Resistance to change keeps us from flourishing — but change is scary man!
When we stay trapped in old modes of thought and neglect our deeper needs, we wither away.
Whenever I see a huge, old tree, I’m amazed at its resilience.
Its mighty roots split the earth, they casually part nearby paving slabs and dismantle heavy walls. Despite chaotic weather, human interference, construction, destruction, and neglect, it still stands there tall, without a grimace.
Other creatures nest in it, gnaw at it, fight up and down it. Through generations, stories of this tree must have been shared between the young and the old: epic yet fixed, dependable, burgeoning, timeless.
Why, then, does every single pot plant I buy die in a week?
Those crybaby plants that get carried around in a little vessel of their own require daily worship to survive. Whenever I’m brave enough to try another pot plant (most recently a big bunch of yellow-y somethings), they start withering away if I spend so much as 30 minutes in the next room.
Every time, I’m reminded why I prefer adopting miniature cacti: the most phallic and indestructible of all house plants. They don’t need attention. Occasionally we’ll share a drink together, but they’re mostly happy doing their own thing. This is largely due to the brutal, desert-like environments they stem from; simply making the best of what they have.
There’s certainly a metaphor in the way we root ourselves as human beings. Some plants and humans just grow better in different environments.
For example, I’m a Brit. I’m attached to the UK. It’s where I learned how to live, primarily as a Londoner (the UK is my pot, you might say, and I am its shrub). The soil was fertile, I learned a lot, and I formed strong bonds with the people and cultures around me.
A shorthand embedded itself in my psyche — go here, do this, etc — but when my habits, hopes, and hurdles evolved, this shorthand no longer matched the way I wanted to live.
You’ll seriously damage any tree you decide to uproot.
To move a tree, you’ll have to break its roots, and once it’s replanted, you’ll need to nurse it back to health through a period of ‘transplant shock’. But, if a tree is struggling to thrive, you can actually save it by going through this process — risking its death — and moving it somewhere that better matches its needs.
By the same token, we sometimes need to uproot ourselves (whether physically or mentally, a change of scenery can be permanently transformative).
Our social environment might have grown too dark, damp, restricted, or disorderly. We might not be getting or giving enough love or perhaps we’re drooped over, sad from a lack of sunshine. How can we snap ourselves back to life without harming our roots and suffering a nasty spell of ‘transplant shock’?
Spoiler is: we can’t.
London’s bursting at its seams. It’s home to 9 million idiots, all of whom are constantly elbowing each other for a glimpse of that photogasmic sunshine — and a skinny latte. Most Londoners have a hard time finding the right community amidst the chaos. Luckily, I had a hilarious and solid circle of friends, but finding the time to see them was complex and infuriating.
Additionally, the air was clammy, the prices were unreasonable, and the traffic was constant.
I moved for many reasons — Brexit included — but mostly because I realised Berlin was much more my speed. The city contains fewer than four million not-entirely-idiotic people. They’re less stressed, more flexible, and they share common values. What’s more, those filthy Germans are sexually unabashed — so I thought taking the gamble seemed like a no-brainer (I’ll write more on how that particular bubble burst another time).
I parted with my friends in London town and shut the door on my favourite apartment. I dragged four suitcases to Berlin and moved in with a bloke I barely knew. That was rocky! I ended up moving again only a month later.
Everything added up: an absence of habits, a fewer belongings, an invisible support network, new financial woes, self-doubt, and a complete lack of Marmite.
Suffice to say, I had days when transplant shock leapt upon me and kept me down — but I knew I’d thrive, if only I could find new roots, learn the transport system, and make some friends.
I was working towards these goals just as Covid struck.
I think it’s important to learn that the process of stretching and growing our roots deep into fresh and fertile land is as much a part of our natural rhythm as ceremoniously lopping them off in search of new pastures.
If I’d refused to uproot myself, I’d never have needed to go through all that dizzying pain and uncertainty. But Berlin has since taught me that ideas and ideals can be uprooted, too. And by finding fresh and fertile land inside and outside of myself, I‘ll continue to find new ways to live.
I once heard someone wise online say something like, ‘the desire for permanence is the root of all human suffering’. It’s definitely a psychological battle — knowing that transplant shock awaits us. Strangely though, change strengthens our resolve. A willingness to evolve is bold. Trying new things allows us to flourish.
Change can make us stronger — it’s as important as consistency — like that huge old tree I was admiring earlier. So I’ll stand tall, despite destruction and neglect, despite inevitable changes. And I’ll flourish!