In three weeks, I will graduate from UCLA. The greatest advice that I have for incoming and current scholars is simple: be fearless. Face your fears. Don't be afraid. Fear will hold you back. Bravery will push you forward.
Bravery comes within. It's that inner voice that tells you what is right and why you should stand up. Your voice may tremble, your hands may shake but your gut will help you stay strong. Life is too short to regret on "what if's" and "what could have happened." Believe me, I know what it's like to have everything you have instantly disappear.
When I was 19, I acquired a brain injury from an accident. Recovery was difficult--incredibly difficult. I wouldn't wish that pain on my worst enemy. For everyone else in the world that has a brain injury or suffers from Post Concussion Syndrome, I feel your pain, your fears and your loss. I endured it and I fought it. It's difficult to fight an invisible disease that seems like a deep, dark hole that wipes away your life. But, I am proof that life does get better and life will get better. Positive thoughts and positive energy will propel you in the right direction.
The brain injury was the worst and best thing that has ever happened to me. When I could barely carry myself, I learned to rely on others. When I could barely smile, I became thankful for all my family and friends that lifted my spirits. When I couldn't remember much, my best friend Jeremy left voicemails on my phone every single day until I started to regain my memory. I learned the importance of interpersonal relationships and what it really means for a friend to stick through thick and thin. Through pain and suffering, I learned how everything from reading a book to waking up for class is a gift. Every opportunity is a chance to make new memories.
When I was extremely sick, all I wanted to do was to ride my bike, hold a spoon without tremors and learn from professors in a lecture hall. I will never be the person that I was before the accident. And, I am thankful for that. I am proud of who I was and who I have become. I cherish every moment and work hard for every accomplishment.
From the accident, I know how life can quickly turn--in a few seconds--into inexplicable depths of pain. Be thankful for everything you have. Be grateful for all the love you have in your life. Be kind to one another. Life is too short and too unpredictable. What may exist one day, may cease to exist the next day.
For someone who was once terrified and shy, I faced my fears and learned to be brave. I knocked down my fears one by one. Though I was afraid of heights, I climbed up that rock wall on top of a moving ship. At the top of rock wall, I looked out to the Atlantic Ocean. Sure, I was up way high on a moving object but the intense adrenaline of limitless adventures was completely worth it. I started to speak up in class because the voice inside me could not be silenced. I started to voice my opinions (with sound arguments). If I witnessed a stranger that was bullied, I would help that person. If someone made a racist remark or a derogatory comment about disabled people, I would speak up because it was the right thing to do. To stand in silence to avoid conflict is a fear that must be conquered.
Four years ago, I never would have imagined I would be the woman that I am today. I am still a dreamer and a believer. I believe the world is filled with endless opportunities for kindness and positive change. I still love Grey's Anatomy and I think Shonda Rhimes is a storytelling genius. I still quote Ellen DeGeneres and I dream of the day that I will meet her. But, I have grown up throughout the years. I have discovered who I am and who I want to be. I chase happiness and surround myself with positive energy. I will continue to be brave and I will face my fears. That's the best way to live life.
Be Grateful. Be Kind. Be Brave.