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Tangled up Redwood Trees

10/2/23

Even in the best of weather, you will never see a redwood tree by itself. Because if you were to dig deep, you would see roots that reached out as far as infinite, but only as deep as the first layer of soil. The only thing keeping the redwood up is the one right next to it. Weaving and winding up their roots in order to keep standing. The more trees and tangles, the more storms they withstand. In other words, messy is sometimes better.

If I could call us redwood trees, I would. But we are not. We are humans, and humans endure some of the strongest storms. While trees only worry about the clouds up above, humans have internal and external forces that create the perfect storm to take us down. But, just like redwood trees, we need each other's roots to stay strong.

My dad has spent three decades selling shoes. But, he didn’t stay here because of his love for shoes… which I am sure he also loves. But because this job is so much more, and because he has something that can not be taught. He has strong roots.

Maybe my dad is not a surgeon, or a doctor that knows how to cure cancer, but he does sell shoes. And that is more than enough. Because the truth is, people don’t love him because he sells shoes. People love him because he is quite literally the definition of love. People don’t come in to buy shoes, they come in because they know their day will be just that much better. They come in because they know they will be treated like they matter. They come in because they know they will be loved.

Has anyone ever told you, “You can be anything you want in life”? I get this one a lot. And the older I get the more I realize that it is true. Not because I am naturally perfect at everything I do, but because my drive will get me wherever I want to go - as long as I am always the one in the driver's seat of my own life.

My close to perfect grades made me a shoe in (get it?) to be a chemist. My ability to find length c on a right triangle made me a front runner to become a physicist. But one thing was missing from that picture. My perfectionism held me back from my passion. But what did I really want? I wanted connection - I wanted to be a redwood tree. And just like dad, I wanted everyone to feel wanted. Instead of being a people pleaser - I am a people person. And that has taken time. So thank you dad, for teaching me about people.

So now I find myself choosing a passion, not a job. I see myself feeling lost in what once was, and now what is. I see my own struggle as a way to help. Because even though my struggle is different from others, it still matters. And just because it is internal, doesn’t mean it isn't real.

Optimism is a great tool, until it is not. It is a way to keep the light in when it doesn’t feel like there is any left. It is a great way to keep going. But you can’t keep going when you refuse to face the bad sometimes. When things get uncontrollably messy, and your heart sinks to the bottom, there is no reaching the top. And I have learned that is okay. In fact, I would say when I reach the top - I really do see the world for what it is. It is a place with lots of redwood trees… some that may just be starting to grow.

There is something about the word “and”. Because it never takes away, only adds. It allows me to take on exactly how I feel and get through it. It actually allows me to feel what I need too. “I am struggling, AND I will get through it”. And at the end of it all, you learn. Your immune system strengthens after the fact, not during. So while you are in it - acknowledge it. But, don’t let it control you.

I want to help people, and I need to help myself first. Because you can’t be the “lord and savior” when you are not okay yourself. Say you’re sitting on a plane about to take off. The flight attendant takes out the safety card from the seat pocket in front of you. The guidelines are clear: put your own mask on before you assist others. Because you can’t help others without helping yourself first. So yes, be like a redwood tree - hold others up. But if you are falling, they go down with you.

Society is like a forest of redwood trees. We latch onto each other to stay planted. The thing with us though, is that sometimes we latch onto the wrong trees. Don’t latch onto a fallen tree - or you are going to fall too. Instead, let the fallen tree latch onto you to pull itself up. And don’t forget - put your own mask on, before helping to assist others.



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