The title is a bit too dramatic, I’ll admit, but please, allow me to elaborate in the post below.
From a young age, I have valued school as the most important educational focus of my life. Naturally, I was led to believe that school would lead to college to masters/PhD to a job to a family to a stable life. It seemed like the most reasonable transition from childhood to adulthood. And I still value my academic education enormously, but I think it’s time that we shifted our perception of ‘education’ to the way that it should actually be:
Education is not confined to the classrooms anymore. A few decades ago, you had your holy teacher who knew everything you wanted to know about, say, English. He was your mentor, consultant, and dictionary. Today, you can learn English for free online. Online resources, books, people. I believe that I learned English faster by reading books on my own than by attending class. The key? Get creative. Look around you. Everything is resourceful.
Learning about life is important too. The fact that today’s generation is finding it increasingly hard to get a job with ‘just’ a college degree (and hence have to get a masters or PhD) means that our lives become more centered in getting to college. For those who are competing for the so-called top colleges? It’s a heck of an arms race. It’s not just about getting a 4.0 GPA, it’s about filling your resume with spectacular extracurriculars, jobs, and whatnot. I’m not against this – you learn a lot about yourself by opening yourself to so many opportunities.
But in the midst of this hectic life, we give up something else: how to become independent. I finished school last year, and I’m in my gap year at the moment. Only after several months off school did I see how much I had missed from life. I was so focused about my grades and resume that I gave up the things that I should know how to do by now. Only this year did I start prioritizing mundane tasks like cooking, driving, doing things on my own, and becoming an adult. We want to prepare ourselves as best as possible for college and career life, but we must also know how to survive in the real world.
Everything is a learning experience. You should know that by now. I know that, in high school, I learned much more outside class than I did in class. I value all the knowledge and skills that my courses gave me, but I have pretty much forgotten what I learned in those year-long classes by now. What I do remember is the experiences that have shaped me who I am: knowing what it means to detach from your own ego and be humble (through volunteering), be a true leader (in school spirit activities), bring out my inner artistic self (through music concerts), and so on. Even social outings proved to be a valuable experience in my identity. Through these events, I realized that I am not like many people around me. I don’t enjoy parties, drinking, or going to ‘reunions’. And it took me a while to realize that it’s okay being like this.
I could have learned none of this in any class. And it’s of extreme value to me because it has shaped who I am, and it continues to do so. Getting to know myself is one of the most important things that we all must do, because without it, we wouldn’t know who we are. We wouldn’t know what to do with our lives, let alone choose what college classes to take. We would part of the broken ‘system’ that only encourages us to follow their lead like puppies on a leash. Even if we are the Alphas of our society, we would still be part of a system that does not yet teaches us to think for ourselves.
Self-learning is our best education. Everything I’ve talked about comes down to this. If you can’t self-educate yourself, you might as well be a lost puppy in this world. The skill of self-learning will give you the power to learn anything and everything you want to know to give you the best life possible. I built a Bridge Year Bucket List, mainly to keep track of the things that I need to learn before college. But as the year went on, I realized that only 1/6 of my list consists of academic education. The rest are things that I should have done while at school, but didn’t do because of… school. These are things related to health and fitness, my true passions – writing and reading, volunteering, music, creativity, etc. These things make me happy, and though I do take class to develop some of these things, most of them I do on my own.
I have barely attempted to learn by myself before this year, and learning to do so this year has taught me one important thing: I know nothing about life. It’s quite the motivation that I need to focus my life on the things that truly matter to me the most.
Get out of your comfort zone. I think I may be getting too off-topic here, but I would just like to add one more thing to this post: get the hell out of your comfy seat and go do things that you don’t want to do solely because you ‘fear’ you’re not good enough. When we step out of our comfort zones, we begin to think in so many imaginative ways. It is only then that we can truly get to know ourselves.
One of the best ways to do this, personally, is to travel. Not only do you get to visit a new place – you get to talk to people, learn a different language and culture, and become more accepting of the world that surrounds you. If you currently are unable to travel, the best option is to open yourself to your second life: books.