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

“I’m going to be mean.”

This was the thought that entered my 8-year old mind, as I felt my eyes well up.

It was September 2001, I had just moved to New York from Singapore, and I stuck out – dressed in ponytails in an Abercrombie world. Brown, in a sea of white.

During morning snack, two of my classmates had abandoned me during a game of hide-and-seek, hoping I would get lost.

They succeeded.

As I breathlessly ran back, with my new vow of meanness in mind, I marched up to the bullies and said – nothing.

The TV was on, and the tragedy it was broadcasting was not an imaginary one.

As teachers scrambled to understand and explain what was happening,

As they tried to locate our mostly Manhattan-bound parents (including my father),

As we watched the same TV-loop of smoke…

I sat down next to the girl who teased me.

It’s not that she became my best friend after that day. It’s that in a world of hate and intolerance, my insecurities and the taunts of others felt small. But the hope I felt – as I took her hand and she smiled at me – felt immense.

I changed that day. As I grew up, this change has become an identity defining promise. One I have lived by, and intend to keep for the rest of my life:

If I can be anything, I will be kind.

— Sonakshi Bose