by Mandy Xu
On Friday night, in the crescendo of the blizzard, I took a deep breath and trekked downhill to a party my team was throwing to celebrate a recent win.
Stark white bullet sleet plunging —
Struggling towards victory,
Feeling like defeat.
When asked in class on Wednesday, “How many of you feel like failures?”, I instinctively raised my hand. I was raised by parents who overcame incredible obstacles to be where they are. s a result, I’ve always felt like nothing I do is ever quite enough — I’m never really quite smart enough, or well-mannered enough, I’m never trying hard enough, there is always more I can do. Though my parents have never pressed unreachable goals upon me, I’ve always felt a certain invisible bar of expectations hovering somewhere above a height I can reach. I spend a lot of time trying to meet imagined expectations. In Chomei’s Hokoji, the author narrates the impermanence of everything and the struggle of people to maintain their position and their power (represented symbolically by their homes) from the natural flow of life (represented by the natural disasters that repeatedly strike). The resistance against the ebb and flow of success and failure is clearly futile. To cope with this, Chomei lets go of expectations — without a family or a wife to support (Chomei 60), he builds a small, simple house (Chomei 61). In this place, with “no one…to hinder [him], no one in whose eyes to feel ashamed” (Chomei 61), he becomes content. This demonstrated that the best way to live is in a way that makes oneself happy — working to fulfill other people’s needs or meet other people’s expectations is needlessly exhausting and ultimately achieves very little. In the Tale of the Heike, the story of the Taira’s fall from incredible power is outlined in excruciating detail, the story blanketed by the idea that their decline was inevitable because it is impossible to be successful, especially so successful, forever. In addition, the text reading concluded that if failure always follows success, then success must follow failure (Inouye 49). These concepts resonated deeply with me this week. If success follows failure and failure follows success, then we are trapped in an endless roller coaster of victory and defeat. I am terrified of failure and as a result, I am not courageous. I avoid doing things if I suspect I may not do them well. But if both success and failure are inevitable, then there is no reason not to push myself and try things that I cannot predict an outcome in. At the conclusion of this week, I feel like I may have stepped towards the door of my burning house.