“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Get mud in between my toes, dirt under my fingernails and sing the blues.

As a child, my cousin and I would play all day, such that when I came home at night, my sandals and feet would be stained with the Mississippi red clay. I plan to remember the joy of truly letting go and playing with reckless abandon and that nothing can replace true friendship.

Driving through the backwoods of the Mississippi Delta one day, my father stopped and had me pick a couple of pieces of cotton. As I looked down at my dirty fingers, he told me never to forget that my ancestors had worked in those very cotton fields. I plan to remember that true progress comes from getting your fingers a little dirty and that the freedoms I enjoy are not a privilege, but a debt obligation.

My grandparents would always be playing the blues when I went to visit them as a child, and I couldn't understand why anyone would want to listen to such miserable music. Over time, however, I have come to hear the story behind the music of the blues, a story of perseverance. I plan to remember that every person I meet has a story, and that my life can be enriched by taking the time to listen to it.

— Natalie C. Eckford