Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:32:39 PM
When I was in fifth grade, I found my life lessons in a different kind of book than most students. On the surface, "The Prince of Tennis" is a graphic novel about a young boy who is determined to become the best tennis player in the world. It seems to be just an easy read, but to me, it is so much more. To me, it is a book about perseverance and tenacity, about surpassing one's limits, and about aiming higher.
At first glance, Ryoma Echizen is a typical grade-school kid with an ambitious dream. Beneath his arrogant demeanor, however, he is constantly plagued by the shadow of his ex-pro tennis player father, by his meager height, and by his young age. When he arrives in Japan with his family, no one knows who he is. When he tries out for the tennis team at his junior high school as a freshman, no one believes he can make it. What makes Ryoma stand out from his peers is not his strong desire to become the best. Rather, it is his decision to cast off his own self-limitations in order to realize his dream. To Ryoma, there are no limits.
Six years later, I still live by the principles that Ryoma and his teammates taught me, and particularly by one line from the first volume: "The master painter makes art with any brush". In Ryoma's case, the brush given to him was one of a small stature and no name. He was placed in a world where his peers scoffed at his ambitions like they ridiculed his height. And yet, he breaks all the barriers and makes waves across the entire nation; with his dusty and impaired brush, Ryoma paints a portrait of himself that no one could ever erase.
Then, just like Ryoma, the brush given to me was not in pristine condition. My parents can barely speak or write in English and do not have education beyond high school. My older sister was away at college on the other side of the nation. At home, I had no one to go to for help on homework, and I often ate dinner alone because my parents were working. The brush in my hands was fragile and worn-out, but it was not incapable of producing something worthwhile. In elementary school, I learned to cook rice and wash dishes. I filled out all the official documents and explained to my parents what they meant. My parents could not help me with my schoolwork, so I learned to be independent. Despite my situation, the picture that I decided to paint for myself was one of a bright future.
"The Prince of Tennis" taught me that through hard work and perseverance, self-limitations are merely stepping stones towards one's ultimate goal in life. Overcoming them is a difficult task, but surpassing them is a testament to one's true ability. Painting with a tattered brush is challenging, but not impossible.