The Lost Child

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“A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn’t play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly” –Pablo Neruda

When he was young, he watched the boys playing soccer out the window with a smirk. Playing soccer wasn’t going to increase their IQ’s. He never glanced up for long, though. He must keep studying to get ahead.

He grew up like that: huddled in his living room, memorizing dates and names and formulas. Whenever anyone asked him to take a break, he would tell them, ‘just let me finish this paper’ or ‘after I’ve done all my research’ or ‘when I pass this exam’. After the work was done, he would play, he promised. When he was rich and powerful and successful, he would play.

Every day, he repeated his dreams like a mantra. He wanted to be an entrepreneur, a shrewd businessman, the next Person of the Year on the cover of TIME magazines. He would be rich beyond imagining. He would choose an innovative company and work his way up from the bottom, never relenting until he was the boss.

After university, he did exactly that. But even when he was the boss, even when his company was the biggest in the city, he never stopped working. There were always things to do. After the work was done, he would rest, he promised. When he was ranked one of the ten richest men in the world, when he saved enough to buy that mansion, when he expanded his company worldwide- when he accomplished all that, he would rest.

He was tired all the time, frequently sick, and incredibly stressed. He ignored it, though. Happiness could wait. He ignored the emptiness inside of him, too, the longing for something out of his reach.

He continued to blaze through his goals until one day he slumped in a leather armchair, an old man. By this time, his name was lauded in countless circles, splashed across countless cover pages, and listed for countless awards. Now was the time to rest. Now was the time to be happy, to reclaim those hours of his life spent working.

He picked up one of his son’s soccer balls and brought it outside. He gave it a tentative kick. Over the fence, a few boys chased after their own soccer ball, whooping and shrieking with pure delight.

He tried letting out a whoop, but it scraped his throat and he had to cough a few times to recover. He kicked the ball again, but the impact sent pain through his joints. Even picking it up seemed to take ages; his back was growing stiffer with every passing day.

He brought the ball inside and laid it on his lap. Out the window, he could see the boys. They were tackling each other now, tussling on the grass. They weren’t increasing their IQ’s, but he began to realize that perhaps they were doing something more important.

He closed his eyes and mourned over the child he never was. He identified it now, the part of him that he’d always felt was missing. Missing like the last puzzle piece, or the keystone of an arch.





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