“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” ~ Maya Angelou
Adolescence is probably the most difficult time in anyone’s self development. Personalities break and form, so do friendships and perspectives. I am grateful for all my mistakes. Having dyslexia and discalculia, school was particularly hard, no matter how much my ‘learning disabled’ friends and I tried, we just did not fit the mold.
Our classmates looked at us with caution and confusion while our teachers simply did not know what to do with us. Over time as I read about the types of intelligences and that these so called disabilities were just different ways of comprehending reality.
I realized that the education system was a flawed one. It took a great deal of unlearning to learn the most life-changing lessons of all.
Here are some things I wish somebody told me in school:
1) Being different isn’t a bad thing
“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do.” ~ Dorris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
In a system and society that perpetuates a tried and tested, one-size-fits-all attitude, it can be hard for those that do not typically fit the bill. Some of us accept our indoctrination a little earlier and smoother than others, but not many can say it is compatible with their true nature.
Everyone is good at different things and everyone has their own unique quirks. Being authentically you can never be a bad thing. I wish someone had told me to nurture my inner child always and not let anyone tell me otherwise.
2) There are multiple answers to one question and the truth is subjective
I remember as an 8th grader upon waking up from yet another day dream, asking my teacher why we had question papers at all. The class laughed and she scoffed but I went on to voice my views on how we should concentrate more on writing our feelings and insights instead.
The backlash scared me enough to stop raising my hand for a good few months, and I’m sure that kind of experience would do to most kids. Unfortunately, the current education system focuses way too much on getting the right answer than finding your own truth.
The grading system is based on the most acceptable answer, which is based on the most accepted rendition of a story. To define anything, we set certain pre-conditions to fit it into and then begin to explain it in relation to those.
We study patterns and make co-relations but everything we conclude is an assumption. When we stick to our discoveries as known truths set in stone, we stop imagination in its tracks. This is the end of growth.
When we open our mind to the possibilities, the world becomes a wondrous place of endless potential. The truth is a malleable phoenix; always reinventing itself.
“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” ~ Robert Frost
Times have changed. A piece of paper stating what you have studied isn’t given the same importance as your hands on experience, passion, willingness to explore, persevere and grow.
The education system and your parents and even your friends might tell you to do something practical, secure, something that assures you a constant flow of money and prestige. Don’t listen to any of them. Do what makes you happy. Money will follow.
If money is a problem, make sure your passion stays alive and work your way to your dream. Every step you take and decision you make should be getting you closer and closer to what you want to accomplish, and that is when you know you’re spending your time well, your life well.
A very dear friend once told me, “if you have a dream, it is your duty to nurture it.” I am glad I took that advice!
4) Bullies might be having a tougher time than you know
Almost every kid has been picked on in school. I can remember the rage shooting through me upon being called names or teased in class. We start to see the bully as everything that is wrong with the world.
Then the acting out begins, the meanness in an attempt to fight fire with fire. Nine times out of ten, these kids come from abusive, neglectful or broken homes. All they really want is to feel better. There really is no matter of the heart that a bit of love cannot cure!
Here is one of the most incredible, must watch videos I have ever seen on bullies and the bullied.
5) Arguments with your friends and the end of friendship doesn’t mean the end of the world
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” ~ Bob Marley
As we change, we grow in and out of relationships. Relationships are not designed for longevity, but for lesson-learning. If they last, it is a by-product of them being a perfect key to your locks. Often, fighting with friends is a normal benchmark of closeness.
Though, to a child or teenager they seem larger than life. I wish I had understood that the final outcome would always be in one’s best interest. Not all school or college friends fade away. Some stick, and the ones that do become family. My father at 69 years of age, can vouch for this, still having kept strong bonds with 6 of his childhood friends.
6) Rebel with compassion
Being a rebel without a cause isn’t the best way to assert your dedicated self discovery. Yes, it feels like you’re caged by parents and all the hormonal changes taking place, but it isn’t as bad as it seems. In a sense, defiance and rebellion is the journey of understanding who we really are without the sheltered home life we’ve had.
It is a breaking out from our comfort zones and into a sometimes, daunting new world. I wish I’d known that it isn’t the only way to figure yourself out, it could be done with more compassion and self-love.
7) Not succumbing to peer-pressure is also an option
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
That phase of doing everything your friends do is not the best thing for self development but a necessary lesson we all must learn. Sometimes the most rebellious act of all is asserting your own voice, values and principles.
It takes a lot of self confidence and understanding of yourself to be able to stand your ground. I wish someone had told me that believing in yourself is one of the greatest lessons you could ever learn.
8) Don’t “question” your teachers and as they know best
“The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
The current education system works on the false belief that teachers always speak the truth. It doesn’t encourage a student to question authority or voice their opinion. It’s more like dictatorship where the teacher says his/her bit and students are always expected to comply because that’s how the system works.
The ‘rebel’ child or anyone who doesn’t conform is shamed or punished. So teachers are only doing what they know how to but it’s definitely not always what’s best. What I’d prefer to see is the teacher being more like a guide or a guardian; who shows the way but doesn’t give all the answers, encourages you to think out of the box and opens your mind to newer possibilities and experiences.
9) Learn from your mistakes
“In school we learn that mistakes are bad, and we are punished for making them. Yet, if you look at the way humans are designed to learn, we learn by making mistakes. We learn to walk by falling down. If we never fell down, we would never walk.” ~ Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rich Dad, Poor Dad
At the end of the day what matters most is how much you have learnt from your mistakes, and not given up the moment things get rough. Making mistakes is part of growing up, we all learn through trial and error.
Its important to understand that our mistakes do not define us, it helps you grow and learn. The biggest mistake you will make is being afraid to make one. Realise that you’re much more than your problems or your past failures.