Dear 18 Year Old Nancy

Nancy Xiong, Summer 2000

Nancy Xiong, Summer 2000

 
 

What would you say to your 18 year old self?

What lessons would you share?

Here’s a letter I wrote to my 18 year old self which is a letter I want to share with those who will start their first semester of college this semester.

Dear 18 Year Old Nancy,

Your photo has gone through a journey of its own. The dust and rust revealed its adventures. As you look more at the photo, you see a determined, beautiful young Hmong woman how is about to go do more exploration and damage, the good kind with the cutest short hair ever.

18 years ago this month, you moved three hours away to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, your top choice for college. Your parents made the long road trip to help you move into your dorm and pretty much had no idea what they got themselves into. They thought you were the most stubborn kid ever for not listening to them by staying home for college. You were their firstborn and the first person to go off to college. It was not easy but one of the best decision you ever made. Through trial and error, you showed your parents that it was going to be okay.

 

"Whatever you do, do it with passion and know your why."

Eight Lessons Learned:

1. Broken hearts make you stronger even if you were the one who broke it off. You would rather have him be happy with someone else than be miserable with you. It’s okay, meeting a few wrong ones, leads you to the right one. Remember, broken hearts are the universe’s little ways of telling you that he’s not the one, there’s someone better out there.

 

2.  Go to office hours and get to know your professors. Learn their ways of thinking and doing early in the semester. They will remember you and are more willing to help you out when there are tough times during the semester. Yes, there will be tough times. Let go of your pride. It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help when needed. Your professors are also human beings with a PhD. They want you to succeed as much as you want for yourself. Assist them with their research projects. Attend their social events, you learn a lot about them outside the classroom.

"Let go of your pride. It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help when needed. Your professors are also human beings with a PhD. They want you to succeed as much as you want for yourself. "

 

3.  You don’t have to get married like your cousins and friends. It’s okay to be the odd ball. But I warn you, you will get lonely at times but you can always go visit your cousins and friends’ family. You can join groups on meetup.com for pretty much anything: yoga, board games, writing, hiking, knitting and so much more. You can volunteer at an after-school program or organizations that supports young children if you miss kids.  There’s so much you can do to be part of children’s lives. Read a book on social media to stay closer with your nieces and nephews. Remember, marriage has no timeline. Timing is different for everyone and it’s okay. There is nothing wrong with being in your mid-30s happily single with no children.

 

4.  Whatever you do, do it with passion and know your why.  You majored in International Studies and East Asian Studies in college. You wanted to go develop the world. You must first develop yourself, know yourself before doing more damage to the world. The US has done a lot of turmoils in the name of “development” so please be mindful and make sure the communities you work with are involved with the development process.

"Whatever you do, do it with passion and know your why." 

 

5.  Know your history. Know where you stand with your community. It will all make sense as you get older. Learn from your elders. Listen to their stories at family gatherings even if it’s filled with lots of lecture. Use your smartphones and record their stories down. Take pictures for memories for they are priceless and make powerful tools for storytelling.  

"Know your history. Know where you stand with your community."

Nancy with college friends at a football game. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nancy with college friends at a football game. University of Wisconsin-Madison

6.  Surround yourself with friends who sees the best in you and inspires you to be a better person each day.  The friendships you make in college will shape your college experience. They will encourage you, motivate you, and take care of you when you are at your lowest point in life. The memories will make very good stories. 

 

7.  Get involved on campus and in the community.  Run for student government. Run for a leadership position or do an internship with an organization of your interest. Volunteer and make a difference. You never know when these  experiences will be the deciding factor of your dream job.

 

8.  Lastly, DREAM BIG! Sounds repetitive but yes, DREAM BIG! You dreamed of living in the Washington, DC area and running an organization that works on issues of women and gender since middle school. You made this dream come true and showed yourself that anything is possible. So dream more dreams and don’t stop. Dreams do come true.

DREAM BIG, because dreams do come true. I promise you that. 

What lessons would you add thinking back to your 18 year old self?  Tell me below.

NXiong Signature.jpg
Nancy XiongComment