I remember third grade. I was doing poorly in school and life was like a fog. On one particular day, I remember playing with my little brother, my two cousins and their dog, Princess.
We were running through the yard and around the house. We would all line up, one person would take a rag and drag it, and we would all run as fast as we could so that Princess could chase us. The dog was very attracted to the rag, and we had so much fun out of watching her run behind us and in some instances, jostle us to the ground by snatching the rag as if playing a tug of war match with us…and lick, lick, lick. Princess was in love with the rag, the game, and with us. And we were in love with her.
Because I was doing poorly in school, I needed a tutor and it so happened that on that day was my day to be tutored. My uncle was my tutor and as much as I love him, he was strict. When he came, all games were over and it was time to get on with work.
On this particular day I was having too much fun playing with my sibling, cousins, and Princess. He could see it in my eyes, but he was not moved. No, no. He was not moved.
We went to the study table. I brought out my books and notebooks. I forget what we were studying, but I remember that I kept looking through the window outside at my brother, cousins and their dog, Princess–running, laughing, having so much fun.
My uncle looked at me in the eye and said, “Right now they are having fun, but you will thank me for this one day when you are successful.” I looked at him angrily and thought, “We’ll see.”
I am a junior in college now. As I look back on that day, I ask myself, was my uncle right? Would it have made a difference if I had played with the other children that day? Would an hour or two of my life away from homework to enjoy being a child in any way hurt me academically? I’m tempted to say no, not because I think sacrifice, study, and seriousness are bad–or not even because I am ungrateful of my uncle’s kind efforts to help me succeed academically. Sometimes I have to pull a late-night a time or two to finish work which would lead to a good grade, and ultimately to a better future. But sometimes these efforts can take away from enjoying the here and now. And living in the moment can sometimes be beneficial and rewarding.
I still remember that sunny late afternoon turning into late evening, and I wish that I could bring that day back. But I can’t. It’s not everyday that an 8-year old can just be an 8-year old in Liberia.