Written by: Joe Fiduccia
What the book of life doesn’t tell you is that many of these lessons we will be forced to learn the hard way.
I’d like to think of our lives like one of those story books where you decide the ending. Each turn of the page yields a new experience, presenting us with a choice we must make. And it is this very decision that will determine what the next page of our story will entail.
But what about those moments we weren’t expecting, or those times where we must make a split decision without knowing where it’ll take us? Do we always listen to our inner voice? Do we always follow those instincts?
We all know the answer to those questions. And that’s when the lessons we learn as a result can hit us hard.
So this got me thinking. In the hundreds of chapters that make up the storybook of our lives, what does it all mean? What lessons do we truly learn that we can help pass down to our children?
Looking back through my own journey, here are three of the many that come to mind:
1. Caught cheating on a college exam
The story: we’ve all had those school exams that no amount of studying can prepare you for. It’s the one test that can significantly boost your overall GPA, and yet fate seems dead set on going in the opposite direction.
Only a few months into my first year of college, that test was suddenly on the horizon for me. It was an exam that I just wasn’t prepared for. A myriad of circumstances prevented me from fully understanding the content, including work, a teacher who was unwilling to help after school hours, and sheer laziness.
So when test day finally arrived, I cheated. Yes I’m ashamed of it, but I saw no other way out. I did what I felt I had to do to keep my future years in college alive.
I turned in the exam and went about my day. A week later we returned to class and the professor handed them all back with scores on top. I got an 82%. Go me!
But then he followed it up with one final statement to the entire group that would make my heart skip a beat. He said: “someone in this class cheated. If this person does not come forward by the end of the day today, I will proceed to have him expelled from the university.”
Long story short, I quickly owned up to my mistake and did what I had to do to make it right with the professor. Thus allowing my “normal” college pursuit…and my life…to continue.
My lesson learned? Cheating is never a good idea. And if you choose to ignore that lesson and cheat anyway, your heart might skip more than just one beat.
2. Going the extra mile when no one else will reciprocate
The story: many of us will go above and beyond for others and never look for anything in return. We will drop everything simply to help a family member, friend, or even a complete stranger.
Not because we feel compelled to. But because we WANT to.
I can’t even count the number of times I have gone the extra mile for someone in need. But there is one specific lesson I learned from social media experience I want to share with you.
A friend of ours was regularly posting about the turmoil in her life. It seemed like every day, there was a new tale of woe. I won’t bog you down with the details. But she was clearly reaching out for help, and perhaps just wanted someone to lend an ear.
So that’s exactly what I did.
As a friend, I decided to send her a private message, sharing an experience in my own life that I felt she could relate to. I explained how I was able to get past it, and hoped my small recommendations might put her back on the right track.
Two days later I was in our grocery store parking lot. When out of nowhere her husband shows up and confronts me. Ready for a throw down, he goes on a rant about how his wife is off limits, and how I better just butt out.
Only after he allowed me to respond (and actually show him the message I sent her) did he calm down and eventually apologize.
My lesson learned? Never be afraid to help others. But always be prepared for the unexpected aftermath.
3. Living a healthy lifestyle is no promise of a quality life
The story: I respect anyone in the medical industry. As biological beings, I understand the human anatomy is always in flux, and that medical experts are forced to continue adapting to the new changes while solving the world’s health problems. It’s a thankless job that is one tough position to hold.
But medical experts don’t always get it right. They bombard us with their knowledge and research, always claiming to know what’s best for us when many times they honestly don’t have a clue. And I can sum up their words of wisdom in 4 words: “healthy life, happy life.”
But what they fail to tell you when sharing their expertise: there are never any guarantees.
I had an uncle who was the epitome of this mantra. Close to 70 years old, he had the spirit of someone half his age. Maintaining an extremely healthy diet for the longest time, he would exercise four to five days a week, up to 2 hours each day. This was also on top of the countless hours he would spend ballroom dancing, which anyone in the dance industry would agree can be a pretty intense workout.
Retiring early, he was high on life and had no problem driving 15 hours just to visit his family and friends for a day, only to return home the following evening.
My uncle was an inspiration to any generation, and always left us wondering what he would tackle next. I grew excited for our next adventure together, but never once could have predicted life’s other plan.
The day came where his “health, active lifestyle” abruptly came to an end. Just two days after a sudden aneurysm, and with years of life still left in his spirit, my uncle took his last breath and said his final goodbye.
My lesson learned? Don’t take for granted those you love. Because despite what the experts may tell you, there are no promises of a healthy lifestyle equating to a longer life.
To quote the words of Pema Chodron: “nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” Throughout life we are suddenly pelted with curveballs we never saw coming. And though these are the moments in life we’d sometimes rather forget, I would like to think of them as life’s way of gently teaching us a lesson we have not yet figured out on our own.
Learn whatever lessons the universe it trying to teach you, and move on. The past is the past, and has hopefully helped you approach the future with just a little more humility…and perhaps a lot more wisdom.
Now that I’ve shared mine, what are some of the lessons you have learned in life?