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30th Birthday Letter From My 18 Year-Old Self

Dear Thomas,

As you open this letter to self on your 30th birthday, I hope you still remember this Dan Millman quote: "Life has three rules: Paradox, Humor, and Change. Paradox: Life is a mystery; don't waste your time trying to figure it out. Humor: Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength beyond all measure. Change: Know that nothing ever stays the same.”

After PSJA North Children's Show, December 2011.

With only one year left in my high school career, a sense of urgency has crept up inside of me to accomplish my short-term goals. At this point, my short and long-term goals have slowly become intertwined with each other. Graduating from high school, leaving a legacy of impact behind, and attending my dream university are three factors that will assist me in my long-term goal of making a positive difference in the world. I believe each step in the stairway of life is equally as important as the other. My first step was taken the day I decided to dedicate myself to other people's needs. The last step depends on how much of an impact I am meant to leave on the world.

Rather than acting as a choice, graduating from high school has become a necessity for me. My single mother has striven to keep a roof over my head and clothes on my back since the day I was born. Although she attended college for two years, my mother did not complete her education due to financial issues. Now that I am the student, my mother constantly pushes me to graduate from high school and do what I want with my college education.

Despite our family continuing to fall under financial difficulty, my mother wants me to live my dreams and be happy in life. She has worked hard for years to ensure that I obtain my education rather than finishing hers. I am not only the "I want to be the first person in my family to graduate from college" type of teenager, but I am also the "I want to make a difference in others‘ lives" individual. Only by continuing my education beyond high school can I make my mother's sacrifice worthwhile.

Volunteering at Good Samaritan Community Services, March 2012.

Since my sophomore year, I have strived to make a difference in my fellow peers' lives. Be it through random acts of kindness, frequently giving back to the community, or leading by example, I have made countless attempts at proving the importance of altruism. Although I have only been given a limited amount of time to leave a mark on my high school, I believe I have been successful in touching people's lives. Once I leave the school and embark on a new quest, I wish for my actions to be remembered by the students. I hope the connections I made with the City of Pharr, Good Samaritan Community Services, and the Palm Valley Animal Center will make it easier for future student leaders to focus on doing more service rather than building networks.

My purpose behind creating a legacy for future generations does not stem from selfish desires. I want people to know how being an active and altruistic individual can change lives. Without my experiences in the National Honor Society, H.O.P.E. Club, or Cross Country team, I would not be the same person I am today. What people learn from an experience is up to them, but the opportunity must always be present. In a sense, I feel as though I am currently practicing the skills I will need in the future.

Sophomore Year Photo Day, October 2009.

Another goal of mine is to attend Princeton University in order to enhance my learning experience. In my perspective, the term "learning" has been defined as studying a textbook for far too long. As I near the final stretch of my high school career, I yearn for the day when I will be able to educate myself with true knowledge. When asked to define true knowledge, students will give a wide array of different interpretations. However, I have held firm that it includes the topic of benefiting humankind. I believe all students who strive to obtain a higher education should ask themselves, "How will my education help me make a difference in other people's lives?" This question has helped shape my intellectual development ever since I entered high school.

Every step I take in the stairway of life now revolves around how I can use my intelligence to serve others. In my quest to obtain true knowledge, I have learned that a commitment to higher education requires much more than simply memorizing terms, taking tests, then repeating the never-ending cycle. Changing people's lives with the knowledge I can acquire in a university environment such as Princeton is worth the hard work I plan on putting myself through.

National Honor Society Inductions, April 2012.

Furthermore, I believe a college student must be willing to go the extra mile and take risks in order to attain true knowledge. With the ability to choose what I want to study, my future is in my own hands. My choices will ultimately affect my success in life, just like in the real world. The decision to follow my dreams and major in English is one risk I must take to grow as an individual. It will give me opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to write novels and the tools needed to convey positive messages. I plan on obtaining at least a master's degree in the field so I can also become a college professor.

Although I am often criticized by my peers for wanting to pursue an English degree, I feel as though it will truly help me live for a higher purpose in life. Passing on wisdom to a new generation of young adults is a goal that will take particular skills to accomplish through writing and teaching. Only through years of dedicating myself to my concentration can I even attempt to gain the expertise required to be an accomplished author and university professor.

I have chosen writing as one of the ways of communicating my thoughts to the masses due to how strongly literature can influence eager minds. I would not be the same person today if I had never read The Sea-Wolf by Jack London. It was most likely not London's intention to inspire a young man to respect other people's points of view when he wrote the novel over one hundred years ago. However, I have walked away from the story with a new-found view of the world.

Likewise, famous authors such as Thomas Paine, Frederick Douglass, and Lewis Sinclair have all published works for the sole reason of spreading important messages to the masses. The fact of the matter is that writing quality novels for the children of tomorrow will take much time and patience. Therefore, studying the subject further in college and honing my skills as a writer are essential in my quest to spread positive ideals.

In the same regard, teaching will allow me to foster real knowledge in an academic setting. While ordinary professors educate, true professors inspire. By becoming an English professor I believe I can infuse creativity and morality together as one. Throughout my life I have had the honor of meeting and learning from several truly inspiring teachers. They taught not only the subject material but also important lessons in character, leadership, and responsibility. Instead of simply waking up every morning and going to work as a routine, they truly loved their job and displayed it in the classroom. Without these teachers, I would not have the ambition to become an educator and touch other people's lives the way they have touched mine.

Writing before Model United Nations flight, January 2010.

Even as I continue to venture down the path less traveled, my journey has not come even close to an end. The walls and barriers I will come to face in the near future require even bigger tools in order to demolish. My priority in life is to gather these tools so I can break down the obstacles in the way of my destination. No matter how far fate may take me, I want to ensure the spirit of altruism will never die.

Whether it is through my writing or my lectures, my goal to influence people will not stop once I am gone. Someday I hope I will be able to inspire another individual to make a difference in the world, and then that person can pass on the message, and so on, and so on.

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