November 25, 2013, | 0 Comments

Learn to Live

“Go and study!” If you are Tamil, you have probably heard this command many times in your life. You’ve heard it when you were little, you’ve heard it when you were growing up, and there is no doubt that you’ll hear it for many more years to come. There is no dodging these dreaded words.

“Go and study!” If you are Tamil, you have probably heard this command many times in your life. You’ve heard it when you were little, you’ve heard it when you were growing up, and there is no doubt that you’ll hear it for many more years to come. There is no dodging these dreaded words.

From the time you learned to read, your parents have been constantly nagging you to further enhance your brain’s capabilities. It’s normal for parents to push a youngster to study for in their minds, studying is the magic path to happiness, success and prosperity.

“Education is the key,” they say. Education is the key to what? Happiness? Love? Success? It’s absurd to think that studying is the sole factor of triumph in our lives. However, it should not be the one and only thing in the minds of young people in today’s society. Life is a learning process, and the learning involved is more than just the school-related learning we have in our lives.

I still remember when I was just a little girl and my parents (as I’m sure is the case with many other parents) wanted me to be the “brightest” 6 year old in my kindergarten class. By the time I reached the tender age of 7, I knew the multiplication tables up to 16! Everyday, I had vigorously memorized those tables. As a result, I was able to mentally calculate when someone asked “Quick! What’s 16x13?” The “someone” was always either my mom or my dad. My parents, with good intentions, thought that was the best way to prepare me for school.

As far as I know, to this day, no one has ever required me to know 16x13 or anything of that sort off the top of my head, nor did they ever want me to. I must not forget to mention that in the long run this great ability to mentally calculate my time-tables instantly has sadly diminished. Now, I’m ashamed to say that I use a little machine called a “calculator” to do my math.

Sure, those tables helped me with my math when I was younger. But the fact is I could still have survived without them. Those times spent in my room doing math and memorizing tables could have been replaced with sweeter memories of playing with Barbies or going to the playground. It’s not that I don’t have those memories. I do… but I want more!

It’s obvious why Tamil parents – perhaps more than others – want their children to put everything else in life after education. Success is everything. Being rich is everything. Having the ability to proudly declare “My son is an engineer” or “My daughter is a doctor” is a dream of any parent. There is nothing wrong with that. However, what they must realize is that success does not depend on how well we can do calculus or algebra. Real success depends on how effectively you can play the game of life.

When we look at society today, we can see that teenagers have more to deal with in life than their education. There are many critical aspects in life that can affect us: peer pressure, drugs, stress, depression etc. Being able to conquer these other aspects is the true achievement. Studies and education must take second place because learning to deal with societal and personal problems must take priority.

Like a road, life is not a straight path to any destination; it has many bumps, curves and potholes. If we ignore all these curves and potholes, we may reach our wanted destination, but only with a struggle. Life is a struggle. We have to stop the misconception that education is the only obstacle that teenagers need to overcome.

I once had a friend who was obsessed with her studies. She didn’t care about spending time with friends or participating in social activities, such as clubs. Instead, she would run home every day after school and do her calculus questions. I once commented on her life, and how it only revolved around school and marks. Her reply was “Once I become a doctor, I’ll start doing fun things.”

This is a girl who wants to succeed in life by focusing on her education. However, this same girl came crying to me many times because she “only” got 94% on her test, quiz etc. She acted like it was the end of the world. Maybe she has high expectations for herself, but I find this appalling and rather selfish. There is more to life than marks, marks and more marks. My friend was crying about her 94% while there are people in this world dying or starving; that’s what I call REAL problems. She was in her own little world, unaware of reality.

This friend of mine, even though she could do her calculus questions perfectly, was unable to survive in the real world. She didn’t know how to handle her emotions, or how to deal with any obstacles that she came across. Her “mark” for real life problem-solving is a big ZERO. She panics over little problems and lacks many social skills necessary in everyday life. Also, it seemed like she lacked “general knowledge”; something that is not taught in the classroom. She has great potential to be a doctor. But if she can’t deal with her problems, stress and emotions, how is she going to make it that far?

Also, if she does become a doctor, does that mean success? No. Success in our lives is not measured by our marks or even by our profession. What we must first ask ourselves is what exactly is the meaning of success? Does it translate to having a respected profession? If so, then why are there so many doctors and dentists committing suicide at alarmingly high rates? Why are even the richest people not satisfied with their lives?

Success in life is not measured by the amount of bills we have in our wallets nor the degrees we earn in university. Real achievement is when we are able to find the true meaning of life: To live it. Sure, studying is necessary. But so are the other things in life. I am not implying that teenagers should forget about their studies and just “hang out and have fun.” Education is an important aspect of life. But having a sense of balance is of higher importance. A teen who gets 80s at school, does community service, enjoys sports, and is able to deal with unexpected problems is more successful than a teen with 100s who many not have any of the other qualities the former student has.

The manner in which a person faces obstacles and deals with stress, emotions, and life-problems, determines the life she will lead and the success that will follow. Being a well-rounded individual will do many wonders for your future. We can learn more useful things about how to survive in this world from our friends, family and real experiences than from a textbook. Calculus question scan prepare us to be engineers. But the truth is it won’t prepare us for life. It’s time to face the real world and the true challenges of life.

- Abi N.

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For an alternative perspective, check out: "Stop Socializing. Start Studying"

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