Against the Commonplace Wunderkind

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Mgbe onye ji tete ụra bụ ụtụtụ ya. / Whenever one wakes up is his own morning. — Igbo proverb

The above Igbo proverb highlights the importance of understanding that life is an individual race, not a competition to see who arrives at the finish line first. It emphasizes that individuals peak at different times, and it is futile to judge someone’s success by how early another person succeeded. There is a lot of wisdom in this proverb that is lost in contemporary culture.

Lamentably, the current world is one where people venerate youth. Some people fastidiously keep up with whatever trends are occurring among the youth in order to remain “relevant” and “current.” Some even try to mimic the sartorial choices of the young. There are entire industries devoted to people who are fervent about looking young for as long as possible. Aside from just venerating youth, more problematically, people are irrationally obsessed with being perceived as having achieved success while young. The worldwide cultural obsession with the Forbes 30 Under 30 lists shows that many think achieving global recognition and tremendous success by the age of 30—society’s arbitrary endpoint for youth—is the best way to define a successful life.

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