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Chen: Letter to past, present, future

By: Janet Chen

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 photo courtesy of Alanna Greene

To myself in the past–

You are a witness of undying passion from those who surround you. Find inspiration in all the different forms of love and sheer conviction you see. Find role models in your peers. High school in particular is such a unique time because you see others begin to use their knowledge to construct solutions to real issues.

You’ll see student activists raise thousands of dollars to promote education globally, work with administration to make our school a more environmentally-friendly campus and participate in simulated United Nations conferences to develop hypothetical solutions to actual global issues.

Don’t remain a bystander– get involved!There are so many ways for you to explore and foster interests, and this is the perfect time to do that. Your passions can be as infinite as this world; don’t worry about tailoring them to a career just yet. Be careful about viewing yourself as a finished product or fixating on any one path yet– you may be convinced now that you’ll pursue a career in the sciences, but keep exploring other subjects, because in the near future, you’ll feel great empowerment from learning about social justice and developing your voice through writing. Both will become such important components of your life, as will other things. You have so much exploration left to do.

To myself in the present–

Know how valuable your own voice is. As you move onto college next year, you will meet people who are broadly knowledgeable, articulate, and profoundly insightful, and you may doubt your own capabilities. You’ve heard it called ‘impostor syndrome’– when someone feels ‘intellectually fraudulent,’ inadequate compared to peers and undeserving of a place next to them. Know that you are completely capable of learning in this environment, that what you have to contribute is important and worthwhile.

Your class in college will be composed of people from many different walks of life, which will bring greater diversity in opinion. Be open-minded about the ideas of others; make a genuine effort to understand the intersections of background and experience that generate opposing views. Don’t feel apologetic when you voice disagreements to others, and don’t withhold your thoughts from a conversation for fear that others may view your comments as a personal attack. This goes both ways, and if someone criticizes your own beliefs, choose to self-reflect and attempt to identify how your own views may be flawed. It is healthy to change your mind sometimes; this kind of humility is a trait of strength, not weakness.

To myself in the future–

How often do you feel regretful? If you are unsatisfied with the choices you’ve made, there is time to continue sculpting your future. If you feel disconnected from important people in your life, there will never be a better time to reconnect. If you want time to focus on a particular interest, don’t hesitate to rearrange your schedule to give it greater priority. There are enough hours in a day to do what’s most important. You will face challenges in your life that will ultimately strengthen you, but if these challenges consume your happiness and psychological well-being, know that there are so many people available to help you if you let them. Taking care of yourself should always be your own priority. Don’t feel guilty about making time for yourself.

I have full trust that as you move forward, you will continue to reflect and re-evaluate what is important to you; you will make meaningful decisions and grow from them. From your past self, I am proud of you for being where you are. I know you have faced challenges between then and now, and the fact that you are here means you have grown stronger and more resilient. Continue making decisions that your future self will be proud of.

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