The most precocious eleven year old

I spend a lot of time worrying about what’s ahead. As a student, maybe it’s inevitable that I look forward to graduation, but I often wonder, “Will this whole development thing pan out?”. Getting a job in what many call the “non-profit world” seems like a questionable idea.

But in the middle of one such train of thought, I remembered a moment from my childhood.

I was in grade five, and we had our big assignment for the year, our “independent study project” (ISP). We could pick any topic, but we had to write a huge paper on it and give a presentation to the class. The ISP was the last project in elementary school, and so it gained a dreadful reputation as the crucible to pass through before middle school.

When it came time to choose topics, my classmates chose things like basketball, rabbits, and the Italian soccer team.

But this was 2003, and I had just heard about this brand new thing called the Euro. It had just been released, and it fascinated me. So instead of a simpler topic, I chose to do my ISP on “currency”.

I spent the year learning what my topic actually meant. I read up different currencies on the then fledgling internet. I got to interview someone from the Australian Mint!  When it came time to present, I built a full scale model of a Yap Stone with my Mom (she did most of it). I stood in front of my class and talked about inflation, explaining why the government couldn’t just print all the money it wanted. Finally, I told my classmates all about the Euro, and we thought about whether it could last.

Yes, I was a pretty strange child. But if you had of told this eleven year old that in a decade he would still be fascinated by political economy, he might not have believed you.

But what strikes me is that when I chose to pursue something I was passionate about, it worked out. I passed my ISP with flying colours, and I am still building on the  foundation of research skills I made during that project. This term I got a part-time job as a research assistant, the first buds of promise that choosing to study development might work out.

Flowers are just starting to bloom in Canada right now, and  it’s 25° out. I spent most of this week stuck inside, sitting in front of a computer, which almost felt like a punishment. But as I study, learning about transnational regulatory governance or the Acholi people in Northern Uganda, I know that am in the right place. While the distant future is still up in the air, all I know is how to make the best choice for today.

Invest in what you’re passionate about, not what’s easy.


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