Friday, December 31, 2010


A minister named Robert Fulghum wrote a big bestseller a couple of decades back titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I guess I was a slow learner. All I really need to know I learned in the seventh grade. I share this knowledge now as useful information and advice for the new year:

      Don't worry about it when hair begins to sprout on strange parts of your body. It happens to everybody.
      Your closest friends from last year can suddenly turn into people you just wave at in the hall this year.
      You will always find new friends, unless you appear to really want to find new friends, in which case you will probably eat lunch alone.
     Never eat lunch alone.
     If you want to keep your new friends, learn to forgive them when they stuff live firecrackers in the mouths of toads.
     Always be on the lookout for new new friends.
     Use a public boys' room or girls' room only in the direst emergencies. Large people with hair on all parts of their bodies reside there, and they will take your lunch money.
     Don't make friends with the people you meet in restrooms.
     Bring your own lunch.

      Whenever you are hurt, frightened, or angry, curse.
      Whenever you are especially happy, curse.
      Whenever you are moved in any way, curse.

      Never enter a room that goes by the name "Shop."
      Never try to make anything. Especially never try to make anything that requires tools driven by electricity in a place called "Shop."
      Never touch solder, which is what holds life together. Solder requires the hand-eye coordination of a surgeon, the wisdom of God, and tools driven by electricity. Touch solder, and you will be burned in a place called "Shop."  

       There is always a wall between boys and girls, just like the one that runs through the middle of the gymnasium.
      Every wall has cracks.
      Girls are older than boys. This is true of any girl and any boy, whatever their ages. Girls possess knowledge in both their minds and their bodies that boys are always two years short of obtaining.
      When a girl smiles, it can mean almost anything.
      Never kiss a girl who's chewing gum and wearing braces. That sort of thing can lead to permanent attachments.
      Never carry your books like a girl. Unless you are a girl.
      Keep love to yourself.

      Cover your books.
      It's stupid, unnecessary, and impossible to keep your eyes on your own papers.
      Never put anything in writing that you don't want the teacher to read aloud to the class.
      Embarrassment happens.
      Learn to dance before it's too late.
      Never splash water on your lap before going out in public.
      Never examine the underside of a desk, chair, or anything else. There are things there you don't need to see.
      Never tell your parents what really happened.

      There are some people who care only about the grammar. These people will never be your friends.
      The books you read for school will never teach you as much as the books you find in your parents' nightstand.
      Simplify, simplify. All of life's necessities can fit in a locker eight inches wide.
      Every spring, clean out your locker. There you will find what your life amounts to, including several pairs of sweat socks.
      Remember your combination.
      Shower after gym, despite the hair sprouting in new places.
      Don't cheat on pushups.
      Pay attention.

And most of all, I learned this:
      After a certain age, life consists, not of one comfortable room where you spend the whole day, as in fourth grade, but of many inhospitable rooms that can be reached only by navigating labyrinthian hallways full of people going in the other direction.
      After a certain age, the people in charge of life's many rooms are no longer some version of your mother.
      And that's too bad.

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