One of my favorite things about living in Connecticut is watching the leaves change color in the fall. The phenomenon is gorgeous, and an entire industry is built here in New England upon “leaf peepers,” or people travel for the express purpose of viewing the fall foliage.
My favorite trees are the ones whose leaves turn a deep red color, but I love the yellows and the oranges, too. I adore the clean green tree that clings to its original hue when its neighbors are changing color all around, and the way the infrequent evergreens shine after all of the reds, yellows, and oranges have fallen to the ground.
The very best time is when every tree is a different shade; when they look different, and they are making the shift to winter trees on their own time.
I see people in the same way. I love when those around me act as individuals, allowing their leaves to be whatever color they are meant to be. What a snooze life would be if we were all green trees. How dull would it be if we all grew at the same rate, and lost our leaves at the same time?
My fervent prayer for my children is that they are safe, healthy, and themselves. I adore my kids’ quirks, and I hope they wear their uniqueness with confidence always. I struggle with the desire to conform, because sometimes it feels good to slip into the shadows, unnoticed. I find myself mimicking behaviors, or believing something if I hear it enough, or even trying to write like someone else if I read too much of their work. In these cases, when I lose myself, I have to take a step back and find my center again.
Parents: Let your kids be their own tree. They aren’t a bonsai tree for you to clip and mold into exactly what you want them to be. Also, follow my tree metaphor to its obvious conclusion, won’t you?
I’m not saying conformity is always bad. Following social norms makes for a peaceful society, and we can’t all do whatever we want. Sometimes a line of matching trees looks nice. Uniformity has its own beauty, and I can appreciate that. Sports teams would look strange if they didn’t match. Soldiers present a united and powerful front when they look the same. To me, that’s different than letting our individual freak flags fly when we can.
Like people, I’m thankful for trees that look different. I appreciate trees that bloom in the spring or stay green all year long. I see beauty in trees that have white, flaky, paper-like bark, and in trees that have rough, thick trunks. I appreciate trees that will bend with the wind and trees that are sturdy enough to see hundreds of years, and hold tree-houses and climbing children.
Be your own tree. Lose your leaves when it’s your time. Don’t worry if you’re blooming at a different rate than all of your other tree friends. Stand tall on a mountain or stoop gracefully over a river. Grow quietly in a backyard or wildly in a forest. Dig your roots in on a corner in the city, or find a home in the center of a meadow. Be whatever tree you are meant to be, and don’t stay green just because everyone else is.
Be your own tree.
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