letter #003 | dear younger me: be like the bamboo tree

be like the bamboo tree

Letter #003

January 23, 2023 | 11:59am

the story of the Chinese bamboo tree

In its infancy, the Chinese bamboo tree begins life the size of a walnut.
Although it requires daily care and tending to, the tree stays buried below the surface for five years before breaking any ground.
Then, in its fifth year, its growth surpasses 90 feet tall over the course of six weeks.
The age-old question is, does this growth take place over the course of five years, or six weeks?

I still remember when I first began college. It seemed like such a fresh start, a chance to get things right after a string of years in which I just seemed to keep falling short.

My first few days at Soka University of America filled me with so much promise—namely the promise of hope in forging a “new-and-improved” Amahni who was disciplined, intelligent, poised, and caring.

But things rarely go exactly as planned.

Like the bamboo tree though, I was a bit of a late bloomer.
I say this because I was originally a part of the class of 2018 and joined the class of 2019 after taking a gap year following study abroad.
This effectively [made] me a 5th-year senior, a period of time consistent with the growth of the Chinese bamboo tree.

Although the tree's external roots extend well into the sky over a short period of time, it spends the first five years building a foundation in the soil that is strong enough to support such dynamic and “overnight” growth.

I go on to talk about how the experiences I had throughout college took me through sunny, rainy, and “crappy/fertilizing” seasons that nurtured the seed of hope I had on my first days there. I talked about how those seasons collectively nurtured the growth into my current and more matured self.

the infancy of adulthood

As the comedic nature of life would have it, I am now approaching my 5th year since writing this speech.

For most of my twenties, I have felt like I have been in the infancy of adulthood:

Struggling to make sense of myself and understand what I truly want.

Then struggling to gather the courage to pursue it.

Struggling to create better habits and make better choices.

Then struggling to following through with those new ways of living.

Struggling to navigate relationships in a healthy way.

Then struggling to implement the healthy ways I learned in therapy instead of reverting back to what was familiar.

Pretty much, if I could sum up this decade in a few words, the first would be struggle.

But the second, would be growth.

let your art speak back to you

One of my best friends, Mitsu, used to always tell me to let my art speak back to me.

For me, that art form has always been writing.

In reflecting on the four years since I wrote this speech, I find myself appreciative and in awe of the wisdom that my 23-year-old self had.

As we know, it's not possible to predict the unfolding of all of life's experiences.

Nor is it possible to emotionally prepare yourself for all of them.

Four years ago, I had no idea how this concept of the Chinese bamboo tree would help me navigate through the experiences that the next few years brought my way.

But they did.

the hidden costs of convenience & instant gratification

One of the first things I noticed when I moved back to the States after living overseas for 10 years was how convenient everything was:

Fast food spots sat on every corner.

Stores stayed open late into the night or even 24 hours.

If you wanted something, you could make a few clicks on your computer or phone and get it delivered to your door within the next two days.

Even as an 18-year-old, I wondered what the hidden cost of all that convenience was.

Today, I think as a society, we pay for that convenience through our expectations and approch toward hard, slow, and unexciting growth.

This mentality has become pervasive throughout our culture.

Social media alone is rife with get-rich-quick-schemes and physical “transformations” that take place over the course of a few weeks or months.

We have shifted from a place of not only wanting to get our physical products with minimal time and effort involved, but we now too want the results of our goals in the same ways.

What does this cause?




Need I go on?

But as we see in nature, not only does growth take time, it is not possible without a little fertilizer and rain.

the upside of “crappy” situations

If you've ever been around a farm, you likely remember the smell. It stinks. Like manure.

That's because it is manure.

But that smelly stuff serves a purpose.

Farmers apply fertilizer to replenish the soil with the essential nutrients needed for plant growth after they have been depleted.

Too much fertilizer and important microorganisms within the soil die.

Too little fertilizer and the plants and crops cannot grow to their full potential.

Applied to the proces of growth, the crappy situations we face throughout life can also help us grow.

In my life, my hardest experiences have given me:

  • a deepened appreciation for the fragility and fleeting nature of life
  • immense gratitude for knowing the feeling of being understood, loved, and appreciated
  • it has taught me to cherish the moments I get to spend with my loved ones
  • adversity has broadened my perspective and helped shift my focus to the things I do have and have often taken for granted, like my health, a peaceful community, and people who support, love, and care about me.

winter always turns to spring

I'll be honest. The struggle's not over. And probably never will be, honestly.

I'm in a beautiful and incredibly blessed chapter of my life, but it is not without struggle.

I'm working on bringing a lot of pieces of my life to a healthy and sustainable level and it is not easy.

Some days, I really want to give up.

Not only is it not easy, but oftentimes, I can't see the growth or the progress I'm making.

Or if I do see it, it's never happening fast enough.

One reason I like to reflect is it helps me remember that although the specifics of my circumstances may have changed, the general nature of them does not.

For example, there were days in college that I considered dropping out because I didn't know if I was “cut out” for it.

There were so many obstacles along the way I hadn't anticipated and did not feel equipped to overcome.

In my speech, I wrote that:

It's taken five years for me to walk across this stage and there were so many days when I doubted if I ever would.
I struggled with mental and physical illness, faced academic jeopardy, and constantly battled an overly critical inner voice.

But somehow, I got through it.

I made mistakes. I failed classes.

But the most important thing I did, was that I didn't give up.

And that's what sustains me today, knowing that the double-edged sword of patience and persistence make a mighty weapon.

I have to keep telling myself that what I do matters.

And that little by little, a little will become a lot.

a reminder for when things get hard

Things are not always ideal. The sun doesn't shine every day and things don't always happen the way we want them to.

Personally, I've had a tendency to easily crumble under high stress or in times of frustration and unideal circumstances.

I still remember accidentally reading my French professor's recommendation letter for me when I was preparing for study abroad. She highlighted my “high intelligence but propensity to get easily discouraged.”

It pissed me off to see it in writing, but I knew even then that she was right.

It took a long time and many, many days of feeling helpless and not in control to realize that we can empower ourselves.

As I mentioned in my last letter, our efforts do not have to be Herculean to count or be meaningful.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot.

And that can work in our favor or not.

But we get to choose.

In keeping with the theme of this story, I am reminded that:

Most growth occurs underground. In the dark. And on the inside.

Growth take time.

And often more time than we anticipate in the beginning stages of our ideas.

But, who cares?

Think about it: if someone told you that you could create the life of your dreams, but you would have to dedicate time and effort towards its creation every day for at least the next five years straight, would you do it?

And oh, by the way, you may not see an ounce of progress until Day 1,826 (the 5th-year mark).

Would you still do it?

This is the question I seek to answer for myself through my actions each day.

I believe I can drastically and dramatically improve every area of my life in the next five years through simple daily actions.

The goal is not intensity, i.e., seeing how fast it can be done.

The goal is consistency and that is something I've struggled with my entire life: putting in reps day after day, after day after day.

Progressing slower than I want to.

Sidestepping what I feel like doing for what I've committed to doing.

You get the picture.

It's scary because I've never done it before.

And when things happen inconsistently with the way I imagined them happening, it's easy for me to jump to thinking that this time will end like all the others: in disappointment at having fallen short of my goals and vision for myself.

I'm at the point where every day is pretty much uncharted territory.

And that's frightening, but it's exciting, too.

I know the blooming has just begun.

See you in 5 years.

I’d love to hear from you.

Have any thoughts about this letter? Did anything resonate with you? Got an idea for something you’d like to see in a future letter?

Just reply to this email to let me know. I’m happy to hear from you and respond to every message.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this week's letter. I hope you have a wonderful week, Reader and I'll see you soon.

With much love and gratitude to you,

Welcome to the Dear Younger Me newsletter! I'm so glad you're here.

I write weekly letters on personal development, life, and what I'm learning along the way. Delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Read more from Welcome to the Dear Younger Me newsletter! I'm so glad you're here.

how long? as long. Letter #027 June 16, 2024 dear younger me, This letter’s going to take on somewhat of a different form than usual. Or at least that’s what it feels like as I start this one—perhaps you can let me know after? Oftentimes, when I set out to write these letters, I feel: inspired, and positive, hopeful, and sometimes, even excited and upbeat. But honestly, I don’t really feel most of that circulating within me right now…maybe hope, but that’s it. And I don’t think that’s...

i dedicate this next part to you. 🚗 Letter #026 May 19, 2024 dear younger me, There’s something I would like to share with you 🤍 In 34 days, I’ll be moving on from sunny Southern California, the place I’ve called home for the last 10 years. I’d like to say this decision came after much deliberation…but it didn’t lol. I made it on Thursday and it just might be the easiest yes of my life so far. I’ve shared this plan with a few folks in person and the first question after “wtf, are you...

this isn't it for you. Letter #025 March 31, 2024 dear younger me, Good morning. I'm currently emerging from the most intense depressive episode I've ever experienced. I know that's probably not the intro you expected on this delightful Easter Sunday. But it's the truth. No long intro today—let's just get into it. in today's letter, we'll explore: world bipolar day (march 30th) my attempt to describe depression to someone who's never had it shame & mental illness→ when was the last time shame...