My time in high school
Attended high school in the
Overall high school experience
7/10. We had wonderful teachers and great classes. I'm grateful for getting a terrific education that prepared me well for college. I was able to use all my AP classes to graduate from college in 3 years. At the same time, I felt stressed all the time and became afraid of failure because of the pressure to have perfect grades.
Grades in high school
English, Foreign Language, Math, Science. I loved the humanities as well as the sciences, which made it really hard to choose a major!
AP physics was the toughest for me. Math came naturally to me, but physics never did. I'm glad I took a challenging physics class in college because it helped me tackle my fears.
Arts / Crafts
Life since high school
Attended college / university at
Post-graduate education or training
Law School, Master's in Public Health
Places lived in US
California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada
Places lived outside the US
I did a "Semester at Sea" in college (went around the world on a ship -- crappy classes but amazing exposure). I've worked in the West Bank, Ghana, and India for months, but always had a home base in the U.S.
Current occupations / past occupations
Law professor, immigration/human rights lawyer, legal aid
Industries I've worked in
- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (e.g. Law, Accounting, Interior Design, Graphic Design, R&D, PR, Advertising, etc.)
Did your education prepare you for your career or occupation?
Has your education or career/occupation trajectory ever changed? How?
Yes. I started college pre-med but fell in love with the humanities and majored in English. Now, decades later, I'm doing a Master's in Public Health to combine my interest in health and human rights.
A little introspection...
To me, being successful means...
Living your life with passion and not taking it for granted. Being able to love and be loved. Having compassion for yourself and others. Trying to make the world a better place.
My definition of success has changed over time.
Absolutely. For years --starting in elementary school and extending past graduate school – I defined success based on academic and professional accomplishments. My parents were very achievement oriented and put a lot of pressure on us to excel starting at a very young age. But it never felt like enough. In college, I became very depressed. I felt like I had been jumping through hoops my whole life, and I was exhausted. I didn’t even know what actually made me happy. After an episode of major depression, I decided to pursue the things that gave me pleasure instead of what other people told me I should do. I feel very lucky to have found a career I love, one where I can help people every day, be creative, feel intellectually satisfied, and explore the world. I feel even luckier to have found my soul mate in my late 30s. The joy I derive from my day-to-day life, and my ability to give back, are what make me feel successful.
My greatest accomplishment to date and what I’ve learned from it
I recently got tenure as a professor, which is a professional milestone. But somehow that doesn’t feel like my greatest accomplishment. I think abandoning my fears and reclaiming my life with gusto after getting very sick is what I think of as my greatest accomplishment.
My biggest mistake or regret so far and what I’ve learned from it
I’m not sure regret is a healthy emotion, and I try not to indulge it. That said, I do wish I had been able to enjoy learning more throughout my education instead of being so stressed about grades. I also found myself regretting not pursuing a particular field of study in which I had long been interested, so I decided to study it (part-time, online). I guess the lesson there is if you regret something that can still be changed, change it – it’s never too late.
An unexpected event that significantly changed my life and how it impacted me
I became very sick with an autoimmune disease when I was 31, and no drugs worked for me. My weight dropped to 80 lbs, and I grew so weak I had to use both hands to open a door. I lost bowel control and needed to wear diapers. For two years, I was transported to a parallel universe that revolved around the most basic bodily functions. But, looking back, I am profoundly grateful for the experience. It made me realize with absolute clarity that the things I had relied on to define myself –achievements in the external world – could be taken away in a heartbeat, and that the essence of who I was had nothing to do with those things. I remember passing a homeless person on the street one day and thinking how easily that could be me, how easily anyone can lose the ability to work and be independent, yet we retain the core of who we are, our value as human beings. After two years of misery, I had a surgery that gave me a new lease on life. I felt I had nothing to lose after that experience, and found the courage to pursue the things in life I really wanted instead of being afraid to try. If I hadn’t gone through my illness, I may not have realized these things for decades.
My favorite spot in or around Palo Alto
Printer's Inc Bookstore, which is no more.