Jen Kirby (aka my mom) grew up in a small farm town in Nebraska. She attended the local public school where she had the same 10 students in her class from kindergarten to grade 12. After graduation, she went on to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, graduating with a business degree. Merck hired her as a pharma rep out of college and moved her to Tampa, Florida in 1988. She’s been in Florida ever since and has worked for Sea World, Universal and Margaritaville in marketing roles. She met my dad while they both worked at Universal. She worked full time and raised my brother and me until her late 40’s when she decided to become an independent marketing consultant.
Her Campus (HC): What’s a valuable lesson you’ve learned from being a parent?
Jennifer Kirby (JK): The most valuable lesson I’d say is that kids are not mini clones of their parents. They are unique humans, and a parent’s job is to help their kids become the best authentic version of themselves and positive contributors to society. Many mistakes will be made along the way, but that’s okay as that’s a massive component in the learning process. Ultimately, I feel like a parent’s role is to provide boundaries, but mostly to offer encouragement, guidance and unconditional love.
HC: If you could go back to your younger self and give her advice, what would you say?
JK: Trust your instincts and take calculated risks. Even if you make mistakes, you will learn and grow from the experience. The world loves young adventurous, energetic people, so use that to your advantage. I’d also tell my younger self that you can’t be all things to all people, so don’t try to please everyone. There will always be people who won’t like you, and that’s okay. It means you stand for something. Your generation calls these people the haters, right?
HC: Do you have any regrets in your life?
JK: At my age, all those regrets seem to have had some purpose, or maybe I’ve just accepted them by now… or forgotten them.
HC: What was one thing you learned about leadership in your years in business?
JK: That the loudest person in the room or the one that speaks the most isn’t necessarily the leader. They may think they are, but loud isn’t synonymous with leading. The leader is the one who puts aside their personal agenda and encourages input from all the people in the conversation and represents the totality of the group.
HC: What made you decide to name me Taylor?
JK: When I became pregnant with you, I worked at a corporation where very few women were in executive roles. It was heavily male-dominated. So, when I found out that I was pregnant with a girl, I decided that I would go with a unisex name because I didn’t want sex to impact whether your resume would get forwarded or tossed aside. I just wanted you to be seen for your skills, not your sex.
HC: Does anyone inspire you?
JK: Athletes often inspire me because of their mental toughness, training and ability to overcome obstacles. But I’d say the people who inspire me most are working behind the scenes, who are humble, aren’t trying to impress anyone and are working hard to accomplish their dreams or simply be a productive contributor to society. Oh, and on a related note, this reminds me of Brene Brown. She has authored several inspiring books, but Daring Greatly is a must-read. It’s about having the courage to be vulnerable in a world where everyone appears overly confident.
HC: Besides your family, what’s the thing you are most proud of in your life?
JK: It’s nothing grand. Just that I treat all people with respect, seeing the human in every person, not titles, possessions, race, sex or bank accounts. I’ve never wavered on that.
HC: You and dad have been married for over 20 years. What’s the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship?
JK: I think it’s different for every relationship, but for me, it’s respect. Dad and I got married when we were 35 and 40, which as a 19-year-old may seem like a long way away to you, but we were friends years before we got married. Together we’ve spent over 25 years growing and evolving both individually and as a couple. We will likely grow another 25 years together. It’s essential to find a partner that will support your growth individually (and vice versa) while you evolve as a couple facing both good and bad times. Life ebbs and flows, and so will you and your relationships.
HC: Do you have a favorite quote?
JK: Many, but I particularly love this one by Maya Angelou, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
HC: Any advice for younger girls?
JK: Where do I start? Well, here are a few thoughts:
- Don’t ever, ever make critical decisions when you are highly emotional, and by highly emotional, I mean extremely mad OR extremely happy.
- There are people in your life that you may love but that is not healthy for you to engage with for one reason or another. If you don’t feel good about yourself when you are with specific individuals, you are likely in an unhealthy relationship—disengage.
- Don’t strive for perfection. Life is messy. Accept and embrace that, work through it. The best biographies are the messy ones.
- Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
- Always take the high road and maintain integrity. It’s a tiny world.
- Surround yourself with people that make you laugh.