“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” -American Poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“You are just a late bloomer,” my mother said to me from her side of the living room, where she carefully sipped a small cup of coffee. She was, of course, referring to the challenges and insecurities I was experiencing having returned to college at the age of thirty. “So, you’ve taken awhile to figure out what you want to do,” she continued, “Lots of people are that way!”
In principle, how could I not agree with my mother? Of course we don’t all travel at the same pace and fewer still manage to find their passions and career on the first try. Even so, I could not help thinking there was a fast-paced train traveling by that I simply missed a long time ago. I would often envision myself chasing that train into a tunnel only to watch it disappear from sight.
I like to think of that locomotive being success, social networking, and fame. The era of Facebook has left us drowning in information every second of the day. In addition, the never-ending stream of successful imagery our peers share with the world can be off-putting rather than inspirational at times. TIME magazine featured a report earlier this year claiming that Facebook leaves many people feeling, “lonely, frustrated or angry” (Sifferlin, 2013). Our dependency on social networking sites can sometimes diminish our feeling of worth and leave our contentment rattled by the apparent lovely lives of others.
I will confess that after spending far too much time on my computer, I often felt that my “in progress” dreams did not have value. I closed my laptop feeling paralyzed by the gravity of other people’s talent bombarding me on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and the like. I continued to allow myself to experience that until it began choking me of my ability to grow into who I was made to be. Perhaps the envy of others’ successes, beauty, or careers has left each of us in want from time to time. The question remains: In the fame obsessed, social network-driven, and competitive world we live in…what is a late bloomer to do? Is there a place for her at all?
The famous proverb says, “Seeds of discouragement will not grow in a thankful heart.” The author of this graceful statement is unknown, an irony when you consider how focused our culture is on crediting good words and deeds to the deserving party. Could the mystery author who penned this quote be onto something? Merriam Webster defines “thanksgiving” as “the act of giving thanks,” “a prayer expressing thanks,” and “a public acknowledgement or celebration of divine goodness.” It’s a beautiful thought, thanksgiving, but how do we practice it in daily life? Here are some steps that helped me:
- Start the day by writing down three things you are grateful for (nothing is too big or small).
- Write down three small goals that propel you towards your ultimate dream. Give yourself a practical deadline to meet these goals. Be flexible and kind to yourself when determining this.
- At some point throughout the week, encourage or compliment somebody on his or her success and talent. Offer this free of comparing it to yourself or anyone else.
- Allow yourself to reflect on your week and experience quiet away from the noise of your phone and computer.
After just one week of trying these simple steps I found my burden lighter and not so bound by the chains of comparison and failure. Another week after that, I legitimately felt happy for other people and their accomplishments. I began to experience the wonder of appreciating the beauty people create and the fingerprints they leave on the world through their careers and gifts. In the midst of this, seeds of excitement regarding my own dreams started to take shape like they hadn’t in years. I still have a long way to go in my discipline of thanksgiving, but I am assured of the simple truths I have learned thus far.
We can forge ahead motivated by the desire for success and fame, and perhaps even accomplish some of that. Or, in contrast, we can lament our current place in life and compare ourselves to others in sadness. Yet at our core, our souls long to connect with gratitude for our journey, no matter what part of it we find ourselves in. Without this connection, we will forever be bound by the chains of envy and insecurity. This spirit of thanksgiving will help us embrace more freedom, healing, and life-giving success than we could ever imagine.
Practicing a thankful heart has confirmed what our mothers, grandmothers, and mentors have always told us over a cup of coffee: Blooming late is better than never having bloomed at all. In fact, perhaps we bloom right when we ought to: at the perfect time.
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