10 Lessons I’ve Learned Since High School Graduation (10 Years Ago)

This May marks the ten-year anniversary of my high school graduation. I can’t say that I necessarily miss high school (I still have nightmares about math tests) but I do miss free rent (and food and clothes) and dance team and English class. Now I have to pay bills, I only dance in my kitchen to T. Swift, and I never get to write interesting analytical essays.

In short, I’m a grown up who does (mostly) grown up things. In my advanced years, I’ve learned a few things about what life is really about. The following are ten lessons I’ve learned since I graduated ten years ago.

1. You will never actually use high school math unless you’re an engineer or a high school math teacher.

You won’t need to know how to build a car that can go twenty feet and pop a balloon on its own.  No one is going to ask you to locate and discuss the author’s use of symbols in Gone Girl. And you (probably) won’t be quizzed on the history of Malaysia unless you’re playing a trivia game, in which case some of that knowledge might be useful.

2. The real world is merely an extension of high school. 

You thought that once you graduated high school you’d be rid of the cliques, the gossip, and the drama. Sorry to disappoint. All of those things still exist as an adult. We get older but we never really grow up. There will be bullies, mean girls, lazy kids, cool kids, loners, and teacher’s pets brown nosers in every job you take and, just like high school, you’ll pick a group. There will be drama amongst your friends and you’ll pick sides and get in fights and make up and start all over. Whether it’s the stay-at-home soccer mom down the street or the work colleague you considered a friend, someone will talk about you behind your back. Accept it and move on.

3. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

…take another shot, eat another cookie, go home with that stranger, say what you think, post that picture, take that job, wear that outfit.

4. Nothing good happens after midnight. 

By midnight, you’ve had too much to drink and too little sleep, both of which will give you the courage to make terrible hard decisions. But really, when has anyone ever made a good decision after midnight? This is the time when you think: “Now is the perfect time to have a serious talk about our relationship…but first another drink!” “I should absolutely call my ex right now…but first, another drink!” “I could definitely make that jump…but first, another drink!”

5. Love isn’t always enough to make a relationship last. 

It’s kind of important to agree on things too. In high school all that mattered in a relationship was whether or not you liked making out with each other and if your friends approved. As an adult, on top of those things, now you have to agree on things like religion, kids, money, how close you’ll live to the in-laws, and what you’re having for dinner (NOT Chinese, husband).

6. Be nice to the people handling your food. 

(This includes your mother, wife, and waiter.) Not only are they working a thankless job for little to no money, they’re handling your food. Do you really want to risk a little “extra sauce” on your enchilada? Or the possibility that your wife won’t cook for you anymore and now you’ll have to cook for yourself?

7. It’s okay to go to bed angry as long as you work it out when you wake up.

Old, married couples will always tell you not to go to bed angry but I’ve actually found that staying up and trying to hash things out doesn’t really work. At least not for Husband and me. Generally, I want to talk things out until they’re fixed and he wants to walk away and cool off. Even though I don’t like it, what works best is if we leave things alone and revisit them when I’m less emotional and he’s less angry. So, we go to bed angry and talk about things after we’ve both had time to think and sleep.

8. Sometimes you’ll work hard, but it won’t matter and you won’t get any recognition. Work hard anyway. 

This is important because we like to be recognized for the work we do. Unfortunately, as an adult, more often than not, you won’t be. No one is going to pat you on the back when you clean the house that you live in. Your boss isn’t going to thank you for putting together that presentation and doing your job. No one is going to congratulate you for shaving time off of your mile (unless you post it social media or tell your bestie). Do it anyway because it will matter in the long run.

9. Don’t trust social media. 

Social media is not an accurate representation of people’s lives. They’re not posting pictures of the huge fight they had with their husband last night or the moment they shouted at the dog before the baby tore up and ate their tax forms. They’re not tweeting about their tears at 3 am when they couldn’t figure out why the baby wouldn’t stop crying or the way they totally road raged out on the highway when Mr. Cell Phone cut them off. Some will, of course, because attention. But usually not. Assume that the things you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are only the best parts of people’s lives.

10. Have a hobby for yourself, separate from your significant other. 

Sure, it’s great to enjoy a lot of the same things but if you don’t enjoy doing anything on your own, you never get a chance to grow as individuals. You also don’t get a break from each other. And how can you miss each other if you never go away?


I’m curious: what important lessons have you learned since your high school graduation?


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