Dear Mary,


I found myself asking mentally where Mary was some days ago towards the end of 2009. I heard from you when you were home on the treatment last year. After that, no message came across until this very mail.


It is extraordinary that you and I are still in correspondence with each other. Normally I cut ties with my former students once they finish their studies in high school. As far as I can remember, I met you for the first time in the autumn of 2000 when you started high school. Since then I have been following the twists and turns of your extraordinary life course. I was shocked in 2004 when the disease seized you. Luckily thanks to your family’s support and care, you recovered with medical help. Another year of hard work sent you to that university. In the autumn of 2005, I told Jack on the net about your condition. Later he told me that he had a get-together with you and Tom in a restaurant. Jack’s impression was that everything was fine with you then. However, last year, the same trouble attacked you again. When I got your message, I could not believe my eyes.


This is 2010. You are in your internship. Roughly 10 years has elapsed since we first met. What you have got through all these years is out of the ordinary. I cannot imagine what you would have been without your family’s care. I hope you take your health seriously and follow your doc’s advice. Probably the weight you have gained has something to do with the medications you took. My mother suffered from a similar condition when I was in high school. She gained some weight after taking the drugs. Luckily she has completely shaken the condition off and her weight has come back to normal.


I am afraid I am not in a position to offer you sound tips on where you should head for. It is up to you to make your final choice. However, the following might be taken into account in your decision-making.


As you have pointed out, we have to make a living. When young, we have our dreams and aspirations; we believe we are saviour of the world. After we leave school, we find that we are no more than a small part of society. All of us will end up in one profession and follow one walk of life. Some become doctors, some lawyers and some farmers. Life is short and our existence has to be earned by our honest work. If you ask folks in their forties, fifties and sixties whether they are still sticking to the dreams they had in adolescence, chances are that most will give you a negative answer. In most cases, dreams and ideals have been abandoned, or at least compromised and modified. That does not mean that people have a weak will. Instead, that means they have to adapt to society and survive in the world. As with driving, we have to turn when the road turns. Otherwise, we would perish in our own car. Some people do still hold onto their ideals and their principles they formed earlier on in their youthful years. Some can turn their dreams into a reality. This is either because they worked very hard and faced up to the challenge or because their ideals and dreams have been accepted by society.


I left behind my adolescence, I started my family and I am stepping into my forties. I have become aware that all of us contribute to our community and our society at large while we as an individual make a living. On the one hand, a businessman makes a profit from his business. On the other hand, the service he provides is needed by his customers. On a larger scale, our society runs on numerous such visible or invisible links and webs of serving and being served. We are dependent on each other, directly or indirectly.


My conclusion is that whatever career you may choose, it will be important to society. If it is what you like and where your interest is, do it wholeheartedly. No matter what field you end up in, you can be a master of it if you keep improving yourself. However, we have to make sure that we can make a living in this world.


Judging from your talk, you have gained the qualifications in your discipline. Digital technology has brought about amazing changes to our life. It will develop further. It should be quite easy for you to land a position in this field. Though you did not major in the English language, what you have achieved in the language may humble a lot of guys who majored in it. English is the language of the Internet, the computer and digital technology. Your language skills would definitely facilitate a job in this field.


Those who study the English language alone find upon graduation that there are a much smaller range of careers for them to choose from. If someone knows only the language, they will more often than not become a teacher, a translator, or an editor. Of course if you are interested in teaching or translation, it will be fine to pick this walk of life. However, given that English is not your major, you would find that those who have devoted their four years to the language probably do have an advantage over you in some aspects. Are you really confident about your comprehension, speaking, reading and writing? Being interested in the language is one thing; doing it as a career is another.


In the past few years, digital technology has helped me tremendously in my studies and work. I have tried some software programs for work and research, and I am hence convinced of the impact this technology will have on language teaching and learning in the decades to come. Compared with some international brands, Chinese software applications of this nature are still in their infancy. Although I know very little about this technology, I am sure there is a lot for Chinese linguists and program developers to achieve in this field.


That is just one area where computer technology transforms our way of being. The fact is that almost all aspects of human society have been and will be changed by this amazing technology. Therefore, I am sure that there is more room for career choice in this sphere.


Anyway, you will have to decide where to go on your own. Your interest matters; your living matters, too.


This winter has been unusually cold in your hometown. The first snow this winter came in early November. Since then, we have had quite a few days when the lowest temperature was below freezing. I bet you will have a warmer winter in that town in Guangdong. Enjoy your internship. If you like, do drop me a line from time to time. I will be more than glad to read about your adventure. And always mind your health.


Yours sincerely,



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