My boyfriend does this thing that drives me crazy. (Sorry, but this is not a lead-in to a Cosmopolitan how-to-be-wild-in-the-bedroom-type article.) Whenever we talk and I'm stressing out, annoyed or feeling a little emotional, the advice he almost always extends is, "Kelly, you need to relax."
WHAT!?! RELAX!?! NO! I have this and that to do, and this and that is going on…. And then it hits me – it can be that simple. While I hate to admit that yes, he can be right, it is moments like these that continue to astound me almost every single day. The very basic thought itself is quite compelling – that while the majority of us spend at least 12 years of our lives being schooled for educational purposes – the greatest lessons of all often come from outside of the classroom, but it is these that are the hardest to learn.
Education comes in many forms, and as a college student I find comfort in knowing that after I graduate in May, I will still be challenged everyday to learn new things. It is this type of education, what I call in-life lessons, that have made my college days worthwhile. These are the lessons that can only be taught by experience, friends, strangers, stories, beautiful sunsets, stormy weather, pretty much anything … even the most random and unexpected of events. However, just because these lessons don't include a textbook does not mean that they don't require hard work to understand. In fact, the most complicated part about these lessons is that to be able to learn from them we have to be willing to push ourselves to a new level of understanding.
In school, it is almost easy to learn because there is an underlying how-to-get-things-done structure. When the professor starts talking, you start taking notes. When a word is written on the board, you highlight it because that means it's important. When the exam date approaches, you begin to create a study guide, and read and re-read through it until you've memorized the definitions. But when an important lesson arises outside of the class, in our daily lives, the challenge is that there is no structure to how, when and if we should take it in for us to remember.
This is one of the great challenges in life, and no amount of school can actually tell you how to handle these in-life lessons. This is also what makes these lessons so amazing. There is no structure, no right or wrong, no grade, no one to tell you what to do with the material you have been given. It is up to only us. The other incredible thing is not only how much these lessons build and depend on one another, but also how often they change within themselves and within the way we perceive them, especially after other experiences and lessons. It is, in all actuality, just one big never-ending constant negotiation we deal with everyday. But what makes the difference to each individual is how we decide to take in the lessons, if we decide to accept them at all.
The challenge comes within learning to listen, compromising our opinions, looking beyond the surface, admitting that we were wrong and even discovering that we were right. In-life lessons can feel right for one situation, but not another, and we have to push ourselves to figure out what fits in where. Like when my boyfriend tells me to relax, every other event in my life may be telling me I can't and shouldn't – making it hard to accept what he is saying, but at the same time his point makes just as much sense and could be just as significant to that day in my life as everything else.
These lessons can arise anywhere, from anyone and at anytime. What I make myself remember everyday is to be ready for a new lesson to enter my life at any moment. To look for a lesson to be learned in everything that comes my way, to listen to the advice of others no matter whom they are, to not judge so quickly, to be able to find faults in what I already know, to be willing to accept change. While my time in higher education may be coming to an end, my education of the world is just beginning, and I look forward to this challenge everyday and thank all those people who have taught me so much already.
Kelly Hagenah is a senior speech communications major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian.