For the past few years, I’ve been working on a theory. It’s simple, to the point, and has yet to be proven wrong. While it’s not quite the meaning of life, most ‘90s kids would agree that it’s relatively close in its brilliance. Ready? Here it is: Everything I needed to know in life, I learned from Boy Meets World. For fans of the show, you know it’s a fact. For skeptics, I know what you’re thinking … How could 158 episodes and seven seasons be chock full of everything that I needed to know to wander down this road that we call life? I’m ready to prove my theory right.
Lesson #1: Every day has something to teach you.
If only real-life problems could be solved in 20 minutes or less. Heck, I’d even settle for a “To be continued” episode. The one thing you just had to love about Boy Meets World was that all of Cory, Shawn and Topanga’s life crises could be magically resolved by the end of the episode. Whether Cory wanted to find out what made him special or Shawn’s dad skipped town (again) or Topanga’s family was moving to Pittsburgh, every episode had some sort of moral or life lesson that came out of it. Translation to real life: Every day has a something to teach you. True, some lessons will be more simple that others (i.e. sharing is caring), but it’s something valuable nonetheless.
Lesson #2: True love exists (and conquers all).
Is it sad that I use Cory and Topanga as my gauge for the perfect couple? No matter what happened or how many times they broke up, they always found their way back to each other in the end. Call it a naive view on the world. Call it a television relationship. But Cory Matthews and I call it the power of true love.
Lesson #3: “Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself.”
Seemingly the most memorable Boy Meets World moment of all time was when Eric announced that he had become a hermit and changed his name to Plays With Squirrels … and married a moose. In the classic season seven episode portraying the gang’s 10-year reunion if they stopped being friends, Plays With Squirrels shares that he has recently finished writing a “compendium of knowledge” titled The Secret of Life. Three-thousand pages long and he wrote only one line: “Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself.” Why? “Because nothing else seemed important.”
Lesson #4: Everybody needs somebody to believe in them.
Perhaps even more imperative than believing in yourself is having somebody who believes in you. The ever-inspiring Mr. Feeny constantly offered guidance and support for, well, anyone who happened to show up on the other side of his fence. He always helped whoever came to him for advice because he understood the power that comes from knowing that somebody else has faith in you. Everyone needs someone to believe in them, which means that we can all be Mr. Feeny for somebody.
Lesson #5: Perfection is overrated.
Remember the episode when Topanga impulsively cut her gorgeous, long hair in the middle of the John Adams High School hallway to prove a point to Cory? While I would say “Don’t cut your hair with safety scissors” or “Looks aren’t everything” are valuable life lessons, that’s not exactly what I took away from her impromptu haircut. To me, Topanga was making a statement about the unattainably of perfection. Nobody’s perfect (10 years later, Hannah Montana would try to take credit for this fact, but I credit Topanga). If Topanga, the epitome of a perfectionist, isn’t perfect, then nobody is.
Lesson #6: No matter how old you are, you’ll make mistakes … a lot of mistakes.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that Cory and Shawn managed to make even more (and bigger) mistakes as they got older (hitting professors or stealing motorcycles, anyone?). Let’s face it: The central theme of every episode usually had to do with somebody making some sort of blunder. It’s tempting to think that as we get older we consequently get wiser, or that we will somehow have a better grip on life and making decisions. Well, Cory and Shawn can completely prove that theory wrong. The important thing is to accept that everyone messes up sometimes (just hopefully not all the time). That’s life. And if you’re lucky enough to have friends and family to get you through your not-so-shining moments, then you’re already one step ahead of the game.
Lesson #7: If somebody is important to you, tell them.
I never cry. Ever. And yet, without fail, I find myself holding back tears in the final episode of Boy Meets World, when Eric asks Mr. Feeny to tell them that he loves them. Mr. Feeny instead insists that Eric’s request is highly inappropriate and that it would cross the line between student and teacher. And yet, the second class is dismissed, he whispers “I love you all.” This is what’s going through my mind: NO FEENY WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? YOU MIGHT NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN! Why would he wait until after they all leave? Of course, they all knew that Mr. Feeny truly loved and cared about them all, but what good is that without saying it? When you love someone, tell them. You never know if you’ll get the chance again.
Lesson #8: “Life’s tough, get a helmet.”
Note to self: Invest in helmet…
Lesson #9: Mr. Feeny knows everything.
In the past 18 years, I have yet to have a problem that I cannot find a cure-all Feeny quote to solve. Sure, the man talked like a fortune cookie, but his advice was always profound and timeless. My favorite Mr. Feeny quote ever: “Friendship, for example, is a real gift. It’s given with no expectations and no gratitude is needed, not between real friends.” Cheesy? Yes. Completely correct and heartwarming? Double yes.
Lesson #10: Things change … and that’s a good thing.
Eventually, Chubbie’s turned into Pegleg Pete’s, Cory and Topanga finally got married and about half of the gang packed their bags and headed to New York from Philly. Countless Boy Meets World episodes are devoted to change — and Cory’s usual inability to deal with it. Yet, by the end of the show, we find Cory bravely entering a new chapter of his life. If Cory Matthews can suck it up and accept that life changes, then I think we can all muster up the courage to embrace change successfully.
Lesson #11: “Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do Good.”
It’s like pure poetry. After 158 episodes, Mr. Feeny finally dispelled the real secret of life to Cory, Shawn and Topanga. Just take a moment to let it really sink in. I can’t lie: It took every ounce of self-respect for me not to make this my senior yearbook quote in high school.
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