Combining art and science: Ilana Robbins’ Letter to her Young Self

Ilana Robbins received her bachelor’s degree in art and biology from the University of Connecticut, going on to study art history and design at Harvard Extension and the Museum School.

Dear Ilana,

Life seems really hard right now, being your last year of high school. Your home life is not so great, parents fighting all the time, the words “divorce” looming over everyone’s heads. You are trying to find your way as a teenager, who is really talented artistically, but feels that going into something else would be a better bet. “How am I going to make a living as an artist?” You know you love science but what about fashion, art, music etc. So many questions keep spinning around in your brain. And all this pressure from your parents, friends and teachers to do well so you can get into the right school. Meanwhile, you are trying to find out who “you” are and what your purpose in the world is to be…

Wow, that is a lot for a young person to handle. I will tell you that life gets so much better. I know it seems like that is not possible. But think about this, you will one day be able to not only be focused on science, but be drawing, painting and just being creative almost every day. And that your love of art will propel you down a path you never knew existed. All the pressure to be at the right school will have no bearing on where you go. You’ll end up at the school that was not your first choice but will give you the opportunities you never knew existed and you will make life long friends. Just remember, do what you love, what gets you excited, what makes you feel good every day!

And don’t worry so much about how you look – your crazy curly hair and big glasses. Eventually there will be so many numerous options for hair products you won’t know which one to choose. And people will comment often on how they wish they had lovely curls like you. And luckily your glasses will get smaller and smaller and you will even get to use contacts. You will become so much more comfortable in your own skin and body. Just make sure you take the time to take care of it. And you will own it (flaws and all)!

Your parents will divorce, but it will be the best thing possible for everyone because eventually your dad will remarry and so will your mom and to much better “fits” for them. It will all work itself out. Sure there will be drama some days, but overall, life is good.

You will become super close to your sister (even though now you are like total opposites) and mom. They will be your rocks through thick and thin. You will discover that some friends you had then will no longer be in your life, but it is for the best.

Meanwhile those who were meant to continue down your path with you will stick around and become life long friends. You will be a part of many friends’ weddings and births of their children. Including your own sister who will have two beautiful boys, your nephews, whom you will get to see grow up and explore life. Travel will be your greatest pleasure (along with listening to music), you will get to travel all over the world, exploring new places, cultures and art. You will get to travel with your mom, sister and lots of friends to all sorts of exotic locations. You’ll get to walk on glaciers, swim with Sting Rays, see “David” and eat lots of gelato. And through all of it you’ll keep travel journals and take tons of photos to remind you that life is full of possibilities.

Along the way you will meet lots of interesting people who influence your life. You will have ups and downs and bear some personal losses – like grandparents, cousins and close friends. But know to love is better than to never have loved at all.

Which is a good lesson. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there to find love. It can be a crazy ride, but in the end it is worth it. One day you’ll meet this amazing man who really “gets” you. He’ll be cute, smart and make you laugh. And you’ll have great adventures together – traveling, going to concerts and looking at art.

And you will learn to trust yourself and your own decisions. It’ll be hard sometimes to know what the right decision will be, but what your gut tells you will help guide you. Sometimes it will cause you to feel lots of emotions that you may want to ignore, but don’t. Don’t ignore them. Trust in those feelings. Trust that doing the right thing will take you places, trust that being a good person and having a huge heart (that you sometimes wear on your sleeve), will be worthwhile.

You will have lots of choices and opportunities to learn, grow and change – take advantage of them. If you get the opportunity to do something new, even if it may seem scary, try it. You may find you will love it.

Just remember to hang in there. Don’t stress out and make sure to look in that mirror and give yourself a big hug, cause you deserve it!

Much Love,



Ilana Robbins has over 10 years experience in biotech/pharma and healthcare working at such companies as Vertex, Novartis, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and New England Medical Center. Her areas of focus include graphic design, web design and development, digital and social media strategies and team and relationship building. In her free time she enjoys traveling (her next trip is to Japan), going to see live bands, and attending art shows.

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