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I was recently asked which mistakes, if given the chance, I would undo. It’d be nice (but untrue) to say that from each mistake I’ve ever made I’ve gleamed a crucial lesson, but it hasn’t always worked out that way. Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve made a mistake until it’s far too late to correct it or to make amends.

At this point in the lives of our kids, our children still turn to us for guidance and advice, and though I hope this never comes to be, I know there may be a brief time in our relationship where our voices will be unheard in the din of their teenage chatter. And if that day should ever come, I hope they may read these words and perhaps find an answer or two to help them along.

It’s ok to mess up here and there, but always clean up your mess. Keep things tidy in your space, your dorm room, your home. An uncluttered space leads to an uncluttered mind. There’s a sense of satisfaction in having things in order and in their place. Make your bed. Tie your shoelaces. Take out the garbage. Fold your clothes and put them away.

Do soul mates exist? I don’t know. But I do know love is found when both your mind and your heart are at peace with the one you’re with. There will be a time in your lives where you will feel torn between your heart’s desire and your gut instinct. If your mind and heart are at war, that relationship will likely fail.

It’s normal to be imperfect, for perfection is an unsustainable illusion and unattainable. You will make many mistakes along the way and that is expected. But don’t stump your foot on the same log twice — that’s just plain dumb.

Hard work pays off. Don’t take short cuts, don’t cheat. Don’t do things half way, or partly vested. If you don’t see things fully through you’ll never know what you are capable of. The process of self-discovery, while difficult, yields a sense of satisfaction unknown to those who never truly get their hands dirty.

Travel and study abroad with your best friend. Learn new languages. The world is exciting and full of possibilities — it is broader than your city streets or your college campus. Celebrate Bastille Day on a summer night in Paris, or walk the Charles Bridge on a frozen day in Prague. To know your roots is to be seared by the strumming of a Flamenco guitar and a flaming dancer in the heart of Spain. You must travel.

Be impulsive, but don’t be foolish. Take calculated risks. Live in the moment, but don’t forget your roots, your past, and keep an eye on what’s coming up ahead. It’s not ok to be indecisive. If you can’t figure something out, sleep on it. In your heart of hearts, you know the answer. Be generous, but not to a fault. Treat others with kindness and respect, even if they don’t deserve it. Invest your time in worthwhile causes and worthwhile friendships. Those who are worthy of your time will respect you for who you are. Be yourself, that’s far more interesting.

Don’t follow the herd, be its shepherd.

Don’t settle. Be ambitious, for your future is at stake. Choose a career path which suits your talent, but be realistic about your longterm financial goals. Invest in yourself first. It’s ok to indulge here and there, but investing in your future and your retirement will yield greater satisfaction in the long run.

Above all else, forgive each other. You are blessed to have one another to make your way through life, and it is our fervent hope you do so together. Very few people will ever come to know and love you as well as your sibling does, no one.

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