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Dear Past and Future Michel,

4 min read
Dear Past and Future Michel,
August 20, 2022

Table of contents

Dear Just-graduated Michel

Dear Just-graduated Michel,

It’s July 22, 2022.

How are you? How does it feel to have finished high school? Where are you going to college? Who are your closest friends?

I have so many questions to ask you, but it seems that you’ll answer it in a year. Instead, let me delineate some hopes I have for you.

I hope you’ve become a nicer person. I can be very judgy sometimes, and while that’s fine—I think everyone is judgy on the inside—I hope you don’t express it as often. I know what it’s like to feel alone—as if no one can understand your pain. If someone’s feeling hopeless and you’re a bit too judgy, then it can ruin their day (or much worse). Plus, there’s no good reason not to be nice anyway.

I hope that you’ve become a hard-working person. Some people think I am hard-working, and it can be true, but it’s not consistently true. I feel like I have so much potential but potential won’t actualize itself; you have to do that part. So, for my future and yours, please consistently work hard.

I hope you’ve become closer to your parents. I know we haven’t had a good relationship with them for a couple of years, but that’s changed for more than a year. Move past the grudges. They were caring for you in the best way they knew how. Accept the past for what it is and move on. They don’t have forever on this planet. I just hope future us doesn’t regret what we’ve done in this past year.

I hope you’ve become more confident. Other people are much more confident in our abilities than we are. I know that’s how it is for everyone, but I hope you’re able to see how cool you are (I know I say that without knowing, but I digress). It just seems better—a life where you’re not insecure. Maybe we can get there some day. And if not, at least we’ll be happier with ourselves.

But along the same lines, be humble. That doesn’t need to be explained.

So, you’ve graduated. Did you give one of the speeches? Are you a rotary scholar?

That’s not really important. But are you proud of yourself? Of what you’ve accomplished? Of the connections you’ve made? Of the stories you’ve heard? Of the people you’ve helped?

If not, it’s okay. We can work until we are. If you are, then congratulations! You’re officially out of the teenage insecurity that marks high school. Now, let’s work on insecurity as a whole.

I’ll see you in college,

Michel Zeyu Liao

P.S. Maybe you can write a letter back when you’ve graduated. That’d be a cool idea.

Dear Incoming Senior Michel,

Dear Incoming Senior Michel,

It’s May 13, 2023. School ends on the 18th, and graduation is on the 25th.

I know I was supposed to write this after I graduate, but I’ll be too busy at Wahooz! (And being in Japan.) This will have to suffice.

I’m well. I assume you expected me to elaborate, but you asked a shallow question. Ask better questions next time. I can’t really answer your second question because high school hasn’t technically finished, but I’ll say it’s bittersweet (just like our favorite fiction book). I’m going to Columbia to study electrical engineering. Yeah, not what you expected. I know. My closest friends are Annie, Sage, Brooklynn, Alex, Conan, Minnie, Ally, Surabhi, and, arguably, Em (whom you have yet to meet).

You seem to have more hopes for me than questions. I’ll answer your hopes, then offer two lessons myself.

  • I think I am nicer—outwardly. Not by a lot, but more than you. Haha. Loser.
  • I’m not sure I’m a hard-working person. If anything, being a senior has really taken its toll on my productivity. (Which is debatable because I’ve done more thinking than doing. That’s up to you to judge.)
  • There’s always been ups and downs with our parents. But yes, I think I am closer to them. It’s funny you gave me this advice even though you didn’t have the best relationship with them. How peculiar.
  • I don’t think I’ve become more confident. I just care less about other people’s opinions. Is that confidence? Maybe. I don’t think so.
  • Humility is hard. I think I’ve improved.

Basically, past Michel, I’m you but improved. I also just noticed you’re really bossy.

I’m not giving one of the speeches, and I am a Rotary Scholar (funny thing: they ran out of money to throw us a banquet).

Proud of myself? Not for what you’d expect—academics, extracurriculars. I am proud to have reached out to people you wouldn’t have.

Here are two lessons: 1. The simplest thing in life is that everything is complex. Your beliefs will constantly change, so stop thinking your opinion is airtight. 2. Good relationships always begin too late. Stop cherishing things because they’re ending but because they exist.

Off to college we go. Hopefully it’s as good as they say.

Talk to you later,

Michel Zeyu Liao

P.S. Maybe college graduate Michel can write a letter back when he’s graduated. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Michel Liao

Michel Liao

Boise, Idaho, United States
Hello! I'm a sophomore studying computer science at Princeton. I like reading, rock climbing, and running.