It was my first week of college. My friends and I had decided to go out for a great dinner, and when the bill came, I grabbed a pen, wrote the total on the paper tablecloth, and divided it by five.
The reason why I remember this night so clearly? This is the last time I ever did long division. I got a smart phone later that week. Enough said.
Looking back on high school, I’m realizing most of the things I learned there I’ve never put to use outside of the classroom. Yes, I understand the Pythagorean Theorem and the placement of bones in the human body are important pieces of information. But as a writer, I’ll likely never have to know these things again.
Why is it that the place that was supposed to prepare me for real life did such a poor job at, well, preparing me for real life? If high school was supposed to prepare me for my future, here are a few things I think they missed:
1. What healthy diet and exercise does to your self-esteem
I spent four years in high school learning which exercises and stretches I needed to do in order to keep my body from aging at an unnecessary speed. I learned which foods to eat so my arteries wouldn’t get clogged, and which fruits to eat to strengthen my nail beds. What I wasn’t told was that by ignoring healthy foods and regular exercise, I would gain about 40 pounds in my first year of college. I wasn’t told how much I would come to hate shopping because everything I tried on was too small, or how embarrassed I would be because I was too large to share clothes with any of my friends. I just wish one of my teachers would have let me know how much of an impact a poor diet and sense of laziness would have on my self-esteem.
2. How to save money
If I took a class back then on how to save money, I can guarantee my bank account would look drastically different than it currently does. In high school, I appreciated every penny my parents generously handed over to me when I was strapped for cash. But no one ever said, “Look, Nicki, I’m giving you $50, but you might want to hold onto it. You really have no place to wear those shoes you’re about to buy, and chances are you’ll want this money to spend on something better later on.” My high school teachers told us Photoshop is the way of the future, but they never actually told us how to save money so we could buy the $200 program (or the $2500 laptop we’d have to download it onto). High school is the time we start making real money for the first time, but no one ever talks about the responsibilities that comes along with it.
3. How to cook for yourself
When I was given a list of electives in high school, my eyes glazed over the Culinary Arts class. I knew I wasn’t going to be a chef, so why would I ever need to take a cooking class? Once I moved into my college dorm, I realized that microwaving the food my mother had made for dinner the night before wasn’t exactly cooking. And if she’s not around to make dinner, then there’s nothing for me to microwave later. To me, living off of burnt toast and soggy cereal is a form of torture. For the love of everything good, high schools, teach your students how to fry an egg!
4. How to fix things without having to call your dad
“Dad, this isn’t working, what do I do?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this phone call in the last few years. From my hair straightener not turning on to my car’s engine light flashing, every time something goes awry I either call daddy, or I head to YouTube. ‘How To Fix Stuff’ is something I genuinely think we can all benefit from.
5. How to get a job when you’re done with school
We try to do well in high school so we can get into post-secondary, and we try to do well in post-secondary so we don’t end up in a cubicle working a nine-to-five we don’t enjoy. The thing is, everyone else in your school is trying to do the same thing. They’re all there to learn the same skills, get the same education, and try for the same great jobs you are. Having school on your resume is a major bonus, but knowing the right people and having already laid the groundwork is even more important. Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone told you that before you finished school and realized your diploma isn’t the magical key that unlocks the secret door to all the great, high-paying jobs?
I know we all have to learn life lessons on our own, but having someone prepare us for what to expect sure would make things a lot easier. Until then, I’ll enjoy my frivolous spending, my third helping of dessert, and my 24-hour ‘Dad help me’ hotline.
Flickr photo (cc) by DennisSylvesterHurd