Growing Pains7:30 AM
You start out as a compact seed, clearly labelled and packed away: This girl’s going to be a good one. A smart one. A dutiful daughter, smashing writer, amateur world changer, perpetual thinker. You’re smooth and round, though admittedly small, but people love you for your potential. They can hold you in the hollow of their hand and dream about what you’re going to be. There’s a chance you won’t turn out right—frost might take you, blight destroy you, you might never get enough sun and turn out weak and yellow, or maybe you get eaten by birds or planted in the wrong place—but most people don’t see that. They see you blooming where you’re planted, strong, healthy, fruitful.
I liked that time. People liked you because you talked big and naively knew the world through biased glasses, not because you actually did anything. People believed you even if your actions didn’t match up to the big talk. You were able to be shaped and molded; you couldn’t mess your life up too much because people would say, “She still has time. She’s still young. She doesn’t know any better.” And they would believe in you no matter how many times you stumbled all over the path. You weren’t becoming anything yet. You had time.
And then there’s this growing stage. This painful growing stage. You’re just starting to put down roots and drinking in what life has to offer, good and bad. You taste the dirt, that it’s bitter and there are rocks in the path and that the ground is hard, but there are good things too, things you need. You’re in the “becoming” stage: it’s unsure. You’re tender enough to be transplanted; there’s a chance you can stay in that spot forever.
This time—it isn’t as fun. You’re ugly, bulging out of your naivete, shedding your previous dreams, yet still feeding off everything you were hoping to be, like a shoot out of its seed. It’s too late to have a clean slate anymore. Change hurts, because you’re in the soil and it’s soaked into you somehow, sometimes in ways you don’t want, sometimes in ways you never imagined.
And the thing is, you’re growing. You don’t get a chance to go back to the drawing board, to discover, “Whoops, I don’t grow so well in this part of the garden. Let’s rethink this.” You can’t pull yourself back into the seed and start over. It’s a walk you’ve got to finish, the end closer than the beginning, but still terribly far away. People don’t judge you by what you want. They—if kind-hearted—look at what you’re becoming, but mostly they look at what you are—immature, tender, weak, not even close to measuring up to what you hoped or what the label on the package said you’d be.
Sometimes you wonder if you were mislabeled altogether—if your abnormalities are the cause of blight or too little sun or overwatering, or if you were indeed just in the wrong package and nobody was the wiser. You really don’t have a choice to be anything other than what you are. That’s exhilirating. That’s frightening.
It’s hard. The winds seem colder. The nights are darker. The weeds suck more life out of you than if you were fullgrown and blocking out their sun with your outspread leaves.
I wish I could go back sometimes. Back to being a seed, where nobody could look at you and say you’re failing when you’re really only trying to grow—or tell you how wonderful you are when really, those leaves and buds are going to fall away to reveal another, totally different self. People depend on you for what you’re going to become. You were planted there for a reason. It’s too early to give up but maturity seems so far away, and your young self looks nothing of what you’re supposed to be.
The rains still come. The sun sometimes beat harder than I like. But I’m still growing. Slowly. But I’m still growing.