Dear Zoe

Dear Zoe,

The first time I met you was at your parents’ Chicago house. You were squirming, pink, and about the size of a hami melon. When your mom (nervously) put you in my arms, I felt the meaning of not just life but continuity. At that point in my life, I had already held quite a few babies from my teenage babysitting days to my stints as a high school volunteer at a hospital for ill children, mostly terminal. Holding very young children with light dimming from their eyes makes you question the universe, faith, hope. Holding you, the first grandchild in our immediate family, however, I felt the past, the present, and the future of our family in one little bundle. I saw my parents, your parents, and your mom’s sisters all intertwined through your DNA. It was a flash of a second in a lifetime, but in that one moment I understood that for all the hurt in the world, life is always the redemption.

I often joke that no matter how old you are, I will always see you as that happy-go-lucky four-year-old who sank into the bucket seat of my sports car and struggled to see over the dashboard. Just wait till you are old enough to drive, I thought to myself that day. Just wait till the world opens up in front of you. Just wait…just wait 18 years for your aunt to catch up and write you this letter to mark not just your college graduation but your triumph over a lot of adversities that I wish you didn’t have to face at such a young age.

Well, that day is here, and we’ve already celebrated your big milestone. We’ve all told you how proud we are of you. But as the dust settles I wonder if there isn’t something I should say to you, that I perhaps wish someone had said to me when I was at your age? The truth is that even if I could time travel to talk to my 21-year-old self, it would all go in one ear and out the other. I would still have my Madonna outfits, perm my hair, and not buy a Birkin at the 1990s price as an investment. Advice is freely dispensed and just as easily disposed. So take what I have to say not as advice but simply friendly travel tips for your journey…

Quality over quantity, especially when it comes to shoes and confidantes.

Max out on your imagination, not your credit card.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes and recovery add up to wisdom. Enjoy the view along the way even if sometimes the road is hard.

Dream big and live like no one else’s business; judge no one because they’re probably trying to do the same. May humility and compassion always be in your heart and courage under your wings as you find your way to the summit, however you choose to define it.

The world is here. No more waiting; go out and get it.


  1. little luxury list

    This is such a sweet post! May Zoe make and learn from her mistakes. We all should remember to dream big as well. Good luck to Zoe in her next steps!

  2. Jane @

    What great and thoughtful advice. I wish someone had given me some of those advice when I was younger. One of our friends’ son recently graduated from college, and I still remembered him when he was just toddling around and learning to talk. Time sure flies, but it’s a good thing, continuity.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *