I always held a deep admiration for the kids who were considered "weirdos" in school. The guy wearing the Slayer tee shirt and an eyebrow ring, nails painted black, minding his own business in the corner? I found him far more interesting than the captain of the football team. And that's not a knock on football or people who play it. I happen to love it. I just found that, more often than not, the outsiders tended to have fascinating stories and a wealth of perspective. Unfortunately, it took me about 17 years to make this realization.
Looking back, aside from their backstories, what I most admired about "the outsiders" was that they dared to be individuals. They were the ones most likely to defy authority, raise their hand when they noticed an inconsistency. I was more likely to accept a rule as a rule and to remain silent (there were exceptions, of course).
With that in mind, and with school starting back up again for many, here are some things I learned in my high school years that I've had to unlearn since...
• You have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do with your life.
I know what they were trying to do. The guidance counselors, that is. They wanted us to know the world was our oyster, that it was early in the game and no need to panic. There's certainly merit in that perspective. But I was completely flummoxed when it came to deciding on a career. So, I haplessly stumbled into college (and my career) with an "undecided" label. I took my time. I took courses I found relatively interesting (or was forced to take). I took those words far too literally, though. I had no sense of urgency and foolishly hoped the answer would jump out at me one day, causing me to have little to no direction coming out of college. So I jumped at the first employer who agreed to pay me. Don't get me wrong; I'm not blaming anyone, and I absolutely think it's possible to find your calling later in life. But it certainly makes it harder trying to establish a career when the wheels are set into motion at age 35 as opposed to 21. We have time. Just not that much time.
• Sports mean more than academics.
Surely, nobody actually said this, verbatim. But I know far too many people who allowed the sport they excelled in (or didn't) to take all of their attention away from their schoolwork. Not surprisingly, none of those people ended up playing professionally. But I can guarantee you that all of them now need money to sustain a household. I'm not saying sports are a waste of time. They just shouldn't hog 100 percent of our focus at a pivotal time in our maturation and scholastic development.
• Being popular is important.
High school (and frankly, every level of school) is like its own little caste system. And with any group of people, there is a general desire to be near the top of the hierarchy, to be widely recognized and respected. So what typically happens is the best-looking people with the most confidence end up being viewed as "popular," coming with it the feeling that there is something inherently magnificent with this ranking, that they have touched rarefied air. Once high school ends, though, it's like the chalk board has been wiped clean and every face blurs into the one next to it. And you realize how, the only thing that truly ever mattered was the ranking you gave yourself.
• Getting the job done is more crucial than doing it well.
This is the one thing I learned from doing homework. It was rare that a teacher assessed your performance on an assignment. All they wanted to see was something, anything written on the answer line. And I fully understand that there isn't enough time in the day to truly assess each student's homework performance every day. But at least speaking for myself (and anyone who sat near me), we learned from any early age to put just enough effort into homework not to have it affect our grade. Yet, in life we learn the hard way that minimal effort yields minimal reward.
• Young love happens for everybody.
The majority of my time in grades 6-12 was spent needlessly pining over a girl. I couldn't help it. That's the only thing my mind and heart (and penis) would focus on. A significant part of the reason for this is because relationships (as superficial as most were) started and ended seemingly every day around me. Someone's heart was always broken, there was always an undercurrent of betrayal, but somehow, everyone seemed to be looking for love already. As I've gotten older, I've realized how absurd I was to think at age 13 that I could be in love when I couldn't even define the word at the time.
• You will definitely use algebra.
Math teachers actually said this. And odds are they said the same thing about calculus and trigonometry. I'm sure some people still use algebraic equations, though. Like math teachers.
I'm certain there are plenty more examples of mistruths we directly or indirectly learned in school. Who has one? Please add a comment and join the conversation! And be sure to "become a fan" of mine via the header above this article or follow me on Twitter here.