It’s that time again and as we all pile into classrooms and learn lessons deemed important by teachers, but don’t seem important there are other lessons going on in the background that are just as important. This summer I learned some of those lessons, lessons that, as great as our school is, were something I had to experience firsthand. Here they are as best as I can explain them for your future reference.
1. The real world is expensive
This summer I got my driver’s license (finally) which many of you already have, but there are indirect consequences to going places alone. Before I start this, I want you to know that I’m not talking about paying for gas, we all know how expensive that is. I’m not talking about car expenses either, as shocking as they can be, we all know that cars cost money. I’m talking about that first day that your parents send you to the store to pick things up for them and you come home feeling the need to apologize for eating so much $5 a carton ice cream as a kid. I have always tried to be aware of how much things cost to try to somewhat prepare myself for when I move out, but a Target receipt for $80 is one thing when your mom pays it. When you pay it, even with the money your parents sent you with, it becomes a wake up call. Suddenly instead of thinking about how much you wanted those cupcakes your mom said no to you’re thinking “I swear I only bought like 3 things, and 2 of them were toilet paper! The math here has to be wrong!”
2. People will judge you no matter what
Again, this is going to sound pretty obvious, but sometimes judgment from other people can come when you least expect it. Another somewhat unexpected downside to becoming a new teenage driver is that we have a reputation of being unsafe. Everyone knows it, everyone talks about it, and no matter how good (or bad) of a driver you are, you will be presumed as some semblance of reckless behind the wheel. Now I’m not saying I’m a perfect driver, or that I’m a better driver than other teenagers or experienced drivers, but when I was almost t-boned on a small road by an older woman coming out of a parking lot who didn’t look, I got a lot of looks when I told the story. And by looks I mean the “Yea, I’m sure a sixty year old woman would pull out into traffic and almost hit a seventeen year old,” look. The one that says I had to be doing something wrong too, it couldn’t have been entirely an experienced driver’s fault had she hit me.
3. Sometimes your “Time Away” is less relaxing than your life
A lot of people think of vacation as this mystical relaxing retreat like the commercials on tv that show smiling people frolicking on the beach forgetting that they have bills to pay. That’s great, but the truth is, vacations take as much work as day to day life. I love going new places just as much as the next person, but that also requires some *gasp* homework. When you go on vacation you all have to decide what you want to see and where you want to go and a schedule that works for everyone, and if you’re going with friends this can get stressful. Pretty soon you end up coming home from a great vacation that you planned on spending tanning on a beach needing another one. What I’m trying to say is that, sometimes the best vacation is taking a few days off at home if what you’re going for is relaxation.
4. Busy is better (sometimes)
I know a lot of you were looking forward to sitting home all day and playing video games or whatnot when summer came around, and I was too, believe me. We’d all had enough of deadlines and “the man” telling us what to do and it was finally our time to spend how we pleased. Summer, at the end of the school year, means being sedentary for three months until you are dragged out of bed by your mother on the first day of school, shocked and unprepared. Except sometimes being sedentary for three months isn’t the best idea. This summer I found myself busier than any other summer yet, and while I didn’t expect it, I’m glad that I had something to do with myself. I love sitting at home on the computer just as much as your next tech addicted seventeen year old, but it felt good to get out of the house and be busy, even with things that were fun. Scheduling times to be with friends and go places made it much easier for me to enjoy my time and feel like I wasn’t wasting three months of my life. Plus, I still took days off to watch tv and eat junk food (because, really, would it be summer without that?)
5. Family includes friends too
As an angsty teenager I would like to take a moment to speak on behalf of all the other angsty teenagers and say that “Parents are so not fair!” Ok, actually I think my parents are pretty fair, and I’m lucky to have them as my family, but sometimes family isn’t what you’d expect. We all have different families that we are related to by blood, but this summer I learned that the people who are related by blood doesn’t make them automatically someone you consider family. For me family means people that love you for your flaws and your strengths and will put your needs above theirs when need be. That is absolutely something blood relatives do, but sometimes your friends do it too. I learned that family doesn’t have to mean the people who you were stuck with at birth, I learned that you have the power to choose (some) of your family as well.
6. You will turn into your parents (and it’s not always bad)
The other day I came home from work, got the groceries, and got the mail on my way in the house. My mom opened the door and said “Look, you’re turning into me!” I promptly screamed, ran away, and then tried to figure out how not to be my mother. Then I thought about it and realized that as much as I didn’t want to be my mother, it wasn’t a bad thing. By being like my mother it meant I was being responsible and helping my family. As corny as that sounds, I promise, becoming like your parents (the good habits), you’re doing a good thing.
7. Sometimes you don’t even realize your life has changed
Ok, so by writing this, obviously I am acknowledging that my life has changed, but what I mean here is that sometimes there are things in our lives that change gradually or aren’t a big deal at the time, but end up changing us. This summer when I left school I thought it would be just like any other summer, hang out with friends, work a little, watch TV. For the most part this was true, but now that I look back, I realize how much my life changed in a few months. I got my driver’s license, started working part time, and started preparing to go to community college as a PSEO student. Last summer at this time I was getting ready to be an upper classmen and take a college course. Now I am a college/high school student going to school, working, and participating in activities I didn’t even know about until last year and I still couldn’t tell you when it all changed, it just sort of happened.
8. You’re more in control of your life than you think you are
So as teenagers we are supposed to think that our parents hate us and just “don’t get it,” like every generation before us. We assume that they are out to ruin our social lives and want us to stay home and not be independent. Well, that’s not completely true. Think about it, if you drive, have a car, have a job, a relationship, friends, you’re pretty independent. Now, we still have to financially rely on our parents, and yes, we live with them, but if you’re lucky enough to have the things I just mentioned, you’re more independent than you think you are.
9. We need school more than we think
The second school gets out at the end of the year we all run away and hope by some miracle we never have to come back. By the end of August though, things start to get less crazy and more boring. We start running out of things to do, or time to do them; sitting around all day is boring. If you have a job then you may be sick of the daily grind or working more than usual. Truth be told, being in school is really good for us. I’m not saying that we should love everything about it, but being out of the house and doing something is so much better for you than sitting on the couch watching that one episode of Friends, again.
10. You really don’t need the quadratic formula to survive
Ok, so right after I get done telling you how we need to be in school I’m going to say that you don’t need everything you learn in school. I know, it sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. Being in school teaches you much more than history, math, and English. We learn social skills, how to interact with people in positions above us, and what we’re interested in. That being said, to have a productive life and get a decent job you don’t have to have the quadratic formula memorized. You’re going to need your people skills and the skills you used learning that quadratic formula much more. But for now, remember it for your math teacher.