Roslyn Potter’s letter to her almost-16-year-old self

Friday, April 14, 1961

Dearest Roz,

Tomorrow is your 16th birthday, Happy Birthday! You’ve got so much to be happy about. It’s true, that your family cannot afford a restaurant for you and your friends, but one day you will realize that it is the friends that are more important than the food. I know you are worried about your parents and your brother being part of your first party. Your brother will be out with his friends, and your parents will not be seen all evening. It will be a wonderful night, better than you could have imagined. Fifty years from now, some of the girls from this party will still be your close friends. When you visit New York in the future, you will get together with your old friends, and it will seem as though no time has passed at all. Treasure your good friends, they will stay true for a lifetime.

I know you’re excited and scared, you’re starting college in September, and on a scholarship too. Yes, you are going to have to work hard to keep the scholarship and take the pressure off your family; you will likely work during the summers. It will be fine, you can handle it all. You can handle anything that comes your way.

It will be a long commute from Brooklyn to the Bronx, but it will be worth it. Your three years at NYU’s Heights will be among the best years of your life. You’ve told the college that you intend to major in biology (and you’re taking the AP course), but there will be a little doubt in your mind. Do you really love biology, or are you copying your brother? Well college is the place to find out. Explore as many disciplines as you can. If you find something that grabs you, fine, if you come back to biology, it will be because you love it.

Enjoy your summer before college. Continue your folk singing in Washington Square Park on the weekends with your friends. Laugh, dance, sing, and enjoy life with those you love. You will find musical and theater outlets at the university. Take advantage of them. Your life should be filled with music and art, literature and adventure.

“You will develop a love of teaching and puzzle solving, and these will become the lynchpins of your career.”

You will have to make a series of important decisions on your own in a few years. Will you teach and go to grad school in biology, should you consider medicine, or will you choose the law? I was a college debater and faced those same choices. Choose what you love, and love what you do. The puzzle solving you enjoy will lead you to found a new discipline that will give you a new career path called Scientific Intelligence. Medicine is not the only career for a biologist. You will find joy and success in teaching, and in research in the pharma industry.

Your future will be filled with choices and opportunities, weigh your options and in the end listen to your heart. It will tell you the truth. Most important, enjoy all that life can offer. Be happy!


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