Earning Stripes

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A long time ago back in Japanese class during college, we had an assignment where we had to make up our own haiku and then present our 5-7-5 syllable Japanese poems to everyone else. We also had to explain the significance of our poems.

I recall this time period back in the day because my Japanese sensei wrote a haiku about her pregnancy, and me (having a brain fart at the worst possible times) totally forgot that ‘stomach’ in Japanese was お腹 (onaka). So yeah,  it was quite embarrassing when I had to be the one to put a dent in her special haiku announcement to the class that she was having a baby. >.>
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Well, this was my haiku:

虎の縞 お犬の世界で もらえません.
Tora no shima o-inu no sekai de moraemasen.
(Roughly) A tiger’s stripes in a dog’s world cannot be received.
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So yeah, I kind of screwed up my haiku because I worded it awkwardly by Japanese language standards. Nonetheless, I had a clear message behind what I was trying to say.

I wore my Chad Ochocinco jersey in class to help my classmates understand that shima (縞) meant stripes, and I do remember pointing at the jersey’s stripes to emphasize this point.

So I had a hard time coming up with a haiku initially, but somehow a Frosted Flakes commercial kind of inspired me to write about the notion of “earning your stripes.”

Branding is a powerful thing, don’t you think? Anyway, earning your stripes simply means putting forth the required work and effort to succeed. Therefore, a stripe is like a badge of honor, a reflection of an achievement. For my haiku, I inserted the part about a dog’s world to refer to the dog-eat-dog world we all have to live in, where everyone has to compete against others, to emphasize that circumstances can be daunting and ruthless.

Finally, I just ended the haiku with a part about the tiger stripes not being received (but earned).

In other words, I wrote a poem about the means of working hard to succeed in a competitive world and then earning prestige for doing so. Any achievement is that much sweeter when you bust your tail to earn it fair and square.

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