People ask what my favorite memory of college has been, but I can never pinpoint that one moment from school that stood out to me the most.
The last four years of my life have been spent as a UCLA student-athlete, specifically on the women’s golf team. We compete in about 11 events during the school year, which equates to a combined total of 25 to 30 missed school days. It is not a lie when I say it has been an exhausting and challenging journey as a student at a top-ranked university.
The hardest year was by far my freshman year, and it wasn’t because I was merely an innocent first-year trying to learn the ins and outs of UCLA.
It wasn’t because of the hectic and endless balancing act of student life and athlete life – four-to five-hour practices every day, an hour of workouts every other day, three hours of class a day and countless hours of studying and procrastinating.
Nor was it because of the stress of figuring out what I want to do with my life or fearing the freshman 15.
It was because my mother passed away during fall quarter. I was still a college baby, not yet adapted or fully engaged in academic and cocurricular college life. My life took a pause while the rest of the world continued.
Like a robot but emotionally distraught, I would wake up, go to class, practice, study and lock myself in my dorm room. I sank into a mire of a pathetic routine. It took me a while to get back on my feet, both emotionally and mentally, in school and out on the golf course.
Through the relentless encouragement and perseverance of my support group and my “just keep swimming” attitude, I started living in the present, appreciating the little things that we so often take for granted and eventually enjoying my time at UCLA.
Fast-forward to my sophomore and junior year: changing majors from international development studies to psychology, just because I could not bear to sit through some of the prerequisite classes. Completing a grueling 20-page research paper for psychology, which involved my computer literally going CPU-dead, aka brain dead, on me when I was furiously typing away on the 12th page at an ungodly hour, but triumphing at the quarter’s end.
The emotional high and overwhelming excitement from the Bruin nation that followed after UCLA football retained the cup against USC three years in a row. The first time I joined Korean-American Campus Mission, a campus Christian ministry, and restored my relationship with God. And experiencing a rampant flood on campus.
During my time at UCLA, I have been pushed and pulled in almost every direction imaginable, often feeling defeated, but succeeding in big ways. As Tony D’Amato affirmed in “Any Given Sunday” – “On any given Sunday you’re gonna win or you’re gonna lose. The point is – can you win or lose like a man?”
Whether it applied to school or golf, how I took defeat was just as important as how I took a win. Yeah, I had my share of the good and the bad, but if someone had to ask me what my favorite memory was from college, I’d say that the entire journey as a Bruin, filled with a whole gamut of emotions and lasting relationships, tops it off.
It’s not easy to complete one chapter of your life, but it’s only the beginning to something unwritten.
Lee played for the UCLA women’s golf team from 2011-2015.