School taught me how to Harvard reference, how to find the volume of a prism, the difference between there, their and they’re (the last of which being the only one I am actually grateful for). But do you know what it didn’t teach me? How to be happy. Why are we taught that getting a degree in finance is more important than a degree in happiness? While algebra and chemistry and punctuation is drilled into us day in and day out, often the most valuable and important life lessons seem fall through the dusty, educational cracks. Here are some of the things I wish I’d been taught in school.
- Money Honey
In my modest quarter of a century, I have been in debt more times that I would care to admit. I remember sitting on my balcony at 20 years old, ugly crying, because I had no money for food, no money for rent, a frighteningly large pile of unpaid bills and a closet full of expensive designer clothes. What’s wrong with this picture? Learning to budget and manage money is one of the most valuable skills that I’ve been forced to learn, mostly through making (a lot of) mistakes. Some great budgeting tips include buying generic brands, op-shopping, and opening separate bank accounts for bills, expenses and most importantly – spending!
- It’s not you, it’s me
Something they never teach you in school is how to take responsibility for your own emotions. We have all heard the old schoolyard rhyme ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’, but we’re never taught how to not let words hurt us. It’s very easy to project our emotional responses onto the people provoking them, to blame others for the way that we feel. But an uncomfortable truth that we never learn, is that we can never control how other people act, we can only control how we react. While this doesn’t excuse offensive, inappropriate or hurtful behaviour perpetuated by others, an important lesson to learn is that your happiness is completely yours: no one else can touch it!
- It’s okay to not be okay
In school, we are constantly told to ‘turn that frown upside down’. But something I was never taught was that sometimes it’s okay to not be okay. In a world where it’s almost inevitable to become overworked, under-slept and over-stressed, being aware of your mental health, regardless of its state, is an integral part of being a happy, healthy adult. Acknowledging that it’s okay to feel down or upset is the first step towards feeling better. If your mental health is beginning to negatively effect your everyday life, never ever be afraid to reach out and get help. I really wish that school had taught me that being vulnerable does not equate to being weak.
- Get lost
When I left school I had no idea how to boil an egg, let alone plan a trip overseas. It is widely agreed and thoroughly documented that travelling is one of the most valuable and enriching human experiences. Exploring new countries and experiencing new cultures is one of the best ways to broaden your mind, challenge your opinions and open yourself up to new concepts and ideas. I spent far too much of my early adult life being afraid to travel, simply because I had no idea where to start. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of simply learning about the world in Geography, we were taught how to go out and explore it?
- Does it make you uncomfortable?
I have missed out on so many amazing opportunities, friendships and experiences simply because I was afraid of getting out of my comfort zone. My subconscious told me that if I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail – that my comfort zone was safer that the great unknown. As soon as I was – sometimes literally – forced into uncomfortable situations, made to take risks, encouraged to try new things and meet new people – my life started to blossom. Putting yourself in new, unfamiliar situations – no matter how uncomfortable they may seem – is one of the most valuable life skills you will ever learn. Get. Out. Of. Your. Comfort. Zone! There’s a whole new world out here.