A Roadmap for My 20s

As the first two decades of my life comes to a close, I realize that the formative years of my life are not ending, but just beginning. I've outlined a high-level roadmap of where I am and where I want to be when I'm 30. This is a personal reflection of who I am, who I was, and who I want to be.

I think it’s a bit strange, when I look back and realize that I’ve been alive for twenty years now. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve forgotten the early weekend mornings watching Dragon Tales and Between the Lions on PBS, the field trips I went on with my elementary and middle school classmates, and even the years of unhappiness that plagued me throughout most of middle and high school.

Left: 7 months old, still drooling | Right: 3 years old, Chinatown, Boston

Left: 7 months old, still drooling | Right: 3 years old, Chinatown, Boston

When I’m asked to talk about my past, I think about the things that have happened to me in the past three to four years, yet I barely think about everything I’ve experienced from the day I was born up until the end of high school.

I think college has changed me so much, or rather, I think I’ve changed so much in college.

I think college has changed me so much, or rather, I think I’ve changed so much in college. Back in middle and high school, I was a cynical pessimist who consistently studied people who weren’t my friends with disdain and blind fury. I felt as if everyone I knew was against me - people who were my close friends in elementary and middle school suddenly became strangers that I stopped interacting with, and people I called my friends struggled to maintain relationships with me due to my cloyingly dogmatic thoughts and values. As a result of my extremely closed mindset, I became the one who was distanced by the people around me, rather than the one whose original goal was to distance others from me.

Looking forward, I have two pieces of advice for my 20-year-old self.

1. Be nice to people, embrace love, and dissipate hate.

In retrospect, I realize that had I treated each person I interacted with as if they were human, evaluating their character based on my interactions, conversations, and shared beliefs with them, I could have overlooked everything that would initially blur my perception of them. But because I didn’t do this, I struggled to connect with other students, and felt uncomfortable in nearly every social situation I was placed in because I felt that I was being judged the same way I judged everyone else.

Left: Age 6, my first wedding and my first experience suiting up | Right: Age 8, China, already starting to bald

Left: Age 6, my first wedding and my first experience suiting up | Right: Age 8, China, already starting to bald

I’ve realized that there’s simply not enough time to hold grudges or to stay angry at people. Under different circumstances, I’m certain all the people I didn’t get along with could have been my friends. Looking forward, I want to change the way I interact with people and start taking everything at face value; simply put, if you think about it, each person is a human being, and everyone wants to be treated like one. Regardless of who you are, how you act, what your position in a company is, or what you identify sexually as, you are still the same as everyone else. There is almost nothing that differentiates humans at the most basic, biological level. By opening up to others and living each day as a no-BS day, I hope to judge less and become a nicer human being.

Along these same lines, I’ve always felt that my underlying rationale for competition has always been very unhealthy. Whenever anyone accomplished or achieved something amazing, I would get jealous and secretly want them to fail. And whenever I succeeded and others failed, I was guiltlessly prideful, wanting no one else to reach the same level I was at. These two thoughts made me constantly feel angry not only at others, but also at the way I lived my life.

Left: 6th grade yearbook photo | Right: Senior year of high school, MICCA Band Festival

Left: 6th grade yearbook photo | Right: Senior year of high school, MICCA Band Festival

I’ve realized that drive and ambition to perform at a high level should come from one’s inner desire, not from the desire to beat or aggravate others. Especially as a business student, I’ve found that relationships that stem from encouragement and collaboration allow all parties to flourish together, whereas antagonistic competition results in some parties to be deprived of potential success. By working together and celebrating the success of others, I’ve found that more people succeed, more people have the the ability to rise up, and as a result, this allowed me to become a happier person.

2. Continue to believe in the power of change.

This is my second and final point, and also the one I believe that has been and will continue to be the most important and powerful for me throughout my life.

Throughout the majority of my life, I always felt as if I was walking in the same spot, even when teachers and relatives were telling me I was “going places.” I was doing well in school, and I was making my parents happy, but I never felt content or truly motivated to make decisions for myself, nor did I feel like I had the power to change who I was.

Left: Prom, 2013 — my heaviest at 215 | Right: San Francisco, this past summer

Left: Prom, 2013 — my heaviest at 215 | Right: San Francisco, this past summer

The main pivot that changed my outlook on life was when I lost 50 pounds my freshman year of college. During the first few months of my freshman year, I would constantly hear stories of the Freshman 15 and the Freshman 30, and of people who fell into the trap of eating too much food, drinking too much alcohol, and not exercising enough when they came to college. After coming to Boston University, I felt like I was granted all this freedom to make all these decisions that could make a lasting impact on who I would become — it felt similar to the process of creating a new character in a video: instead of choosing my class and aligning with different factions, I got to pick my majors and plan the courses I wanted to take; instead of training certain skills, I was able to choose how I wanted to spend my free time.

This concept of the internal locus of control — the belief that I have the power to change my fate and my destiny — has allowed me to change things I thought were strictly influenced by external factors. Rather than blaming others or my environment for my misfortunes and failures, I now choose to take control of each and every situation I find myself in.

Choosing to change the negative aspects of my life started with the choice to start losing weight, but I’ve noticed that I’ve developed better habits and experienced greater success in other aspects of my life. Professionally, I’ve started to expand my network by choosing to attend networking events to step out of my comfort zone by talking and connecting with people I wouldn’t normally interact with. Socially, I’ve developed a close group of friends that I can depend on and ask for help.

Photo in Questrom Business School with my team

Post-presentation with my Organizational Behavior team — attending business school has taught me how to effectively communicate on both a professional and personal level.

Moving forward, I now know a fixed mindset is so detrimental. I don’t want to be standing still. I always want to be moving forward.

Final Thoughts

Reflecting on something as big as one’s life decisions is difficult and somewhat daunting, but I believe that the next ten years will outshine the first twenty years of my life. Only by stepping back and re-evaluating the direction I’m going in can I actually change the path I choose in the future. Only by making myself vulnerable can I open myself up to change.

I am completely grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, have so many amazing experiences, and still be given the opportunity to keep doing so. Thank you to everyone who has influenced or helped me become the person I am today.