Dear High School Senior Kim,
I could obviously give you a road map of your journey from 12th-grade social butterfly to business mogul who’s on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue and point out all the pitfalls along the way, but that wouldn’t do you much good.
And no, I’m not teasing you about your driving or the fact that right after you got your first car you wrecked it. Rather, what I’m saying is: I don’t want you to change a thing, because if you don’t make the mistakes you’re going to make, how will you learn?
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But there are a few things I want to share that I’ve picked up along the way. Back to that fender bender. When you got the car, Dad made you sign a contract agreeing that if you ever hit something, you’d have to get a job to pay for the repairs—and that’s why you’ve been working through high school. Remember what he told you? Be your best at it. No matter what you do. Be your best at it.
You’ve done that with your job. You love working retail at the clothing store and you’re great at it. But know this: Throughout your life, “it” is going to change. You’re not always going to know what “it” is or where the inspiration is going to come from, so be prepared.
For example, one day you’re going to be scrolling through Twitter. (That’s a thing that will be invented a few years after you read this that lets people talk really loudly on the internet. Get ready for it.) And you’ll see a video about a woman named Alice Johnson. She’ll strike you as a woman who looks like a cute little old grandma. She never had a parking ticket in her life, and then she had a first-time nonviolent drug offense and got life in prison without the possibility of parole—the same sentence as Charles Manson. And her plight will become an “it.”
Your quest to get her out of prison (and I don’t want to spoil things, but you’ll be pleased with the outcome) will lead you to a meeting on clemency policy in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, where you’ll have another light-bulb moment. A bunch of lawyers will use a bunch of terms you don’t understand, and you’ll find yourself texting an attorney you know in the room and asking, What does this mean? What does that mean? Soon you’ll have a new “it”: becoming a lawyer. And being your best will mean passing the California bar exam.
Now, here’s something to know. Not everyone is going to see what you’re doing as a noble way of bettering people’s lives. Remember that Twitter thing? The loud talkers are going to make noise. I left out the part where you’re on a reality show; because of that, you’re not always going to be respected. You’re going to have to work harder to show people you come from a nice, normal family. It’s going to take some getting used to, because in high school, you never had to deal with bullies. You have our family and our friends (yes, they’re still our friends—that’s why we call them the Lifers), and those are the people to lean on.
It’s easy to say to just ignore the criticism, but another thing you’ll learn is that at some point it will click in your head that it’s not about you anymore. It’s about family. It’s about helping other people. For years you’ll be putting yourself out there (wait until Instagram comes along). I’m not saying you shouldn’t; it’s all so fun and embarrassing and amazing and stupid. But you’re going to become a more private person and you’re going to come to realize that the way to get your story out there—the actual narrative, the truth—isn’t by engaging but by doing.
I don’t want to spoil it anymore and tell you all the things you’ll accomplish. But know this. When you get here, to May 2022, you’re not going to be content. You’re still going to be looking for that next “it.”
And when you find it, you’re going to do it—we’re going to do it—like we always do: to the fullest.