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Washed Up At Age 8

By Amil Niazi

Friday October 22, 2004

The failure of a child prodigy I’VE always aspired to be a child prodigy. My need to be judged on a higher academic and intellectual level based entirely on my youthful age has driven me to excess. I’ve been chasing the prodigal dragon since the tragic age of seven and each wasted year has provided nothing more than ammunition for pathetic haikus and dramatic tantrums. I eagerly swam in the foolish praise of teachers and parents, squirming for more in each direction. Like a pig bloated on my own waste, the possibilities manifested themselves through the potential in each greasy pore. And then I turned eight. The stories of other children winning praise in literary and artistic circles, devouring the designated global quota of wunder-children sent me to the brink of my first breakdown. I recovered in fine spirits, ever more determined to rise above the sedentary elementary scum that had built up in Miss Egger’s classroom.

The cut-off age was 18. If I could graduate early, grin my way through entry-level academics and develop a keen addiction to caffeine pills and anti-depressants I would be primed for a five-year grace period and suicide at 25. When I was invited to join the honours program in high school, I unwisely declined because the rest of the participants were social pariahs with more awkward natural defects than produce dollar bags. In an effort to make up for that callous decision, I stopped progressing and developed an irrational hatred towards all of my teachers. The glory days so clearly behind me, I scrambled to be the success I was before puberty eroded my self-esteem and centre-of-balance.

The things we do to resuscitate a dying career or, worse, a life that never was, exemplify the pathos of modern man. My lowest point came when I decided to revive my critically acclaimed stint as a novelist. The critics were my second grade teachers and the story was a classic coming-of-age short about the poignant journey of a young boy. At 19 it was very important for me to accept the fact that I had peaked at seven and would never again achieve the kind of creative dominance I had once exerted. So the only solution was to steal from myself. The degradation of plagiarizing your younger self and doing a significantly worse job is akin to spending your formative years in a fiery purgatory only to miss out on the chance to successfully queue up for something better.

I tried to blame it on a degenerative brain disease but it was too difficult to recall the expanses of humiliation to which I’d already gone. I realize I will never be a child prodigy. At 21, I’m aging very ungracefully and struggle just to pan out 700 words of rabble. Someday I’ll look back at those photos I never took because my parents weren’t around for my earlier successes and remember that I should’ve just cheated my way through most of my formal education. A little crocodile tear will form as I mourn the loss of prestige and sanity over all those failed attempts at neurotic dissonance. Whenever I see a brilliant child I have to stifle the urge to kick them like a spooked horse. My only hope now is to race the elderly. Whatever they can’t manage to do in their 60s, I’ll attempt to limit myself to. I will refuse to chew my own food, ride around endlessly on a motorized scooter panting towards no particular destination and creep beyond the cranial perversity that renders so many entirely useless. A failed child prodigy can regain dignity as a revered senior citizen. Wisdom has always been more valuable than youth; a learned mind much valued beyond that of naiveté and hope. I will be happier with an early bird discount than a pocketful of ulcers and childish complexes.
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