Re-post: Lessons Outside the Classroom

Posted by: 
Lara Govendo

From Kindergarten, we are taught all the basic subjects: math, science, reading, writing… These prepare us for our careers. Some for basic life skills. Cooking in Home Economics (is that still a class?!) Working out our bodies in physical education. How to balance a checkbook in Accounting (does anyone else do that anymore?) But where are we taught how to deal with the heavy matters of life? What class can we take on that?

If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that we learned more outside the classroom than we ever did inside. The real knowledge doesn’t sit in a textbook, it’s out in the world experiencing life first hand. Cold hard facts rarely exist in actuality. As much as we want to cling to something tangible as absolutes, there are few in reality.

I learned more during my graduate internships in the field of mental health, than I did listening to a lecture about how to treat those in counseling. I learned how to adapt to new transitions through evolving coping skills picked up through trial and error. However, being so close to death taught me the most. When you’re on death’s doorstep so many times, it jolts you awake. And you learn lessons that you never knew you needed.

Here’s what I know:

Friends: You find out who your true friends are in difficult times. It’s easy to be around for the fun times: hiking, going out on the town, hanging out carefree. When friends show up in your hospital room, at your house when you can’t leave it, or sit with you in silence just so that you’re not alone… Those are the real friends that are worth your time.

Family: Hard times are indicators of who is actually in the trenches with you. I have close family members who will do anything for me and have more times than I can count. They have sacrificed more time and energy for me than I could possibly repay them for. They have taken care of me financially and on every level mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I’ve also learned that not everyone is good to have around. Even if they’re related. Know the difference.

Grief: Nobody teaches you how to deal with grief. The grief of losing friends too early from the same disease that you fight every day. The grief of learning how to live without close loved ones who have passed on. The grief of adjusting to “new normals” and having activities ripped from you as you lose lung or GI function, etc. The grief of letting go of the picture in your head of how your life is supposed to go… The truth is that grief is a process. Sometimes it hits you in waves of tears. Others, you learn how to live in your altered reality; embracing the life you’ve been given. It gets easier with time, you heal when others sit with you in your pain, and you drink in every moment knowing the fragility of life in its entirety.

Character: This is developed in the tough times. When it seems like everything is going wrong. And life as you know it is falling apart. If you can choose to see the lesson during the chaos, it equips you for the trials and tribulations that WILL show up throughout your life. Your ability to endure and embrace whatever life throws at you will be a true testimony of the character you’ve built.

Attitude: this is a choice. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the middle of a health crisis. Or you’ve lost your job. Broke up with your significant other. Car is falling apart. You can still choose to have a positive attitude that things WILL get better. Because they always do. It’s just a matter of time.

Time: is our most precious asset. Most people waste it on the wrong things or people. Don’t be like most people. Seize the moment. Live for today. That is all we are given. Spend it with those that appreciate you for who you are. It is up to us to live each moment to the fullest.

Happiness: is a choice. Most people say that they will be happy when…they lose 50 pounds. Get married. Have kids. Are successful at work. Again, don’t be like most people. You can choose to be happy in this moment, where you are at, with what you have.

Seasons: Life can be viewed by seasons. Some are amazing: filled with joy, peace, and adventure. And others are terrible: filled with grief, illness, and tears. Embrace each one and know that the season you are in is temporary.

Love: is an action, not just a word. People can tell you all day long that they love you, but how do they show you? Part of loving is learning how we all feel loved and loving each other in that way. Showing up for each other in whatever season we are in. Being present. Paying attention to the little details of our lives. Making each other feel honored and valued for who we are. Stop wasting time – if you love someone, tell them and show up.

Integrity: Keep your word. Follow through. Do what you say you’re going to do. Tell the truth. Actions speak louder than words. Every time. Make sure that yours are speaking your character.

Advocate: on every level. Nobody is going to care more about your life, your needs, and your wants more than you do. Learn how to fight for yourself.

Fear: is bull kaka. It only exists in your head. Do what’s in your heart to do. Step out even though you can’t see the staircase. Believe in yourself. Stop thinking about it and just go after it.

Worry: is bull kaka, too. It’s a waste of time. Nothing is gained by worrying about things that are out of your control.

Control: is an illusion. We are comforted when we have control, but what happens when we lose control of everything? We are anxious about the future which we can’t control either. When you have nothing left to lose, you have everything to gain. Surrender to what is.

Belief: Work on this game, hard, every single day. You have to believe the best for your life. You have to believe that things are going to work out for you. You have to believe that things will get better, even when you can’t see the light yet. Believe with your whole heart and do not doubt. Get your hopes up. It’s time to have that childlike faith, again.

Self image: You were created on purpose for a purpose with a purpose. Just as you are. Stop comparing yourself to those around you. It’s not a competition. We are all pieces of the puzzle of this life that creates an extraordinary tapestry. The world needs you and your unique gifts.

Transitions: are always going to be hard. Even when you have made the right decision, adjusting to something new is difficult. Stay the course. Lean into discomfort. And be confident in your decisions. If it’s a transition to a new layer of health issues, death of a loved one, or different lifestyle – be patient with yourself. Feel the feelings. And move through the process at your pace.

Death: Nobody is immune to the tragedies of this life. Those of us with CF have a few more odds stacked against us, yes that is true. It’s also true that nobody is promised tomorrow. I’ve known people who were perfectly healthy, diagnosed with cancer, and have died months later. Others who have walked out their door, gotten in car accidents, and died immediately. None of us know when our time is up, so stop focusing on dying, and start living. It’s time.

Life: LIVE it! You have one life to do everything that you want to do. Don’t get paralyzed by fear, comparison, or the opinions of others. It’s too short to live by someone else’s standards, create your own, walk your path, and fulfill the desires of your heart. You owe it to yourself and those around you to show what is possible when you get out there and live it up.

Forgiveness: learn how to be really good at this. We are all human. All of us struggle with something on the daily. And more often than not, what we are carrying is heavy and we’re all just doing the best that we can. Viewing others through this lens gives us the ability to extend the same grace that we appreciate receiving when we are struggling ourselves.

Empathy: This is tough to teach, but it’s doable. When you can sit with someone and listen to what they’re saying and feel their pain because you want to understand them on a soul level… success is achieved. We are all capable of learning how to sit with people in their darkness. We cannot expect others to do this for us if we aren’t willing to do the same.

Share your story: This may be the most important lesson. It’s not about you, and your life is not your own. When we feel alone in our circumstances, we isolate, think this only happens to us, and cannot climb out of the pit we are in. When others share their story of what they’ve been through, it shows others that they are not alone. Everybody struggles. And it’s going to be okay. Human beings were created for community, and in community we thrive. Give others the chance by paving the way.

Do the world a favor and be yourself; fully and completely with no apologies. You are loved as you are. You are worthy. You have value. And the world needs what you have to offer. Life is being lived now. Not tomorrow. One month from now. Five years from now. Three decades from now. This moment is all we have… What will you do with it?


Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER-




Lara is 32 years young and resides in Vermont. She has Cystic Fibrosis and received a double lung transplant in August 2017. A beacon of light for the existence of miracles; Lara enjoys adventures, nature, and belly laughs with her loves. She believes Jesus walks and pants are the devil. Passionate about spreading encouragement, she always lends an ear to those in need.
Follow Lara’s blog on her website: or connect with her on Facebook & Instagram: Lungs4Lovey.







***Views expressed in the CFLF Blog are those of the bloggers themselves and not necessarily of the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation*** 


***Please speak with your physician before making any changes to your CF management***


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If there is anything apparent about people with chronic illness, it's that most are wise beyond their years! What Lara writes here, pretty well sums up what it could take the rest of us an entire lifetime to learn. If life came with an instruction manual, these wise words would surely be written in its pages. 

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