Notes to My 18 Year-Old Self

The other day, I came across a small, tattered white cardboard package. Underneath the yellowing packaging tape was a mailing label – addressed to me from Kaiser Permanente. Inside the package was a black plastic case with a VHS cassette inside with its contents produced over 18 years ago. A time capsule if you will. Kaiser was a key sponsor for the Oakland Technical High School Health Academy, and at that time, they ran a health program called Partners In Health on a local channel in the Bay Area called KBHK. For this particular airing, they were highlighting the Health Academy, and they asked me and my mom if I would like to be featured in that segment. “Of course!” I said. What teenager would pass up the chance to be on TV?! I recently watched this video, which is all but four minutes, but held so much more. I cannot tell you how many emotions and memories were stirred while watching it – amazement, humility, gratitude – all rolled into one. And how fortunate I am to look back on the mindset I once had. Analyzing what has changed and what is the same. After reflecting on this video clip, I decided to pen these few notes to my 18 year-old self:

  • Unfortunately, you did not become a pediatrician as you had always hoped to become, and that’s ok. You are not a failure. God had a different plan for you. Just embrace it and keep pushing.
  • If I could have forewarned you, I would have told you to NOT take 8 classes the first semester of your freshman year. At UC Berkeley. College isn’t high school.
  • Never let that ambition and drive you have diminish or disappear. You will always need it, and you must always cultivate and nourish it.
  • Don’t own or claim the odds that are stacked against you. They are not yours.
  • Granny was not there in the physical sense to see you walk the stage when you got your bachelors or masters degree. But know that she was there. She will always be there.
  • Your mom, sister, and brother are still in your corner and believe in you. So keep pushing!
  • Life never gets any easier. And that’s also ok. Just learn from each experience and continue to self-reflect and grow.
  • If you are fortunate to stay connected to or to reconnect with those that supported you on your journey, thank them. Thank them. Thank them.
  • You will become a champion for the kids that were like you. Those navigating challenges and coming from communities that are often cast in a negative light. The green/inexperienced kid that may not fully understand the process, but has the desire to do better in life – for themselves, their family, and community.
  • You will always carry a backpack. A very heavy backpack. But it’s never filled with burdens or pity.
  • And always, always, always – stay focused and humble.