DEAR ISABELLA,

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    (In October, I made a list containing ten ways to connect with the people that surround you everyday: YOUR TO-DO LIST FOR TOMORROW. A few weeks after that, @sidneylists requested a "high school" version of that list. Sidney, I've thought about this a lot.
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    While, admittedly, what follows is not the same type of list (it is, instead, a letter to my tween daughter, who will become a teenager in September), the spirit is the same. I hope you (and anyone else who reads it) enjoy this somewhat rambling, epistolary fable.)
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    đź”·
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    Dear Isabella,
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    In a few months, you'll be a teenager. Holy Tesla! It was literally (okay, figuratively) the day before yesterday I held you in my arms as we danced together energetically to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da in my home office (You, in your Minnie Mouse dress; me, in my "dad pants" and too-big Gap® t-shirt which was older than you.)
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    Soon, you won't care much what I think. At least not for a while. At least not...for years. So while I still hold one thimbleful of your attention, I thought I'd write you this letter containing a few sentences of advice. I don't expect you won't eye-roll at all of it just now...but it is my hope that you'll at least save this letter. Somewhere.
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    In a box. In a backpack pouch. But someplace. And, as such, you may one day return to it...tomorrow or in a year or...one day and—whenever that is—unfold it and flatten it out and read it to yourself quietly and think of us, together. And find some wisdom therein. I love you, sparkler. I love you I love you!
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    Read books not published recently. Every day, you'll hear about new books. Amazing books. Important books. Must-read books. Must-buy books. Don't believe any of it. It is 100% hype. Don't waste your time or money. Read only books that were published 25 years ago (or more!) and are still in print. These are the important books. These are the ones
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    that will move you, shape you and build you into someone. And if you can't find anyone to discuss the books you read, consider discussing them with me. In person or virtually. Maybe one day—if you are in town—you won't consider it the dork-iest thing in the world to join my Classic Literature Book Club: http://www.meetup.com/Classics-Book-Club/
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    Think about someone besides yourself each and every day. This is hard. Not just for teens. But for adults also. Nothing in your life seems NBD. Everything seems SBD (I think I just coined this: It means "Super Big Deal"). What will help: take out a piece of paper. Draw a box with four quadrants. Like the one I drew here. Write your stresses down,
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    each in its proper section. What in your life right now is Urgent and Unimportant? What is Not Urgent but Important? Once it's all written down, just focus on the Urgent and Important things. The rest can wait. And scratch all the Not Urgent–Not Important things right off with a thick, black Sharpie®. You don't need to worry about those ever again.
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    Once you've organized and prioritized your most pressing personal to-dos, take a deep breath in. Exhale. You've got this. Now take out another piece of paper. At the top, write: Things I Can Do For Other People Today That Don't Cost Me a Thing. Fill the rest of that page with ideas. Next: Do some of them. Right now, today.
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    It will warm you like soup.
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    Don't post anything on the Internet you won't mind being on the Internet for approximately forever and always. At the time of this writing, anything you put on the Internet stays there—permanently—for two billion years, in unlimited copies. Assume anything on your phone is insecure and presently being read and seen by everyone you've even known.
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    On a related note: cultivate an off-line life. Don't believe anything you read online. The internet, by and large, is a wasteland of misinformation. Take everything you read in a Web browser with a dusty sack of sidewalk salt. The Web is for entertainment purposes only. Get your knowledge, whenever possible, from the universe of books.
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    All these world are yours—except the Internet. Attempt no landing there. Beware false friends. They're everywhere! Look out! Hark! They want to bring you down! Suck you dry! Sap your energy! Take your toaster strudel! But you don't let them. Begone, Sir J. Evans Pritchard, PhD. I want you gone. I don't hear enough rip!
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    True friends are easy to spot. True friends say "Gesundheit!" when you sneeze. They brush the hair out of your face when you are barfing out screwdrivers and Jell-O® shots.
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    True friends help you move into a new apartment. True friends write you notes when you are sad. True friends leave plates of OREO®-brand cookies outside your door along with a glass of milk. True friends will knock, scamper off, hide behind the sofa, and giggle when you find this surprise and smile.
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    Fill your mind with culture. There's this scene in a super cheesy 80s movie—FLASH GORDON—where a crazy scientist, Hans Zarkov, is about to be brainwashed and have his mind erased with a laser beam. He pleads with his captors: "Please. My mind is all I have. I've spent my whole life trying to fill it." And that is one of my bits of advice
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    to you: fill your mind with culture. Read all the great books. Watch all the Academy Award-winning (and other!) movies. Listen to all the music, new and old. You will never be able to saturate your brain with knowledge, but you can try. And, along the way, you will start to make serendipitous connections in your head between seemingly unrelated
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    things. Travel everywhere. Meet everyone. Learn every language. Eat every local dish. These experiences will be miraculous.
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    As you walkabout the Earth, collect a small box full of happy things. Love notes. Little trinkets. Ticket stubs. Lipstick-smudged napkins. Objects that make no sense to anyone else but are precious and special for you. Because, sometimes, you'll feel blue. And down. Or cross. And fed up. Or all of these at once. And, in these moments, return to
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    this Box Of The Happiest Things. Open it up. Spread everything out on a quilt. Select each item—one at a time—and re-experience it. Smell it, read it, savor it, hold it up in the sunlight. And—through these Happiest Things—refuel. Rejoice. Slash at the darkness with a ninja sword's worth of memories.
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    If none of this works, my Isabella Grace—CALL ME. Any time of day. You have my number. You know where I am. Pack bags. Come here. Show up. I'll put you in a blanket. On the deck. In the brisk, fresh air. I'll make your favorite tea and hand you a book. We can talk. Or not. I will drop everything. I love you no matter what what what!
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    Love,
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    Dad
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    (List App readers: I'd love to read letters you write to your own kids. Please tag me if you feel so inspired!)