I worked with Southwestern Advantage two summers ago (2011). On a plane ride home for winter break, I came across an article featuring letters that celebrities wrote to their teenage selves. It was a fun and interesting read – seeing how people approached the assignment. I decided that was how I was going to reflect on my Southwestern Advantage experience. Below is my written reflection. It is a bit unconventional, but the friends who I have shown it to, including my student manager, really enjoyed it. I hope that what I have written will help and contribute to Southwestern’s achievements.
To the ten-year-old Kimberly:
I know things have been tough lately, but hang in there. There is still a lot for you to learn and plenty of things you don’t understand yet. You may or may not believe me what I am about to tell you, but trust me on this, okay? I am your biggest fan, but also your greatest critic. You’ll understand once you’ve reached the end of this letter.
Right now, you aren’t too confident in yourself, and neither are you proud of your accomplishments because you think you haven’t done much. You cry too much, and you know it. Remember those nights you spent crying when everyone was sleeping because you didn’t want your family to see your tears because you didn’t want to be a bother? Yeah, I know all about it. Don’t worry, you’ll be okay. I can’t say that life gets any easier, but you’ll learn that it isn’t as bad as you make it out to be. The biggest change you will realize in yourself is how you been choosing to perceive the world.
So here’s the story I promised. Nine years from now, yes I know that seems like a long way still, you’re going to do something that will surprise everyone in the family. In your second year at Berkeley, you’re going to be an officer for a small community service club called Tzu Chi. It is there that you’re going to meet some your closest friends you’re ever going to have in your life. Three friends will stand out: Jeff Hsieh, Aaron Ho, and Tammy Dang. Jeff is going to approach you out of the blue one day as you two sit advertising the club on campus. He is going to tell you about an internship opportunity, and that he would like to do a “practice” info session on you. You will think, “Sure? Why not? It wouldn’t hurt to help the guy out.” Little will you know that this is going to evolve into something much greater.
Welcome to Southwestern, no not the airline company. So what is it exactly? You’re going to be selling educational books and software door-to-door for twelve weeks in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. Your town is called Lynnwood and you’re going to love helping the families there. So the little girl who would cry and hide behind her mother before summoning up enough courage to walk into art class, is the same girl that’s going to be working over eighty hours, for six days a week, working outdoors, talking to strangers? Yes, that’s right.
I’m proud to say that because you wanted to change for the better, for the sake of your dreams and family, you decided that the best way was to put yourself in the most uncomfortable situation you can think of, and this was the result. What did mom think? That you’re a bit crazy? Yes, but you know mom would never stop you from doing something you want to do. Thank her for that.
Through this experience, you’re going to cry, doubt, laugh, and learn to trust other people more. There will be times of frustration, lots of frustration, but also times of joy and happiness. That first door you knock on is going to be one of the scariest things ever to occur in your life, but luckily, mom’s lessons didn’t go to waste. Listen to her more. “You never know unless you try,” is what she always told you, right? Helping families and talking about their kids’ education is going to be a lot of fun, and you’re going to learn a lot about all the different educational options out there. Your determination to finish and your willingness to help others is admirable, but you still lack the assertiveness and confidence that you want and need to become an excellent teacher. You’re not doing this just for yourself; you’re doing it for mom who has worked so hard for you to reach your dream and for your future students. Because of Southwestern Advantage, you’re going to amend those faults; you’ll also become a better listener, a more confident leader, and learn to be a person with greater humility and empathy. Most importantly, you’ll learn that with the right attitude, amazing things can happen. After all, “Who you will someday be, you are now becoming,” so I’m proud of you for making such a bold step.
Feel any better? Good. Go out there and reach your potential. You have it in you and it’s always been there. You just need the courage to get you there.
The Twenty-year-old You
P.S. Remember to thank Jeff for giving you a chance at this experience and everyone else who helped you have an amazing summer!
Share this story