The Palace of Versailles Revisited: A Letter to Future Jen

Paris, July 1988

Dear Future Jen,

Thirty years from now, almost to the day, you’ll be here. At the Palace of Versailles. Standing in front of Apollo’s fountain, having your picture taken.

In 1988, you’re fresh off of a month of studying in the South of France, where you not only earned a university credit, but met a boy and fell in love. You’ve been away from him for three days. It feels like longer. You’ll spend three days in Paris. It will feel like fewer. He’ll tell you he’s the one. He’s not.

In 2018, it will be your husband of 21 years taking your picture, while your two children (who are practically-13 and almost-15) look on (which is remarkable because for years you’ll insist you don’t want kids–or a husband for that matter). They’ll be hot and tired and cranky (both hubby and the kids) because France is experiencing record high temperatures, you just spent an hour and a half on the metro, then the train, to the outskirts of Paris, and the line-up to enter the palace proper is so long by the time you get there (snaking up and down and filling the massive Cour d’Honneur) that you’ll decide (yes, at the hottest point of the hottest day) to wander the gardens first and see if maybe the line-up to get in will be shorter later in the day.

It will be.

You always swore you’d go back to France. You didn’t think it would take 30 years though. In fact, the path you’ll take to get here doesn’t even remotely resemble what you thought it would.

  • In 1989, instead of going to university in Belgium (which you’ll figure is close enough to France to count), you’ll stay in London and go to Western instead. (Part of it is the money. Part of it is not being ready to be so far away from home for so long. All of it is the universe looking out for you.)
  • The boy you meet in 1990? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • The boy you meet in 1991? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • The boy you meet in 1992? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • You’ll move to Ottawa in 1993 and meet your best friend there. You won’t realize it the day you meet her, but thank your lucky stars you go for a drink after a particularly taxing translation class one day and bond over Wildberry coolers and stories of asshole boyfriends who weren’t the one. (She’ll have a few too.) 
  • The boy you meet in 1994? The one you meet the same night you announce to your best friend (who you never would have met had you gone to Brussels ) that you don’t care if you never go on another date as long as you live? He’s the one. Be thankful for the assholes of ’90, ’91 and ’92. You won’t recognize him otherwise.
  • In 1994, Mom will be diagnosed with cancer. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. It’s not. She’ll live to see you marry the love of your life in 1996.
  • And then she’ll die. On May 15, 1999. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. It’s not.
  • In 2000, you’ll change your mind about not wanting kids. For all the wrong reasons. Thank the universe that the love of your life knew better and said no.
  • In 2001, you’ll convince yourself you don’t want kids again.
  • In 2002, you’ll change your mind again. For all the right reasons. Thank the love of your life for being there when the universe doesn’t agree and says no. 
  • In 2003 you’ll have the son you never knew you wanted.
  • In 2005 you’ll have the daughter you never knew you needed.
  • From 2006 to 2018 you’ll live through a blur of days that take forever and years that fly by. You’ll work and play and eat and sleep and read and write and drink and shop and laugh and cry. You’ll love your family and build a home and travel to places you always wanted to go.
  • And yes, in 30 years, you’ll make it back to France.

But today you are 18 years old. It’s the summer of 1988. You’re in France. Having your picture taken in front of Apollo’s fountain at the Palace of Versailles by a girl you were sure you’d be friends with forever, who you’ll lose touch with within a year.

Not everything will turn out the way you planned.

And really, it’s not supposed to.

So look at the camera. Tilt your head. Smile.

And trust me. Don’t change a thing.

Check out what Luc has to say about the Palace of Versailles.