Let me set the stage with 18 year old Eric:
I: Don’t forget where you came from
You’re a senior at Castro Valley High School. You are 18 years old. Your hair is spiked, and you have ‘bangs.’ You have a shit-load of clothes (matching outfits, adidas track jackets, 8 pairs of different Adidas Shell-toed shoes and K-Swiss, and a ton of t-shirts).
You are the troop leader of Troop 11 in Alameda. You own your own car (your 1991 Sentra Se-R which you bought and built-up yourself). You earn $200 a month (stipend) from KCCEB (Korean community center of the east bay) for doing community service by being a student intern (for KAYA — the Korean American Youth Association).
You earn some extra side-cash from tutoring. You know that your purpose of life is to help empower others, and give back to the community.
You wanna make your momma proud. You want to help uplift her out of poverty — and one day make enough money to support her.
You wanna do something epic and grand in life. You want to change the world for the better. Like Gandhi, you want to be the ‘change you wish to see in the world.’
II: You are self-made
You look at your peers, and they all seem so dumb, confused, and sheltered. You know that getting into a good school (UCLA) isn’t the golden ticket to ‘success’. Rather, you know it is just another jumping board— to grow, evolve, and succeed in life.
You feel bad for your friends who will be stuck in the Castro Valley bubble. You are proud that you hustled hard in high school. Even though you only had a 3.8 GPA, you hustled like hell. You took all AP (advanced placement) classes in your junior/senior year— getting pretty much ‘straight B’s’ (but still counted as an ‘A’ because it was an AP class). Your Sophomore and Junior year you played football (side linebacker and middle linebacker)— and you played tennis (Sophomore year until Senior year). You have great pride in being financially independent. From age 16 years old, you were more or less a ‘self-made man.’
III: EKIZZ vs Eric
18 year old Eric: let’s call him (‘EKIZZ’) — E(RIC) KIZZ (KIM).
Here would be an imaginary conversation between ‘EKIZZ’ and Eric (senior, at age 29):
EKIZZ: Hey Eric, how is life at age 29?
Eric: Life is pretty good. You married Cindy (who would have known), you are in the best physical shape of your life, you are living everyday to the fullest, and you have more than $100,000 in savings.
EKIZZ: Damn son! I’m hella proud of you E. So you finally have that $5,000 to turbocharge your SE-R?
Eric: Well… Anna crashed the car. And I don’t have a car anymore.
EKIZZ: Why don’t you just buy another SE-R?
Eric: I probably will when I get back home, and turbocharge that bad boy, and strip it clean — and just have fun.
EKIZZ: Sounds good. What are you doing with your life now?
Eric: Well, you know us — we don’t need much to be happy. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch anymore— and just drink a shitload of coffee, and eat a lot of eggs at night. I save a lot of money — I got rich by living below my means. But EKIZZ— know that you’re spending too much money. Don’t care about what others think of you, and quit wasting money on clothes. All that baggy shit ain’t going to be cool in a few years time. Use that money on buying books and educating yourself instead.
EKIZZ: Books are boring.
Eric: Yeah, but books are going to empower you, and give you the information you need to become the best version of yourself. And one day you’re going to become ‘enlightened’ to help guide others.
EKIZZ: What is ‘enlightenment?’
Eric: It is knowing what is important in your life.
EKIZZ: But I already know what is important in my life. I know money isn’t the key to happiness. I know I like to work out, hang with the homies, to help the community, listen to hip hop music, be active at church, and serve others.
Eric: Damn, I forgot — you’re actually pretty on-point.
EKIZZ: Damn right son. I mean— eh, older brother.
Eric: Shit, I forgot what it was like to be 18. You already had shit (kind of) figured out. But anyways, still read more books. Hustle harder, never give up, and devote your life to helping others.
EKIZZ: Got it boss.
I never want to forgot where I came from — my pretty shitty 12-year old childhood, but how I was able to overcome adversity. And now I am in a position of privilege— I need to devote my life to help serving others, and empowering others.
Never forget Eric. And thank you EKIZZ for everything.