Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life As A School

I would like to share something with you that was written several years ago, revised once or twice, but still relevant and true. It is perhaps an exercise in being more profound than I am currently able to be, but in every attempt there are lessons learned, and all things speak to us individually. I hope you enjoy it.

Life As A School

”Fear not that your life shall come to an end,
but rather that it shall never have a beginning.” – John Henry Newman
I remember a time when the people in my life lived forever. A time when there were things that would “never happen to me,” and suicide was an escape for people who didn't believe in God. I was going to be a landscape architect when I grew up, and when I published my first novel my family would finally be proud of something I did. And there was a time when my best ideas always came to me in the shower.

I also remember a time when I thought school was the most important part of my life. I looked forward to going every day, I did well, and I had fun. Then I started fourth grade – it was all downhill from there.

Looking back, I see that most of my education has happened outside of the classroom, and I have come to believe that my academic instruction has been the most time-consuming, expensive, and stressful task I have ever participated in. While it taught me how to read, it fell short of teaching me how to apply what I read. While it taught me about the world around me, it fell short of teaching me how to live in it. And while it taught me how to copy notes, take tests, and achieve degrees, it fell short of teaching me how to learn.

Don’t get me wrong; I have gained a lot of knowledge. The only problem with knowledge is that it doesn’t get you anywhere if you can’t use it. It simply collects in the mind as useless facts: for example, given a few minutes I could tell you the names of all fifty states – in alphabetical order – but I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the people within their borders. I can quote Scripture passages on how to live, but I can’t honestly say that I know, with every ounce of my being, that God loves me.

And I can tell you that the odds of winning the jackpot on a scratch ticket are about equal to the chances of your submarine getting struck by lightning, but I couldn’t tell you how many men died so I would have the right and freedom to go to school and learn this useless information.

Outside of the classroom, I have learned that everyone dies – whether they’re fourteen years old and happen to be in the path of a drunk driver, or ninety-two years old and their body just can’t go on. I have learned that even “good little Christian girls” can fall victim to things. I have lost a very close friend to suicide. I have given up on landscape architecture and the large amount of money I could have made in favor of working with special needs kids.

And I have realized that it doesn't matter what I do, if I’m not making enough money, most of my family will never be proud of me. These are things that school could never teach me. They are life experiences, and life experiences are what turn scared, immature, self-conscious young girls into intelligent, provocative, self-confident young women.

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