Wednesday, March 11, 2015

'Bloom where you are planted'

So many random thoughts lately, about personal life changes and work life changes, and how the two often overlap. Sometimes the life changes are painful, like divorce or death of a loved one; other times they are joyful but still stressful—marriage or the birth of children. Work changes can involve a new job in a new city, a promotion, being fired, or being moved to another department. I spoke with a friend last week who recently moved to another part of Norway to begin in a new job. I also know of a couple who have moved their business from New York State to another state in order to get a fresh start in life. Sometimes we end up liking the changes we’ve made; other times not. It’s not always easy to predict how we will end up feeling about the changes we’ve made. And if the changes are inflicted upon us (e.g. death of a loved one or being fired), we will often not like how we end up feeling about them.

It thus seems to be of some importance to be able to land on your feet no matter what happens, no matter what life throws at you, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Change, whether self-chosen or inflicted, happens to all of us. One day, we wake up and the circumstances of our lives are suddenly no longer safe, predictable, or comfortable. Much has been made of the expression—‘moving out of your comfort zone’. That expression implies a certain amount of self-insight when it comes to choosing to make the changes that may be necessary in one’s personal and/or work life. But sometimes an unexpected death or the end of a relationship move us out of our comfort zone as well, whether we like it or not.

So what happens when you end up choosing to make a change that plants you in a situation or in a geographical location that you end up not liking or wanting? What happens when you want to go back, but you cannot go back, because the circumstances of your life do not permit that? Perhaps you are financially-bound by your new choice—you’ve invested a lot of time and money in moving to another location, and you cannot just up and leave. In a recent conversation with a friend, the expression ‘bloom where you are planted’ came up. It triggered many feelings in me, and I decided to explore it further.

I found that this quote is for the most part attributed to the Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) in his writing about charity. I’ve thought a bit about it, and have some questions. What if it is not possible to bloom where we are planted, because the ‘soil is not fertile enough’? What if we waste our energy trying to get seeds to grow in rocky soil; what if we ‘cast our pearls before swine’? But also, what if we do get the seeds to grow in rocky or unfertile soil, let’s say by removing the rocks or adding fertilizer to the soil? Is this quote really a means to motivate us to find ways to get around what appear to be insurmountable difficulties? I’d like to think so. I’d like to think it is telling us not to give up, to stay strong, and to find a way to survive and flourish. For all those times I’ve thought that living abroad has been too difficult, especially early on, I’ve found a way around those feelings. Something happened to make one of the many aspects involved in living abroad, easier. Someone was kind to me, opened a door (literally and figuratively), or someone listened and showed empathy. Someone did unto me as I have done unto others countless numbers of times when I worked in Manhattan and was introduced to new co-workers from Europe who felt like fish out of water. I was kind to them, I included them, I made them feel welcome. Through the years, I’ve learned how to make myself feel welcome in a new place, by making sure that my traditions and ways of doing things are honored and respected in my home. You can bloom where you’re planted if you have respect for where you come from, if you honor what you bring with you to a new situation, and if you approach your new situation/location with an open mind. It is possible for all these factors to co-exist inside an individual such that an individual can bloom. I cannot and would not dare to speak for those who have been physically and/or psychologically forced into their new surroundings (imprisonment or upheaval due to war). But in normal life/work situations, it seems to me to be possible to bloom where you are planted, at least after a certain period of time and adjustment.  

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