Using my own TARDIS to go back in time, here’s what I would tell my younger self:

1. Don’t take life so seriously. Skip a class once in a while–it really won’t matter that much in the future. Live a little. Make waves.

2. No matter what your parents tell you and what other Chinese kids your age excel at, you suck at math and science. Take some humanities courses; you will find solace and inspiration in art and literature. Ultimately, you’ll find the creative arts much more rewarding.

3. You really aren’t as noble as you think you are. Get off your high horse and stop being a hater. Stop taking pride in your unselfishness and just do it because it feels right–not because you think you deserve more.

4. You really won’t become a Republican when you’re older and more cynical, no matter what your father says.

5. Your culture is a beautiful thing. Don’t reject it–learn about it and enjoy it. And keep up with those Chinese lessons.

6. Change piano teachers. Now. Suzuki is just one of many methods to teach music, and it’s not for you. Find a different teacher and you might actually learn to enjoy playing music. You might learn to sightread. You certainly won’t give your mom and your teacher an ultimatum and quit. Someday you’ll be glad you developed an appreciation for classical music.

7. Don’t be a fashion victim. Find your own style. Guess jeans with zippers on the leg are not for everyone. Especially if they’re green pastel ones, and you’re not quite five feet tall.

8. Youth really is wasted on the young. You have no perspective at all. There’s so much drama, so much angst and fear and pain–and yet it doesn’t matter one iota. One day, you’ll understand this. I know this is the worst kind of advice, and exactly the type my younger self would never listen to–but it happens to be true.

Helen, 34, Glenview, USA