Friday afternoon rolled around. School was out, and I went to the front gate for my weekly after-school duty. As I assisted arriving parents to sign their kids out, I knew that at any moment, Yok, one of my fifth grade students, would be come over to hang out with me for a few minutes. I have to confess that Yok had spoiled me with her perfect attendance since the beginning of the school year. I always looked forward to our after-school conversations. Eventually Yok skipped over and sat on the bench beside me. “Hello, Mr. Allen,” she said cheerfully. This that our chit-chat meeting was now in session.
On that particular afternoon Yok and I shared personal stories about the times we broke or dislocated our bones, and about other stupid things we did to get in trouble. After about ten minutes I decided to change the course of our discussion. “Yok,” I said with a thoughtful tone. “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”
“That kind of talk is for grown ups, Mr. Allen. And I’m just a kid.” She paused to study my reaction. “And besides,” she continued. “The future is unbalanced.” Her eyes trailed off into the distance, leaving her words as silent echoes in my mind. I immediately recalled a scene from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince where the narrator explains: “Grownups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.”
But alas, I was a grown-up, 32-years in; and I felt a need for further explanation. “Unbalanced?” I asked. “What do you mean by unbalanced?”
“I mean the future is unbalanced,” Yok explained in a scholarly tone. “By the time I’m your age I will have changed my mind 100 times. So what’s the point of thinking about it now?”
“You’re so right!” I said. “Thank you for teaching me this truth.” She extended her hand in the air with her palm facing me. Awe-inspired, filled with amazement at Yok’s wisdom, I extended my hand to meet hers in a quick high-5.
The future is unbalanced: what a beautiful way to verbally illustrate the ways of the universe. I believe Yok understands that she’d be better off absorbing her mind in things that happen at the present moment, instead of meddling in a future that hasn’t yet been born. And I think she is a happy child for it.
And her comment, I’m just a kid: it reminds me that I too, am just a kid. Kids are good at being kids because they are kids. So as a grown-up I find them to be great teachers for me to learn how to live life more happily. Thank you, Yok, for reminding me to live in the present moment; thank you for reminding me to continue being a kid.