“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
  1. Married by 20
  2. Long hair
  3. Nice job, maybe a receptionist

In high school, I wrote myself a letter not to be opened for five years. It ended with the above list of dreams for future Tara. When I rediscovered the letter, the person who wrote it felt so far away, and yet I have carried her with me every day.

As the second-oldest child adopted into a multiracial family of nine in small-town Oklahoma, I almost didn’t go to college. We couldn’t afford it. Besides, I didn’t know anyone who had finished college.

My parents pushed me to consider college. My father stayed up at night proofreading the 30+ scholarship applications I submitted. Attending the University of Oklahoma changed my world view and sense of self to the point where those three life goals felt so foreign to me.

Don’t get me wrong – I would have made one hell of a receptionist, but it would have been because I didn’t know I had other options.

Finding that letter showed me how much high-school Tara underestimated me and how lucky I am that I didn’t accomplish my goals.

I will continue to see the beauty in not getting what I want.

I will continue to surprise the girl who wrote that letter.

— Tara Hagan