Dear Diary is a series where we invite people to write letters to their younger selves. This month, we’re highlighting the AAPI community and the wisdom we’ve collected over the years. This letter is from Amy Liu, founder of Tower 28.
Dear Little Amy,
This is your quarter-life crisis. And it sucks. You are 23 years old — two years out of college and just got laid off from your first job at Accenture. You feel like a failure, and you have no idea what’s next, which is scary. It’s a fork in the road, and you are petrified you’re going to make the wrong decision because, frankly, it’s the first time you’ve made any decision about your own life.
As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, you understood the assignment: they came here to give YOU opportunity. Your job is to be “successful” and make your parents proud. But what does that mean? High school was about grades (not necessarily learning) and getting into the best, most prestigious college you could (not necessarily the one you WANT to go to). College was about getting the right job (or at least one that was coveted and hopefully, lucrative). That first job at Accenture DID make you feel successful — you loved telling people you worked there. Remember that time you were proudly carrying your Accenture-branded saddlebag and a stranger in an elevator asked if you worked there and told you how impressive that was? Your heart beamed with pride. Success so far has been defined by whatever everyone thought of you (society, your parents), but the truth is you have no idea what you want for yourself or who you are… yet. Your greatest fear is to be a loser, and nothing motivates you more. But, what about what YOU want? I know, I know, no one has really ever asked you, and you’ve never really excelled at any ONE thing — but have you asked yourself what makes you happy?
Okay, so put down your two favorite books (What Color Is Your Parachute? And What Should I Do with My Life?) because I’m twice your age and going to give you some sage advice.
Breathe. Telling someone to calm down never works, so I guess I’ll tell you to breathe. These years are all part of your journey. People will tell you it’s the happiest time of your life right now, and you’re confused because you’re kinda miserable. You want to KNOW you’re going to be okay, that it’s all going to work out in the end and that you’re on your path. But the road is not linear even though you want it to be. And the truth is, it’s NOT the happiest time of your life. Your happiest days are ahead of you, and isn’t that lucky? Try to enjoy the here and now, though — especially your independence. One day you’ll have your own family with the man of your dreams and your own beauty brand with a team you love, but it’s exhausting, too. Sleep in. You won’t be able to later.
Believe in yourself (but be patient, too). It sounds so cheesy, but it’s true. You have this dream of being an entrepreneur and starting your own brand. You’ll learn on someone else’s dime and work in the industry for a LONG time. You’ll start three other companies with other people, and they will all fail. Each time, you enter a partnership with someone else because you believe in them and their idea more than you believe in yourself. But at one point, it will all make sense. And when you finally make it about you. Well, I’ll leave some of that for you to experience yourself because it’s pretty awesome.
It’s okay to quit. I know, I know. You are not a quitter. Sometimes things are not right, but they’re also not so obviously wrong, so you stay. Whether it’s boyfriends or jobs or friends, you will stay too long because it’s the easier thing to do, and you don’t want to be a quitter. But, time is the most valuable resource you have. The longer you stay in situations that are just okay, the less time you have to find the right one. Expect more for yourself than just okay. You deserve to be happy.
One of the hardest things you will do is quit a job without having another job, and it will be the best decision you ever make. It will feel scary because you don’t know what’s next, and your identity is so wrapped up in your job. But one day, you’ll take a break from the career you’ve worked so hard to build to concentrate on raising your kids (and have a third baby, too!). You’ll never regret that time or that baby (her name is Charlie!). And your career will still be there for you when you’re ready to dive back in. In fact, that’s when you’ll finally kickstart your dream of being an entrepreneur and start your own beauty brand (it’s called Tower 28 — you know, that place you currently go to meet your friends at the beach!).
You are beautiful. Growing up, you were always the token Asian girl and never saw yourself as beautiful. You don’t see people who look like you on TV or in magazines. But one day, you will be in a position of power to create change and show aspirations of beauty that are diverse and inclusive (crazy, right?!). Your eczema is really bothering you and makes you feel incredibly self-conscious. You keep trying to cover it up with makeup, and you’re starting to take oral steroids and try every diet under the sun. It will get better but not until much later, but these years will give you great perspective and help you understand a need-gap in the marketplace, which will allow you to create the beauty brand of your dreams.
Also — this is a running theme — but you’ll consistently do this to yourself: You’ll look back at pictures from your younger days and think how cute you were and what a waste of time it was that you spent so much time self-loathing and saying mean things to yourself in the mirror. You’ll learn to embrace your body and your features, learning that happy is the new pretty. But you’ll have to keep reminding yourself because something called social media will constantly make you compare yourself to others.
Wear sunscreen. And get out of the sun in general. You can’t see the sunspots you’re giving yourself now, but it’s happening!
He’s The One. That guy you’re dating who says he doesn’t want to get married (ever). Be patient with him. He’s going to be a great father and wonderful partner to you.
With much love,