Cozette came into the world like a firecracker. We barely made it to the hospital. My wife delivered before the midwife arrived, but the first thing the midwife said after checking on our new baby girl was, “She is strong and feisty.” 

Trust me when I say, she has more than lived up to this initial assessment. 

Cozette is an incredibly strong human being. Born with deep empathy and a clenched fist, she has this thing about seeking others to help and protect. Sure, she’s a kid who makes mistakes, they all do, but her empathy has been something that defines her. Even though she’d deny it. 

She’s so bullheaded. On the day she decided she was going to learn to ride a bike, she removed the training wheels. She invited the failure, and within a couple of hours of falling–she was riding. And that was that. It was a similar situation with learning to drive. And frankly, literally everything she undertakes. You can’t tell this one “no.”

She’s incredibly creative, but will deny it to your face. That said, from the time she was a little girl she was able to see things that none of us did. Little, seemingly insignificant things like an important book on a shelf in a movie, or a color used in an art exhibit that reinforced a theme. Stuff like that. Stuff that artists see. And even though we enrolled her in everything from dance to drama to paint classes for years, she’ll tell you she wants nothing to do with creativity. 

That said, this past year her English teacher asked her to write a poem for the school yearbook. He saw it in her too. And yes, the poem is brilliant. 

When she entered high school, she was like a kid being let loose at a carnival. Trying to live her own version of High School Musical, she latched on with whomever she thought might seek fun. Unfortunately, during the first semester of her freshman year, she got in with the wrong crowd and ended up neck-deep in a pretty dramatic cyberbullying situation. Her grades suffered. Her home life suffered. Her reputation suffered. She knew she had to make a change, and did—essentially reinventing herself. By being true to herself. 

By the end of her freshman year she’d decided that she was going to go full bore the rest of the way so that she could get into college. And everything changed. Her grades skyrocketed. She lettered on the swim team. She made all new friends. And when some of them turned out to be inauthentic and dramatic, she made different friends. She got a job as soon as she turned 16. Last year she worked two jobs all year. She’s currently a lifeguard at the pool she’s been going to her whole life, and is the head coach of the swim team. The kids love her.

Next week she graduates high school. And in August, she will be entering Flagler College as a freshman. She applied to about 10 colleges, not knowing whether she’d get into any of them considering her awful freshman year. But her essays were amazing, and she was accepted at 9 of the 10 schools she applied–including LSU and Tennessee. But in the end she chose a little liberal arts school that was her dream college as a little girl, thanks to us vacationing in St. Augustine so often (I grew up near there). 

I have no idea what the future holds for this one. But because she combines wicked determination with deep empathy and a curious nature—I know she’ll be fine whatever she ends up doing. 

I’m just grateful she is on my team. Because you definitely want this person on your team. 

So here’s to Cozette. My firebrand. Continue to lead with your heart, my dear, it will never let you down. 

If you would like to send Cozette a graduation gift, you can Venmo me @Jim-Mitchem and I’ll make sure she gets it along with who it’s from and any personalization. I would provide her Venmo, but she’d kill me knowing I’m offering this at all. Only, we have a very small family and I’ve always considered my friends to be an extension of that family.


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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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