“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.” ― Neil Gaiman
There are things you learn in school that will make you sweat puddles of stress into the creases of your textbook, trying to understand and to grasp the semi-precious nature of, that you will never, ever, use again.
For example, everything I tried really hard to learn in geometry class. Spending hours making myself do unorthodox things to rhombuses and triangles when really all I waned to be doing was writing a sonnet about the perpetual relationship between the X and Y axis.
And then there are things they won’t even begin to teach you in school. Things that slap you dreadfully across the face after you walk the stage at graduation and end up back in your canary yellow wallpapered childhood bedroom, surrounded by Beanie Babies and VHS players that are also, still, trying to figure out their next step.
Here are some things you’ll need to learn during that pathetically low period of your life.
How to use a copy machine
The first internship that I landed in college was working at a fashion magazine. Which was amazing not only because I dreamed of being a writer, but because I had the fashion sense of a colorblind miss-matching monkey and I thought that I could change the world, or at least people’s mindset that plaid and floral print could be a dashing couple when paired together. But my first day on the job, the editor-in-chief asked me (more like demanded me) to make her 100 stapled copies of a document and I nearly fainted. I was three years in to my journalism major and could write a feature story that would make the tears stain your Armani collar, but I had not a single clue how to use a copy machine. Have you seen those things lately? Its more than just print, copy, scan, it’s a monster with teeth. If you press the wrong button, you’ll have papers flying out of holes you didn’t even know existed.
They never taught me during my news writing class that when you land your first job in publishing, you certainty won’t be above doing any tasks. Learn everything you can about how to master a “desk job” or to be someone’s assistant, even if your dream job is one that is as far away from working in an office as possible. Everyone has to start somewhere, and most of the time my friends that will be at the very, lonely, smelly bottom. Scooping up smeared poop from the butt of your bosses dog, when you were hired a year out of college to be a magazine writer. (A note from Jen: I wish I was making that up!)
How to wash your delicates
When I was in college, I only ever did laundry when I ran out of underwear. Which was rare, because I would make a point of buying as many pairs as I could so that I would never have to do laundry. And I got away with having my body weight in dirty clothes lounging around my dorm room because I was able to prance to my 10am class wearing my Scooby Doo pajama pants and even once, a sheet that I told people was my way of channeling my inner Greek God, writing it off as a toga. Learning how to properly wash my blazer for work or handle my “Dry Clean Only” pants, when I can’t afford that kind of service, has left me with many items of clothing that now only fit nice and snug around the torso of my stuffed animal, Honey Bear.
How to say “I Love you” and “I’m Sorry”
Because often times, you’ll see, one will proceed the other.
Your GPA doesn’t matter
When I started going on job interviews post-grad, I would sit at the edge of my seat, waiting and wishing the interviewer would ask me what my college GPA was. They never did. One time, on an interview, when they asked me if I had any more questions I politely asked, “Aren’t you going to ask me about my GPA?” And it was at that very moment, as they raised their brows at me, that I realized the only numbers that mattered were how many years of experience I had and how much money they were going to pay me.
This is not to say you shouldn’t work hard to get stellar grades or slide by with the average “c”, you’ll be wasting a lot of time and money if you do that. Work just as hard getting to know your textbooks as you do getting to know your dream profession through internships and work experience. And somewhere in between all of that, have as much fun as possible. Because in the real world, it’s hard to get away with showing up for a 9am business meeting with nappy hair and tequila breath.
How to pay your taxes
It would have been appropriate and appreciated if this information was slipped into any of the classes I ever took in school. They could have broken the awkward silences during health class with a tutorial on taxes after they taught us about the birds and the bees, and dare I say it, pre-pubescent misery.
How to sell yourself
A lot of what happens to you in real life is because you are at the right place at the right time and also because you are daring and you are determined. You may bump into the CEO of a company while waiting in line for a mocha latte, or write an email to an author you admire begging him to meet you in person, or land the job interview of your dreams and have exactly 45 seconds to prove yourself. If you can sum up who you are and what you want in 140 characters or less or in 30 seconds, you’ll land beautiful opportunities.
Friendships often sink
School won’t prepare you for that heart pumping bizarre moment you’ll experience when you are reaching for the frozen corn at the grocery store and lock eyes with a girl you grew up with. A girl who you had regular sleepovers with and spent hours making up dance jigs to Spice Girls songs. You’ll grab the corn, debate on whether or not to say hello, and you’ll watch her, watch you, and keep on walking by like she never braided neon strands of lanyard together and promised to be your BFFAE,AE.
They also don’t teach you that you’re going to stare down the throat of your piggy bank, sometimes, forced to accept the fact the you are broke, or that your next step after walking off the stage at graduation may be back in your parent’s house, or that you’ll eat pasta for 76 days straight because you don’t know how to cook anything else without setting your fire alarm off. Or that you will blow all of your savings on something implausibly outrageous like a trip to Europe, rent in NYC, flying across the country just because you can’t take the winter blues anymore or beer, lots and lots of beer.
Everything worth knowing you will learn after you Swiffer the tears of your mascara stained cheeks or teach yourself to jump out of bed when your morning alarm goes off (the first time), or from dusting off the spider webs wrapped around your most gorgeous mistakes. It’s then that you’ll know the only way to get by, to get through, to be a functioning and successful human in this world is to discover one thing: you can never give up.
Thank you, mom, for home schooling me on that lesson. I love you.