This year I have a lot more patience with my plants. Of all of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants that I started at the same time, some are huge and vibrant and burgeoning; big and sturdy and bright. Others are less tall, less far along; other tomatoes and peppers that I started a few weeks after them have outpaced them. But still they persevere. They continue to grow, and to make new leaves, tiny filaments of green connecting today’s tiny and unimpressive juvenile to the ripe and colorful fruit that, months from now, is sure to come. I know that this is the case not because of my several years of experience now in starting seedlings, but because I have always been something of a later bloomer myself.
Case in point, I had an experience at work last week in which a series of unrelated events forced me to step up to the plate and take on some responsibilities that I had really been trying to avoid. They’re responsibilities that I have often considered, and for which I thought I would even be well suited. Sometimes I’ve even been frustrated that they weren’t my responsibilities. But still, they are new ground, more visibility; a little scary and intimidating, and they were – well – responsibilities.
Nonetheless, last week I took the plunge and I found that not only wasn’t I as nervous as I expected to be, or as self-conscious – though I did turn red and have a hot flash – I did a good job and as a reward I received…drum roll please…you guessed it. More responsibility.
That, my friends, is the way of the world. The thing is, now that it has happened, I’m actually pretty happy about it, and even proud. It’s like that little, fledgling filament of a recent true leaf that I’ve been keeping close to the point of invisibility not only was not invisible but was there growing and ready to unfurl all along. I just needed to feed it a little encouragement and get it out into the heat and the light.
As I’ve said, I’ve always considered myself to be something of a later bloomer. But when is one’s failure to develop or achieve according to one’s own expectations a case of late blooming and when is it a simple failure of courage? After all, courage isn’t about time. But then again maybe sometimes it is. Courage can come into play out of necessity. It can be that last ditch, do-or-die effort because time is running out. Courage in action can double for desperation, frustration, or even not caring anymore about consequences. Or maybe courage is just doing something in spite of all the reasons that you don’t want to. Maybe it’s drowning out those negative voices with a rousing and constant, “I can do this”. I do know this: I’ve been in the world long enough to know that successful people, and talented people, and even brave people, are not necessarily, and maybe not ever, people that aren’t scared.
I think that I have finally internalized something over the past year that is of vital importance. I’m not even sure how to put it, but I’m going to give it a shot.
The world is huge. It is immense. To quote Cressida Cowell’s awesome book How To Train Your Dragon, it is “gobsmackingly vast”. What does this mean? It means that there are more things in it than I will ever know, and that there are millions and billions of people who will never know me, or anything I do. And the point is? It kind of puts that fear and self-consciousness into perspective. It’s okay to try, because a failure or a misstep doesn’t have to be mortifying. It’s what you make of it really, and the world is big enough to absorb it.
Taking the time one needs to develop, to form a strong root system and to establish the place where one is to grow is fine. But sometimes it’s also good just to stick it out there and see what happens. Garden planning is all fine and good. But there comes a point where you have to just stick a seed in the ground and see what happens. This is the kind of gardener that I have always been, and I think it’s time that I applied some of my hard-earned gardening wisdom to the rest of my life.
About half an hour after I had scribbled my idea for this post into my notebook, my daughter was watching The Wonder Pets. For those of you with small children who can relate, it’s the episode where the baby blowfish starts preschool. My daughter turned to me and said, “The first day I started school I was really scared, but I wanted to go.”
And that’s really the thing, isn’t it? You have to try. You have to do the things you want to do whether they scare you or not.