Loy Xingkai
Public Servant

Illustration by
Miho Tomimasu

Hi Xingkai,

Welcome to the wrong side of the quarter-century! For better or worse, life moves a little quicker here—what you’ll miss most is the time to really sit back and think. Through all this though, if there’s one thing to remember, it’s this: don’t make too many plans.

It’s a strange kind of advice, since planning’s always been what you do naturally. And it’s helped you out quite a bit, so far… those summer-long globe-trotting trips didn’t just spontaneously happen, after all. Neither did getting a fully-paid scholarship to Brown. But while you will rely on your planning skills more than ever now, you should still be wary of the kind of schemes you dream up, and where they could take you if you’re not careful.

Be careful of letting your plans determine your life. Sticking to a plan is a great thing—unless it blinds you to other possibilities. You remember that you wouldn’t have gone to Brown if you hadn’t decided to throw your original college acceptances away. But you still tie yourself in knots trying to maintain your crazy rigid schedule of work, family, volunteering and friends. It shouldn’t take you four years to learn that when your calendar is packed with back-to-back activities and commitments, what you’re really walling out is your own life.

Don’t confuse dreaming with planning. It was fun—and it still is—to make plans for trips you’ll probably never take, meals you’ll never make, and a life you will, in all likelihood, never live. But the line between what’s possible and what’s just a fantasy gets pretty blurred. It took you some time to learn that your heart really isn’t in travel writing, no matter how much you love to travel. But I suspect that—since your time at Brown has been so important to you—you’ll always want to believe that another dramatic uprooting of your life will be all it takes for you to reboot it and start again, and you’ll work towards that goal even though you know better.

The things you didn’t plan for may well be the ones that matter. It’s not just the unexpected moments—like bumping into a close friend on the subway after a crazy week at work—that make your day. It’s those times when the stars suddenly realign themselves, leaving you to deal with your new reality. Your family’s rollercoaster health and financial situation, your brother coming out, messy office politics, friends falling into and out of your life… dealing with those, rather than making and sticking to elaborate plans, is what helps you grow.

But that all seems rather remote and intimidating—and really, you don’t have to learn everything right now. You’re only 25, after all. Even if not everything is possible anymore, many things still are. Thinking ahead’s definitely going to be part of the equation, but thinking alone won’t solve any problems. It all seems pretty daunting right now, but you’ll adapt and grow into a stranger and larger world—four years from now, you’ll find that you’ve done stuff that you never thought you could.

June 2013