For ’90s kids like me, we grew up engrossed by the undersea adventures of SpongeBob SquarePants, particularly the seasons before the first movie. It was a simpler time back then. The most stressful moments of our youth were wondering how SpongeBob and Patrick could avoid getting paint on Mr. Krabs’ belongings. Now that most of us have grown up and are ready (or not) to take on the real world, here are a few life lessons that our favorite sea sponge can teach us that are even more relevant today.
It’s what they’ve been teaching us from day one: just be yourself. SpongeBob learns this the hard way in “Ripped Pants” when he almost loses Sandy’s friendship after one-too-many attempts at ripping his pants for laughs. It’s tough to maintain that delicate balance between staying true to your identity and fulfilling the need to impress others. But, by being yourself, the rest will just come naturally, and be far more rewarding in the long run. You’ll create healthier, more honest relationships with people who are worth your while, and you won’t make a fool of yourself in the process.
Equal Division of Responsibilities
In “Rock-a-Bye Bivalve,” SpongeBob and Patrick find a baby scallop they name Junior and decide to raise him together. SpongeBob becomes Junior’s stay-at-home “mom” and Patrick the working “dad.” Their seemingly happy domestic set-up falls apart when Patrick shrugs off his fatherly duties in favor of watching TV (because “work was a killer”). He and SpongeBob end up arguing, only to realize they’ve ignored Junior growing up as he jumps out the window to fly for the first time.
Many of us who watched this episode back in 2002 will now be old enough to marry and start families of our own, so the life lesson may hold particularly true for them. But even for those of us who aren’t doing those things just yet, we can still learn from it. The episode showed how important it is to share responsibilities fairly. If you’re raising a kid, raise them together and be there for them (or risk Junior’s coconut falling on your head). In a group project at school or work, it’s best to divide the work equally and don’t rely on one person to do everything. Because if you don’t, and you end up fighting the whole time, you just might miss the important things in life (like your child growing up).
Have an Open Mind
There are plenty of lessons to be taken from “Chocolate with Nuts,” most of them dealing with how to be a savvy entrepreneur as SpongeBob and Patrick go door-to-door selling chocolate bars. However, we can learn a bigger lesson here, and that is to stay open-minded.
In SpongeBob and Patrick’s case, they should have been more open-minded toward the crazed customer who screams, “CHOCOLATE!” as he ends up being their most lucrative buyer. In real life, this lesson applies almost everywhere, be it with other cultures or communities, new ways of thinking and ideas, or even with that new movie your friend really wants to see. That doesn’t mean you have to say “yes” to everything, but if people gave more things a chance and approached them with an open mind, then perhaps the world would be a little less cynical.
Your Imagination Is an Asset
As you get older, it can be difficult to keep your sense of wonderment at the world around us. That’s why, as SpongeBob reminds us, it’s so important to keep a strong imagination throughout life.
In “Idiot Box,” SpongeBob and Patrick use their imagination to their fullest while playing inside a box. Squidward also joins them by the end when he thinks he’s driving a racecar. We could all stand to let our imaginations and creativity run wild like that from time to time as adulthood looms over us. It helps keep us young and happy, and can even make us more productive and create new things.
They tried to warn us. They really did. But, we never listened. The events of “Procrastination” might just be the most important lesson SpongeBob ever delivered. In the episode, SpongeBob has to write an essay for Mrs. Puff’s class about what not to do at a stoplight. However, he is repeatedly distracted, and ultimately falls asleep.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes this episode had been emphasized at the start of high school. If taken seriously, it could have saved me from undue stress, freed up countless hours, and let me actually sleep in my bed rather than at my desk most nights. These days, it’s far too easy for games, social media, and the internet to distract us, and we end up pushing our work or important chores off to the side until later. After a while, these deadlines and endless lists of things to do pile up, and we eventually reach “panic mode” and end up rushing and doing a poor job. Perhaps we all just need to see the pineapples on fire to scare us into not procrastinating.
Most of these lessons should be common sense. But in the fast-paced world we live in, it’s easy to forget them. That’s why it’s important to remember your favorite shows, because sometimes, all we need is just a friendly reminder from a sponge who lives in a pineapple.
Cartoons can teach us many different life lessons, whether as kids or on rediscovering our favorites as adults. For one Fan Contributor, animated shows rekindled a passion for science.