Dear Mr. NG,
Greetings from 2027!
Surprise! Welcome to the future. I know it’s hard to believe that you are reading a letter from the future, but it’s my final moment and the only chance to write back to 2018. Trust me, I understand how you are feeling right now, because I received an anonymous letter at the exact same time when I was on a semester break in Tartu in 2018.
So, let’s go through all of your problems before it’s too late, shall we?
First of all, my congratulations for your completion of seven essays during the semester break! I remember how stressed you were to work day in, day out for the final assessments out of nine courses you took during the first year of studying the EU-Russia programme at University of Tartu. I can tell how many decisions and plans you have to make before the new semester begins.
Look, I know everything about you – the past, the present, and the future.
In 2015, you were on an exchange semester in Denmark which began your European journey; your journalistic experience in Donetsk motivated you to help realize Ukraine’s European aspirations in the future; you decided to leave Hong Kong for good because you felt that there was no place for you to stay.
You are thinking about how to secure your Estonian citizenship by getting a full-time job at the university; you are worrying about your expertise on Ukraine before realizing your eventual path of working in the EU; above all, you are questioning your leadership in a two-year European Citizenship Project that you are working on.
Though, as a person from the future, let me tell you a few things about yours. In the future, you will get everything you have ever wanted – Estonian citizenship, a leading role in the EU, and Ukraine will find itself in the most peaceful period in its history, thanks to your dedication to this country. You will take the Ukrainian path, because everything you knew about Hong Kong will change completely after you have studied two years in Estonia. You will witness the fall of your native land, and you will only be staring at your motherland from a distance until it falls apart.
You will be broken, tormented, and devastated. You will be driven so far to sacrifice the things that meant the most to you – your Hong Kong friends, your beloved teachers who enlightened you as a teenager, and your native land of Hong Kong.
While I’m not telling you what exactly will happen since you haven’t gone there yet, I can give you some advice on what has been entangling you throughout the semester break.
You stayed alive after Donetsk in 2015 and graduated on time in 2016.
As a master’s student studying at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, you have the privilege to attend all kinds of academic events from local seminars given by EU officials to international conferences that give you a platform to present your research papers. Your greatest asset, though, is a group of classmates specialized in different fields of European affairs. So, you have to let them know what kind of expertise they can offer you, because some of them will give you more academic insight than a 100-page daily reading quota which you fail to summarize. More importantly, they will walk this uneasy path with you, at least until 2019.
Your sense of leadership will be contested throughout the European Citizenship Project during 2017-19.
The EU-funded project “Message to Europeans 3.0” is probably the greatest challenge in your university life yet. Unlike any other international simulations that only lasted for a few days, you have to take part in a 2-year multinational project which involves 40 students from a range of personal backgrounds in 15 European countries. You are trying so hard to be liked, so that your likeability might get your peers to work for you, even if the project isn’t their first priority. But sheer popularity doesn’t constitute leadership – a true leader inspires leadership through selfless actions to show people what everyone is OBLIGED to do. This degree of self-righteousness might not be liked in the end, but it’s done for the greater good of the team. Sometimes, there are unpopular decisions which you have to make for your team’s overall interest.
You visited the Oxford Union, as you pledged that you will get yourself qualified to be there.
You know all too well of what a “break” means to you – planning ahead to equip yourself for the intense competition in the most powerful intergovernmental institution in the world. You are reaching out to all relevant EU institutions for a traineeship and some world-class universities for summer courses to make yourself qualified to be a specialist in Ukraine. It’s okay to take all the opportunities to expand your horizons, but at the same time you shouldn’t be disappointed if not all of your plans work out in the end; it’s okay to be ambitious, but never let it outgrow who you are and what you have been doing.
With all due respect, from my perspective, you are the most enthusiastic, committed, and ambitious person I have ever met in my life. For all the achievements I can tell from your future, you are no hero; your utopian ideal mobilized tens of thousands of people to follow you and made a real change that will cost countless sacrifices in the name of peace. I’m in no position to judge you because time will be the judge.
So, how do you like this version of future? Is it the kind of success that you have been pursuing over the past 23 years of your life?
Anyway, it’s not written. What I am telling you is only one of the possible versions of the future. If you change your mind now, you will change everything that happened in my understanding of history; I will cease to exist and will be erased from the timeline.
But, as I told you, I know everything about you. Everything that happens to you is all history to me.
Here’s my final question: how much will you sacrifice to realize your utopian ideal?