Part II: Bringing back the good vibes

Letter to myself.

Dear Elaine,

Go look at yourself in the mirror and try to see a loving daughter, a promising activist and intellectual, a strong-willed girl who doesn’t let anything get in the way of her dreams, and above all a girl who others can look up to and say, “I want to be like her someday.” Is that conceited? Yes. Do you want to hear it? Don’t lie to yourself, of course you do. You blush but secretly glow with pride when others tell you such things. And that’s okay because you deserve it.


Let’s look at what you have done: You have reached out to Vietnamese-American voters and genuinely helped them. You were featured in KPCC for that. You have contributed to a survey project that reaffirmed that importance and influence of the AAPI electorate. You have connected with amazing people and organizations through the past year. You have assumed the top leadership position of the one club you have dedicated your whole high school career to.


You have something to show for pushing yourself so hard. You found some direction and purpose in life at seventeen years-old! Be proud of what you have accomplished, Elaine. Not many people can claim similar-caliber accomplishments, considering the percentage of activists and politically active young people recorded.

Brown and other universities are not the judge of how smart and hard-working you are; nor does rejection mean you are not capable or worthy of attending them. Only you know yourself well enough to judge your ability. You are your worst and best critic. How you react to setbacks determines the real strength of your character, Elaine.


As all of your family, friends, and mentors have said, “It’s their loss.”

We all fall short of our goals now and then. The important thing is that we have the courage to pick ourselves up again. Failure can only make you stronger, and the best payback is success.

Stiff upper lip, girl. And happy birthday! You’re eighteen; you have plenty of time to plot your revenge.

The Master Hang (Elaine)


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