Open letter to my daughter on turning 30

by Madeleine Kolb

Dear A.,
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately because last month was your birthday. Not just another birthday, but a milestone birthday—you turned 30.

That got me thinking about a couple of things I want to say to you. Maybe “repeat” would be more accurate because I’ve said some of this before.

And the first thing is that I’m really proud of you

You’ve accomplished a lot in 30 years and—as most people do—you’ve had some challenges along the way.

I’m proud of you for taking a break between your sophomore and junior year of college.

It was a risky thing to do, but you thought about it and then you did it. That year—which you spent working at Home Depot—taught you a lot about life. When you went back to school,  you were changed. And it showed in your grades and in your motivation and focus. 

I’m proud of you for looking before you leap.

You did so well your last two years in college that you applied to a number of graduate programs in your major. Several accepted you and some did not, one letter explaining that there’d been over 70 applicants for 10 openings. 

That got you thinking: if getting into graduate school in your field was that competitive, being in graduate school would be even more so and getting a job yet more so. And after all that, the pay would not be good. So you deferred your acceptance and got a job with a non-profit organization.

A great move—not financially, of course—but professionally. As a campus coordinator, you made lots of presentations to college students, helped organize a major conference, did podcasts for the organization’s website, and more. It was invaluable experience.

Then you talked to people and checked out graduate programs in another field. You applied to some programs with a very thoughtful and well-written statement about how your undergraduate study and work experience had prepared you very well for the program at that school. 

So when you started graduate school, you could look forward to getting a job doing work you enjoyed and which paid well. And you did!

The second thing is some advice

Take care of your health.

You do this. You exercise, eat a healthful diet, stay active mentally and socially with work and friends and family and travel and all sorts of interests. 

But when a person is young, she tends to take good health for granted (I know I did), and you won’t always be young. The way to be as healthy as you can be as long as you live is to take charge of your own health.

Finally, two words: Records retention

A.: Mo-oo-omm! That sounds so bureaucratic!

Me: Yah, it is. But hear me out. I’d advice you to keep two kinds of records, starting now.

One is your medical records.  Ask for copies of your lab reports; results of screenings, such as mammograms; and diagnoses, and file them away. That will be very useful, especially as you move around and go to new doctors. I’ve been doing it for years but wish I’d started when I was your age.

The other is your work records—not only information about each job with the title, description, supervisors, contact information—but also every document you get back with comments on it, such as “Good job” or “Excellent work,” or whatever.

Also every award (monetary or otherwise), bonus, promotion, performance review, and so on. This stuff is useful because—as time goes by—you won’t remember all the details, and, frankly, sometimes you may need a reminder of all the kudos you’ve gotten.

A.: Yah, I can see that. It’s so–oo–o bureaucratic, but it’s a good idea. OK, thanks, Mom.

Me: I love you, A. 


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