Email to my 10-year old French self about the consequences of teaching himself English so young (continued)
From: 24-year-old Ed
To: Innocent and confused 10-year-old Ed
Subject: 5 More Facts About Teaching Yourself (American) English Over 14 Years.
Bonjour younger Ed,
It’s me again, older Ed. I apologize for the lack of communication over the past couple of weeks but you will soon realize that the older you get, the more complicated life becomes. But I managed to find some time in my overwhelmingly busy schedule (lol) to write this up.
As mentioned in my previous email I want to share 5 additional facts about what you should expect from becoming a native speaker at such a young age (congratulations, by the way). Feels pretty solid, doesn’t it? Just remember fact #5 from the first email — this one’s very important.
Anyway, let’s dig in.
Fact #6: English will take over your life like Kim Kardashian’s ass took over the internet 3 years ago (or whenever that was).
I kind of lost track of how old you must be by now but let’s hope you’re not old enough to have seen this while surfing the web. But I kid you not, English will take over your life in unimaginable and unpredictable proportions to the point where everything — and I do mean everything — you do will be in English. You’ll think in English, dream in English, cook in English, read in English, write in English… Hell you’ll even speak English while you’re in the bathroom (TMI?…)
There are times you won’t be able to control it (English, I mean). Times when you are struggling to find the equivalent of whatever you’re trying to say in French but can’t because English gradually became your mother tongue even though you weren’t born speaking it nor with a family who can (except for your sister). It gets tough sometimes because you’ll feel like a 12-year-old when speaking French even though you are French. I understand.
But there are also times when it gets really fun, which leads me to my next point.
Fact #7: You will pretend to be American when you don’t feel like speaking French. Which happens quite often.
You have no idea how many times I’ve pulled this off and how much fun I’ve had doing it. Whether you’re intoxicated at 2:00 AM asking for directions to French couples in the streets of Paris or simply ordering food and drinks at cafes, it feels nice to feel like you’re from someplace else and it certainly helps that you know so much about New York already because it gives your persona a lot more credibility.
It gets better: I was even asked to tell an entire Executive staff at a new international school in China that I was American in order to teach classes to a few High School students in English including Science, Economics and the cherry on top: American Culture (of course I told them I was from New York).
While I’m writing this I’m realizing how sad this can sound but who cares: it’s so much fun. N’est-ce pas?
Fact #8: You will make lifelong friendships with incredible individuals from over 20 countries around the world.
Those incredible people will indirectly drive every decision you make in life, which is another reason why you love speaking English so much.
I think we can both agree that while French is a very beautiful language and you feel proud to have been born in such a great country full of history, it also prohibits you from connecting with so many people from all corners of the globe. My point is you can only speak French to other French people — except for the few foreigners you’ll meet who also happen to speak decent French as well as people from the French Islands. This holds true to most nations around the world whose language is only spoken in their own respective countries, of course. But you get my point.
With English you will find inspiration from meeting with exchange students from the US, Mexico, Spain, England, Mauritius, Germany, Sweden, Vietnam, Australia, Kenya, Morocco, Italy, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil as well as professionals and other individuals from China, Japan, Argentina, Canada, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands, Albania, the Philippines and many more. All their stories and personal achievements will drive you to start your own project that consists of asking them what being creative means to them and you will receive many great responses from a majority of them (see a few samples below). All those connections will also drive a few of your professional decisions and will lead you to unexpected yet amazing places. But let’s save those juicy surprises for another email.
Fact #9: You will help others accomplish what you have worked on for over a decade, and it will mark you for life.
In my first post on Medium I talk about a very important transition in my life (soon-to-be yours) which changed everything I had planned for myself. (SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know what you’ll be doing after graduation, skip to Fact #10).
One week after graduating with my MBA diploma in hand I left Paris to go work for an incredible company in New York on a 6-month visa (which was eventually extended for another 6 months). For many years up until that point I had made working and living in New York my number one life goal and the emotions I felt when I finally knew it was happening are very difficult to put into words. Obviously I had to leave New York when my visa expired and we applied for a more permanent working visa also known as H-1B. Thankfully I knew one very dear friend in Shanghai who convinced me to visit him while waiting for the US visa situation to get sorted out (despite our best efforts I was unable to get my hands on it due to their lottery system) and I was shocked just how impactful and wonderful this new experience has been.
Armed with confidence and determination I was able to network and connect with a great number of people from both the expat and local communities and quickly picked up private English-teaching gigs with 4-year-old Chinese girls and boys, and within a few weeks I started a small business helping Chinese startups and professionals improve their English and accent as well as Public Speaking and Presentation Design skills. I used everything I had learned from school and my short-lived career in New York to help others in Shanghai accomplish what took me many years to accomplish and realized how fulfilling this experience was — and still is!
Fact #10: Opportunities are endless.
You just need to learn when to say no.
Benjamin P. Hardy recently published a post about “50 ways happier, healthier and more successful people live on their own terms” and I want to share one in particular which resonated with some of the things I have gone through recently:
How could you possibly say “no” to certain opportunities if you don’t know what you want? You can’t. Like most people, you’ll be seduced by the best thing that comes around. Or, you’ll crumble under other people’s agendas. But if you know what you want, you’ll have the courage and foresight to pass up even brilliant opportunities — because ultimately they are distractors from your vision. As Jim Collins said in Good to Great, “A ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ is irrelevant if it is the wrong opportunity.”
Of course there are things that I wish I had done differently or wish I had known when I was younger. Maybe I should have done a few more internships while I was in college. Maybe I should have saved more money when working over the summer instead of traveling the US so much. Or maybe I should stop being so stubborn and try working in France for a bit, but you know what? Over the past few months I learned not to have regrets. I learned to move. Life is too short to worry about things you can’t do anything about.
Anyway, I hope these two emails serve you well. Please save them somewhere before you finally decide to clean your inbox. Merci.
Live long and prosper,