Illustration

Meta Thoughts

Amin A.

Chapter 11 of Entrepreneurial Story Series

By Amin Ariana — November 2019

Contents

The following page is copied from Alan J. Perlis of Yale University who copied it in 1996 from ACM SIGPLAN Notices of 1982. It's extremely entertaining and full of lessons. I'll share it in the interest of propagating "knowledge, culture and history", until a credit holder says they mind. I have highlighted the ones I found most interesting in the context of innovation.

- Amin Ariana, 2012

This text has been published in SIGPLAN Notices Vol. 17, No. 9, September 1982, pages 7 - 13. I'm offering it here online until ACM stops me.

- Alan J. Perlis, 1996


Original Text

The phenomena surrounding computers are diverse and yield a surprisingly rich base for launching metaphors at individual and group activities. Conversely, classical human endeavors provide an inexhaustible source of metaphor for those of us who are in labor within computation. Such relationships between society and device are not new, but the incredible growth of the computer's influence (both real and implied) lends this symbiotic dependency a vitality like a gangly youth growing out of his clothes within an endless puberty.

The epigrams that follow attempt to capture some of the dimensions of this traffic in imagery that sharpens, focuses, clarifies, enlarges and beclouds our view of this most remarkable of all mans' artifacts, the computer.


  1. One man's constant is another man's variable.

  2. Functions delay binding: data structures induce binding. Moral: Structure data late in the programming process.

  3. Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semi-colons.

  4. Every program is a part of some other program and rarely fits.

  5. If a program manipulates a large amount of data, it does so in a small number of ways.

  6. Symmetry is a complexity reducing concept (co-routines include sub-routines); seek it everywhere.

  7. It is easier to write an incorrect program than understand a correct one.

  8. A programming language is low level when its programs require attention to the irrelevant.

  9. It is better to have 100 functions operate on one data structure than 10 functions on 10 data structures.

  10. Get into a rut early: Do the same processes the same way. Accumulate idioms. Standardize. The only difference (!) between Shakespeare and you was the size of his idiom list - not the size of his vocabulary.

  11. If you have a procedure with 10 parameters, you probably missed some.

  12. Recursion is the root of computation since it trades description for time.

  13. If two people write exactly the same program, each should be put in micro-code and then they certainly won't be the same.

  14. In the long run every program becomes rococo - then rubble.

  15. Everything should be built top-down, except the first time.

  16. Every program has (at least) two purposes: the one for which it was written and another for which it wasn't.

  17. If a listener nods his head when you're explaining your program, wake him up.

  18. A program without a loop and a structured variable isn't worth writing.

  19. A language that doesn't affect the way you think about programming, is not worth knowing.

  20. Wherever there is modularity there is the potential for misunderstanding: Hiding information implies a need to check communication.

  21. Optimization hinders evolution.

  22. A good system can't have a weak command language.

  23. To understand a program you must become both the machine and the program.

  24. Perhaps if we wrote programs from childhood on, as adults we'd be able to read them.

  25. One can only display complex information in the mind. Like seeing, movement or flow or alteration of view is more important than the static picture, no matter how lovely.

  26. There will always be things we wish to say in our programs that in all known languages can only be said poorly.

  27. Once you understand how to write a program get someone else to write it.

  28. Around computers it is difficult to find the correct unit of time to measure progress. Some cathedrals took a century to complete. Can you imagine the grandeur and scope of a program that would take as long?

  29. For systems, the analogue of a face-lift is to add to the control graph an edge that creates a cycle, not just an additional node.

  30. In programming, everything we do is a special case of something more general - and often we know it too quickly.

  31. Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

  32. Programmers are not to be measured by their ingenuity and their logic but by the completeness of their case analysis.

  33. The 11th commandment was "Thou Shalt Compute" or "Thou Shalt Not Compute" - I forget which.

  34. The string is a stark data structure and everywhere it is passed there is much duplication of process. It is a perfect vehicle for hiding information.

  35. Everyone can be taught to sculpt: Michelangelo would have had to be taught how not to. So it is with the great programmers.

  36. The use of a program to prove the 4-color theorem will not change mathematics - it merely demonstrates that the theorem, a challenge for a century, is probably not important to mathematics.

  37. The most important computer is the one that rages in our skulls and ever seeks that satisfactory external emulator. The standardization of real computers would be a disaster - and so it probably won't happen.

  38. Structured Programming supports the law of the excluded muddle.

  39. Re graphics: A picture is worth 10K words - but only those to describe the picture. Hardly any sets of 10K words can be adequately described with pictures.

  40. There are two ways to write error-free programs; only the third one works.

  41. Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress.

  42. You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing vitality of FORTRAN.

  43. In software systems it is often the early bird that makes the worm.

  44. Sometimes I think the only universal in the computing field is the fetch-execute-cycle.

  45. The goal of computation is the emulation of our synthetic abilities, not the understanding of our analytic ones.

  46. Like punning, programming is a play on words.

  47. As Will Rogers would have said, "There is no such thing as a free variable."

  48. The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.

  49. Giving up on assembly language was the apple in our Garden of Eden: Languages whose use squanders machine cycles are sinful. The LISP machine now permits LISP programmers to abandon bra and fig-leaf.

  50. When we understand knowledge-based systems, it will be as before - except our finger-tips will have been singed.

  51. Bringing computers into the home won't change either one, but may revitalize the corner saloon.

  52. Systems have sub-systems and sub-systems have sub-systems and so on ad infinitum - which is why we're always starting over.

  53. So many good ideas are never heard from again once they embark in a voyage on the semantic gulf.

  54. Beware of the Turing tar-pit in which everything is possible but nothing of interest is easy.

  55. A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing.

  56. Software is under a constant tension. Being symbolic it is arbitrarily perfectible; but also it is arbitrarily changeable.

  57. It is easier to change the specification to fit the program than vice versa.

  58. Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it.

  59. In English every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.

  60. Dana Scott is the Church of the Lattice-Way Saints.

  61. In programming, as in everything else, to be in error is to be reborn.

  62. In computing, invariants are ephemeral.

  63. When we write programs that "learn", it turns out we do and they don't.

  64. Often it is means that justify ends: Goals advance technique and technique survives even when goal structures crumble.

  65. Make no mistake about it: Computers process numbers - not symbols. We measure our understanding (and control) by the extent to which we can arithmetize an activity.

  66. Making something variable is easy. Controlling duration of constancy is the trick.

  67. Think of all the psychic energy expended in seeking a fundamental distinction between "algorithm" and "program".

  68. If we believe in data structures, we must believe in independent (hence simultaneous) processing. For why else would we collect items within a structure? Why do we tolerate languages that give us the one without the other?

  69. In a 5 year period we get one superb programming language. Only we can't control when the 5 year period will begin.

  70. Over the centuries the Indians developed sign language for communicating phenomena of interest. Programmers from different tribes (FORTRAN, LISP, ALGOL, SNOBOL, etc.) could use one that doesn't require them to carry a blackboard on their ponies.

  71. Documentation is like term insurance: It satisfies because almost no one who subscribes to it depends on its benefits.

  72. An adequate bootstrap is a contradiction in terms.

  73. It is not a language's weaknesses but its strengths that control the gradient of its change: Alas, a language never escapes its embryonic sac.

  74. It is possible that software is not like anything else, that it is meant to be discarded: that the whole point is to always see it as soap bubble?

  75. Because of its vitality, the computing field is always in desperate need of new cliches: Banality soothes our nerves.

  76. It is the user who should parameterize procedures, not their creators.

  77. The cybernetic exchange between man, computer and algorithm is like a game of musical chairs: The frantic search for balance always leaves one of the three standing ill at ease.

  78. If your computer speaks English it was probably made in Japan.

  79. A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.

  80. Prolonged contact with the computer turns mathematicians into clerks and vice versa.

  81. In computing, turning the obvious into the useful is a living definition of the word "frustration".

  82. We are on the verge: Today our program proved Fermat's next-to-last theorem!

  83. What is the difference between a Turing machine and the modern computer? It's the same as that between Hillary's ascent of Everest and the establishment of a Hilton hotel on its peak.

  84. Motto for a research laboratory: What we work on today, others will first think of tomorrow.

  85. Though the Chinese should adore APL, it's FORTRAN they put their money on.

  86. We kid ourselves if we think that the ratio of procedure to data in an active data-base system can be made arbitrarily small or even kept small.

  87. We have the mini and the micro computer. In what semantic niche would the pico computer fall?

  88. It is not the computer's fault that Maxwell's equations are not adequate to design the electric motor.

  89. One does not learn computing by using a hand calculator, but one can forget arithmetic.

  90. Computation has made the tree flower.

  91. The computer reminds one of Lon Chaney - it is the machine of a thousand faces.

  92. The computer is the ultimate polluter. Its feces are indistinguishable from the food it produces.

  93. When someone says "I want a programming language in which I need only say what I wish done," give him a lollipop.

  94. Interfaces keep things tidy, but don't accelerate growth: Functions do.

  95. Don't have good ideas if you aren't willing to be responsible for them.

  96. Computers don't introduce order anywhere as much as they expose opportunities.

  97. When a professor insists computer science is X but not Y, have compassion for his graduate students.

  98. In computing, the mean time to failure keeps getting shorter.

  99. In man-machine symbiosis, it is man who must adjust: The machines can't.

  100. We will never run out of things to program as long as there is a single program around.

  101. Dealing with failure is easy: Work hard to improve. Success is also easy to handle: You've solved the wrong problem. Work hard to improve.

  102. One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.

  103. Purely applicative languages are poorly applicable.

  104. The proof of a system's value is its existence.

  105. You can't communicate complexity, only an awareness of it.

  106. It's difficult to extract sense from strings, but they're the only communication coin we can count on.

  107. The debate rages on: Is PL/I Bactrian or Dromedary?

  108. Whenever two programmers meet to criticize their programs, both are silent.

  109. Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq.cm.

  110. Editing is a rewording activity.

  111. Why did the Roman Empire collapse? What is the Latin for office automation?

  112. Computer Science is embarrassed by the computer.

  113. The only constructive theory connecting neuroscience and psychology will arise from the study of software.

  114. Within a computer natural language is unnatural.

  115. Most people find the concept of programming obvious, but the doing impossible.

  116. You think you know when you learn, are more sure when you can write, even more when you can teach, but certain when you can program.

  117. It goes against the grain of modern education to teach children to program. What fun is there in making plans, acquiring discipline in organizing thoughts, devoting attention to detail and learning to be self-critical?

  118. If you can imagine a society in which the computer-robot is the only menial, you can imagine anything.

  119. Programming is an unnatural act.

  120. Adapting old programs to fit new machines usually means adapting new machines to behave like old ones.

  121. In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way.


If there are epigrams, there must be meta-epigrams.


  1. Epigrams are interfaces across which appreciation and insight flow.

  2. Epigrams parameterize auras.

  3. Epigrams are macros, since they are executed at read time.

  4. Epigrams crystallize incongruities.

  5. Epigrams retrieve deep semantics from a data base that is all procedure.

  6. Epigrams scorn detail and make a point: They are a superb high-level documentation.

  7. Epigrams are more like vitamins than protein.

  8. Epigrams have extremely low entropy.

  9. The last epigram? Neither eat nor drink them, snuff epigrams.


Ambition

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Mark Twain
Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.
Florence Nightingale
The main difference between a rich person and a poor person is what they do in their spare time.
Kiyosaki
It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.
Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple
In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.
Albert Einstein
The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You


Risk taking

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher, The Way of Lao-tzu
Do, or do not. There is no try.
Yoda, Star Wars
It is better for a man to go wrong in freedom than to go right in chains.
Thomas H. Huxley, Evolutionist
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
John Elliot
The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
St. Augustine
If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.
Henry Ford
No matter how rich you are, you want a deal.
Mark Suster, to entrepreneurs in a Stanford class on approaching investors
God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.
Albert Einstein
You remake yourself as you grow and as the world changes. Your identity doesn’t get found. It emerges.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You
A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.
Mark Twain
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Mark Twain
I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 things that do not work.
Thomas Edison


Priorities

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.
Leonard Bernstein
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
Pablo Picasso
Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.
Warren Buffet
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mohandas K. Gandhi
If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.
Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama
People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
Albert Einstein
Whatever the situation, actions, not plans, generate lessons that help you test your hypotheses against reality.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You
No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You


Product Design

We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.
Robert Wilensky
Good artists copy. Great artists steal.
Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple, about Macintosh's artistic inspirations
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
Albert Einstein
The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
Albert Einstein
When I'm solving a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
Richard Buckminster Fuller (American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist)
You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.
Albert Einstein
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.
Albert Einstein
The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.
William Gibson


Satisfaction and happiness

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
Thích Nhất Hạnh
Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.
Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, publisher of Forbes Magazine
We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
Albert Einstein
All humans are entrepreneurs not because they should start companies, but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You
When you’re doing work you care about, you are able to work harder and better.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You
He not busy being born is busy dying.
Bob Dylan


Tolerance

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
Stanislaw Jerszy Lec
The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.
Eric Hoffer
Even when men league themselves mightily together to promote tolerance and peace on earth, they are likely to be violently intolerant toward those not of a like mind.
Eric Hoffer
A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Albert Einstein


Management

After you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing.
William Coyne, head of R&D at 3M, on micro-management
Before dreaming about the future or marking plans, you need to articulate what you already have going for you – as entrepreneurs do.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You
If you want to build a strong network that will help you move ahead in your career, it’s vital to first take stock of the connections you already have.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, from the book The Startup of You


Leadership and inspiration

When you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you achieve it.
The Alchemist
There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.
US President Ronald Reagan
It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.
Mathematician and US Admiral Grace Hopper
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
Steven Wright, Comedian
The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.
Steven Wright, Comedian
Half the people you know are below average.
Steven Wright, Comedian
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
Steven Wright, Comedian
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
Jack London
There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.
US President Harry Truman
Go forth and be googly!
Garry Boone of Google, at the end of a Google orientation lecture

I started writing when I was 18, to escape the dullness of high school. It led to creating my first blog and social network in late 90's.

I have reinvented the wheel of writing mediums several times by today. I've had several reasons: contemplating my escape from the corporate world over the years, helping others do the same, and finally and most importantly, overcoming Entrepreneur's Block.

After my first startup, I experienced four months of an agonizing experience I had no name for: I simply couldn't think of a worthy idea worth pursuing. Inspired by famous quotes, I found my way to a society that had already experienced this pain. They were called "writers" and this pain was called "Writer's Block".

I now write not for others, but for me. This is the best way to create value for others, because you don't persume their needs, but rather create something for your own future consumption; a need related to our personal changes over time that most people underestimate. Co-incidentally, I'm not the only one doing this. Paul Graham of YCombinator does the same thing. So did Dijkstra, a Computer Science pioneer, decades ago.

The following describes this need better than I can.

Dijkstra was known for his habit of carefully composing manuscripts with his fountain pen. The manuscripts are called EWDs, since Dijkstra numbered them with EWD, his initials, as a prefix. According to Dijkstra himself, the EWDs started when he moved from the Mathematical Centre in Amsterdam to the Eindhoven University of Technology (then Technische Hogeschool Eindhoven). After going to Eindhoven, Dijkstra experienced a writer's block for more than a year. Looking closely at himself he realized that if he wrote about things they would appreciate at the MC in Amsterdam his colleagues in Eindhoven would not understand; if he wrote about things they would like in Eindhoven, his former colleagues in Amsterdam would look down on him. He then decided to write only for himself, and in this way the EWDs were born.
Dijkstra would distribute photocopies of a new EWD among his colleagues; as many recipients photocopied and forwarded their copy, the EWDs spread throughout the international computer science community. The topics were computer science and mathematics, and included trip reports, letters, and speeches. More than 1300 EWDs have since been scanned, with a growing number transcribed to facilitate search, and are available online at the Dijkstra archive of the University of Texas.
Wikipedia, Edsger W. Dijkstra, EWDs and writing by hand

Engineers love the self-critical saying: "when you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail." That is to say, when you come across different problems, you must adapt the solution, not to adapt the problem to the solution you already have.

Life goals, on the other hand, are especially admitting of this warning. What is a goal and why do we have it? Is it not simply a motivational tool to get us from one general condition to another? For instance, if I went on a less traveled road looking for apples, and I passed by peaches instead, should I change the goal or the road?

The point sounds obvious but it's very subtle. And we, intelligent human-beings, spend too many years of our lives adapting the road to our initial goal: We work 80-hour weeks to afford vacations instead of working 20-hour weeks from a vacation spot. We roam the world looking for odd jobs to afford buying peace at a country-house that is so quiet, it would make us insane. Or we slave away for a corrupt economy for decades so that we can escape it. We humans are full of ironies, because we adapt the road to the fruit, instead of the fruit to the road.

So, I have a story about peaches.


I used to know a self-deprecating and very insecure 22 year-old college kid in my undergrad class. His jaded, angry and empty countenance used to aggravate me. I pitied his negative perspective on life, and had a morbid apprehension that one of these days he might not show up for the worst of irrational reasons. His mind was in a dark place.

I knew him at least since high school. He was a unique character. Some of his personal story matters, which I’ll relate here: In a rare turn of events, he grew up in a society where boys and girls were segregated, essentially from childhood until adulthood. So in his entire upbringing, besides adults and close relatives, he had not really interacted closely with women of the same age.

As an ambitious teenager, he had immigrated to North America. As you might imagine, his total lack of communication skills, especially in the dating scene, was transplanted with him to a society rife with over-emphasis on popularity. What could go wrong?

From what I remember of him, approaching women with freedom and comfort was his first taste of complete and utter failure. And overcoming this failure became his goal and obsession.

His lack of social confidence, combined with his imperfect spoken English, was too painful for him to overcome at the same time. So he proceeded to do what teenagers independently tend to do when fortifying themselves socially: he started wearing black clothes head to toe, and covered himself in a tall dark trench-coat. He became isolated and reclusive; and soon, adults noticed and worried.

He would treat women in school like inaccessible gems in a jeweler's window display-case. He would over-compensate on distancing himself from stereotypical associations. If the liberal and progressive society encouraged men to not objectify women and treat them instead with respect, he’d idolize women and put them on a pedestal. He would perceive non-existent virtues where the want of virtues was lacking; and he would obsess about his inability to express his praise upon the pedestals of flawlessness.

Slowly over time, the adults’ worries and anxiety, about his downward spiral into self-deprecating recluse turned into innocently-bestowed advice. But not the sort of advice that would be useful. To give someone advice, you need to have empathy with their condition. His was a rare condition. You could say that he was on a road less traveled.

His parents, who had not experienced the close-minded and socially conservative upbringing of his childhood’s generation, would comment with curiosity on his inability to recover from romantic defeats. In their innocent efforts, they'd describe him as trading one loss for another. They would try to break the chain by ridiculing the idol of his imagination. They'd decry the latest subject of his affections for her un-saintly qualities, as if falling from grace depended on the height of the pedestal.

Friends would gently point out the imperfections that he’d declare as feminine virtues. I would personally try to ease his frequent feelings of despair through occupying his mind with other accomplishments, and distracting him from his areas of shortcoming. But I recall clearly how every moment, as if consumed by a tunnel vision, was sacrificed to his obsession with overcoming failure.

He was a caring, kind and artistic person. Sadly, he just didn’t know how to express himself.

I mentioned my morbid apprehension that one day the kid might not show up … On a gloomy day, it finally happened.

It was on a day similar to this one, about a decade ago. I remember because I was on the phone with my uncle from California, who tends to call on the March of every year to wish us a happy Iranian new year. I’ve met my uncle only twice in my life and he’s about 30 years older than me. I’ve always considered him “one of the grown ups” like my parents. But he and I have one specific journey in common: we both immigrated to a new culture around the time we were 17.

That phone call took 30 minutes, like it did every year. But he uttered a simple advice that only he could have delivered so incredibly humorously, merrily and seriously at the same time. He said:

“Listen ... It would be a pity for you to finally walk into heaven, surrounded by peaches, and starve to death for want of an apple."

A pity!

Not a mistake … a PITY.

I sat down reflecting on that comment for four hours. I felt as if a wrench was thrown into the engine of my brain and it was about to explode after a grinding halt.

I had never thought about one's role in life in terms of opportunities, only mistakes. I had never considered the possibility of giving up on my initial goal for taking up another; only the embarrassment of admission of failure. And I had never considered the cost in pity and regret for every waking moment that I spent overlooking potential friends. Instead, I had been adorning unapproachable ones with the list of my imaginary must-have virtues.

That was the last day I showed up to school wearing black.

That was the last day I tried to hide my vulnerabilities and fears.

And that was the last day I referred to myself in a dissociative third-person narrative.

A single important insight from an advisor who understood the journey along my less-treaded path transformed me into a whole person. He understood, empathized with, and criticized my perfectionism all in one insightful sentence.

Put a man on a deserted island with only grass to eat, and he won’t dream about food. He’ll dream about his final meal. And the final meal has to be perfect. The moment I heard his one sentence advice, backed by his life story, a heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders. Women didn’t need to be perfect to make up for my lost decade of social segregation. And I needed not live up to the standards of an idolatry, deprecating myself for each of short-comings. I simply needed to allow for myself to live among mortals to consider them worthy of my companionship. No pedestal on either side was necessary to bring back equity to the injustices done to my generation. No matter where our lives take us, we are equals in worth.

My advisor corrected my perspective on life: should I spend the future correcting a society's unjust mistakes in the past? Or should I spend the present moment enjoying the opportunities of being alive?

That year I stepped out, made as many embarrassing and inspirational mistakes as I could, and stopped creating a trail of regret.

Peaches taste better than apples anyway.

And a good advisor is one who has endured the same condition.

Amin A.

Written by

Amin Ariana

A software entrepreneur from San Francisco