author Jackie Madden Haugh talks about life's lessonsAs Sister Mary Fidelis firmly pressed the edges of a gooey, 5-inch-long strip of electrical tape to my lips, she screamed, “Jackie, how are you ever going to learn anything if you’re constantly talking?”

It was 7th grade, and the Wicked Witch of the Convent had slapped her signature solution for excessive chattering across my 13-year-old mouth. Shortly after that, with a flick of her long black veil, she twirled and headed on to the next unsuspecting student, her mission to achieve total silence and unquestioning decorum intact.

Due to a learning disability that went undiagnosed during my early scholastic career, academics were a challenge for me. I found sitting still and concentrating on subjects that had no relevance unbearably boring. So, to make the class more palpable, I entertained the person sitting next to me. It was more fun to tell a good joke or story than to fill the recesses of my pea brain with information I’d never use.

Over the years, of course, I grew to understand that math was an important subject to know. I had bills to pay and a checkbook that needed balancing. Relying only on an ATM was not a mature way to handle my finances. Today, I concede that my education did end up having some benefits, but it’s still what I learned outside the classroom that has truly enriched my life.

In my 61 years on earth, I’ve realized the following:

* Some people might turn out unworthy, but trust is still crucial for a healthy soul.

* That the gift of forgiveness is something you must do if only for yourself. It will keep your open and loving.

* While I’m the queen of vanity and my desire to always look perfect is innate, I’ve learned that the best accessory I could ever wear is surrounding myself with people of quality and depth. It’s not the baubles or purses that tie any outfit together, but the people who share in your joy or take the time to dry your tears when you’re in pain.

* Never let go of your inner child. Kids have the true answer to happiness because they keep everything simple, sweet, and unconditional.

* Give until your wallet is screaming. Being stupidly generous is often a good thing because there’s always someone less fortunate than you. Other than the basics, how much more do we need?

* Entitle your children with enormous amounts of much love and the freedom to live their lives even if it disagrees with your vision.

* Be passionate and ambitious in searching for that one thing that speaks to your heart alone.

* Faith is a gift, but it comes with dedication and from seeking your spiritual truth.

* Trust that the moment you’re in exactly is God wants you to be. The good, bad, and precious of it all is part of His universal plan.

* Living in a comfort zone is tedious. Break out once in awhile and do the unthinkable.

* Positive feelings are a choice we make each morning when we wake up.

* Marriage does not complete an individual. It’s the individuals who complete the marriage.

* Follow curiosity. It leads to brilliant results.

* Persevere to live everyday to the fullest. It’s all we have.

* Dream big, don’t fear mistakes, and know Karma rules the world (so make sure it’s always good).

I can’t wait to see what the next forty years brings in receiving my Ph.D. in life. Want to come back to school with me?