Imagine that you are standing before a rose garden. In front of you a series of stems rise from the earth and reach towards the heavens above. Some are tall; some short. Some are straighter than others, and a select few carry more thorns than the rest. Their petals are in various stages of bloom too. Whereas some are wrapped up tightly in sepals, others have opened and allowed their oils to warm in the sun, emitting a fragrance that smells divine.
Imagine kicking off your shoes and stepping into garden. If you have a partner, or a child, or just a friend that you wish to take with you, then grab their hand and ask them to follow. Feel the dirt between your toes, and the heavenly scent on your tastebuds as you carefully weave your way through the maze of stems and thorns. Now imagine finding the perfect rose; a flower so striking that you sink to your knees and stare at its beauty. Its blood red petals are fanned wide to soak up the sun; it’s tantalising scent is unlike anything you have ever smelled before.
To the left of this perfect rose is a smaller flower; not quite in bloom. To the right of it stands a withered flower with petals falling towards the soil below. As you shift your gaze from left to right, you can’t help but feel as though the perfect rose in the middle is made even more magical by the two surrounding it. It’s as though you’re seeing it at the pinnacle of its existence. Had you arrived a day earlier, it may have looked more like the flower to the left. Had you of arrived a day later, it may have begun to wilt and die.
Alright. Enough with the visuals. You’re probably wondering why I’m asking you to conjure up images of blood red roses and soil shifting between your toes. It’s a new year; the fifth in the history of this site, and the angry boy who started blogging is now a grown man with a deep love of analogies and flowers (one needs to only click back through previous posts to find countless images and references to roses, peonies, etc.), and for the first time in my life I feel as though I understand what it means to be in bloom.
Yep. You heard that right. The writer who has spent years calling himself a wolf and tearing apart anything in his wake just mixed things up and labelled himself as a flower. Confused? Well, I can explain. But first we need to go backwards so that we can then go forwards…
Every year between Christmas and New Year a group of friends and I return to our home town and host an annual cricket tournament. The event has been running for over a decade, with two teams of twenty men chosen based on the suburbs we lived in as children. In our younger years, the tournament was merely a way to bring together friends that had been separated by time, geography and walks of life. But nowadays both teams have lost members to mental illness and suicide, and the day is used as a means of touching base and talking openly about issues in our lives that we may never have been brave enough to discuss in our youth.
At the 2016 event, I found myself standing alone with a friend when he looked at me and asked me about a few of the darker days that I have faced in recent months. We talked openly for a while about loss, change, and what it is that we value in life. I told him that I had shed a lot of tears in previous months; but that I was happy, I just wished I hadn’t had to lose so much in order to find myself. When I finished speaking he smiled at me and said:
“I’m proud of you Chris. You’ve been through some shit. And a lot of your friends have worried about you over the years. But we love you. You’re family. And it’s good to finally see you coming into yourself.”
“Thanks,” I said, feeling my heart break at the realisation that I had been so lost in life that my friends had been concerned. “I guess that sometimes we just need to go through a little bit of shit before we can grow.”
In the days since the event I have replayed the conversation over inside my head on numerous occassions, casting a look back at the evolution of who I am, and the metamorphosis that has taken place inside of my heart and mind. As a boy I was fuelled by anger, a fear of death, and a deep jealousy of anyone who achieved more than I did. I wanted to pen a best seller and become the greatest writer of my generation so badly that I turned myself into a horribly bitter person in my quest to succeed. I worried my family, bared my fangs, said terrible things about others, and lost my own happiness and smile.
But as a man I have learned that just because someone else is achieving, it doesn’t mean that I can’t; or won’t. I have learned that anger and jealousy breed anxiety and depression, and that neither I, or anyone else is defined by their faults and failures. We are however, defined by our friends and family, and the impact that we have on the lives of those around us. Our successes are measured not through making a best sellers list, or through earning a million dollars. They’re measured through the smiles we leave on the faces of strangers and those we care about.
Sometimes we just need to go through a little bit of shit before we can grow…
And we grow at different rates. We bloom in different seasons. And some of us experience more shit in our lives than the people around us. But just because that perfect flower in the rose garden isn’t you today, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be you tomorrow. Life isn’t a race. No one is born as a rose in full bloom; and every flower is as unique as our fingerprints, or a snowflake. We grow in the dirt and we’re shaped by the unique realities and experiences of our lives as we reach towards the heavens above, making us perfectly imperfect and beautiful in our own idiosyncratic ways. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to anyone but ourselves, because no one else has experienced the world as we have.
Sometimes it can be easy to focus on the negatives in our lives. For me it would be easy to fall into my old thought patterns and to say that after a decade of writing I’m still not the best seller that I thought I would be. Or that I became so bitter that I drove away the love of my life and lost a publishing deal. But for every darker experience that I have lived through, feeling as though life was pushing me into the dirt, I have also had some amazing moments of sunshine. I published a book at the age of twenty-six; I fell in love with a beautiful woman who made me genuinely happy, and who I was ready to give my life to; and I still have a family that supports me, and loves me unconditionally. Together that combination of soil and sunlight, along with a little rain has allowed me to grow, and will continue to do so for as long as I live.
I am still waiting for my moment to come into bloom and flower into the best version of Chris Nicholas that I can possibly be. And even though I have been fortunate enough to watch so many people around me blossom, the time just hasn’t been right for me to do so just yet. But it will come. Each of us will eventually become the most beautiful flower in the rose garden; sometimes it just takes longer than we anticipate for us to bloom. But just because you aren’t that breathtakingly beautiful flower today, or just because you’re going through some shit; it doesn’t mean that you can’t, or won’t bloom brighter than ever tomorrow.
If you ever feel as though you’re not the person you thought you would be, or that life has pushed you down into the dirt. Just remember that you’re not alone; you’re with me, and millions of other people across the globe. Our time to be in bloom will come. And when yours arrives I promise that you will be breathtaking in your beauty, and that you will blossom into someone so incredible that your friends and family will fall in love with you all over again. Sometimes we just need to go through a little bit of shit before we can grow. And sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and remember that one day we will blossom. One day it’ll be our turn to be in bloom.