Life lessons are gained through the most unexpected places. They can occur during a brief chat with a student at the library. They can occur during an intense meeting discussing college admission and life in general. They can even occur while watching a sitcom every Thursday night spanning September 22, 1994 and May 6, 2004. This year is the 25th Anniversary of Friends.
For ten years, America tuned in to watch six 20-somethings who lived in Manhattan. The situational comedy provided us with years of repeated one-liners, conversation starters, and relatable experiences. The show’s witty humor and sarcasm lives on in syndication influencing a whole new generation of fans. Setting aside the pop-culture relevance, the series also indirectly taught valuable higher education lessons.
The One with the Fake Monica: Even back in 1994, identity theft was a hot topic issue. Sometimes when life throws curve balls, we focus on the negative. In reality, these curve balls allow us to embrace challenges and overcome fear.
Lesson: There is a growing population of working, adult students who need a supportive environment to do the very same thing, to embrace challenges, to overcome fears, and to earn a degree. We have a responsibility to encourage these individuals by offering educational options that create pathways to achieving their goals by providing support that breaks down fear and removing obstacles to their success.
The One with the Bullies: Dealing with haters is almost a rite of passage. Everyone can think back to the playground, high school, college, or even the workplace when they were picked on for differences outside of our control.
Lesson: There are news stories everyday reporting inequalities across campuses and throughout our communities. Despite all our societal advancements, we have yet to find a way to celebrate individual differences and value alternative perspectives. Higher education is in a unique position to stop the cycle by creating safe environments that welcome and promote diversity.
The One Where Rachel Quits: We have all worked in a job that, well, we did not care for. We had a deep desire to do more. We wanted to follow our passion. However, more often than not, reality prevents us from doing what we all would love to do—to quit.
Lesson: While we can all relate to this feeling, technology has afforded us options. Higher education offers busy adults a chance to chase their academic passions like never before. Educational options from coding boot camps to online degrees provide people an opportunity to realize a dream they never thought was possible. It is not always easy or convenient, but everyday there are people who break free from the “have tos” and change their life by pursuing their “get tos”.
The One Where They’re Going to Party: Being a chef is difficult. Maintaining a successful restaurant is a full time job. One negative review can have a huge impact. However, sometimes one bad review can result in a new job offer.
Lesson: Sometimes we look at our life and think about the what ifs. What if I had [insert opportunity] or what if I had [insert alternate reality], but what we miss by looking back are the opportunities that may be available as a result of the path we did take. Not everyone follows a traditional path, but that doesn’t mean earning a degree is out of reach. We can learn more from the “road less traveled” and “that can make all the difference.”
The One with the Yeti: We all make snap judgments. In a moment, we can feel scared, threatened, or unsafe and we react. Sometimes, we end up bug bombing a yeti or the new neighbor.
Lesson: We are all human. We pass judgment. We stereotype people and experiences. However, in the end, we are the ones who miss out on life’s unexpected blessings. Higher education admission departments are designed to pass judgment. It is an institution’s responsibility to assure that students, regardless of their background, can be successful. While we all have the desire, we may not have the initial skills to achieve our goals, but there is something to be said for grit and passion. The first step towards embracing diversity is offering opportunities coupled with support. Success is fueled by one person who believed it was possible. It only takes one.
It is a fact that an educated society is better than an uneducated society. As humans, we have to work to overcome our faults. We have to look past the numbers and see the people. We have to scale the obstacles and see the opportunities. We have to avoid roadblocks and create paths toward progress. We have to dispel negativity and gently nudge people forward.
We can find life lessons in everyday interactions or even television shows, if, we take the time to be open. We need to admit our mistakes and learn from others.