Friday, May 30, 2014

In Retrospect : Taking the Leap


It was what I felt after four years of learning about business and economics at UCLA. While the Business/Economics department has a culture of grooming its students to become the next army of corporate America's finest, I wasn't persuaded to dedicate my life to accounting, investment banking, or consulting. Rather, my experiences and studies affirmed that my passions existed elsewhere. But exactly where, I wasn't so sure.


It was what I felt after four years of working in the commercial dance industry. I was unconvinced that I was ready to be a professional dancer. Sure, I had a wonderful time throughout college working on a slew of jobs ranging from mini-tours with rising artists to television shows. But I saw my experiences more as fun and less as career building. I was uncertain I could adopt the unconventional lifestyle or adapt to the inconsistent job market. I was afraid to fail. 

"Vocal Adrenaline" members on set for "Glee" March 2012
Thus was my dilemma when I graduated from college. Whereas a majority of my colleagues took an aggressive march toward their career goals by working for one of the "big four" firms (PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young) and started collecting their high five figure starting salaries, I tip-toed toward an unknown future.

In limbo. 

It was what my heart felt when I continued leading the double life of dancer slash _(fill in the blank)_. My position as PR Assistant at Versace allowed me to work during the day and to take dance classes at night. Between March and September 2012 I danced only when it was convenient, worked on dance jobs when I could take work off, and passed on opportunities if they conflicted with my job. It was fulfilling but unfulfilling at the same time.


It was what I felt when I discussed my resignation with my boss at Versace in September of 2012. I had just been offered the opportunity to dance in Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday Reloaded Tour, and rehearsals were starting immediately. It was impossible to be a PR Assistant on the road and unpractical for my boss to find a temporary replacement. So I had to make a choice: professional dance or PR.

I thought I could balance professionally dancing with a non-dance job; after all, I had succeeded for 15 years to balance dance with school. But the real world wasn't as malleable as I thought it would be, and without fully dedicating my time to dance I was like a sparrow trying to fly in a cage.

And I suppose it was comforting, having consistency in the form of a stable job on the agenda. But what's comforting is also sometimes what's most limiting. I needed to take a leap away from familiarity and control in order to begin fully realizing my potential as a dancer.

So to all the hesitant college graduates out there: don't let fear bind you. The sooner you take the leap, the sooner you'll open yourself up to the kinds of opportunities you've been dreaming of your whole life.

One of my first shows on Pink Friday Reloaded in October 2012
On the Yeezus Tour in October 2013

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In Retrospect : Introduction

Graduation season is upon us, and I can't help but to look back and remember where I was mentally and physically two years ago. There was a strangeness surrounding this time; an excitement for what's to come tainted slightly with a fear of the unknown. I knew that everything in my life was about to change, but I didn't know when that change would occur. Nor did I know if  I could handle it.

Thinking about all of my friends who are about to take the huge leap from "college student" to "adult," or even on a smaller scale from "high schooler" to "college student," I imagine some of them feeling wholly unprepared for the journey they are about to embark on. And who's to blame them? I felt that way when I was finishing up both high school and college.

Me and my family at the HHS Class of '08 Ceremony
The broad advice I was given after completing secondary and higher education was somewhat irrelevant to me. While inspiring and "feel good," the graduation commencement speeches were too generalized and too far away for me to connect with on a personal level. And throughout college I yearned for more relatable advice. No one I knew had to deal with the same conflicts of juggling a professional dance career, academics, and a college social life. During those four years my parents, my brother, and later on my close friends were my pillars of support and counsel.

Me and my family at the UCLA Class of '12 Ceremony
Which leads me to my next new set of blog posts appropriately titled, "In Retrospect." While I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything in the world, I think there are some situations and opportunities that, in retrospect, I could have handled more wisely (like whether or not to take a dance job over my Environmental Economics midterm or whether or not to apply for graduate school). I'll write about them here while they're still fresh in my memory and hopefully those that might currently be in similar (or identical) scenarios might stumble upon my posts and gain some valuable information.

These stories may be most relevant to those of you who were just released into the real world, or they might just serve as entertaining anecdotes for those of you who will never find yourself in the same strange but real predicaments of being a college student/aspiring dancer or college-graduate/aspiring dancer.

In Korea for a job during my sophomore year of college 
Whatever the case, check back each week as I dedicate my Thursday posts to remembering post-high school and post-college days.

It'll be a real #tbt treat. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode 2

It's been a month since the start of my #AdventureswithKaren project. So let's do a little recap of all the places my friends and I have visited so far:

Schaumburg, IL:

Schaumburg, Illinois is a small city about 30 minutes outside of Chicago. There was a decent mall close by and plenty of chain restaurants that appealed to the regular and unimaginative omnivorous tastebuds. My saving grace was a Whole Foods Market which is stocked with fresh produce and yummy prepared foods. Also a treat was the Ned Brown Forest Preserve, which features a beautiful paved bike and running path.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL:        

Even though Ft. Lauderdale is incredibly different from my hometown and from LA, the tropical Floridian weather reminded me so much of spending time with my family in Taiwan that I became homesick. It also made me nostalgic of when my mom and I went to Orlando, FL for Co. Dance Nationals in 2004. All of that is to say that my family and friends were on my mind!

Atlanta, GA:
The last time I was in Atlanta I was there only long enough to make one stop; I visited The Lucky Exchange, where I purchased this gem of a jacket:

But this time around the weather was nicer and I had much more time to explore. Piedmont Park was perfect for a picnic:

Pittsburgh, PA:
My stay in Pittsburgh was brief but pleasant. There is a path that runs along the Ohio River on which you can go for a nice stroll or jog. I really wish I had the opportunity to visit the Andy Warhol Museum, but I suppose that's something I'll look forward to the next time I am in town.

Providence, RI:

Providence, Rhode Island, home to Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), is the epitome of a quaint east coast city. The picturesque apartments and condos are stacked side by side and look like something out of a magazine:

Using my UCLA ID I was able to visit the RISD Museum for only $5. My favorite exhibitions were Andy Warhol's Photographs and Graphic Design: Now in Production:

On campus at Brown University

Washington D.C.:

The last time I was in Washington D.C., I barely had enough time to walk through the National Mall. This time I made sure to visit a few of the Smithsonian Museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Air and Space Museum. I even had a drink and a bite to eat in Adams Morgan, the young neighborhood my good friend Darby lives in:
Barbara Kuger's Exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum

National Air and Space Museum

Adams Morgan
Old and new friends at Roofer's Union

Philadelphia, PA:

Philadelphia surprisingly had a great selection of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. I visited PS & Co, a newly opened cafe which serves organic, gluten-free, kosher, and vegan fare. They had only been open 5 days when I visited so they were serving a very limited menu. I had the sweet potato quiche, a chocolate chip cookie, and a cup of their Indian Spice Chai tea. The food was delicious but the best part of the cafe was the decor and ambiance:
PS & Co in Philly
After lunch I took a walk through Rittenhouse Square. It's the perfect place to people watch or to do absolutely nothing and soak in the sun. I chose to read my kindle for a few hours:

Rittenhouse Square
For dinner I decided to check out the highly acclaimed vegan restaurant, Vedge. The menus are "globally inspired (and) use locally sourced ingredients that closely follow the beautiful Northeastern seasons":
The grilled seitan entre at Vedge
Join me on my next adventures out and about via Instagram, or check back soon for more updates!