The value of the letter goes beyond the immediate family, so it has been edited slightly in order to share it with all young people who, in the next few weeks, will begin their college experience.]
Dear College Student:
You are in a period of your life that is very important. It will be one of the best, most fun, and one of the most difficult times you will ever have.
You will probably live for about 80 years, so the next two to four years will represent only 2.5 to 5 percent of your lifetime, but this period will have a tremendous impact on the quality of your life for the next 60 years, or 75 percent of your life.
It is possible to blow the next few years, and still recover, but it is much more difficult than if you can maximize your opportunities.
You need to decide what is important to you -not just now, but what will be important and valuable to you for the next 60-plus years. In other words, write your own obituary now: What do you want it to say? What are your values?
For example, I suggest that your first value might be health (you can't be a good student, daughter, mother, professional interior designer or any other role without good health).
Other values might be integrity (are the choices and decisions consistent with what you think is right/wrong/evil/cruel, et cetera?).
Another: Family (are your actions consistent with the values that have evolved within your family, and are practiced by those role model people who you love and respect?).
Another value is reputation: You are building relationships now that will be with you for years to come. You probably will not remain friends with most of your high school buddies, but you will be doing business and socializing with your college friends, and their friends (when you are choosing friends, be careful and think of them as people who you want to be friends with in 20, 30, and more years).
You can lose all of your physical possessions, even your family can be physically wiped out, but there are a few things that can never be taken away from you. Those few things include your reputation: you can run from a bad one, but you can't hide -it will always catch up with you, and it will follow you unmercifully.
Another valuable thing that can never be taken from you is your mind -your education and knowledge. You can be put on the street with nothing, and become successful again if you have your mind and your reputation. And remember that both of those things can be damaged and/or destroyed very easily . . . they are very fragile. They take a lot to build, and very little to tear apart and destroy.
You are an excellent person who is loved very much by all of our family. You are much stronger, smarter, prettier (more handsome), and better than you give yourself credit for. You are harder on yourself than others are. So relax, and focus on what is important, one day at a time. You will not be perfect, so when you make a mistake, forget it . . . but remember what you learned from the mistake.
Thanks for taking the time to absorb this message. All of my kids have had to put up with listening to this concept for a long time. It is very important, and I hope you keep it, and read it from time to time. Have fun! Love,
[Joe Henkel is president and chief executive officer of Kleberg Bank with locations in Kingsville and Corpus Christi.]