spot where they had shocked the whale.

Terrified, I picked my cousin up and tried to calm her down. It hurt me so much to see her in this kind of pain. Did it hurt her to see the baby whale in that kind of pain? Actually hurt? I kept trying to calm her down. Then I realized how stupid this whole thing was…we were on a cruise, why not just put her back in the ocean?

When things finally settled down, we were all instructed to return to the deck for a headcount, I gave my cousin back to her parents. When we lined up to be transferred to a different cruise, I realized that I had forgotten my phone. I asked Aaron to come help me find the phone in the hallways of the cruise. After almost an hour of searching in the lengthy hallways, I found I found my phone in my backpack. I looked down the two sides of the hallways and didn’t see a trace of Aaron. Goddamnit Aaron.

When I walked outside to look for Aaron, I found myself in early 2000’s Taiwan. I called Aaron on my phone, which had, in the few minutes of my confusion, transformed into the first flip phone I ever owned. Aaron picked up and started singing in Chinese. I couldn’t understand him because 1. Aaron cannot, for the love of god, speak Chinese 2. Why is he singing? Frustrated, I set out on a quest to search for him on the Taiwanese subway, which has transformed into an old fashioned train with sleighs in the front.

I felt a small buzz in my back pocket. Where are you? I called the number back, assuming it to be Aaron. I couldn’t understand his gibberish. After I hung up, I realized in this world and timeline, I couldn’t communicate with people from my own world. I started looking around and realized that all the people around me were the same people that were on the cruise, but somehow we were thrown into a different world.

I woke up in sweat, confusion, and, like always, annoyed of Aaron.

Following the protocol of weird dreams, I looked up the meaning of whales in the dream dictionary: a whale symbolizes spirituality, a part of an oceanic feeling.

To make sense of this, I recalled the few weeks leading up to the dream. I had this dream the Christmas after my heartbreak when my mother took me to the Southern tip of Taiwan. Around this time, I started reading a lot about mindfulness and meditation to process my emotions from the aforementioned episode. I stumbled upon Buddhism and the Chakras. Before I knew it, I found myself deep in exploration of the Buddhist philosophy, the ideas of consciousness, and the afterlife.

So far in my life, I’ve accepted the fact that when I died, well…some kind of magic happens and I go to someplace similar to heaven. I used to be a deeply devoted Christian, but somewhere along the trenches of hypocrisy in the Catholic all-girls school, I lived in killed the Christian in me. I lost a lot of faith in organized religion and never thought that I would be looking back (but that’s a story for another time). After high school, I simply believed in a higher being, nothing more, nothing less.

For the first time in my life, I really questioned where I would be when I flatlined on the EKG or when the light goes out on that PET (or both??). The possibility of nothingness after death went in loops in my mind and I really couldn’t accept it. The idea that my reality is entirely a construct of the physicality of cells and fluids made this world seem cold, cruel, and pointless. At 20, I was finally having my first existential crisis.

I decided that my dream represents my conflict of questioning and grappling of my own stance in spirituality and of my control over what I want to believe in. The abuse of the animal represents my desire to set my “whale” free into the ocean — to let myself embrace and accept the freedom of this newfound individuality. The cries of my own baby cousin in response to the abuse of the whale represents the pain of individuals who are, in a sense, “abused” to think and act a certain way. In my dream, the constraint and abuse of wildlife to control them is a reflection of how I try to reject certain ideas or beliefs because it is inconsistent with what I used to believe in.

The switching of the universe happened after the whale was locked down and my attempt to find a communication device. However, I wouldn’t want to lose contact with Aaron and would still want to make sure he is safe.

In reflection, maybe my attempt to simply follow what I am told instead of following my heart makes me lose contact with those who are closest to me and see the world in its weakest way. That is why I could not find Aaron or my phone after the whale was locked down. Aaron is one of the people closest to me, but someone who doesn’t give me much anxiety when I can’t find him (Michael, my boyfriend, would have given the dream a different effect). In the dream, I must have lost Aaron because the detriment of locking down my individuality is not blatantly obvious, as it would have been if I had lost Michael. Maybe I traveled back in time because instead of growing and moving forward, I merely regress when I try to contain something so great.

Xiaoyeliu, Taitung County, Taiwan. 12.17.2016

After this dream, I wanted to know — maybe there is something more, something about my spirituality that I have yet to discover. I started to look deeper into Buddhist teachings and the Chakra system. Essentially, there are seven energy centers in our body in which energy flows through. These energy centers are charged and recharged through contact with cosmic energy in the atmosphere. The electrical network runs through the physical human body, connect our spiritual bodies to our physical body. Because of stress, emotional or physical problems, these chakras can be blocked.

Under the pre-med, science-centered education I have dove in for the past 7 years, I approached these ideas half-heartedly. However, as much as energy healing has been criticized as pseudoscience, I believe that every belief system and practice has some truth to it. Instead of actually meditating and opening up my Chakras one by one, I sped read through some articles and youtube videos to understand the basics of the Chakras system. What particularly stood out to me was the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth wheel:

Earth: The Base
Concerned with earthly grounding and physical survival
Blockage may manifest as paranoia, fear, procrastination and defensiveness

Let your greatest fears become clear to you. You may be concerned for your survival, but you must let those fears go.

Love: The Heart
We fall in love through our heart Chakra, then that feeling of unconditional love moves to the emotional center
Blockage can show itself as immune system, lung and heart problems, or manifest as inhumanity, lack of compassion or unprincipled behavior
Lay all of your grief out in front of you. If you have lost someone close, you must realize love is a form of energy, and it swirls all around us. The love is still in your heart, and can be reborn in the shape of new love.

Sound: The Throat
Concerned with the senses of inner and outer hearing, the synthesising of ideas, healing, transformation and purification.
Blockage can show up as creative blocks, dishonesty or general problems in communicating ones needs to others.

You must not lie about your own nature. Accept who you are.

Light: The Third Eye
Concerned with inner vision, intuition and wisdom
Blockage may manifest as problems like lack of foresight, mental rigidity, ‘selective’ memory and depression

The biggest illusion of all is the illusion of separation. Things we think are separate are actually one and the same. Like the nations of the world: we are all one people, but we live as if divided.

All these ideas are interrelated in so many ways. However, what threw me in thought loops for the next few months was the first Chakra, the earth, where I started questioning my courage. On my notepad, I wrote down all the things that I am afraid of in this life. My biggest fear? Failure and loneliness. I realized that all my fears branch out from this center and that so much of my life is controlled by my fears.

I am scared of losing Michael, scared that I’m not enough, and scared that he will leave. I am scared so I don’t want to take chances. I am scared so I want to be possessive. I am scared that if I explore other careers and try new things, I will go off the path. I am scared that I wouldn’t want to be a doctor, and all that I’ve done will have been wasted. I am scared of being unproductive, of wasting my time. But if I just continue to be scared all my life and I do things to avoid those fears, I won’t be completely happy. I won’t know what I really want.

I think that I can be happier and that I am fearful because I am taught that having a stagnant, stable, and structured career is what is safe. And I am scared of not being safe. But because I am scared of not being safe, I stop myself from exploring. I stop myself from going off my route and going into the beaten path. I stop myself from taking risks. How do I quantify what risks are worth taking? How do I know what fears are worth confronting, that the risk of not being “safe” is worth it if it means I’ll be happier? Do I want to be content and safe or do I want to be happy and impassioned every day when I wake up? Is what makes me safe and content what makes me happy?

I don’t want to just live in fear. I don’t want it to limit me and control who I am, what I am, and what I do. I want to have courage. I want to know my potential, know what I want, and be confident in almost every way possible.

In this new year, I want to become more courageous.
To face my deepest fears and not to settle for comfort and ease
To break out of my box and recognize that the defenses I have against the world comes from a discomfort within my heart
To be honest to myself and forgive my own mistakes
To explore in people, inspirations, experiences, thoughts, ideas, and places,
To listen and to engage in the relationships and people around me, so that I am truly trying to understand the world from different perspectives and grow from that
To love without holding back, and to forgive with an open heart even if it could be painful — 1.1.2017

Lesson IV: Have courage. Don’t let fear rule your life.

The fourth layer of my onion started peeling away.

V. Heartbreak.

Toward the end of Spring quarter last year, Aaron told me that InDe is probably going to dissociate. His text nearly shattered my heart. I just was starting to realize all the potentials that I never really appreciated in the people around me, the kinds of things I can learn from each member, and the way different creative ideas that each member offered — the enthusiastic personality that Vincent had, the deep conversations with Eunice the mature and deep insights that Noa had of his surroundings, the way that Octavio showed that he cared, my partnership with Blackstone, and how hard I worked with Suhani. All these things were labeled by Aaron as “not strong enough.” I didn’t want to believe him, but I have always put a lot of weight on Aaron’s words. I didn’t want to lose this. I liked being in a team and I’ve never really been part of a team. All these were worth something to me and I didn’t want it to go to waste. There was something so great and so much to learn from all these people, and I don’t believe I can learn it the same way that I would if InDe was gone.

So with some hesitation and a few convincing lines from a few important people in my life, I took charge this Fall. It’s been a really long road and one of the hardest things I’ve done. Not because running an organization on campus is extremely difficult, but because I had put my whole heart into this club. As you know, when you attach your heart to something — anything — you risk the chance of heartbreak.

I wanted us to succeed and I wanted everyone to be happy. I wanted it so badly and have identified with the club so deeply that InDe became a test of my abilities. Every time something didn’t go well — every meeting where fewer members came back, every time I was told that something wasn’t right, I blamed myself. I felt like I failed everyone. I should’ve done better. I shouldn’t have ever taken on the role. We were constantly lost and I felt that if I had been a better leader, we would have succeeded.

In my meetings, I learned that I wasn’t strong enough. I kept thinking that the way to be better is to change ourselves to become something I think other people would want. My vision wasn’t strong enough and I didn’t push hard enough to keep the vision consistent. Every time anything went wrong, we tried to change the direction of the club. We tried so hard to be something that we are not that our vision, our sense of identity, and the truth of our club wore away in the 20 weeks that went by.

Before school started this year, I wrote:
The best kinds of art are those that come through from genuine and sincere passion. Messages that are true to one’s self, whether it be through design, songwriting, or simply daily interactions, are the ones that shine through the most beautiful. That is why it’s so important to accept yourself for who you are because once you start lying to yourself and to the world, pretending to be something you are not, all that is beautiful about you blur into the background.
— 9.5.2017

In InDe, I experienced once and again, the beauty of truth.

We have been comparing ourselves to something that we are not. I have been wanting something that I actually didn’t want. The people that I cherished with so much love and heart, the people I could not be more thankful for, the people who stuck by are independent thinkers. These are people who want to make an impact on the world, in an intellectual and spiritual sense. They want to uproot the commonsense beliefs, challenge tradition, think about the system and humanity, love and hate, and everything beyond just visual aesthetics. The InDe I wanted would have brought people together through a passion for the design of life. They would have been people who embraced and executed eccentric ideas because those are the ones that bring about revolutions. This kind of idiosyncrasy is what I believed made people beautiful. If our club had tried to cater to the mainstream ideologies, I would not have had these things.

At the beginning of this quarter, I saw our club hanging by a thread. More importantly, I saw my own heart hanging by a thread. What has once brought me joy and excitement has become a burden because of the kind of pressures I’ve put on myself. On my way home from our first meeting of the quarter, I broke down in tears. I sobbed into blankets for what seemed like a few hours. This feeling has been cropping up here and there throughout the last few weeks of the club, but never as strong as this time. I broke my club, I broke my club. The sentence kept popping into my head.

In the weeks that I was trying to revive InDe, I was reading a lot of books and listening to a lot of audiobooks on leadership and entrepreneurship. The words of Simon Sinek kept looping in my thoughts.

“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief — WHY does your company exist? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.

Leading is not the same as being the leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you — not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.

Trust is maintained when values and beliefs are actively managed. If companies do not actively work to keep clarity, discipline and consistency in balance, then trust starts to break down.

All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”

— Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

What I believed InDe stood for was always right. The reason for me to keep the club going was on the right path, but our way of getting there had to go through several tries. It’s not about the number of ways that we take to get there. It’s about keeping that vision alive and staying true to it. The mistake I made was that I doubted what I believed in. I doubted that I was good enough and so the vision wasn’t strong enough. I doubted that other people would want the same thing and I feared that I would fail to attract people. That is why when people started leaving, I was afraid.

Pasadena, California, USA — 2.20.2017

InDe became a symbol for me.
A symbol for the passion that has always been in me.
A symbol for the knowledge that even if I follow and do what I love, I can thrive.
A symbol for the other choices.
A symbol of breaking out of an entrapment.
A symbol of flowering the seed of what had been in me for such a long time, something that has been suppressed.
A symbol of pulling myself outside of the box.

Maybe that symbol wasn’t what they wanted
So they didn’t connect to InDe the way I did
So they didn’t feel as dedicated and attached to it.

Maybe InDe has died
But in my heart, the meanings for this symbol will continue to thrive.
— 4.17. 2017

Lesson V: Be strong. Failure is inevitable, but there are many paths to the same destination.

Soaked with tears, the fifth layer of the onion peeled away.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

From the first day we enter preschool, everyone is always asking what we want to do. But how do you know who you want to be a day from now, or two days from now, let alone 50 years from now? If we just keep planning for that someday — that person we want to be, how do we know that when that day comes, we will stay consistent to that same desire?

The trouble is, I have been scared of failing. I have been listening too much and planning too much according to my family. I have grown to have this perfectionist mindset and get in a habit to overlook everything else that is within me, everything in between the starting point and the finish line. I have closed my doors to the world of possibilities because I didn’t want to fall out of what seemed like a decent and safe path and I wanted to hold on tight to the same vision of me 50 years from now. But that suffocated me.

In my freshman year, Aaron once asked me, “If you could give up everything in the world for one thing, what would that thing be?” I’ve thought about this for a while now and I’ve learned that there can’t be just one thing. There are so many things that excite me, so many places to explore, so much more I can do, so much more I needed to grow, and so many ways I can be better. I am not just made of one thing, I am bits and pieces of multiple different kinds of interests all surrounding a core passion.

As the daughter and niece of physicians and surrounded by medical enthusiasts, I have grown up primed for medicine. I never really thought that there were other possibilities, so now the question is…what do I want? I think most of the world ask us the wrong question. They ask, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But it is not what I want to do for the world and what role I want to play for everyone else. The question is, what do I want for myself? Where can I maximize my happiness and fulfillment? I know this is a selfish question, but I think that I can’t help anyone if I am sad and unfulfilled. At least, I cannot help anyone to my maximum ability.

My father once told me, “The point when you know you’ve grown up is not when you no longer need someone’s help. It is that you are willing and able to help someone else.” I think in little bits and pieces I’ve started to understand what he meant on the grand scale. Growing is about being able to appreciate what you have, to utilize your skills and talents, and bring your blessings to make it into a blessing in someone else’s life.

To my inspirations to become bigger, stronger, better: You are the stars in the dark night, the sun after the storm, and the candles in a black out. Some day, I want to shine as bright as you do, so that I can bring as much warmth into someone’s life as you have into mine. — 1.7.2017

Birthday: Taoyuan, Taiwan — 9.5.2001

The truth is, I often overlook all my blessings. I am healthy and young, surrounded with some of the brightest people of the world, have more than enough resources at the tip of my fingers, fed, under shelter, and more than financially stable. I am so loved by the people around me. My best friends — the kind of support and insight they bring to my life, my family — the kind of unconditional love and protection they give me, my teachers and professors — the kind of guidance they give me. All this time, I’ve felt beaten down and closed in when I have so much. I think all I truly want is to share some of this beauty with the rest of the world, where there are people who aren’t lucky enough to have all that I was born with.

Through InDe, I started to realize how easily I am beaten down, how much stronger I need to be, and how much more I need to learn. What I want for myself is to be the best that I can be — the strongest and brightest that I can be. I want to optimize my happiness and my capabilities. I shouldn’t stop myself from doing things that I would love because what if that is where I can be the best version of myself?

And if I wanted to be a doctor, and I am to walk into a patient’s room, who is scared and worried about his life — or to walk into that patient’s family’s room, I had better be a strong enough person, the best of the best kind of version that I can be. I better be able to have the strength not to break down in front of them and be the comfort they deserve to have. If I want to do anything for this world, to the best of my abilities, then the me right now, who is so scared of failure, who will be crushed by any inevitable failures — I am not ready.

I am not strong enough, not brave enough, not the best I can be just yet. So I am trying, before I close the doors, because I know I can be better, should be better. I need to be strong enough that I know all the pressures won’t pull me down. I need to challenge myself in more ways, look at more possibilities, and give myself my best shot because I don’t want to live a life knowing I could be more.

— 4.10.2017