There was a time in my life that whenever I felt bad, I would go looking for clovers. It became a habit around five years ago, when I’d just moved from Manila and noticed that clovers were more abundant in Tokyo. I have always loved the magical stories people weave in everyday objects, so naturally, I felt drawn to the idea of searching for a four-leaf clover.
Of all the times I looked for one, I was only able to find it once. I was on my way home from school and by some miracle, a patch of clovers caught my eye. The sidewalks near the University of Tokyo are lined with plenty of small clovers and yet with a glance, a shy four-leaf jumped into sight, as if waiting, asking to be picked and wished upon.
I remember being puzzled at first. I kept counting the leaves to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. And when I finally realized what I was holding was real, I was flooded with euphoria. I pressed it, made a bookmark, and gave it to the person who taught me how to find joy in looking for clovers.
In the years that followed, I remained vigilant whenever I saw clover patches. Never mind that I looked strange crouched and busily looking. It wasn’t really finding one that mattered, it was just knowing that they exist. Like the happiness that momentarily slipped from my fingers, I believed it is out there, waiting to be found.
But in the last two years, I haven’t looked for one at all. I think I learned to temper my moments of sadness with other simple joys. Sadness was, after all, a familiar friend, one that you no longer shut the door to as you grow older; one that you invite in, chat with, and say goodbye to knowing that you’ll see each other again.A week ago, however, it wasn’t sadness that came to visit. It was sorrow. It looked familiar, alright. It still carried the same worn-out luggage—betrayal and abandonment—that I felt crushed under the weight of when I first met it as a child. That is, when I first understood that I was a child out of wedlock, and that my father, unmarried when he had me, chose to be with someone else instead of his first-born daughter.
Sorrow was an unexpected visitor, and because I had forgotten how to handle it, I was at a loss with what to do. And so I tried to do the things I love. I rode a train, hiked a mountain, surrounded myself with animals at the zoo on the mountain top. And it worked. I was feeling a lot more upbeat than when I first started my short trip.
On my way down, I came across the ropeway station. I decided to look around for a bit, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a small garden—a clover garden to be exact. I felt a familiar sense of excitement as I crouched looking. And like the first time I found a four-leaf clover, I didn’t have to look too far or too long. It stood out and immediately caught my eye, as if it was waiting for me all this time.
They say that finding a four-leaf clover brings good fortune, but I have learned from childhood that good fortune is earned rather than granted. To believe that fairy godmothers or Prince Charming’s can help you is folly. I have climbed my way up from the pits of misfortune without one, and I know that the only hero you can really rely on is yourself.
And yet in that instant, while staring at the four-leaf clover in my hand, I felt as if I was being told, “It’s alright. You’re not alone. It’s alright.”