“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I will go all in.

My dad taught my brother, sister, and me to play blackjack when I was 10. There was never a serious wager—we used plastic chips to place bets—but I figured out how to consistently finagle my way to accumulate a hefty pile of loot.

I learned some valuable lessons from a simple card game.

You work with the hand you're dealt. For me, that meant growing up in small-town South Louisiana, wearing husky-brand jeans as a pudgy kid, and wondering why it just didn't feel right to have a girlfriend. But I can work with these cards. They suit me.

The rules of the game matter. To me, fairness trumps everything. When I see inequality, I speak out against it, on behalf of my former middle-school students, like Brionka and Jacinto, who deserve much more than I was able to give them as a young teacher. When the rules aren't fair, I work to level the playing field for those not at the table, as well as for those who are but feel cashed out.

Being real works. Plus, I'm terrible at bluffing. It's more important now because I don't think I'm playing solely on my own behalf. If I have a wild card, it won't be hiding up my sleeve; I will use it when others might benefit.

I expect to lose sometimes. I know it's not always about winning (although I'd rather have more chips than fewer).

But no matter what, I hope I have the courage to double down on what really matters in life.

I'm a gambler. It's time to ante up.

And I'm feeling lucky.

— Chris Kaleel