It’s common knowledge that the higher we are on the ladder of success, the bigger the things we have on our plate. Most of the time also, the number of responsibilities doubles. At work, we’re tasked to talk to more important people and get involved in more planning. At home, we’re assigned to take care of the groceries, cook for ourselves, and still have time to entertain our visiting relatives for the weekend. And out there, where everything or everyone is supposed to be on even ground, we’re faced with random scenarios, which sometimes require us a unique skill set in order to come out alive.
Unfortunately, none of us knew acquiring such skills early could be extremely vital later in daily life. Sure, back in the day we may have heard our parents try to bargain the price of apple with a vendor but who cares? Taylor Hanson’s on TV! And what kid would ever say, “Hey, this writing exercise is very tedious. I think it will be more interesting and efficient if the teacher will have us recite our multiplication table while we’re moving our pens.”
Instead, we’re thirty-something, working our butts off already, yes, but still, I feel like we’re not living up to our full potential as adults just yet—only semi-adulting. It could be the traditional educational system that did us in, but if schools can never prepare us completely for the real world, then no one can ever warn us about what’s up ahead, like smartphones and globalization.
And then there are certain skills that cannot be more relevant today as a grown up than years ago as an adolescent. They can help save us from a lot of things if you really think about it: deadlines, disappointments, and death. Better, they can help us get ahead. Personally, here are some subjects and abilities I wish I was taught early on.
Some say there’s really no such thing as “multitasking,” but I think our brain is so powerful that we are capable of doing more than one job at a time. Let’s start with the most basic—two small, almost effortless tasks: typing and listening. By knowing how to multitask, perhaps I can answer my emails while listening to my mom talk about that thing when someone was supposed to do something with us on Saturday… or was that Sunday?
My mother’s a serial bargain shopper. Even at actual stores with fixed retail prices, she’d usually still ask if she could get a few pesos off her items. While this normally embarrassed me, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of asking and negotiating payment terms. It’s actually become a frustration of mine that I’m not as good at handling money as my mom. Sometimes she gets the discount, sometimes she doesn’t. God knows how much she’d saved with those several yeses.
- First aid/self defense
I might have learned how to do CPR in college, but what I would have really liked to know was surviving a natural (earthquake, storm, flood, etc.) or man-made (fire, explosion, car crash, etc.) disaster. Especially here in the Philippines, where we’re in the Pacific Ring of Fire, and have 20-30 typhoons a year, we ought to have PhDs in storm surges, seismic activities, and volcanic eruptions by now. Of course, if it’s your time then there’s not much you can do about it, but ample knowledge gives you better chances of staying alive in the midst of, say, a massive flood. Speaking of which…
It’s ironic how many Filipinos are not good swimmers. Living in an archipelago, it should have been a given. I mean, if I ever find myself in the middle of the sea, I can probably dog-paddle within the first two minutes, but eventually, I’d start to panic, so I’d get water in my nose or mouth, and then that would be the end of me. It’s sad because I got some swimming lessons when I was eight and it helped cure a bit of my asthma. Unfortunately, life will throw far more unpredictable things than asthma attacks. So rather than learn the butterfly, I would prefer a version of me that eventually does not drown when thrown into the diver’s pool.
- Reading code
Okay, so maybe this doesn’t seem to apply to all but hear me out. Most of us are online and in front of our computer these days anyway, and eventually, work and other interests will just be easier if we know how to read code. For instance, running this blog. It took me quite a while to get it started and perhaps it had something to do with the idea that I had to manage this all by myself. And while I haven’t been forced to go The Matrix-y just yet, I feel the need to understand these things more. For example, frontend vs. backend—I did not understand the difference until recently (try six months ago!). It’s somewhat pathetic, but schools should be teaching students how to read code as early as algebra. Better yet, code as the third language! Ha.
Both parents and teachers oftentimes put emphasis on compassion and care, but I believe what ought to be highlighted more is developing empathy, which can later help people understand others on a deeper level, regardless of their difference in background, social status, and race. Then maybe this world wouldn’t be this messed up and wars would go extinct.
Well, that got dark very fast.