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  • jeniferfoster2

To my niece, as she nears 18...

My niece is about to turn eighteen and is in the process of making a decision about where she is going to college.  She did not get into all the schools she applied to and is dealing with that disappointment.  She is very stressed about not going to the right place.  I was visiting with her and my sister last weekend, and it’s been on my mind since.  I also have a relatively new client that I’ve been talking to.  We’ve been talking about his history.  He has so much shame and sadness about what he has done in his past.  It has made me think more retrospectively.  I decided to write out some of the things I want to say to my niece.  These are things I also need to remember (and I have another post coming – where I talk about some of the stress I’ve been feeling recently) – and I thought maybe some of you will be able to relate to these thoughts (or you have your own thoughts of what to add.). 



Dear E ~

I know college feels like it is critical to your success as a human.  Where you attend college may feel like it is the most important decision in your life.  I know the disappointment of getting rejected can feel overwhelming.  Regardless, however, I’m proud of all you’ve done.  You got in to six schools!  That’s pretty incredible.  But, even if you did not get in anywhere, I’d be proud of you.  You are so much more than what college you go to!  That will end up being one tiny piece of who you become (are becoming).  It will shape your journey – but so will many other people, places and experiences.


There are nearly 8 billion people in the world.  It is hard to feel important when you feel how tiny you are in this massive human race.  You are not the smartest in the 8 billion.  You are not the most beautiful of the 8 billion.  You don’t have the most skills of anyone on the planet.  But, don’t worry.  You are also not the least intelligent, the least attractive nor the person with the least skills.  How do you stand out when you’re among so many others?  You don’t spend too much time worrying about it.  You do the best you can.  You try to be mindful of your impact on the world – both on the physical planet and also on the human planet.  I like to think that we are merely a pebble being skimmed across a lake.  Will the ripples you cause send positive or negative vibes into the world?

College is not the first or the last time in your life that people are going to make judgments about you based on very little information.  People will make judgments about you throughout your life.  Some of that will be based on things you do/have done.  More often, you’ll be judged on things completely out of your control.  Ultimately, how other people feel about you does not really matter.  You will never, no matter what you do, make everyone happy.  It’s best to try to focus on being proud of yourself.  I don’t mean cocky.  I mean feeling genuinely happy with the effort you have put into yourself, your relationships, your work, and your life.  That will matter more than what someone else thinks.

As you move forward, try to remember that out of 8 billion people, roughly 6.5% of the population goes to college.  You have more privilege and opportunity than huge swaths of the human race.  Try to remain grateful for all the opportunities that you have others do not.  Keep in mind that those opportunities do not make you any better (or worse) than anyone else.  But, they do give you abilities to do things that others may not have access to.  What will you do with those opportunities?


In life, you will do some things that you are ashamed about.  You will do things that hurt others.  You will fail in some things.  Do not apologize for something that you aren’t sorry for.  If you do apologize, work hard not to create the same harm again.  Give yourself grace and space to make mistakes, but take responsibility for the mistakes you make.  

Try to give others grace too.  People do not advertise their troubles.  Most of the time, people have experienced challenges that you know nothing about.  Sometimes, the most difficult of people (including those that bully or gossip) have experienced challenges that they are trying hard to avoid.  That does not mean that you should allow people to torment you.  Understanding where behavior comes from is not the same as excusing it.  Practice forgiveness lest you become as bitter as they are.


Not everyone has your best interest at heart.  Make sure that you find people you can trust to have your back, even when you’re not around. 


Be kind to yourself.  Take care of your body.  Exercise.  Eat decently.  Give yourself down time.  Do activities which broaden your horizon.  Stretch.  Be mindful of what you put into your body, be it food, drugs (prescription or street), alcohol.  If you have sex, use protection.  All of these things can have long-term impacts.  Work hard.  But, this time in your life is about more than just academic knowledge.  Spend time experimenting with who you want to be.  Enjoy yourself.  Be silly.  Life is not always that serious.  It’s often more fun when it’s not. 

Choosing a college feels important.  It is probably not the most important decision you will make in your life.  You will literally make thousands.  Some of those decisions will be good.  Others will not.  Try to give yourself grace.  No one has all the answer.  Life is a journey.  Try to learn from the choices you make.  By the way – there is a book called, “the Book of Answers.”  It is not that helpful. 


I know at eighteen, you feel that you have a great deal of knowledge.  That is both true and untrue.  Please understand that there are many people in this world who have incredibly different experiences than you do.  Do your best to be open to hearing and learning about other perspectives.  It will change your views and your outlook.  That’s a good thing.  If you allow yourself to be open and flexible then you will see others’ experience as a gift, not a threat.  It will shape you in ways that you don’t anticipate. 

Finally, it can be tempting to try to dictate everything in your life.  Do your best, but realize that control is mostly a fallacy.  Ultimately, we have little control over our path.  There will be times when life knocks you to your knees.  You will feel like you can hardly breathe.  Your views of life will be shaken.  It will hurt.  A lot.  Give yourself time to feel your feelings.  Wade through it at your own pace.  Understand that sometimes even the hardest of times can bring both positive and negative results to your world.  And, therein lies the power of life.  You have zero control over what life throws at you.  But, you can control what you take from the experiences you're given.  You can view them negatively, get resentful and bitter and take it out on everyone else around you.  Or, you can learn from them; grow from them; work through them and move forward.  There are also some paths in between.  You decide.  The challenges of your past and those of your family and ancestors do not have to continue to be your future.  You have choices.  So many choices.  Each one will impact your life, be it in big or small ways.  But take time to enjoy the journey.  Look for the flowers.  Watch the sunsets.  Hug your friends and family.  Appreciate the smiles.  Breathe. 

"Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." — Helen Keller

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Apr 12
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Beautifully written… as from a wise oracle! Can’t wait to share this with her! ❤️

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