Column: Li

Viva la kids

The other day, a group of kids suddenly burst into the coffee shop where I was sitting, working on an article. As the peace was immediately disturbed by their presence, I had to pause my writing for a moment. The kids brought their drinks to the table next to mine and sat down. Feeling a bit annoyed, I started to sneak some peeks at my neighbours. There were two girls and three boys, who, judging by their looks, were not older than 18. ‘Come on, kids. It’s only Thursday afternoon. Isn’t it too early for you to be hanging around?’ I muttered to myself. Although I wasn’t that into school either when I was their age, I at least didn’t skip my classes.

After a while, one of the girls started up her laptop and called to the others to look at the screen. Vaguely I could see it was an excel sheet. Taking a big sip of her frappuccino, the girl announced to the group: ‘Hey guys, check out our profit for this quarter’. Profit? Suddenly I got became very intrigued to know what exactly this was all about. And that’s when my journalist’s instinct kicked in, as my hearing sharpened in order to catch as much of their conversation as possible. It turned out that these kids were running an online shop for camping equipment. Moreover, they liked to refer to each other as the department of marketing, ordering, distribution, finance and customer service, although I’m pretty sure for a ‘company’ of this scale, those were most likely all one-person departments, manned by those sitting at the table next to mine. But never mind the actual size of their company, it turned out this kiddy business was generating monthly earnings of 20,000 euros. And on the day in question, they were having their shareholders’ meeting in the coffeeshop.
Not only did such a realisation make my earlier muttering judgement seem so ridiculous and embarrassing, but also it occurred to me that my life was rather pale compared to these kids. But how can it not be? We live in a world with so many kids founding their own companies before 20, giving a stadium-sized concert at age 15 or sailing around the world alone at age 14. I bet if I told my grandma these stories, she would say ‘this crazy world is upside down’. Regardless of what others think of this phenomenon, I admire these kids’ bravery and spirit to create miracles. And I’m glad to see this spirit is spreading out to influence more of their peers. It could be true that very soon most of these kids will get to see the other side of this story - hardship, failure, troubles other kids are spared from and so on. It’s the side that is hardly told in the media, simply because it doesn’t sound that appealing. But so what? If these things are inevitable in our lives, then these pioneering kids are at least a few steps ahead of the rest of us. We always say ‘you’re never too old to follow your dreams’, but perhaps nowadays these kids are also proving to us that you’re never too young to get them underway.

Lei Li, from Shanghai, China, is recent MSc graduate in science communication.
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