August 23, 2023

Plants: They Taught Me Stuff!

By Ruth Nathaniel
Identity Development
Mental Health & Wellbeing

Like many South Asian kids, I grew up in a household full of both indoor and outdoor plants. In discussions with other South Asian young adults about this commonality, we tend to conclude that the massive leafy plants all over our homes were, in fact, our parents’ ways of making North America feel like the lush tropical landscapes they hailed from. One of my favorite photos from my childhood is a photo of me, at about three years old, standing in the garden and showing off the massive cucumber, tomatoes, and green chilis I’d grown that summer with my grandma.

Over the years, I grew into a teenager who did not care much for the plants in my home and, if anything, saw them as a bit intrusive and “messy.” Fast forward to young adulthood, and I was in my first apartment in Chicago. Graduate school was all-consuming, and I rarely had time for anything leisurely or mindful. When I looked around my room, I knew something was missing. Apart from my roommate and I, no other life forms occupied our space, and that was a problem. Getting a pet was out of the question, but what about some plants?

I dragged my roommate to the local plant shop, and we walked out with our arms full of pothos and snake plants, plus soil and pots. We laughed over the messy repotting process, and soon, my room was full of terracotta pots with bits of green peeking out. When I looked around that first night, my delight tinged with disappointment. These plants were so young. Who knows if and how long it would take before they reached the lush state I was accustomed to seeing in my parents’ home? And so plants taught me my first lesson.

1. Growth Takes Time

My plans were indeed just little ones, and they seemed dwarfed by the pots they were in. But in addition to water and sunlight, time was all they were asking me to give them. Could I actually practice patience and stop counting the minutes until they sprouted? The reality is change takes time. For change to be sustainable, we need to be rooted. Roots are not visible in plants, and the roots of our own change aren’t visible to us and those around us. However, once the foundation sets, the visible growth continues to blossom and flourish.

2. Growth Requires Investment

Time is one thing. Continued investment in our growth is another. If I stopped watering and providing sunlight for my plants, they’d inevitably wither away and die. We can’t take our growth for granted, and much like plants, some seasons are for growth, and some are for maintenance. Let’s invest and celebrate in our respective maintenance! Whether that is checking in with your therapist, practicing healthy coping strategies, or even something simple as meditating on gratitude.

3. Growth Requires Adjustment

My little plants eventually grew into bigger plants, and one day I looked around and realized they had to be repotted into larger pots so they could continue to flourish. The little terracotta pots they started in had served them well, enabling them to grow to their capacity. But now it was time to take my plants out of their accustomed pots and give them new space to thrive. Sometimes, we, too, reach a place in our journeys where our environments or relationships need adjustments to accommodate our burgeoning changes. This is not about wielding judgment but rather thoughtful consideration as to what we may need to adjust if we want to continue on our trajectory. Repotting my plants is always a little scary because I do not want to harm them, but after a settling period into their new pots, they reward me with new growth that otherwise would not have been possible.

May we extend patience, care, and mindfulness towards our own journeys! If you’re interested in being guided through a more mindful life, I’d love to meet you and hear your story. Give us a call about setting up an appointment today!




Written By

Ruth Nathaniel

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