A Letter to My Younger Self14 Sep 2018
It’s been such a lovely summer being able to mentor you and watch you grow. I think I have reiterated this over and over again, that watching you become a fully engaged engineer has been one of my favorite things this past summer. I am more than enthused to have been your mentor, and while sad that you are going back to school, I am happy that you are able to take your learnings elsewhere. I believe that you are destined for great things, and that you will achieve whatever it is you put your mind towards.
I tell people this all the time, but the greatest thing that we have in our arsenal isn’t our innate intelligence. It is our perseverance and grit towards success. Watching you display those qualities has been amazing, and while I am confident you are already a smart, intellectual, and well-spoken person, I still believe that you have room to grow.
Your journey doesn’t end at this internship, or at your graduation, or wherever you decide to accept your full-time offer. Life isn’t so friendly and innocuous as we all make it out to seem, rather it’s harsh and unexpected. The many hardships that come with each career are surprising and sometimes ruthless.
That being said, there are many things that I had wished I learned when before I came to working. I will attempt to distill these abstract things for you and hope that you hold them in some place near your heart.
- There are going to be days when the job is ruthless and other people will unintentionally grind you down. To this effect you can either stick up a middle finger unapologetically at other folks, or you can empathize with their problems lovingly. My advice is to play a balance between the two. Never let anyone take advantage of you, because you are a human who writes code; not a coder who happens to be a human. But also, remember to display compassion and love towards your peers, because after all of the code is written and the time is gone, only the people will be standing.
- To remember that this “job” thing is a marathon. It is easier to see this one when you have been working for awhile, but remember that you are a person outside of your career. While your career certainly plays an important role in who you are, never let that become your identity. To this day I think of you as __, a phenomenal human being, rather than __, the engineer.
- To speak up and take ownership for yourself. In a capitalistic and individualistic society, we have been drilled to believe in ourselves before others. Hopefully this logic will disappear as we grow older and become less susceptible to capital goals, but for now we must stay accountable for ourselves. Remember to set up your barriers and never let the bastards grind you down (this is a quote from A Handmaid’s Tale). This is arguably the most important one, and so I refer you to this amazing essay by Audre Lorde who writes on speaking up.
From one of my favorite quotes this past year, I pass this to you (the context is that the author is going to school at Harvard / BYU, however I think this applies to you also):
“You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself—even gold appears dull in some lighting—but that is the illusion. And it always was.” - Educated, Tara Westover
Don’t ever let anybody put you down.