A letter to my future self

Photo of Karina Nguyen

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Dear future Karina,

I hope you are now spending a wonderful winter break, hopefully, in Canada with your sister Marie and that you finally got a visa, the one that was rejected a year ago because you forgot about the biometric appointment.

You’ve carried the lessons during the pandemic to be more kind to people and cherish all the time you spend with college friends. Are you and Felicity still keeping up with the “Brain Pain” Spotify playlist? Did you forget to call your parents this week again? Some of your friends might have graduated; I hope you text and call them regularly. How is Ivee doing in her new job? Have you finally met up with your high school friends? How is Kevin’s life in South Korea and your sister’s in Canada? What about your big and littles in Blueprint? Is Susan still watching your favorite figure skating moments? Does Fang still have the same response rate? I hope you celebrated your 21st birthday way better than your 20th.

As you remember, last year, you took a risk and moved to Brooklyn, New York. I hope that when you look back at that moment and remember the person you were, you will smile. You will smile because that decision has led you to some of the warmest memories of people you became friends with, the photos you took and all the artsy places you visited. You’ve had a chance to meet with the most passionate people in the world, from creative designers and photographers to engineers and tech reporters. They inspired you to stay true to yourself and choose to do things that speak to who you are.

Are you still in touch with the first friends you made in New York? You’ve loved walking around your neighborhood, where you’d usually see boxes of books that people were giving out in front of their buildings, and spent time reading books in Fort Greene Park. That sense of community has really inspired you to be more kind and never take people you care about for granted. I really hope your style has substantially improved and that you are excited about the research you’ve been doing. Don’t forget to thank the people who opened doors for you despite your lack of prior research experience. You felt a little like an impostor, but it was an uncomfortable experience that you had to go through to grow personally and open your mind. By the way, has the paper on disinformation you co-authored been published in a peer-reviewed Massachusetts Institute of Technology journal? How has the Kleiner Perkins fellowship gone? I’m dying to know.

I hope you will also smile because you will realize that you have overcome some of the struggles that you’ve been facing. The Capitol riot made you work relentlessly at the Human Rights Center and The New York Times, the rescinded return offer for an internship at Dropbox made you start recruiting again in early January, the lost presidency for Blueprint made you to reevaluate what was important to you and the events of Jan. 6 in the United States and Jan. 23 in Russia made you realize how out of control you were. Doing everything at once will teach you to learn from all the experiences and grow in new ways. Always remember your mantra: “Keep learning, work really hard and be kind to others.”

Living in a new city required resilience, patience and fearlessness. Don’t forget the days that you spent in the community of really kind and dedicated researchers at the Human Rights Center, contributing to journalistic reporting on crazy QAnons. Don’t forget seeing The New York Times on a random stand in front of a store in Brooklyn on Inauguration Day and feeling so proud to work there. Don’t forget the warm community of the ethics research seminar that you were so privileged to attend. Don’t forget the day Russian protesters fearlessly came out in minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit to fight for democracy and their human rights. Those were all a part of history, both yours and the world’s.

In those days, you started a quest to uncover your voice through the newsletter you built a community around, sémaphore. You might still remember that week when the number of subscribers grew from 36 to 156 in just a few days. I hope it’s now more than a thousand. I know you are still writing, trying to reinvent yourself, taking on challenges and sharing all the meaningful things with your community. Never take it for granted.

Do high-quality work, whatever it might be now, and do it because it is your privilege. And if you’re lucky enough to contribute to change in culture and in the world, never take no for an answer and never forget your roots or those who helped you along the way. I know you love the hustle, but please breathe, go for a walk, listen to music. It has never been easy, but it has always been rewarding.

Here’s to the future,


Contact Karina Nguyen at [email protected].