Kate Bischoff

Employment Attorney & HR Consultant, tHRive

Once upon a time nearly 43 years ago, I grew up on an idyllic lake just south of a small city in Central Minnesota, U.S. of A. In the summer, I woke up, put on my Coca-Cola swimsuit and ran down the hill to the lake to obtain all the freckles I could while floating the day away on a Sunkist soda floatie only to be interrupted for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Dukes of Hazzard. In the other months, I got out my sled, rake, or bike and wandered around the 90 acres of sorghum field in front of the house or plopped down on the grass and snow. I was outside most of the time, sneaking raspberries from the neighbor’s garden or investigating the death of frog on the quiet country road that led to my house. My “nuclear” family would implode after my only-a-year-younger brother would leave the house.

Today, I live in the big city of Minneapolis, a city with great inequities desperately attempting to do the right thing. My two teenaged sons spend the bulk of their time with me while I sit at our little dining room table training on respectful workplace issues, interviewing witnesses in a workplace investigation, or calming a client down after a threat-laden interaction with a former employee. While we would normally be planning our next adventure, we huddle together trying to avoid a deadly disease playing gin rummy or watching the latest action comedy. Right now, this is success and the good life.

So, what would I say to my 13-year-old self?

1. Boxes Ain’t Shit

You’re going to think that once you

– Go to university
– Go to law school
– Find a husband
– Buy a house
– Pass the bar
– Get a real job
– Have a kid

you’ll be happy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Definitely go to university and go to law school – stay there in fact, become an academic. You might have more fun and you’ll definitely be challenged the way you like. But, please do NOT think that you can check the rest of the boxes and live happily ever after. Once you have a house and have the best kids ever, you’ll feel trapped, afraid to get out of things that make you woefully unhappy.

2. Navel Gaze

You’re going to be in a rush. Always. You’ll fly through university, graduating in less than 2.5 years, but you’ll miss the fun. You won’t study abroad. You won’t spend a summer being a camp counselor or floating in the lake ever again. You’ll rush to have kids before you realize the guy you’re with is the wrong one. Slow down. Look at your outtie belly button every now and again. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is what you want to be doing. This is a worthy question.

3. Leave on a Jet Plane Often

GET OUT of here. Go places. Going places will make you a better human. Sliding down a glacier will show you how fragile and majestic everything really is. Seeing poverty on a grand scale will make you more frugal and giving at the same time. Traveling will exercise your empathy muscle much more than you ever thought possible. In particular, Africa will educate you on patience. Learn more patience. It will make you a better mother.

4. Keep Connections

You’ll want to remember Elizabeth from that writing camp at Lewis & Clark the summer before your senior year who you lost touch with after she went to Tulane. You’ll also want to remember the name of the crew member on that sailboat in Malta who gave you the best compliment you’ll ever receive. You’ll never forget Makumba’s deep belly laugh or Ranya’s mocking of your lack of understanding the need to rinse rice. Do your best to keep those connections. There will be good people thrown at you throughout life. Hold tight to those people, get their addresses so you can send them cheesy cards or (sigh) Facebook videos. They are important to you, and they should know that.

5. Never Forget How Lucky You Are

Lastly, never forget how lucky you really are. Share your luck. You will work for things to be better, like ending gun violence that takes too many other mothers and children, ending the gender wage gap that keeps too many women out of fulfilling lives, and breaking down barriers to real inclusiveness in workplaces all over the country. But, you only get to do this because you’ll land a work-for-yourself gig that gives you the graces and comforts to both feed your family and let you march for fairness. This is a gift. Share it.

Thank you Kate Bischoff writing A Letter To My 13 Year Old Self

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