Learning Comes from Doing

Kelly Pien, Editor-in-Chief

According to unofficial La Puma tradition, the editor-in-chief’s last column consists of advice to the underclassmen. In a shocking turn of events, the girl who has written extensively about the value of breaking tradition, being an independent thinker, and trying new things is actually going to follow a tradition for once.

I read a lot of advice columns throughout most of middle and high school. You know, the kind that you see on Medium, the type that claim, in stereotypical Buzzfeed-clickbait-headline style, “Reading These 3 Pieces of Advice Will Change Your Life Forever.” I pored over self-help posts on Medium, blogs from The New York Times, and the personal columns of previous La Puma editor-in-chiefs, searching for essential truths of high school and life so I wouldn’t have to struggle through them as much myself.

As a graduating senior who now (sometimes) writes her own editor-in-chief columns, I like to delude myself into thinking that I’ve kind of figured out high school by now: Only take AP classes in subjects you enjoy. Find friends who support you even when everyone else is ridiculing you. Listen to your teachers most of the time, but share your opinions too. Go into everything (friendships, class selection, class mergers, career exploration, college choices, et cetera) with an open mind.

Be flexible but don’t sacrifice your core principles – for me, honesty and kindness. Listen to advice from trusted sources even if you’re intimidated, but ignore those who don’t have your best interests at heart. Asking for help isn’t necessarily a sign of weakness, but do try to be independent. View roadblocks as challenges to overcome rather than giant sinkholes that will suck you into the depths of the earth. Put effort into your schoolwork, but take deep breaths when it threatens to overwhelm you – which will happen a lot – and try not to worry too much because grades ultimately don’t matter in comparison to who you are as a person.

On a basic level, I already knew all the above as a freshman by reading those self-help articles. So I thought I knew how to succeed. I thought I could avoid others’ pitfalls. But I didn’t fully understand or know how to apply any of this until I went through high school myself. Even now, I doubt I could do an absolutely “perfect” run through high school if I had it to do over again. High school is quite unpredictable, but that’s okay. Facing challenges helps you grow.

I think I was obsessed with reading advice columns because I wanted to feel productive and worldly from the comfort of home, without actually going out and doing the things that foster personal growth. That’s the thing: learning comes from doing, even if you sometimes do it wrong.

If anyone is reading this editor-in-chief’s column, I first must ask why on earth you are listening to this unqualified quack’s advice, but secondly, I must ask that you put this admittedly ironic and hypocritical editor’s column down.

After 4 years of high school, the advice I have for underclassmen is this: read advice columns, but don’t forget to actually go out and live life.