When I was about fourteen years old, my father once told me a story. We were about twenty minutes from home and had just come from running an errand for my mother. Well, my father had. I was just along for the ride.
“Kwapi, imagine I wanted to send you on a long journey. Now imagine this journey was on a train that would take a few days to get to your destination and all I gave you were bananas and candy, what would you eat first?”
I was used to my dad’s random stories. If they were stories from his childhood, although entertaining, they never really had a moral or lesson to be learned. If a conversation or story began with a question, however, there was a high chance he wanted to teach me something.
I replied, “I would eat the bananas first, and then the candy.”
“Why would you do that?” he asked.
“The bananas will go bad if I don’t eat them early enough in the journey,” I said. “The candy, on the other hand, won’t go bad for a long time and I can save them for later.”
“That’s right!” he said proudly. “And that’s how you should look at life. The bananas represent those opportunities in life that may never be around forever. These are those things we as parents want you to always remember are important—an education for example. The candy represents those things in life that can wait, such as partying, drinking and sex. Sometimes you children think we don’t want you to have fun or enjoy your childhood. We do. But we just want to make sure that as you grow up, you’re taking care of those things that are important instead of being distracted by those things that can wait. We want you to eat the bananas before you eat the candy because if you don’t, you might regret it.
I’m certain my father did not make up this story. If he did, then I sincerely apologize for underestimating his creativity. However, regardless of the story’s origin, this lesson my father taught me is one I continue to carry through life. At every impasse and moment I could have eaten the candy instead of the bananas, I choose the bananas.