Confucious on the bus

At dinner, a friend tells the following story:

She was on a bus with her two year old son. Suddenly, she looked down to see him scurrying away. He had seen an empty seat and immediately darted over. This story was told with great pride because it demonstrated her son’s independence and ability-he knows what he wants, goes after it, and succeeds. The story was met with laughter and smiles-yes, an all round great kid.

My a-ha moment: my mother never told such stories about me and thus I continue to line up and wait for others even when this strategy for boarding buses has long proven ineffective.

Indeed, I sometimes fear that I all I ever do in China is un-learn everything I learned in kindergarten. According to Confucian wisdom: at thirty one establishes oneself, at forty no doubts, at fifty know the will of heaven, at sixty everything sounds good, and at seventy, follow one’s heart and make no mistakes (30而立,40而不惑,50而知天命,60而耳顺,70从心所欲而不逾矩). But what if one changed lives at thirty? Can one actually become established and start over at the same time? Or is everything delayed? Or more likely, do we never quite get it right and doubt at 40, wonder about the will of heaven at 50, still become annoyed by chatter at 60, and make all sorts of mistakes when we follow our hearts into our 70s?

Sigh. Because I also know how difficult it is to go home and get back on track to a retirement of effortless grace.