I came across this email while searching for a few articles I wrote back in 2006. I was backpacking through Asia at the time after quitting my first startup job. This was an email to my boss, the founder of the company I had just resigned from.
Thanks for the note; I do google [redacted] from time to time to see how things are going. I am curious to see how the idea will grow from the madcap days we went through.
It’s surreal to be sure, checking up on such a ‘flat world’ idea when I’m immersed in humdrums so different.
Today a group Tibetan boys in a mountain village swarmed over me when I showed them how to dribble a basketball. Yesterday I stumbled onto a square in Sangri-La where there was a public dance — hundreds of villagers in purples and pinks swayed in rythmn to Tibetan chants broadcasted over loudspeakers… 9 pm and the sun was pink just off snow-capped peaks. The other day, our guesthouse landlady offered us some plums from her backyard, and seeing our dribbled smiles she offered to give us a whole bundle to carry with us on our trip!
In just a week, I’ve encountered: the Naxi — the last people to use a kind of heiroglyphic as their written language — boggles my mind as it takes a lifetime to amass enough of the vocabularly to be literate; the Mosu, one of the last matriarchal societies on earth — women are free to marry and to ‘let go’ of their husbands whenever they want, they have rights to the children, property and governance — again.. it boggles the mind when you get into the details of how they live day to day; and finally, the Tibetans — I’m all for ‘free Tibet’ now, the people is something you have to experience personally, as they are the most kind and generous souls I’ve met — not for any egoism or profit, but as a way of living philosophically.
So many little discoveries, pleasant surprises and just a real appreciation for all kinds of people — makes for a sobering and just.. hmm, I don’t know the words for it, but something like a very ‘engaged’ experience.
A few things come to mind after reading this.
Boy, was I a much more emotional person then. And maybe that was ok — that was a period where the world was open and wide as possible, and I was soaking everything in. I don’t think my boss ever gave me any reason to think she would respond to my email. We’ve always had a professional and cordial working relationship — the usual hard times and good times of a 10 person to 100 person startup… and so looking back on this email — it’s tone and the desire to express — is somewhat shocking.
It’s weird for me to consider how much I opened up to my boss then - I am where she is now, a founder in my thirties. I can’t see myself opening up to anyone like this anymore, much less someone I reported into.. it’s a more cynical/real/professional/fine-tuned world that I’m navigating.
Things are moving fast, but I find it useful to come upon detritus like this email, a time capsule into my twentysomething mind, when I was more naive, but also so much more optimistic. I was poor then - really with nothing but a backpack and a few thousand bucks in my savings - but I was really living close to the edge and living hard in the moment.
In some ways, coming across what Lorde wrote recently really jumpstarted a chain of thoughts that I’m keen to explore: what I’ve left by the wayside and what I’ve gain in the near-decade since I’ve been on the road. I’ve lost a lot of the poetry in exchange for some expertise with prose.
In some ways, the people you leave behind when you take off for the road can never truly understand the experiences you have at the time. Perversely, I wanted them to, and I wrote so many emails from the road then, trying to bottle up whatever I was experiencing in hopes that friends and family can understand.
It’s strange, then, to feel like I’m a different person now. The present me is just like the people I’d left behind, and I find it hard to comprehend my younger self who was so excited and stupid and honest and right.