Author Robert Fulghum hit an incredible home run with his 1988 book of short essays, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulghum’s effort dominated the bestseller lists for more than a year, and while it has been 25 years or so since I read it, I do remember thinking that he learned a lot more than I did when I was 5-years-old. All I remember about kindergarten is the spectacularly wonderful goopiness of finger paints, and Billy Rose’s mother coming to pick up our carpool early the day Hurricane Hazel flattened much of North Carolina’s southern coast and laid the supple young pine trees in our family’s Haymount yard down on the ground.
That being said, I started thinking about what I have learned since kindergarten. I am happy and relieved to report that I have learned a few things, including a lot more about hurricanes, particularly from Hurricane Fran. In no special order, here are a few tidbits that have stuck with me through the years. Some I wish I had understood in kindergarten, and some my younger me had to mature a bit to grasp.
The only person who will go all the way through life with you is you. Parents, friends, even spouses, will fall away. You will enjoy your life’s journey more if you learn to like your own company and to trust your own judgment. Young people, especially teenagers, have real trouble with this as they are often mesmerized by their peers, but it is true nonetheless.
Politics is a matter of timing. The world’s best candidate can lose when the tide of public opinion is heading in a different direction, and, conversely, a weak candidate — perhaps dishonest or lacking in mental horsepower — can get elected if the public tide flows his or her way. Fortunately, politics is cyclic — the tide will turn eventually.
Henry the VIII of England did not do-in all six of his wives. He beheaded two of them, but two died of natural causes. The sight unseen German princess whom he married on the rebound did not last long, but she kept her head. Unenamored Henry quickly had Anne of Cleves declared his sister and dispatched her to a remote country estate to live peacefully ever after. His sixth wife outlived him.
Many friends come and go throughout life, as do some relatives, because of interests, change of location and all of the other factors that affect our lives. If we are lucky, though, we have a handful of the most precious ones for the better part of our lives. I am so blessed to have friends with whom I have laughed, cried, weathered triumphs and tragedies. They come from all parts of my life and enrich it every moment, even when we are not together.
Sometimes we think others are in the wrong, when they are not. It is a good policy to keep a mirror handy for just such situations.
There are certain items women over the age of 30 should never wear again. I count short shorts, leather pants, T-shirts with writing and/or pictures on them and hair bows among them.
Resentment, anger and hatred are not good traveling buddies. They are corrosive, eating us up from the inside out, and leaving the objects of our emotions largely unscathed. I tell myself they produce more wrinkles than any other feelings.
Our children are the most precious and fragile creatures we ever encounter. Treat them with love, respect and honesty, and those qualities will come back to you in spades. That does not mean leading them into positive and productive adult hoods is anything close to easy.
No matter what we may delude ourselves into thinking, we really have no clue what is going on in anyone else’s home, office or marriage. Sometimes we have no clue what is going on in our own.
Travel is almost always worth the investments of time, money and effort. Family travel makes memories that can be shared through the years in ways no possessions can. Travel broadens everyone’s perspective on the world and enriches and expands our own lives.
And, as a bonus, it is generally fun.
And, here is some wisdom which recurs to me more and more these days.
At the end of life, what people regret are not the actions they have taken, however egregious, but the opportunities they have not seized out of fear or any other reason. In other words, when opportunity knocks, we will be happier with ourselves if we answer the door.
I wonder whether Robert Fulghum learned that one.