The Hard Way


Is there any other way to really learn a lesson besides learning it the hard way? Humans aren’t inclined to listen to advice until it becomes personal experience. You can tell children repeatedly not to touch the stove because it’s hot, but odds are, they won’t listen until they get burned themselves. People learn by doing. It’s human nature.

Schools sometimes acknowledge this. The best teachers are the ones who take what children learn in books and put it into action. Instead of just reading about grammar, students use it. Practical application is the reason that shop classes actually have a shop where students build things themselves instead of just a classroom. Almost everything we learn, we learn the hard way.

Like most teenagers, there was a time when I wouldn’t listen to reason. I thought my elders were stodgy and old-fashioned. They couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to live in my world. What I failed to realize is that human existence has essentially remained static for centuries. Hundreds of years ago, people slept in beds, ate food, learned to speak a language, breathed, blinked, peed. Odds are pretty good that in a few hundred years, we’ll be doing just the same, even if it’s in a different configuration, provided that we don’t destroy ourselves first. Humans, no matter what color, gender, race or creed, are all essentially the same; we always have been and we probably always will be. We all share the same genetic building blocks. If we evolve, we will evolve together as a species.

However, when I was a teenager, I was entirely different from the rest of the human race, of course. Besides the possible exception of my peers, no one could have conceivably understood what it was like to be me. My parents were never teenagers themselves, right? They sprung forth into the world as completely formed adult humans with no knowledge of what it was like to go through the process of becoming an adult.

When I was a teenager, I learned all of my of lessons the hard way. In fact, the lessons I learned were so very hard that I ended up a penniless, homeless, drug addict, hell bent on self-destruction. I didn’t care whether I lived or died. Now that is a sobering thought. In the end, I had to turn to the people who could never possibly understand, my parents, to save me. Somehow, I made it through and I’m a better person for it. Those experiences are a part of me. They are emblazoned on my mind and I will never forget them.

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