A Letter to Myself: 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming to UCLA
When I arrived at UCLA, I had a mission. I operated on five hours of sleep, sustained myself on the pizza served at Career Center Events and accomplished more in one year than I ever had in any single year in my life.
It was incredible.
If I could go back, I would not change the long hours, the hard work or my intense pursuit of excellence. I would, however, impart these small but powerful lessons to my younger self:
#1. Smile, Jeremiah. Show your gratitude.
During my first year at UCLA, I lost track of my gratitude. I was certainly proud to be here at this school, but grateful? Not many would have looked at me and said,
“Yes, that young man is immensely grateful for the privilege he has in being here at this world-class university surrounded by incredible people and heaps of opportunities!”
Today, I cannot even keep track of how many times people have commented on my joy and positive outlook on life (especially when things don’t turn out in my favor — the ankle incident). No matter the difficulty or the tension, I now make it a point to find a reason to smile be and grateful.
So, Jeremiah, smile and be overtly grateful for all that you have!
#2. Be courageous and simultaneously be still Jeremiah.
At the end of my first year at UCLA, I was hit in the face with a brick; a metaphorical brick, but nonetheless, it hurt! Sitting across from an alumnus, I was forced to be still.
In this moment, when I was asked why I was working so incredibly hard toward my goals of Stanford law school and politics and other amazing-sounding things, I had no answer.
I had never asked myself, and been courageous enough to be honest, why I was doing what I was doing.
So, Jeremiah, I will tell you this: be courageous enough to be still and listen to your heart. Ask yourself the hard questions and be strong enough to answer them. It will change your life. Trust me.
#3. Finally, Jeremiah, be kind and listen.
Jeremiah, stop and listen to the person in front of you. They have a story, they have struggles, they are creative, brilliant and full of life just as you are.
Be kind to the people surrounding you and you will be lucky enough to take part in the greatest thing someone can aspire to; positively impacting someone.
Today, I spend much of my time in silence, listening to others and really seeing who they are. So, Jeremiah, you aspire to change the lives of millions? Change the life of one. You desire to reach thousands with your words? Impact one person with your silence.
Be kind enough to listen and you will begin to change lives with even the simplest interaction.
Writing this “letter to myself” prompted me to reflect on the recent growth that has taken place in my life. There is no doubt in my mind that I am proud of who I am today even in spite of the things I wish I had known a few years ago.
As a product of striving to grow a little bit every day, I can identify 100 pieces of advice I would share with my former-self. But the lessons outlined here are perhaps the most relevant in my day-to-day life.
I encourage you to try a similar exercise. Write a letter to your younger self and see what surfaces. You may be surprised (As I was).