Letter to the Seven Years Old Me

December 24, 2017

Letter from a wise 25 years old to a younger, artistic self. Covers a brief life history, growth of the Internet, and how to tackle the uncontrollable-ness of life.

Hello there.

You’re quiet. That will change.

You scribble furiously with pencil on paper. Your artistic genius and quiet demeanor is known across yours and your parents’ social circles. Your skills will change, but your fondness for experimentation and improvement will remain.

School is not fun. No, it is hell on earth, with teachers acting as gods and certain students as kings, pushing the other students around. You are left alone because you are quiet and of no use to anyone. You are also on the bottom on the pecking order. This is unfortunate, as no one wants to be friends with somoene on the bottom. The rotten start to schooling will tarnish your faith in the formal education system.

Your highly educated parents are well meaning people, even though they commit the common sin of comparing you to other students. Though you don’t know it yet, having one of them living in another country will change your life. They will eventually pluck you out of the harsh Chinese education system and take you far, far away into the comfortable and sunny lands of Portugal. You’ll feel like a frog that was lifted from the bottom of the well, and into the wider world.

You will be trilingual from living on three continents by the time you are twelve. Life will not be easy, as the communication barrier will repel the kids initially. Eventually you will win friends. Friends from all over the world: from China, Brazil, Venezuela, and Australia.

You’ll leave them behind when you arrive in Canada. You’ll trade the Portuguese college town with a beach for a suburb near Vancouver, with a university on a mountain. You will want to study at Harvard in Grade eight, and give up when you realize your parents will be unable to afford the cost. Since it will be the most affordable option, you will study at the university on the mountain.

Instead of taking SAT tests, you played bagpipes. The biggest memory from high school was playing bagpipes with the band, competing with other bands around the world. You also won prizes as a soloist bagpiper. While listening to you practicing bagpipes, your father joked that you used to be so quiet.

You are only going to be less quiet going onwards.

Life will get tough for your parents. Their attempt to play it safe by holding jobs and delaying home ownership will backfire during the rapid growth of the Vancouver housing market. Not only will they lose their jobs, but the delay in home ownership means their income will be tiny compared to what the house flippers make. A phD dropout and post doctorate, combined, will make much less than those with barely any formal education.

The irony of the government taxing hard-earned employment income at a higher percentage than capital gains will inspire you. You will learn about taxes and growing money outside of employment.

Your parents will insist that you get a university degree. But which one? You will consider Art History, since most of your AP courses were in the arts. Your friends thought you will study Philosophy, since you are so pensive and received the top grades in Philosophy class. But your parents will convince you to go into Business, because that is where quiet Asian girls like yourself go and become accountants. While not a glamorous career, accountants are respected, and the job pays the bills. You already took two accounting courses in high school, and many of your peers were also studying business, so you said yes.

Your restless mind will rebel against the monotonous business classes. For inspiration, you read Forbes and Fortune magazines, voraciously devouring the section on Silicon Valley and the rise of Internet companies. Software will eat the world! Indeed, your parents jobs were gone precisely because information can be disseminated cheaply and instantly. Hedging your bets, you took introductory Computing Science classes. You passed the courses, but it was the camaderie of peers in the Women in Computing Science that sealed the deal: you will graduate with a degree in Computing Science.

You will work in a field that now, as a seven years old, you are not yet aware of.

You will move to the fabled city of San Francisco, which the Chinese call the “Old Gold mountain”. There is certainly a feeling of digging for gold here: major tech companies and startups alike are working around the clock to make money. Internet money.

You start as an employee, but where will you end up?

You are not your parents. Do not play it safe.

Fortune favors the brave. Work towards where you want to be in 10, 20 years. Your peers will laugh at you and say that is impossible, since no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

You will see what happens to employees when they stick around too long.

Nothing is safe. Be smart about money: learn to grow it tax efficiently. That will be your safety net when things go awry.

Make friends. They will amplify the joy when times are good. Celebrating victories alone is no fun.

Invest in yourself. Improve yourself to improve others. Be it art or communication or influencing people, invest now for maximum returns.

How you will turn out? Time will tell.

I have a good feeling about you.