The letter was neatly folded inside an envelope. The front of the envelope had the words written in sharpie “To: Richard, From: Cô Sáu.” Taped to the envelope was a small booklet titled Animals of the World with a picture of a gorilla and various birds on the front. After eating dinner my aunt handed me this letter with the booklet attached. It was an early Christmas gift, since I would not be able to see her during the break because she lived in a different state and was only visiting for Thanksgiving. I remember being elated when I received the gift because I loved learning about animals when I was younger. When I was younger I would go to the zoo with my parents, always trying to find obscure facts about animals such as how a platypus laid eggs. My aunt knew this and custom tailored her gift for her nephew. At first sight I was only focused on the book and thinking about the vast amount of information on animals it had. The letter was about how my aunt felt people should live their life, realized through me. My aunt had put her time and effort into the writing, referencing my appreciation for biology and animals, helping guide my life for years to come. Her words helped inspire me to be who I am today, someone who enjoys and studies biology.
I remember opening the envelope and finding a twenty-dollar bill accompanied by a letter. I quickly took out the twenty-dollar bill and gave it to my parents so that they could keep it safe, since I had no wallet at the time. The monetary value of the gift was not of great importance for me. At my age I only really cared about the booklet that came with the letter, I was ten years old at the time. The letter was folded into three parts. The letter was gracefully handwritten most likely stemming from the curriculum used in Vietnam to create beautiful handwriting. Unfolding the letter the first words I saw were “Dear Richard, Cô Sáu loves you very much and I hope you enjoy your gift. “ These words were very touching especially since she talked about herself in the third person, something she seemed to do a lot because of how Vietnamese linguistics worked. This type of language reminded me of my family and culture because many of them immigrated to America after the Vietnam War to escape communism. I could imagine her talking to me in a very overbearing tone with this letter, someone who cared about their loved ones very much. I remember my aunt used to work in the kitchen with my mom, cooking dinner for family of twenty or something children and adults. She would always tell everyone “I don’t need help, Hoa (my mom) and I can take care of the food just go out there and have fun in the backyard or watch the football game.” She wrote, “I know you loved animals, after seeing all of the photos of you and your parents at the zoo. I found this book at Costco and hope you like it.” These words written by my aunt resonated with me very well, seeing someone pay attention to detail as much as my aunt did really touched me even at such a young age. I could not help but smile when I read those lines. The money to me was almost forgotten at this point as the words in the letter touched me.
The paragraph that followed focused on how she felt I should live my life. This part of the letter has influenced how I view life and gave me the confidence to pursue biology in college. She wrote, “Whatever you do in life you do what makes you happy, not what your parents think or what your friends think. Do what you want to do. Life is about being happy and if you aren’t happy about your life you need to change it.” Life is something that I love. It’s why I wake up every day and get out of bed. Knowing that my family members loved me a lot have helped push me to work as hard as I can to make them proud. Without support from my family member I would not be able to follow my dreams of going to a prestigious university and studying what I love to learn about.
She then wrote, “Biology and animals is a good subject to learn. It has a lot of opportunities for you in the future when you’re older and you should take keep learning about it since it is something that makes you happy.” This statement helped guide me to where I am now, here at the University of California, Davis. In high school it influenced me to start focusing on biology. I had kept Cô Sáu’s letter in my cabinet, as a sentimental item for me when I ever felt lost in life. I loved biology class with all of its interesting diagrams and animal parts during my freshman year. It reminded me of my aunt every time my teacher showed videos of animals, especially a mongoose which was my favorite animal. My senior year of high school I had the choice of taking AP Chemistry or AP Biology. Reminded by the letter to follow what made me happy, biology was to Cô Sáu an outlet for me to learn new things about the world instead of playing video games aimlessly all day long. Being influenced by the letter I chose AP Biology. During my senior year I learned a lot of new things from AP Biology including: animal kingdom and its different layers of complexity ranging from a class to a phylum as well as learning about the smallest forms of life, microbes. Under the microscope in class I was able to look at microbial slides. Learning about microbes helped peak my interest in microbiology. The complexities of microbial organisms are fascinating and how much they influence our life helped push me to learn more about microbiology. Ultimately I applied to the University of California, Davis as Microbiology major. The idea of majoring in Microbiology would not have been possible without my aunt’s influence.
The last lines of the letter I clearly remember. She ended the letter by writing, “Alright Richard, this is all I have to say but remember to always follow your dreams and remember be happy that is the most important part of living life.” Living life to the fullest is something that I hope I can do in my life. In my second year of college I am enjoying my life as a microbiology major and am very grateful for how much my aunt has influenced me through my lifetime.