I always ask myself what Mary Oliver asked us.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
The answers have always been different.
I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant when I was a child. Then a soft-skill trainer, when I began working. Then it felt like the corporate industry didn’t allow me to tap my creative side. Ahem! A wee bit haughty all right. Sigh!
So, I became a journalist, and wrote for newspapers, and websites. I thought writing was my soul’s call. But, journalism almost killed my love for writing. And, I returned to the corporate industry again, after having learned a lesson — work is only for sustenance, and that I am still a writer even if I don’t write for a media house. So long as I feel like writing, I am a writer.
My life flashed across my eyes, when I read Once Upon A Tree, an uplifting book written by Dawn Jarocki, and Soren Kisiel, and illustrated by Jessica McClure. As I read the book, I asked myself again, “What is the purpose of life?”
There is a gorgeous leaf. Our protagonist. He looks at a tiny bird, and a colourful butterfly take their first flight. From the top of the tree, where the view is breathtaking, he witnesses the changes which happen to the bird, and the caterpillar. He doesn’t know what he has to do with his life. Should he fly like the bird? Should he build a cocoon around himself to become a beautiful butterfly? He is crestfallen.
How futile would life appear when one is not sure what to do with it? How one fails to appreciate one’s own goodness, when one is bogged down by uncertainty?
The leaf asks the bird, and the butterfly to help him. But they can’t counsel because they just feel it inside themselves to do what they are doing. Poor, poor leaf!
“How do I know I’m doing the right thing!” he called out…
The leaf worried, day and night, that he wasn’t where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to do.
The bird comes back to the leaf, who has now turned ravishingly crimson. As the leaf was so preoccupied with his inability to find a purpose, he fails to observe his own beauty. During their conversation, the leaf, who was feeling lost, realises his purpose. That moment is utterly beautiful.
Once Upon A Tree is an important book. It tells the children, and the children who are hiding in adults’s bodies, that we don’t have to do what others are doing. Our childhood friend might go on a world tour. Our colleague might quit his full-time job, and establish a start-up. Our cousin might become a mother. Our neighbour might redo his house. But, it doesn’t matter.
It just doesn’t matter.
If only we eliminate our misplaced perceptions on what we must be doing, if only we relax with our anxieties, if only we embrace what we think are our inadequacies, if only we accept our wrong decisions, if only we stop placing our lives against everybody else’s, if only we let go of our egos, then our purpose will emerge like the first ray of the morning sun.
The purpose doesn’t have to be grand. It doesn’t have to change the world. If it encourages us to be in this moment mindfully, and if it inspires us to look forward to the next moment with hope, then that purpose is supremely meaningful.
Once Upon A Tree takes us on that tour — to find a purpose that belongs only to us.
Note: I chose this children’s fiction on Netgalley again, and I am glad I chose this.