You are not a tree.
If you do not like where you are, move. You are not a tree.
I read this quote recently, and it has been passing through my head periodically over the last few weeks. When I recently stumbled across it, the first thought that came to my mind was, “but I don’t want to move. I like where I live”. The more I started to realize that certain changes needed to be made in order to maintain a more content lifestyle, I developed a different type of interpretation for this small, blunt, yet bold statement. Different words started to pop into my head, such as: Change. Lead. And a variety of other scary words that I sort of wanted nothing to do with in the moment.
The truth is, I am not a tree. We are not trees. We are capable of movement, despite where we have been planted. No, this does not necessarily mean pack your bags and start a new life, while it can. However, I have learned over recent weeks and months that making changes in your life, whether large or not, take a tremendous amount of courage and a deep understanding of the meaning of self-care.
Since taking on a Director’s position at my job a little over three years ago, I lost my passion for walking into my daily place of employment. I knew what it felt like to absolutely feel over the moon about waking up in the morning, and starting my day at work. When I impulsively switched jobs without much thought, I was disappointed to find that I was no longer getting that joyful feeling when I thought about my career. Instead, I was filled with crippling anxiety, and the constant fear of failure. As I began the routine of climbing out of bed and forcing myself into work, after sleepless nights where I would lay awake wondering if I made the wrong decision about taking the job, I became more and more attached to the false assumption that I have to stay put.
As time went on, I forced myself into the daily role as the new Director in the building. My office was a complete shit hole, I was unable to keep up with my responsibilities, and could barely get through the day without having a complete meltdown; in which, between sobs, I would inhale the large quantity of dust that was covering all things that hold a shape in my underground, pitiful hole in which they called my “office”. Over time, I began to force myself to make small changes. I knew somewhere inside of me that I wasn’t a tree, but I was unable to verbalize that until recently. I started to hire on the right staff, and all in all, make moves in the right direction. I was succeeding at my new title, and that alone was able to keep me from completely losing my mind. As of this past December, my three year mark at my not-so-new-anymore job, I was able to say that going into work did not feel as miserable as it once did on those cold January mornings in 2014.
As 2017 rolled around, I began to make some significant changes about not only my career, but my life as a whole. I wouldn’t necessarily call them New Years Resolutions, because I was never very good at keeping up with them. It was more so coincidental that the changes I was working on were coming together right as the year was coming to a close.
Below are some of the changes I have spent the last three months making, in order to maintain success inside and outside of the workplace, and overall joy in my life:
I gave my office a deep cleaning. I filled multiple heavy duty trash bags, tied them up tightly, dragged them into the parking lot, and threw them over my shoulder into the dumpster.
I decorated my office. I started to fill my bulletin boards and my desk with happy little reminders. Between some things that I found at home, and the things I was able to print off the computer, I created a space where I could laugh, smile, feel comforted, uplifted, and be reminded of the good days I’ve had at work.
I reorganized my office. My shelves are now filled with labeled bins, indicating which materials are placed where. De-cluttering and reorganizing has never felt better! It has also lasted for over a month; I am amazed.
I restocked my shelf with new materials. I had no choice, though, really. I had thrown out all of the old ones!
I asked for a new computer, and was surprised with a laptop in return. There are no longer dust mites in my keyboard, and I really enjoy the sound that my keys make when I type.
I started using essential oils. I got a diffuser, and there is lemon and frankincense being dispensed between my four walls at all hours of the day. I actually look forward to that moment when I can escape the chaos of the job, and go into my soothing, colorful, organized nest. I am finding that others are starting to feel the same way about my little underground space.
I reorganized all of my files on my new computer.
I have a binder with monthly tabs, where I can pile my junk papers so they are no longer strewn across my desk. I just have to put them behind the “February” tab, so I know I have to take care of it before the month is over.
I got a pen that lights up when being used.
I asked for an assistant.
I hired an assistant.
I am now training my assistant.
And I love my assistant.
I started new projects.
I hired new people.
I started being a more assertive boss.
I started wearing cuter clothes.
I got a hair cut. Because life is too short for boring hair.
I planned our June Wedding and loved every single second of it.
I let go of unhealthy habits.
I embraced warmer winter days by being outside as much as possible.
I stopped saying yes so much, and actually considered my own schedule and how saying yes might affect it.
I started buying flowers for my kitchen on a weekly basis.
I drink more tea.
I stopped spending so much time on my cell phone.
I practice music.
I take spontaneous road trips.
I could keep going, but I think you are getting the point.
So, I decided that I didn’t have to actually move… as much as part of me really wanted to. I wanted to walk away and leave it all for someone else to take care of. The moldy office, the dusty keyboard, the worn out materials, the disorganized files. I wanted to leave it exactly how I found it.
However, Instead of picking up my things and completely moving, I decided to make some internal moves towards a happier situation.
I now leave work, sometimes exhausted, but somehow already energized to come back the next day. I take pride in my projects, my department, and my role at my job.
Once I let go of the false assumption that I was stuck in my current situation, it became easier to rearrange my environment to become more suitable for me. Once I realized how capable I was of walking away from it all, and leaving the mess for someone else to clean up, the more motivated I became to make small, personal changes.
I went as far as re-typing my resume. I sat down on the computer one night, looked at my old resume, and couldn’t believe the professional strides that I had made throughout the last three years. While I do need to keep my resume as up to date as possible, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be immediately coming across a job where I was going to gain so much experience. I put my computer down, closed the lid, and decided to leave the resume updating session for another day.
Sometimes when we move too fast, we lose sight of how simple it actually is to make a situation better by making small adjustments to our environments.
The truth is, as I said before, we are not trees. We are not meant to keep our growing experiences confined to the places in which we were initially planted. We are meant to move freely, even if that means staying within a short distance of where we currently are. But, unlike trees, we have the ability to decide whether or not we want to move, and how far and how fast we want to move. Keeping in mind that we as human beings are never completely bound to one particular place, circumstance or feeling gives a sense of freedom and awakening to the possibilities of change. You may be reading this, and shaking your head, because you may actually be stuck to a situation, person, place or feeling. Maybe you feel like you can’t get out… and perhaps it is not the right time for you to get out. Perhaps getting out will ultimately end up hurting yourself or others. While this may be true, you are never bound to the way you manage or deal with a situation or environment. You are responsible for your own feelings.
A few years ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix named “happiness”. This documentary captured the many different ways that people around the world experience happiness. While the entire documentary was excellent, there is one particular scene that I’ve always kept in the forefront of my mind. I don’t remember the exact country, but I do remember that it was third-world. The particular individuals that were being interviewed were describing what a daily routine in their village looks like. There wasn’t a day in their community that didn’t consist of seeking and practicing ways of survival. I felt the hole in my heart expand while listening to them describe how everyday was a struggle at survival, however, was so intrigued and drawn to their contagious happiness and celebration of life. At the end of each day, they would gather around their fire, and celebrate the success of their day. They would dance, sing, laugh, and drum until it was time to go to sleep and wake up to another hard day of work. Happiness is what you decide to do with what you have been handed. If you have been handed a bowl of cherries in your life, but you don’t even like cherries, see what else is out there that you can fill the bowl with. Maybe just simply asking for something other than cherries is a good place to start. Maybe someone else likes cherries, and you can share them, and make someone else happy. Maybe they will then give YOU something in return that you like more than cherries. I could go on and on….
So now what? Easier said than done. Huh? Start small. Start by speaking up where you usually keep quiet. Try treating yourself to something every once and awhile. Try going out of your way to make someone else happy. Find a favorite park, a good series of books to read, a new genre of music. Simply remind yourself every day that you are not a tree, and I promise that you will feel empowered enough to make the necessary moves for a happier life.