In my early twenties, I found myself at an event, listening to a short, enthusiastic lady proclaiming the virtues of “blooming where you’re planted.” As someone who has weathered a few storms by then, it dawned on me that this sentiment, while well-intentioned, can be deeply flawed. As her words washed over the audience, a thought bubbled up within me, and I whispered, just audibly enough for my friends sitting on each side of me to hear, “We’re not trees; if the environment doesn’t suit us, we have the freedom to move.”
During the pandemic, amidst the chaos and isolation, I sought comfort in nurturing life. I brought home a Burgundy Rubber Plant, a trendy house plant in 2020. Although the instructions clearly recommended it for outdoor growth, a part of me, perhaps driven by many a YouTuber showing the plant doing well indoors, was determined to risk it. I envisioned the plant thriving indoors, adorning on shelf already laden with too many plants. After potting it in a fancy flowerpot I purchased Ace, I added it to the shelf, hoping that my love and care would be enough.
But plants, like us, carry their truth. Within days, its leaves yellowed and fell, mirroring my own moments when the environments I found myself in felt alien and hostile. Despite my wishes, the indoor space was suffocating for the plant, much like how certain spaces and environments can suffer our spirit. I needed to free it. So, with my neighbor’s assistance, we dig a hole and re-homed the plant in the fertile, St. David’s soil and wished it well.
On Emancipation Day, a day symbolizing freedom and new beginnings, I walked through the garden. I paused by the Rubber Plant, now planted in the ground, towering over five feet with its branches reaching out wide, and its leaves a robust burgundy. This thriving tree bore little resemblance to the wilting plant I once knew.
It struck me then. The idea of “blooming where you’re planted” might have its merits, but it isn’t universally applicable. Just as the Rubber Tree needed the right soil, light, and space, so did I. Throughout my life, I’ve been placed in situations and environments that were far from nurturing. I’ve been confined, limited, and sometimes, hidden from the light that would let me grow. Yet, with each reinvention of myself, I was essentially repotting, seeking a space where I could truly flourish.
In truth, we shouldn’t merely bloom where we’re planted. We should have the courage to uproot, move, and find a place where we can grow unbounded. For those of us who have survived trauma, this isn’t just about flourishing; it’s about reclaiming our space and writing our own narrative. And sometimes, that means moving to a place where we can finally, truly breathe.
Today, I think of the two adages not as opposing forces, but as complementary lessons. There are times when perseverance is necessary, when adapting to the environment you’re in is the only option. But it’s equally crucial to recognize when change is not just an option but a necessity.
Looking back, I understand that the garden doesn’t bind the plant; the plant seeks the garden. And in that seeking, in that journey, we find places and soils where we don’t just bloom – we thrive. For me, it was no longer about blooming where I was planted, but about planting myself where I could truly bloom.
Life’s journey isn’t always about blooming steadfastly where one is placed. It’s about recognizing when the soil beneath isn’t nourishing enough, when the light above isn’t warm enough, and having the courage to move towards a place that is. Through journaling and creative writing, I’ve unearthed this profound truth, and it has been liberating. We are all, in our own ways, seeking that perfect patch of earth where our roots can spread without restraint and our spirits can soar unburdened. And in that search, we find our most fertile selves.