Tags: mini-post rambles

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Are you a lucky person?

My parents have regularly donated blood. Wack Chinese medicine aside, they tell the story that my sister and I needed major blood transfusions as newborns. In my sister’s case, the need was incredibly urgent, and there was no blood available, with little visibility for the next unit’s arrival. My parents themselves couldn’t donate blood in time, as it takes maybe a week for proper packaging. Two days later, they get a surprise delivery, and they could finally sleep easy.

I also needed a blood transfusion, though I was a bit more lucky and there was blood in the hospital for me, but I can only imagine as a parent the fear of potentially reliving this, staring at your child through the premature care glass, unable to sleep or meaningfully act. They were humbled and grateful by some random, nameless stranger and their whims to provide something we consider commonplace. So now they donate when they can.

For me, the snacks at my blood donation center make it worth it. I got a free shirt last I went.

A close friend’s partner is moving to Canada due to visa issues. They’ve had an F-1 visa for years having been a student and in parallel have been trying for the H1B for years, but luck has run out, and the roots they’ve planted for 5ish years have to be culled. Wages cut, teams rotations considered, and they’ll be doing long distance year-by-year as they keep retrying to H1B lottery. Good luck to them.

Some people resolve the question by just getting married. As another friend has done. Rather unceremonious, it runs counter to many of the reasons we’re told to consider marriage. Immigration is seldom one of those things. Just another factor that accelerates the clock.

I am lucky to be a US citizen, a privilege that my peers stress over, a privilege that might be word tens of thousands of dollars otherwise.

When I was 11, we went to Thailand.

As an 11 year old, the only things you care about are video games and pretty girls, both nascent interests in any preteen’s mind. I also liked to wander around, just window shopping everything.

My dad and I went to a night market where I began to wander off, a video game catching my eye. A pretty woman at the back of the store walked up to me and asked, “Do you like games, little boy?” The chubby glasses wearing kid was stunned for a couple seconds before nodding fervently. Games and girls? Holy crap!

She grabbed my arm rather forcefully and began to pull me into the back, just barely pushing the beads draped over a back entrance when my dad ran in yelling. He pushed her back and pulled me out of the store. Probably for related reasons, my parents put a flag on me, to wear at all times, no matter what.

It was only years later when my dad was telling the story that the realization set in.

I was rereading my college essays the other day. I don’t consider myself particularly smart. I was rejected from every school I applied to except UIUC and Berkeley, which I was waitlisted.

I do what I can, but there’s no doubt a fair bit of luck present.

It’s pretty lucky my dad was a software engineer. It’s pretty lucky he was laid off (in a sense!) for a year, staying home during that time to teach us (mostly me) random things. Buying me a BeagleBone. Throwing old laptops at me for me to destroy. I think if he didn’t get laid off, I wouldn’t have spent this time with him and would have not cared so much about tech.

It’s pretty lucky that I took AP English with Mrs. Thomas in junior year, who instilled me with a deep love and appreciation of writing. Who would stay after school hours to review my work. Push for me to get published. To think about the meaning of language.

I think it’s extraordinarily lucky to have worked with Chris Fletcher. Coming off foundational work in oblivious cryptography, suddenly there was a world expert who held open office hours looking for undergrads. I found it hard to talk to anyone else but him as I worked on my elliptic curve accelerator project, and stumbled upon working with him rather randomly.

And I also think it’s extra extraordinarily lucky for Nuvia to have been acquired. Startups are most definitely risky, and most definitely requires significant luck.

I recently ran a marathon. I’m rather proud of it.

I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. I kinda hated it. I like to run, don’t get me wrong, but not for 15 hours a week. This is a time and mental commitment that not everybody has the privilege of doing.

But I’m happy I did it, and I’m lucky I could do it.

I don’t think this is just imposter syndrome speaking. I’m not terribly insecure or fearful about anything I’ve said here. Rather, it’s a sense of awe and gratitude, of both how little and how much control one may have over one’s life, and to not be so overbearing on other people’s circumstance.

There’ll always be someone better than you. But there’ll also always be someone worse. It’s tough to know what’s enough.