**Reflect on the biggest lesson that you have learned so far in life. What experience(s) taught you this lesson? Why is this lesson important to you? Why should others care?**

At some point in our lives, we’ve probably all been told to “learn from our mistakes”. Some of these mistakes are just minor, but the bigger ones can lead to some of the most valuable life lessons.

I’m Cheryl Choi, here to talk about my biggest life lesson, and you’re listening to the Weekly Contemplations.

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At some point in life, I began memorizing any random knowledge I could: the seven sins, all fifty U.S. states, the NATO military alphabet, and more… It started with a worry that I would someday need to use a random piece of information that I could have remembered but chose not to, and my weird habit of memorizing everything I could was born. Little did I know this quirk of mine would lead to the biggest life lesson later on.

Now, as you may know, memorization is like an impostor for understanding. You can spurt out the steps of a process or random formulae perfectly well, yet understand absolutely nothing about actually applying them in life, which is why trouble started brewing when my memorization method bled into my schoolwork. As math class got harder, I began to cram the patterns and formulae into my head instead of truly comprehending the concepts, relying solely on memorized equations and given values during tests. I never understood how to apply the equation practically or why the answer made sense. All I knew was that I got the correct solution, and that was all that mattered.

In junior year, I realized how unreliable this method actually was. There were situations too complex to memorize and test questions asking for practical application of equations, meaning memorization couldn’t be my pillar of support anymore. This epiphany was reached as I sat with my head slumped over the test paper, staring at the blur of numbers and variables that I had no idea how to insert into an equation and which ones to use.

Thus began my mission to fully understand the topics we learned, aided by textbook explanations and some patient friends. Instead of purely memorizing every new formula, I dug deeper into the reasoning behind each, filling my head with theories instead of meaningless numbers and symbols. Through this lengthy process of taking the time to understand each concept, I was able to discover the mathematical reasoning behind the area of a sector formula and the graph of derivatives, to name a few. This reformed habit has also improved my general learning ability since I now attempt to comprehend concepts instead of memorizing facts and spitting them back out like a photocopier during tests.

And so what did I gain from this experience, and why is it important?

Well, this lesson teaches the value of searching beneath the surface, to not just interact with things at a superficial level. An example of this would be social interactions, during which people should put effort into empathizing with others to be considerate of their feelings and needs. Most importantly, however, the experience teaches the value of being open-minded to new ideas and adjusting yourself to accommodate situations instead of always sticking to one method, to stop jamming a puzzle piece where it doesn’t belong in the vain hope that it’ll fit.