As I start my last year of high school here are four things I learned from adults.
1. Respecting people means they respect you
The main lesson that I have learned from adults, and specifically my teachers, is that the key to gaining their respect is giving them yours. This concept was nothing foreign to me, “treat others how you want to be treated,” the cliché of clichés. It took me until high school, however, to have the desire to gain the respect of my teachers and the maturity to act on that desire. I learned this lesson primarily from my teachers, who showed me that by being respectful, doing my homework on time, and being an active participant in class, they would be recognize my efforts as a student and would be more understanding if I had to miss a day of class.
2. See the bigger picture
My mother’s response to my constant quarrels with my sister over things as miniscule as what show to put on the TV taught me to see the bigger picture during interpersonal conflicts. Here’s how a typical conversation between my mom and I would play out:
Mom: Steven! Why is your sister yelling?
Me: Because I turned Good Luck Charlie off.
Mom: Your sister was there first, you don’t get to change the show. You just lost phone privileges for an hour.
Mom: Now you lost your phone for 3 hours. Want to keep arguing with me?
Sadly, I did. I always wanted to keep arguing. Even now, I struggle to hold back the ever-so-clever snarky remark I have in my head when I’m arguing with my mom, but I’ve learned to focus on the bigger picture during such conflicts. If I choose to talk back, my mom gets angry and I get a bigger punishment. If I apologize and do what my mom says, I just have to go an hour without my phone rather than days without it after arguing.
I have watched this same conversation unfold many times between my friends. From the outside, it’s almost painful to watch someone dig themselves deeper into an oftentimes meaningless argument. I am glad that after years of meaningless arguments with my mom I have finally learned to look at the bigger picture during conflicts. Did I really need to annoy my sister? Should I really fight with my mom about the consequences? Probably not.
3. People process things differently
Three hours into what should have been a 2 hour car ride in Tennessee on the way to CHIC, I was put into timeout. “Steven!” Jessica scolded me, “You can’t talk again until the clock reads 3:45.” Needless to say, Jessica didn’t find the joke I had just told as funny as I did. It was on this trip last summer that I learned that people process things differently. Two days later, while Jessica and I were eating together in the dining hall, I asked her question after question about whatever we were talking about. She started to get the feeling that I was just trying to annoy her because I was asking so many questions. “Are you serious?” she asked me. Yes, I was serious. That’s because I’m an analytical thinker. I desperately want to understand every part of every conversation that I am in. Why? I’m not really sure. Jessica, on the other hand, would rather have a cohesive conversation than having to pause every two sentences to ask another question about something only tangentially related. Over the course of CHIC, I was lucky that Jessica tolerated all of my questions. Our conversations inspired me to take multiple personality tests to help me analyze why I communicate the way I do. I discussed the results with Jessica in detail and compared how I perceive things to how she does. My main takeaway from all of this was that Jessica and I process things differently, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing and by understanding how we differ in how we process information we can more effectively communicate with each other.
4. Your parents are people too
It’s a lesson that every kid learns at some point or another – your parents aren’t perfect. I learned this lesson my 6th grade year when my parents got divorced. I still remember the sinking feeling in my chest from the first time I saw my mom crying. When I was younger, the thought of my parents not being perfect was terrifying. As I enter my last year of high school, however, this isn’t as scary for me. In fact, I have grown to appreciate the fact that my parents, like all other humans on this planet, can make mistakes. I say I appreciate this because there is something humbling about being able to sit down with your parents and have a conversation about the difficult things happening in your life and in theirs as well. These conversations with my parents feel no different for me than a conversation with my friend would, and I don’t think I would be able to have these conversations with my parents if I had not first learned that they can sometimes make mistakes.