Stop and smell the daisies

Your Secret Admirer

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To the two pretty girls crouched on the side of a hill on campus, so lovingly examining the tiniest patch of daisies I have ever seen:

I would’ve never noticed those flowers if I hadn’t noticed you. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they must’ve been the smallest I’d ever seen in my life — pale petals tinier than the nail of my pinky finger with delicate stalks as thin as worn-down patience. They could barely keep their heads above the sea of green grass swirling around them, let alone hold out against our entire grand campus. How could those pea-sized blossoms ever hold a candle to the towering redwoods growing along our glimmering creeks or the looming panic of approaching midterms?

Yet there the two of you were, enveloped in a strange, impenetrable pocket of peace among a gushing throng of busyness, admiring those daisies as if they were fallen stars. As if they were the only thing that mattered in the universe.

As a writer, I’m always searching for new ways to portray the world. Describing it as big and bigger used to be my method. After all, each of us are but one droplet in our planet’s ocean of 7.7 billion people, our planet but one speck in our glittering galaxy, our galaxy but one thread in the dark, endless fabric of our universe. Within the cosmos, we are those quivering daisies. So, I trembled as I examined the world, characterizing it as vast, unconquerable and utterly incomprehensible.

But an instant paradox arises when one understands the world as incomprehensible — because it’s not, well, comprehensible. It’s just frustrating, terrifying and rather exhausting.

That exhaustion quickly extended beyond my literary pursuits. It ruled most of my middle school years, intensified by the myriad of miseries storming through my life at the time. 

I’ve mentioned before that my grandmother passed away around the same time my family moved out of my childhood city, everything I knew melting away like snow. Before I had even gotten a chance to settle into my new house, I was whisked away to Malaysia for the funeral. My homeland seemed so foreign without my Amah’s warm arms waiting to embrace me the moment I landed. Even scarier, my comforting childhood city would not be waiting for me upon my return.

The order of those events is obvious. I must’ve boarded the plane, attended the funeral, returned to my new city and started at my new school. But the events themselves remain hazy in my mind, blurred together in a single gray blotch of horrible weariness. The rest of my middle school memories didn’t fare much better, every new experience simply thickening that dreary gray smear.

Telling myself that the troubles of my life didn’t really matter, that I was merely one withering daisy in the colossal universe, was a dismal sort of comfort. It justified the way I allowed myself to drift aimlessly through the churning sea of existence, simply waiting to drown.

Honestly, I’m still not sure when or why things started to get better. Perhaps my obsession with my own insignificance really was just a phase, a new teenager’s absurd instinct to be cruel to their growing, adjusting self. All I know is that at some point in my apathetic drifting, I began to appreciate the pretty glint of the little bubbles whirling past me — the little things in life. The heavenly sweetness of fresh chocolate chip cookies, the latest heartwarming moment in my favorite TV show or the hilarious wheezing of my brother’s laugh. A small but lovely clump of flowers sprouting from a crack in a sidewalk, their yellow centers shining even brighter than the sun.

I now understand the world as small: a collection of tiny, seemingly insignificant moments in my life. The universe remains infinitely massive, but my universe is not. Instead of worrying about the endless space around me, I’ve decided to focus on the miniscule space I do take up. I’ll admit, it sounds simpleminded to say that I live for the taste of chocolate or for the next season of “Shadow and Bone.” But if it’s those little things that are keeping me going, are they really so insignificant after all?

Even the most dazzling constellations are made up of individual stars, which in turn are just made up of individual particles of dust. But without those first bits of dust, nothing else would’ve ever existed. Everything starts off small.

And it’s those tiny flecks of dust which really connect us all. If we zoom in past skin tone, biological sex and every other corporeal feature an individual could possibly use to define themself, we find atoms. The same atoms that make up other people. On a microscopic level, we are simply all matter, physical substance meant to take up space.

So maybe you’re right, Daisy-Devotees. Perhaps those miniscule flowers really are the center of the universe. Even in that sea of grass, they managed to find a little bit of space for themselves. And that’s all that truly matters.

Geraldine Ang writes the Wednesday column on human connection. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.