Bird of Paradise – Strelitzia reginae
In today’s society, there is an underlying pressure to impress others and put your best foot forward. I have felt this all throughout my childhood. One instance where I had a hard time with my appearance and how I presented myself to others was when I was very young. As a kindergartener in a Catholic school, we paired up with fifth graders for a ceremony called May Crowning. We presented flowers and crowned Mary during mass in front of the whole school. We would walk from the back of the church, up the aisle, and to the altar. Being the youngest in the school, I felt so nervous in front of every other grade.
My teacher told all of us that we had to bring in one flower so that we could contribute to the ceremony, so I went home and told my mom and expected to get a typical pretty pink or red flower. She brought me to the backyard and the only flower that we could bring was a Bird of Paradise also known as Strelitzia reginae. Its appearance was not paradise to me: an orange spiky top with a green spiked beak. How can a flower possibly look like this? I thought this was an actual bird that turned into a flower. As a five-year-old, I was so scared of the plant I almost cried. I was even more terrified to bring it to school for all my friends to see.
My mom had no idea why I reacted like that because as an adult, she knows it is a rare and beautiful plant. I now realize how unique this plant is and how it has the ability to grow the way it does. When the day came for me to bring it to school, I threw a fit because I did not want to also scare my entire class. I was already so scared to walk in front of the entire school, and now I had to also carry the scariest flower a five year old has ever seen.
As I walked into my class the morning of the ceremony, I was so nervous about what people would say about me or my plant. I see the majority of my class carrying roses and sunflowers, and I am jealous and just wished that my flower would somehow magically change. It turns out that I was overthinking the entire situation. Nothing was different when I started talking to my friends and the comments I received about my flower were all positive. They all thought that I had the coolest flower because it looked like a pretty bird. I never would have expected this and I was only so scared because I was worried that others would judge me. Looking back to my kindergarten self, I wish I could have been confident and proud that I was unique. I never thought that one flower would have that kind of impact on my life, but nature works in mysterious ways.
Author: Audrey Le is an undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley.