We were sitting in Miss Jenny’s classroom. It’s 4th grade and we’ve just handed in our projects. You know, the ones where your father does all the research and your job is to cut out the pictures and paste it on the A2 size cardboard sheet. The topic was “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Last year I wanted to be a soccer player, specialising in step-overs and “shibobo’s” like “Duku Duku” Makhanya. This year I’ve grown up and see the world from a much larger perspective. I passed a note in class to a girl asking if she would like to meet me at the ‘big rock’. We shared our first kiss and well, things had to change. So I’ve chosen a more serious career path for me and my future wife. I’ve decided I’m going to become a writer.
“…Suddenly, there was an urgent need to zone back in.”
Three kids present their projects before I do. Their proud display of dreams and aspirations remind me of a miniature version of ‘Shark Tank’ but, I digress. Mandy is first and she says wants to be a teacher. ‘You are being a teacher’s pet’ I mumble to myself. I knew that she would get good marks simply because of her choice of career. Second is Kelly, she’s a slight outcast and the smartest kid in the class. She’s pretty, but never gives boys much attention which in hindsight was a clear sign of intelligence. The glasses Kelly wears has made her develop an insecurity which she will only conquer in years to come. Kelly says she wants to become an Actuary. Nobody knows what exactly that is but, nobody admits it. She is well spoken, and clearly light years ahead of the rest of us in terms of ambition. At this point I knew that everyone who would have to present after her could expect their grade to decrease by at least 10%. Eventually, I zoned out and started thinking about ‘break’ (recess) when suddenly there was an urgent need to zone back in. The teacher had just called my name. Most people speak of butterflies, but I swear that instead I experienced a cockroach infestation in my stomach. Some may have even been flying. After some time I gathered my senses, picked up my project and walked to the front. I unrolled it and stuck it to the board. My presentation on an A2 cardboard filled with figures of my dreams that are too big to hold. The depth of that, is figuratively beautiful. My friends are shrieking and laughing at the back of the class. Trying hard to ignore them keeps me preoccupied during my presentation. I don’t realise time lapsing and before I know it…I have finished.
I proudly walk back to my desk. I’ve thrown the dream project on the floor next to my teacher’s desk. The pile is filled with the rest of the class’s dream careers. The pile is now a metaphorical endless wasteland filled with immeasurable possibilities, an oxymoron if there ever was one.
Two weeks later at the end of the term I receive my report, along with all the projects done that were subsequent to the presentation. They were once stuck to the classroom wall, but now put in see-through plastic bags and given back to us.
I’ve done extremely well this term which excites me because of the standing arrangement at home where an ‘A’ is incentivised by R100. I have 4 this term which means that I am officially the richest kid in the streets this holiday…
Thinking back to that day I recall being overjoyed. I walked down the street without a worry in the world. Ahead of me stood a large industrial trash container symbolising the moment that would determine my focus for years to come. In my left hand, the report, the key to my riches. In my right hand the plastic bag, filled with dreams of immeasurable potential. I emptied one of my hands in the container, I know now… it was the wrong one.
-Jade Christopher Totten