Life is complicated. And it gets harder the older we get. So many rules, rituals, contingencies, and responsibilities – it’s hard to keep up! And yet, here in mid-life, it is finally hitting me that everything I really needed to know I learned back in preschool. Everything else is just fluff; the foundational themes I should really be paying attention to are what were instilled all those years ago.
- We all have to share. We live on one planet with finite resources, and it’s our moral and social obligation to ensure that we are not utilizing beyond what our individual footprints require. In preschool I may have wanted the Strawberry Shortcake doll all to myself, but I had to share with Andrea, who also wanted a turn. In fact, if I didn’t give her a turn, the doll would be taken away from us altogether. The same principle applies now. What would happen if, today, we all hoarded water in rain-starved Los Angeles to maintain lush green lawns and luxurious 45-minute showers? Like the Strawberry Shortcake doll, the water would be taken from all of us as we would all have to pitch in to make up the deficit or face the consequences.
- No hitting. It really doesn’t solve anything. As a preschooler, a hit would quickly earn me a hit or hair-pull back, ending with tears. Although frustration is inevitable from time to time, we have to find more constructive outlets. Today, a hit may be literal or figurative. Of course we all know that literal fighting is non-productive and likely to result in an arrest or worse. But hitting also means below the belt – making those verbal assaults that can never be taken back nor forgotten. Hits of either sort end with hurt feelings, broken relationships, and still no solution to the problem at hand.
- We have to wait our turn. If you’re anything like me, you find it very hard to remain patient. Once I make my mind up about something, I want it done or realized now. But it simply doesn’t work that way, and everything really does come to us in due course. In preschool, every time there was a birthday, I wished it was MY birthday. But I learned that my birthday only comes around once a year and, in the meantime, I should help others celebrate their birthdays and be happy for their special days. Today, life remains cyclical. I may be having a low when someone else is having a high – yet it is my duty as that person’s friend or loved one to put my problems aside and truly be there and be present for them as we celebrate. All the while understanding that my turn will come.
- Nap time is not negotiable. I hated taking naps as a child. I wasn’t tired! All the things I would miss out on! The unfairness of it all when the adults didn’t have to nap! But now I realize – naps are invaluable. Rest is what allows my mind and body to heal, process, and gear up for new challenges. Without adequate rest, exercise, and diet, my body will start failing and my mind and spirit won’t be far behind. To take care of my future, I need to take care of me right now.
- Reading is important. A love of reading is the gift of a lifetime, one that allows for continuous learning, growth, reflection, and entertainment. In preschool, I adored “Curious George” and “Corduroy” – I couldn’t wait for their newest adventures come story time. And story time was always a priority; every preschool day, two stories would be read as we sat in awe and wonder. Since then, the habit has continued to spark my curiosity, interest, and intellect throughout my schooling and professional and personal lives. I now have the gift of passing that love on to my own children, and have realized that the act of reading to them is also a demonstration of my love, patience, and respect for them – as they now look up to me in awe and wonder like I once did.
- Stay curious. We are never – never – too old to learn something new. My preschool teacher encouraged our natural creativity and curiosity. Activities of the day included clay modeling, painting, coloring, craft-making, and story-telling. No idea was too outrageous or dissuaded – in fact, the zanier the better! Somewhere along the lines, I lost that creativity. I became a drone doing what I was supposed to do without applying my own imagination. But now I’ve realized that this lesson is one I need to resurrect! Curiosity keeps us fresh and asking questions, brainstorming, and always improving. Where would we be if Thomas Edison wasn’t curious? Or Steve Jobs of modern day? The thousands of “why” questions that plagued our parents as preschoolers are now the questions that result in improvements to our lives.
- The art of friendship. In the end, our loved ones are all that matter. The careers, the money, the toys, and the success are nice… But our friends are the people who make life worth living. They celebrate our achievements with us, and support us when we’re broken. They’re there when nobody else is. And preschool teaches us how to cultivate these relationships. How to give and how to receive so that a friendship can become rooted and blossom. Through trial and error, we learn how to make friends and also how to lose them. We learn who to trust and who is fair-weathered. And we leverage those lessons throughout the rest of our lives with the various people we meet along the way.
So, really, what else is there to know? These truly are the ingredients of living a good life – and they are lessons I learned almost 40 years ago. Too bad all the details and complexities have gotten in the way… But I am committed to getting back to these!