Dear CCF Freshmen

In Christian, Inspiration on April 24, 2011 by David

–NOTE: I wrote this spring semester of senior year, almost exactly a year ago. I wanted to share it in case it might find meaning to other people today. —

Dear CCF Freshmen,

In a few short weeks, I will be graduating. It’s so hard to imagine that just a few years ago; I was in your shoes – relieved that I’ve survived my first year of college, anxious and waiting for summer to start. (I was super-nerd and took MCAT this summer. CRAZY right? But Aron, my summer roommate, has some pretty hilarious stories). As I sit here in my room today, I am also looking ahead at what is before me. Although I don’t feel much different than when I first entered Rice, I am certain that I have changed and have been greatly blessed by the people, the opportunities, and the fellowship here at Rice. To that end, I am extremely grateful to have met each and every one of you.

You have been an inspiration to me – you are passionate about God, hard-working in your academics, and kind to everyone. I know some of you better than others of you, and I wish I had more time to get to know each and every one of you, but I am confident that you are the ones to make CCF great in the future. In just a few short years, I am sure you will become great seniors too.

Before I leave, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite essays. Although they aren’t necessarily written with a Christian perspective, I think these authors hit upon some universal truths on how to live life and how to choose your life’s work. When I was a freshman, I wasn’t sure on major or career path, and although I am not sure whether any of you are wrestling with that question right now, I think these essays really bring life into perspective. When I need some motivation or encouragement, I turn to them (I’ve read essay one a ridiculous number of times.) Some of these aren’t exactly light reading, and it’d be crazy to try to read them all at once, but these are, in my opinion, the best articles that I have stumbled across on the internet. Ever.

When I was a freshman, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. In terms of career and interests, I was a blank slate. This was a little disconcerting, because I was falling under the trap described in essay 5 – that is working towards a goal simply because it’s a challenge, it’s prestigious, and it’s what everyone else was doing. Through a combination of factors – looking for a challenge and knowing I can do it if I set my heart to it, having a certain amount of pride in that I am trying something hard, and being stuck with high expectations for myself – I decided to become premed. In some the default choice for “smart” Asian-Americans, in retrospect, my choice was naïve and not thoroughly thought out.

I didn’t think too much of it then, and I hoped that if I just worked hard, God will deliver. But I believe having faith in God does not mean living life passively – and this was the worst kind of passiveness. Too often in the past, I had the mentality of “head down and plow through this” instead of stopping to smell the roses. In high school, I was “Aite, let’s get through SATs and all this junk. If I sacrifice now, I can chill out in college.” Then, in an abrupt about-face, in college, I was “OK. I’ll just dominate MCAT and hurdles, I’ll find more time to relax in med school.” How short-sighted am I? What’s next, hardcore through med school, so I can “chill” in residency? Life is a journey, and it’s quite a beautiful and exciting one at that.

But this is one of the most difficult choices one can, has to, make. It’s much harder to actively think and take time to decide what you want to do, than to go through the motions of take some tests, working hard, and doing extracurricular activities. I am absolutely convinced that each and every one of you will excel at what you do – you have been intelligent and hard-working to get to where you are today – and I think the more important question is deciding what you want to do and determining your reasons to do so. I hope these essays will drive you to think more about these last two questions.

So in summary, I wanted to encourage you to continue the good work you have been doing this past year and to let you know that y’all have been an encouragement to me. Walk with Christ. Pursue your passions. Grow strong relationships. And consider this letter as an open invitation to free boba if you want to chill out or talk. I might be busy next year (med school and all, right? ;)), but I want to encourage you to email me with questions or need some advice – I will always make time.

With love,

Some Essays
1. My favorite essay – Paul Graham’s very inspirational high school graduation speech on how to live your life and choosing a career –

2. Steve Job’s Commencement Speech (here’s a transcript and a youtube video).
A part that really stuck with me was: “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

3. The disadvantages of an Elite Education – I consider this article and the next article to be good reminders whenever I feel too prideful or too content with where I am.

4. How to be a genius – A description how raw intelligence is trivial compared to effort.

5. The Competence Trap – the danger of living life on autopilot, and unfortunately how many people live their lives.

6. There is no speed limit – Why I am trying to graduate early.

7. Randy Pausch’s last lecture – Really famous talk from a dying computer scientist, describing the importance of obstacles and brick walls in achieving our goals. (here’s a transcript and a youtube video). Unfortunately it’s really long – listen to it in the background while you do some work!

8. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


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