By Ling Zeng
Distinguished Young Woman of California for 2013
Someone once told me to imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. Those balls are work, family, health, friends, and spirit. Out of all of them, work is the rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back to you eventually.
“But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that, and strive for balance in your life.”
Balance. It sounds so simple, yet for some reason, so many people struggle to achieve it. In our busy everyday lives, many of us are so ardently focused on the tangible goals such as education and our career that we often lose sight of the things that matter – family, friends, and ourselves.
Going to college has helped me appreciate just how important those four glass balls are – and just how resilient rubber really is. My first semester away from home went by in a whirlwind. Some of my endeavors were successful and some were not. I struggled in some of my classes in the beginning of the semester. I didn’t get into every student organization I applied to, and I got turned away from internship opportunities because I was only a freshman. But I was able to turn things around. I ramped up my studying and reclaimed A’s in all my classes. I was an active participant in student government and was able to rise to become Director of Marketing for the spring semester. The point is – I discovered that “work” truly is a rubber ball. I tripped, I stumbled, and I fell, but I was always able to get right back up, scrape off the dirt, and keep on walking – no permanent damage at all.
But friends, family, health, and spirit…those aren’t as resilient. And when you are juggling them along with work, balance is crucial to prevent them from dropping. Being away from home has made me realize how important family is in my life. My mom, my dad, and my brother are the people I have lived with my entire life so far (minus seven years for my brother because he came after me), and they have never failed to offer me support, encouragement, and when necessary, constructive criticism. If family is the ground upon which we build our lives, then friends are like the pillars that continue to hold us up. Friendship is truly an amazing bond, but one that takes effort to build and also effort to maintain. Likewise, family is also maintained on a fundamental give-and-take relationship. The bonds of friendship and family are strong, but not invincible. Preventing them from wearing away over time requires effort – support and love are best exchanged in a mutual manner. It is important to always treat friends and family with an attitude of gratitude and remembering to give as much as we take.
Lastly, never forget to take care of yourself – on a physical and spiritual level. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and live an active lifestyle to stay healthy! It’s a domino effect too – when you are physically in good condition, positive energy runs through you, keeping your mind and spirit healthy as well. When I say spirit, I don’t necessarily mean anything religious. I mean the essence of life that lives within every single person – passion, vivacity, understanding, sympathy, love, emotions… It’s the “something more” that makes us uniquely human. We need to spend time cultivating this spirit, just like our physical bodies. Knowledge through reading, experience through exploration, and growth through self-reflection – these are all ways to cultivate the spirit. Find those few precious moments in your life that you have to yourself when you are alone, and enjoy the solitude once in a while.
As we move into the new year, life continues to move on. We will continue to face busy schedules crammed with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and in the future, our careers. But in the midst of all that, never forget to strive for balance, especially in juggling the balls of life.
Ling Zeng is a college freshman at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Mathematical Finance. Originally from San Diego, California, Ling was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of California for 2013. Learn more about Ling here!