Dear 18 year old Jen,

You are going from being at a school where you are praised and honored to a school where you will seem very average. But four years from now you will come out better for it. Your world view will expand and you will see that you were worthy of attending Haverford College even if you were not valedictorian of your high school class and never attended an elite private or boarding school.

You have qualities you don’t see that are much more important than you realize. Others see them. It is what sets you apart. Own it now.

Study abroad. It will be many years before you have the time or funds to have these kind of experiences. What did you think you were going to miss on campus? You will always regret not taking this opportunity.

It is fine to take time off between college and grad school. In fact, you may decide to go on a different path than attending law school and that is fine. Take the one year art fellowship in Vermont and see where it leads. Don’t give into your fear (or your mother’s fear) that if you don’t go right to law school you won’t go at all. That is a sign. Do something else.

You have qualities you don’t see that are much more important than you realize. Others see them. It is what sets you apart. Own it now.

Stop dieting. Stop listening to your mother telling you that you need to be skinny to find a husband. Stop letting her explain to you how she used to share an apple with a friend before a date. That is not a meal. You have never been skinny and never had a lack of attention or confidence. Focus on that. You don’t want the years of struggle and health problems that are going to result from trying to become something that is unnatural to your body. And you will look back on these years and realize how pretty you were and how stupid it was to put so much emphasis on these type of issues.

Your college boyfriend will break your heart. Don’t dwell on this. You will realize even though he was sweet and fun that you had nothing in common and would never have lasted anyway. Even after seeing a bad marriage and a brutal and public divorce with your own parents you will find love. It will take you a lot longer than your friends and your sisters. That is okay. You will find grown up love. You will realize it is worth the fallout it causes because he’s not white and not Jewish. It won’t always be easy but it will be real.

I’m looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.  –Carrie Bradshaw, Sex in the City

Don’t put off fun. Spend lots of time with friends and family. Wear the “good” jewelry to the grocery store. Eat pizza on the “good china.” Your life can change in an instant and it will. You will be blessed to survive a near death accident but the fallout and recovery will be great. You will never be the same person and that’s okay. The same resilience that got you where you are will get you through this. When your therapist asks you to discuss your identity outside of being a lawyer you will realize you led a very small life and you will change all of it. And you won’t look back.

Your life will not be what you expect it to be. Never look at that as a disappointment. Think about how it felt to take stock of your life in the ICU nine years ago. Think about your next milestone. Think about your next challenge. But also cherish all the little things. Laughing with friends, a beautiful night listening to an outdoor concert, a great flea market treasure find, sitting on the couch with your dogs watching reality TV – this is the stuff life is made of. This is what you’ll miss when you lose your mother unexpectedly. Or was it really unexpected? You’ll miss the funny voicemail messages with the thick French accent. The random cards. The bad singing and dancing. Eating Thanksgiving dinner on the floor after a pipe burst and the kitchen flooded. Your brain will weed out all the other stuff over time.

Your life will not be what you expect it to be. Never look at that as a disappointment.

You were never one to compare yourself to others and that won’t change. You will become even more entrenched in your beliefs and who you are. You don’t need to justify your decisions or lifestyle to anybody. You will never regret not having children. You will realize over time that religion and faith are not the same thing. And faith is what keeps you moving forward.

The best is yet to come. Make your mark on the world.

Love,
Jen

 

Jennifer Lynn Robinson is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, universities and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. Jennifer is also the President of FemCity Philadelphia, a women’s business networking organization with 1600 members. Jennifer is a contributor for The Huffington Post and has been highlighted in both local and national media.You can connect with her at @AreYouNetworked on Twitter or Instagram or at purposefulnetworking.com.