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45 Lessons I Didn’t Learn in School

45 Lessons I Didn’t Learn in School

We have all had levels of “education,” but I’ve found that I consistently learn more from what is not on the syllabus than what is. I discovered more about myself in between the lines of my formal education than I ever did sitting at a desk.

A recent poll of my closest friends and relations made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I asked about their top “informal” lessons—here are some of the highlights:

  1. The most vicious animals on earth are not bears, snakes, or vampire bats. They are junior high girls.
  2. There is immense value in real, personal, patient teaching. Anyone can lift their game if given enough encouragement.
  3. Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous pastime. You will never really feel good afterwards.
  4. Shame is a powerful weapon.
  5. Not everyone who teaches should.
  6. Parallel parking is a unique and valuable skill.
  7. The degree or grade awarded is not proof that you knew more about a topic, but that you had the ability to commit, persist, endure, and finish.
  8. Not everyone who graduates gets the same amount out of their education. Listen and learn.
  9. Not all attention is good attention.
  10. If you believe you have been incorrectly assessed, stand up for yourself. But be prepared to show proof and documentation.
  11. A good friend can change your life.
  12. Not everyone—in fact, no one—had the same upbringing as you. Knowing that yours is not the only way is critical to collaboration and understanding.
  13. Study hall is not really for studying.
  14. The mean voice in your head that tells you how dumb you are needs to be kicked in the shins.
  15. Use mistakes in art, or really anything, to make something new and unexpected.
  16. Even if ten other people are doing the bad thing, you will be the one person who gets caught.
  17. Be kind to the IT and kitchen staff. And the janitors while you’re at it. (You never know how much you need them until your toilet is clogged at 2 a.m.)
  18. Powdered sugar is not an adequate replacement for flour.
  19. Attendance and participation are not the same thing.
  20. No matter what, a laughing baby will light up the whole room.
  21. You can never go back. Once you’re okay with that, going forward is much more fun.
  22. You’re not fooling anyone; if you don’t practice, it SHOWS.
  23. You can’t get on a bus going one direction and assume it will make a loop and bring you home.
  24. Breaking large projects up into small bites is the easiest way to get things done.
  25. If you don’t start, you’ll never finish.
  26. Some people don’t have to work as hard as you do to get the same outcome. And that’s okay.
  27. If you really want to get back at someone, anonymously sign them up for multiple free magazines. (This works best if the content includes geriatrics, incontinence, or infectious skin conditions…and try to be there when they get their mail.)
  28. Always be prepared for a team project to become a solo one.
  29. It’s unlikely that you’ll hear someone say, “Wow, I’m really glad I chose not to go on that adventure.”
  30. Floss your teeth.
  31. If you don’t care, it’s possible no one will.
  32. Surprise care packages are actually boxes full of joy.
  33. New friends want to spend time with YOU—not the person you think they want to get to know.
  34. Sometimes solitude is the only way to get through a rough time. Never feel bad when all you need is to unplug everything and have some quiet time. But be careful of getting lost in the dark.
  35. Good friends will call you out on your crap. GREAT friends will answer their phone at 2 a.m. to talk you through it. Some friends can do both.
  36. Sometimes you have to decide to have a good day.
  37. Someone disagreeing with you is not a personal attack on your character.
  38. If you’re having a life crisis, don’t turn to someone in your demographic. Ask someone who has already been there and has the wisdom of hindsight (a.k.a. your parents).
  39. Be the first to volunteer. Often the first thing asked is the easiest to do, and you’ll get bonus points for bravery.
  40. Some of the best days are those when you just sit and watch the leaves fall.
  41. No matter where you live, or what your background, language, or religion, there will always be at least one person who is a jerk. But the kindness of strangers is also universal.
  42. You don’t have to be friends with someone to make eye contact when something funny happens.
  43. Especially when it relates to dairy products or meat: when in doubt, throw it out.
  44. If you must ask, you already know that your butt really does look big in those jeans.
  45. You have freedom to make choices, but you’re not free from the consequences.
  46. These 45 lessons have been earned by many mistakes, a couple of cavities, a few broken relationships, several panicked voicemails to my mother, and exactly one overflowing toilet. Hopefully you can use them to your advantage to avoid some missteps. Looking at lesson 12, I have to ask: which lessons have I missed? Share yours below.

This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on education from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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