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Lessons learned in college: Not every thought you have is a winner

Going back to college later in life has turned out to have its humbling moments. Throughout the past two years while I have been finishing my bachelor’s degree, I have found myself learning life lessons that, more often than not, are embarrassing.

As a 28-year-old, I have gotten used to being in classrooms full of students who are younger than me. I have made many comments that have fallen on deaf ears and have dated me. I’m not good at Twitter. I don’t Snapchat. I quote TV shows and movies that most of my fellow students have never seen.

Being back in school, I started having moments that I chalked up to life lessons. Whenever I have had these moments, I have immediately texted my sister to share the new lesson learned. In turn, she has shared them with her co-workers, giving everyone a good laugh.

After a few instances, I decided to start writing them down as a funny—yet sometimes painful—reminders of the things I have learned along my journey.

Today’s topic: Not every thought you have is a winner.

Graphic by Maddy VanOrman
Graphic by Maddy VanOrman

A few semesters ago, I was taking a literature class. I don’t remember the book we were studying at the time, but I do remember that I had only slept about two hours the night before the class.

For this class, we had been asked to read some supplementary articles. Participation was a big part of my grade, and there were only a few of us who volunteered to comment on a regular basis. I was one of those students.

This day, the professor posed a question to the room and nobody jumped in to comment. After a noticeable silence, I couldn’t stand it anymore and decided to take a shot.

I should have kept my mouth shut. The moment would have passed, and the subject would have been changed.

However, I spoke up and kept speaking for about five minutes, rather passionately I might add. When I had gotten to the end of my comment, I said to the professor, “Does that make sense?”

He looked at me for a few seconds with pity in his eyes and said, “No.”

Embarrassed, I looked around the room for support, but nobody would meet my gaze. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it totally made sense in my mind. I just couldn’t get anyone else to understand it.

Now at this point, a smart person would just admit defeat and let the class move on. Did I do that? No. I started talking again, for about five more minutes. I kept making the situation worse and worse, until the professor started to laugh at my failed attempt to make sense.

Throughout the remainder of the class, I sat in embarrassed silence, my face bright red, as the professor made a few subtle jokes about my failed conversation.

While I am a good sport and the first person to laugh at myself for doing or saying something stupid, I learned a life lesson in that class: Not all of my thoughts or ideas are winners.

If you are like me, we share this pain. My thoughts can sometimes be random and jump from one subject to another almost instantaneously. Sometimes, I let my mouth blurt things out before my mind has had a chance to think them through. As a result, I am often putting my foot in my mouth, and let me tell you, it doesn’t taste good.

So while I am constantly embarrassing myself in the course of my education, at least I can try to find a valuable lesson in those moments.

Not every idea is genius. Not every thought makes sense. Not every day is good. If something is going to go wrong, chances are it will happen to me. But life goes on.

You laugh until cry, or you cry until you laugh. You think a little harder next time. You move forward. Not everything is perfect, so don’t let the imperfect moments detract from the journey.

Last but not least, if you can’t laugh at yourself, feel free to laugh at me.

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