Anna Dietrich’s letter to her young self

Anna has wanted to create flying machines since she was a kindergartener.

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dietrichage7

Dear me a while ago –

I’ve been trying to figure out what would actually have been useful information for us to have had “in the beginning”, but it’s hard: I still feel like each day is a beginning. And it’s that process of discovery and creation that makes life so magical. It wouldn’t be fair to spoil it. Still, maybe we can do some good here. If you don’t like it, make some notes so you can do better when it’s your turn. 🙂

The sign you taped above your desk — “prepare today to change the wold tomorrow” — listen to it. Part of me feels like I should tell you to relax a little, don’t try to be such a perfectionist, but we wouldn’t be where we are today if you hadn’t worked as hard as you did. So instead, I’ll just say thank you! I know how much effort it takes to keep your grades up, to keep adding new knowledge and skills to the toolbox. If you haven’t already been reduced to tears by a test or homework, you will be. But without giving too much away I can tell you that it is worth it and that you’ll be just fine the next day. I still get annoyed when people reassure me with “it will all be okay”, but it is true. Not because life will just magically get better, but because of who you are and the fact that no matter what or who knocks you down, you can (and will) get back up. It’s the determination to keep moving, to find another way towards your goal, that makes things okay.

Trust that core of strength you’ve just started to find inside of you. It won’t crush, it won’t break. It will get you through. Believe that you can do anything you set out to do and it will be true. It will be harder than you expected, but you’ll also be capable of more than you thought. You’ll also start noticing that even while you’re focusing on the preparation, you are able to change the world a little here and there. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, or that you’re too young. You can, and the time doesn’t come back once it’s gone. Don’t waste it wishing you were older.

That brings me to something you’ll learn on your own in a few years, but I think you’d be glad of it now: you always regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do. Okay, so you still have to apply some basic checks of legality and logic to that, but in general just go for it. If it works out, aren’t you glad you didn’t miss it? And if it doesn’t, well, you’ve learned something. Stay on the bench and you’ll never know if you could have won the game. Play and lose. At least the experience will up your chances of winning next time. Enjoy the game, put your best into each thing, and you’ll end up in a good spot.

I know neither of us like to think about it, but things simply won’t go as planned. The extent to which that is true will surprise you. It will shock you more to hear that that’s actually a good thing. It has nothing to do with whether or not you did what you were supposed to do and everything to do with the fact that life is complex and unpredictable. Embrace it. Let your dreams be extravagant and wonderful, but keep them flexible. What you’re dreaming of now — following Grandpa’s footsteps into aerospace engineering — is a good dream to start with, but it won’t be the dream you keep forever. Be willing to create your own path, to go where there aren’t any footprints to follow. Look around corners and over hills. Don’t let what you think you should do get in the way of what you can do, what you want to do. Keep trying to find the balance between duty and delight. And take care of yourself along the way.

So, there it is… you’re doing alright kiddo. Keep it up. Let’s both do our best to make the most of each day and remember to be grateful for the little things. Together we can live the life you’ve imagined.

Yours truly,
– me now

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Anna is now the Chief Operating Office at Terrafugia, a company creating the first automobile that can take flight.

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