Things I wish I knew back then

By Rukshani Weerasooriya

It has been ten years since I studied in a partially government-run school in Sri Lanka. But I can not tell you how many nights I still find my subconscious mind wandering the halls of my old school, still terrified of certain teachers, and dreading maths class. The impact it has had on me is insane. Below are a few things I wish I knew back then. They would have changed my life.

1. Exams are not the end of the world – while studying is very important, there is no need to give it priority over the time you spend with your family, your friends, and most importantly, yourself – doing things you enjoy doing, like sports, movies, conversation and reading. I learned rather late in the game that a well-balanced distribution of time produces better long-term results.

2. Wearing an ugly school uniform day in and day out is the best, most effective, antidote to premature extravagance, vanity, pride, materialism and general shallowness of mind – all of which will make you a lousy human being later in life. I looked terrible in my white starched uniform and green pin-on tie, but it has made me who I am today. And I can live with me. I wouldn’t exchange those years of discipline for anything in the world, even though, at the time, I wished I could go to school wearing whatever I wanted and have painted fingernails.

3. Popularity in school means nothing in the real world – try to keep things in perspective. So you don’t score the best grades or win the most amount of medals at the sports meet – but are you attentive in class? Do you try hard to understand the things you don’t? Do you befriend the new kid in class? Do you stick to the rules even when chances of getting caught are very, very small? If you do, you will achieve more out here in the real world than you ever thought possible.

4. Supplement your studies with your everyday life – doing just as you are told and not one bit more will get you through your exams, but it won’t make you a well-informed, intelligent human being. Remember, what is taught in school is basic. It is the minimum of what you ought to know. It is up to you to go home and build on what you are taught. READ as much as you can and whatever you find interesting. You’d think it doesn’t relate at all to what you learn in school, but the deeper you delve into anything, the more you will find it connects to other aspects of your life. Watch some TV, give your grandmother a listening ear. You will be surprised at how much you will learn.

5. Do not get into a ‘relationship’ until you have left school – reasons for saying this are manifold, the gist of which is that you have the rest of your life to suffer through the ups and downs that come with entanglements of the romantic kind. Spare yourself the added complication while you can. You will thank yourself in a few years.

Your school days are meant to be the most carefree days of your life. I know I didn’t quite feel that way when I was in school. I was constantly stressed about this test or that, struggling to keep my nose above water. But this is not how I should have seen my life. Trust me, life gets a LOT more stressful in the grownup world. Hard to believe, right, with no exams or scary teachers? But it’s true.

The big wide world expects more from the grownup, demands more, punishes more harshly. What you will go through for not doing your ‘homework’ as a grownup will be a lot worse than having to stand at the back of your class for half an hour. So take things on the bump.

A little knocking about when you are young is always good. Remember, tomorrow is a new day, and nobody will remember the things you are most humiliated about today.

So enjoy yourself thoroughly, and try to learn something from everything. It can be fun.

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