Personal & Professional Wisdom

Letter to my 21-Year-Old Self

Read the final letter of our three-part series where three localization industry insiders examine where they are today, look back on their decisions and offer advice to their 21-year-old self.

Dear Younger Carolina,

Right now, you are backpacking in Europe, unaware of the challenges and adventures that lay ahead. You are far from your homeland of Brazil, in a time when personal cell phones are not yet widely available and dial-up internet is all you can hope for. You are meeting new and exciting people, immersing yourself in new cultures and languages, experiencing freedom as you’ve never known before. You are having the time of your life….or so you think!

You see, what you don’t know yet, is that you lack inner confidence. But blame the youth in you, not yourself. There are things in life that only come with experience, age and pain – self-confidence being one of them. A few lucky ones are wise beyond their age. For most of us, ordinary human beings, it takes time, sweat and tears to get there.

Your journey will be your best adventure. You will make many mistakes, but those same mistakes will become the keystones of your success. You will take wrong turns and fall multiple times, but will learn that you can always stand up and change the course of your path. Most importantly, you will realize that the adventure consists in savoring life’s moments, rather than following the shortest or most travelled way.

And the road less travelled you will take.

As you amaze yourself in European lands, dreaming of being immersed in its rich art, history and culture, you would probably laugh at the thought that destiny will take you far from there – to a place called Silicon Valley, which will be known as the heart of the tech world. And that is the place you will call home and raise two beautiful kids. That is the place where you will lose and find yourself. Where you will open your eyes and see that the person you thought was your partner in adventure, and who you vowed to love and cherish forever, was actually keeping you in a cage. And when you try to break free, you will be hit hard…but your faith and resilience are stronger than any bat. And through this process, as painful as it will be, you’ll find peace and your inner confidence and self-worth will flourish. You can not be broken.

Silicon Valley is the place you will call home, but your life will always be beyond borders. Your passion for words will help you build bridges between cultures and languages. And you will make this your career. Right now, you are more interested in carpe diem than in building your career. But a career you will build, out of a sense of purpose rather than personal ambition. And no, you can not have it all! You will have to make some hard decisions, but don’t regret putting your career on hold to raise your young children. Years later, you will realize that jobs come and go, but the moments you spent with your children were fleeting and will be cherished forever.

You will dedicate your life to the magic of human communication. You already know that words have power. Words are events, they do things, change things. And you will come to understand that every act of communication is an act of tremendous courage, with the power to impact the world for better or worse. As we exchange words, there is the possibility of planting into another mind a seed sprouted in ours and watching it blossom into a breathtaking flower of mutual understanding. But there is also the possibility of being wholly misunderstood.

You will learn that you have to open your mouth, despite the risk of exposing your strong accent and spilling some nonsense, as anyone who has made a mark in this world has spoken up, presented their ideas, and taken a chance. You will learn to dare to say what you believe in. And you will be pleasantly surprised by the many people who will listen to you. But do not let this overshadow your curious mind and your thirst for knowledge. With time, you will come to understand that we are all teachers and students in life.

Don’t worry, you will achieve success – at least your own version of it. Your candid Brazilian heart will win you a few true friends and help you raise two strong-minded and empathetic teenagers. But most importantly, you will become a self-confident and content woman. And when you reach your forties, you’ll look back and reflect on all you’ve done. You will then ask yourself if you would have done things differently. The answer will be: “It doesn’t matter. The journey is the destination!”

With love,

Older Carolina

What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? If you missed part one or part two in our series, it’s not too late to check out Kathy and Mitzi’s letters.