I don’t usually write about personal stuff here but I feel like I have to make an exception.
I just learned that Yuli Chen, a very close friend of mine, died in a car accident a couple days ago. Although we haven’t seen much of each other over the past couple years (and this is something I will regret forever), there was a time when he was my closest friend, and he’s probably one of the people who had the biggest influence on my life.
I met Yuli in high school in Paris, and we became fast friends. He always looked a little bit awkward and nerdy, but he was the best at whatever he did: the best at Counter Strike, the best at Starcraft, the best at Total Annihilation… (yes, we used to play a lot of video games back then).
He was also a great musician (following in his father‘s footsteps) and ended up becoming a very sought-after music producer in Beijing.
He had a big influence on all of us in our group of friends. In fact, his nickname back in high school was “the chief”, because whenever he discovered something new, everybody would soon follow his lead and jump on it too (which caused all of us to spend hundreds of euros on Warhammer 40k figurines when that became his latest passion).
But I think he had the biggest influence on me. Yuli was from Beijing, and it was with him that I made my first trip to China and fell in love with the country, its language, and its culture (ok, and its girls, too). I ended up spending 4 years learning Chinese and going there 6 times.
Later on, it was also through Yuli that I met the woman who is now my wife, and who I’m pretty sure only settled on me because he was not available.
Speaking of China, one Chinese story I learned during my studies stuck with me:
A farmer loved his son more than anything in the world, but one day that son fell ill and died. Everybody expected the farmer to be devastated, yet he kept on going as if nothing had happened and didn’t manifest any grief.
His friends asked him: “Didn’t you love your son? Aren’t you sad that he’s gone? Why aren’t you showing any emotion?”.
The farmer simply answered: “Before my son was born, I was happy. However once he was born, I was the happiest I’ve ever been and I’ve treasured every day spent with him. But now that he is gone, I have simply returned to the state I was in before he was born.”
This attitude may seem a little cold, but I’ve always thought it contained some wisdom. I think it helps us remember someone for how they lived, and not how they died.
So although I’m very sad that he passed away, I’m also very happy that I had the chance to be his friend for all those years. I just wish I could’ve told him that earlier.