Written by Harini Mandapaka
Why did I fail? Why can't I be the best? Shattered hopes and broken dreams have lately become my best buddies. Don’t I deserve to win? The quiet of the library couldn't silence my inner voice. I dragged my gloomy self to the library after losing a random intra-college contest yet again. Though I was physically present at the library, my mind went into overdrive with thoughts along the following lines impairing a major portion of my usually inactive brain:
"I truly enjoy the thrill of competition, but being anything other than the winner of it unsettles me. It's like, I only play to win. There has to be at least one thing at which I'm the best, irrespective of how silly the skill is. Be it solving a math problem quickly and accurately, writing the best article for a magazine, or getting the highest CG, I crave to carve out a niche. In a world filled with prodigies, there’s a constant internal war between panic and the urge to compete with a cool head."
To break the train of thought, I mindlessly began scrolling through Instagram and came across a post that spoke about 'Oubaitori', a Japanese idiom that means "each flower blooms at its own pace." The phrase comes from the kanji (a writing system of Japanese derived from Chinese characters) for four trees that bloom in spring -cherry blossoms, plums, peaches, and apricots. The idea, however plain it may seem, questions our obsession with perfection.
We are all like flowers, which bloom at their own pace, but are beautiful nevertheless.
As we go about our lives, we come across Sunflowers who are optimistic about anything and everything, those pretty Roses with thorns, the Lillis with quirky traits, unhurried Neelakurinji, the rare Orchids along with the lesser-known wallflowers. These analogies describe our superficial personalities. But deep inside, I believe we're all like the Venus flytrap (an insectivorous plant), hunting for acclamation. Aren't we? In some way, we're all in a rush to be recognized. Each person's interpretation of success is seemingly similar but uniquely itself. However, the desire to acquire success is no different.
Once we reach the so-called peak in our lives, what next? Imagine we have everything that we ever wanted and are perfect individuals. What do we do then? According to me, we would become like a monocarpic agave plant that blooms once and dies.
Taking each day as it comes and spending some time learning what we like is a luxury not all of us can afford. If people were flowering plants, blindly competing in a craze to stand out is just like using toxic fertilizers to speed up the yield. The only effect it will ever have is ruining the peace of the competitor.
We're often too focused on the destination to enjoy the ride. Oubaitori is a cue for us to pay attention to the little things on our way toward the goal. At the same time, we can't keep enjoying the little things while our life becomes a tragedy of failures. A right balance between focusing on the destination and enjoying little things on the way is the perfect solution. The right balance is easier written than found. (Keep experimenting, who knows,you may get it right!)
Keeping the idea of perfection aside for a while, flower buds are beautiful too. A bud never becoming a flower is a distinct possibility too. When we stick to the flora, a couple of buds not blooming would have no negative effects. Biologically speaking, bud dormancy has its advantages too. But when we try to apply the same analogy to humans, I opine that living without knowing our true potential isn't really worth it. It’s arduous to excel in something that doesn’t give us a serotonin (feel-good hormone) rush. The challenge is to find this trigger. Though our heart has a natural tendency to seek what it wants, most of us neither have the time nor patience to offer choices to our hearts. We often settle for what life throws at us without really considering if that's exactly what we desired. Unfortunately, the fast-paced world that we live in doesn't patiently wait for us to leisurely finish our quests. Isn't the complexity of the quest what makes the treasure valuable? If we always had it with us, it wouldn't be called treasure in the first place. So, all that we can do is slot in some buffer time in our busy schedules to find what satiates us.
Oubaitori is an approach that fuels this search for passion. It isn't meant to douse the obsession with perfection completely, it only implies that obsessing for perfection in what we truly enjoy doing is as natural as a bud blooming into a flower. Chasing perfection in every facet, just for the high it gives, is outright ridiculous.
With a firm resolution blooming in my heart, to begin the quest of what enchants me, I walked out of the library grinning widely. I was amazed at what a single Instagram post and some me-time could do to a person. I happily walked into the Renesa meet outside the library to pitch this idea for an article.