When I think of growth, I think of a seed, planted and loved until it unfolds to produce something beautiful. Whatever comes from it, whether it’s a tree or a flower, has its own journey to manifestation. Depending on the process, the seed may face hardships growing into the forms we get to see and enjoy. If watered too little, it may become stunted at a certain stage in its journey. If placed in soil that doesn’t accommodate its nature, it may choke. If exposed to other souls that intend to do harm, it may not last. If watered too much, it may drown and die.
This growth, although quite literal to the journey of our friends from seeds, can be applied in many ways to our own lives. When we enter this world, our soul is met with hardship. The birthing process alone is no easy feat, and is our first introduction to the challenges that await us in this life. As we grow, we learn quickly from our environments and the souls surrounding us what it means to be us. From a young age, we are told who we are, what our faults and best qualities are, who we should love, and what our goals in life should be. Living in this reality, this story that was written for us and not by us, is like our seedling friend living in soil that doesn’t accommodate its nature. We find ourselves getting restless and hungry for something more; new soil, if you will.
Recently, I picked up Danielle Doby’s book of poetry, “I Am Her Tribe”. On the very first page, lit up like a Christmas tree to my desperate eyes, were the words: “trust the teachings of what brings you discomfort.” And again the concept of growth entered my mind. The overwatering, the underwatering, the choking soil; they all bring discomfort. And they all motivate growth. How many times have I found myself in a group of people that I thought were my tribe, only to find that I no longer belonged? How many nights have I been restless while trying to hold space in a narrative written for me? It was during these experiences that I learned perhaps the most valuable lesson in my journey: what I’m living, doesn’t have to be my story.
It’s amazing how free I felt just from that one revelation. I could create any story that I’d like. It was entirely up to me! I will admit, though, that with this freedom came a fear I’d never felt before. By giving myself permission to change, I was also acknowledging my responsibility to grow. I was acknowledging that if I took control of the soil around me and how much water and love I receive, then it would be on no one’s shoulders but my own if I didn’t succeed. There’s our friend discomfort again, rearing its grisly head.
Usually when I think of growth, my mind takes me to a field of sunflowers. A sunflower field is what I’d imagine my happy place to be, if my chronic allergies and extremely sensitive skin would ever allow me to experience such a thing (unfortunately, those are two stories I can’t rewrite). One night while thinking about this, my mind took me again to my field of sunflowers. As they stood proudly from the earth, gazing at the sun, I noticed the soil around them. Some had rich dark soil. They stood the tallest, with dewy stalks and vibrant petals. Others had soil that was adequate, but not nearly as moisturized as the first ones. They stood tall as well, only their attention wasn’t on the sun; it was on the first flowers. Then there were the ones in soil so cracked and dry, no amount of shea butter could bring it back to life. They did not stand tall. They drooped and held their gaze to the ground, ashamed to look at something as magnificent as the sun.
Do you recognize yourself in one of those flowers? Are your curls popping and your skin glowing, or do you need more shea butter? What teachings have you gained on account of your discomfort? Maybe you’ve learned that you’re much stronger than you thought you ever could be. Maybe you’ve learned to not be so hard on yourself, because you’re doing the bet you can. Maybe you’ve learned your love is precious and valuable. Maybe you’ve realized that it really isn’t you, but them. One thing is for certain: as much as growth produces advancements and upward movement, it also produces a deepening of one’s self.
Whatever your teachings, I encourage you to hold space for the lessons to take root. Open the door to the feelings that come with growth. Understand that they won’t all be pleasant. Most importantly, I invite you to give yourself permission to change your story. Yes, it can be quite alarming to make changes to the only life you’ve ever known. But nothing worth having was ever acquired with ease. Give in to grace to explore the possible; the unknown can be quite beautiful if we let it.