When life becomes unfamiliar, that’s when we grow the most. As I recall, few days in my life were more foreign than the first day of school. Specifically, first grade.
Way back in September 1990, everything was new. My clean, white sneakers that had yet to touch the playground dirt; a Trapper Keeper stocked with unmarked loose-leaf paper; a classroom of strange-looking seven-year-olds just as nervous as I was.
Millions of kids feel the same butterflies that come with change. In hindsight, the first day of school — no matter the grade — offers the building blocks for successful adulthood. With a nod to Robert Fulghum’s classic bestseller “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” this is what we learn on day one.
Look in the mirror before walking outside
A lifetime of checking our appearance begins on the first day of first grade. From then on, we make sure to give at least half a glance in the mirror before we head out for the day. Hair? Check. Wrinkle-free shirt? Check. Million-dollar smile? Double-check.
Thanks, first grade.
Learn to let go and be on our own
We tip-toe into the first day of school clutching our parent’s hand but must ultimately say good-bye and face the challenge alone. From an early age, we understand that, while a support system matters, we have to first rely on ourselves.
“Hi, my name is _____. What’s yours?”
The same networking strategy for an after-work happy hour matters in elementary school too. In a room where you don’t know a soul, the best ice breaker has always been a simple, genuine introduction.
A lifetime of recess
We spend hours cooped up at our desks and need time each day to run around and get the blood flowing. Wait, are we talking about the playground at school or gym after work? Exactly.
Assurance of a hand-written note
On the first day of school, nothing calms the nerves like a hand-written note from mom tucked inside our lunchbox. A quick “You’re doing great. I love you!” is a giant exhale that reminds us everything will be OK. Sometimes (all the time) grown-ups need confidence boosters too.
Life at the sound of the bell
‘BEEEEEEP!’ First grade officially begins with the inaugural chime of the school bell. As adults, we don’t need a school bell to stay on track because that familiar blare is forever etched into our brains. It’s like time management before we even knew the meaning of the phrase.
Now and then, we have to wait our turn
If our class ventures out of the room, we walk in a single-file line. When we answer the teacher’s math problem, we raise our hand and wait to be called. As adults, we then find ourselves (begrudgingly)in line at the DMV and holding our hand high during a speaker’s Q & A. Where did we learn to be so patient? The first day of school.
Early education in mass transit
When the first day comes to an end, we’re ushered into the parking lot to find our designated bright yellow cheese-wagon. At that moment, we have one mission: get on the right bus. Later in life, we obey the same rules as we navigate complex bus routes and elaborate subway systems.
Finally home after a long day, there’s nothing better than kicking off our shoes and settling into the couch with something cold to drink.
The same goes for being an adult.
More from Ladders
- Why Jeff Bezos schedules all of his ‘high IQ’ meetings between 10 a.m. and noon
- 3 lessons every entrepreneur should learn from the food delivery revolution
- Why it’s important to separate your self worth from your money
- Productivity ninja: 5 powerful tips for getting more stuff done
- 10 mistakes smart people never make twice