author Jackie Madden Haugh talks about life's lessonsSister Mary Fidelis firmly pressed the edges of a 5-inch strip of gooey electrical tape to my lips, and 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 slapped her signature solution for excessive chattering across my 13-year-old mouth. Then, with a flick to her long black veil, she twirled and headed for the next unsuspecting student on her mission for silence and decorum.

Due to a learning disability that went undiagnosed during my scholastic career, academics were a challenge for me. I found sitting still and concentrating on subjects that appeared to have no relevance, unbearably boring. So, to make class more palpable, I entertained the person sitting next to me. It was more fun telling a good joke or story than filling the recesses of my pea brain with information I thought 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 check book 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 what I learned outside the classroom that has truly enriched my life.

In my 59 years on earth, I’ve realized:

While some people might turn out unworthy, trust is still crucial for a healthy soul.

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

While I’m the queen of vanity – my desire to always look perfect is innate – I’ve learned that the best accessory I could ever wear is donning 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 really need?

Forget the ego. It just bursts in the end like a balloon with too much air.

Entitle your children with enormous amounts of much love and the freedom to live their own 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 only comes with dedication when seeking your spiritual truth.

Trust that the moment you’re in is exactly were 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 go back to the class that is life and discover all the knowledge there is to learn in 2012. Anyone want to come to school with me?