In Bloom: Why The Only Rule For Growing Up Is To Do It At Your Own Pace
It’s a chill, dreary October morning here in Nashville.
I write this from the warmth of a wooden bench in a local coffee shop, which I adore for its charm and convenience.
I don't adore it for its wooden benches, which are decidedly uncomfortable.
There are two women seated on my left, about my age.
Both are pretty. The one sitting across from me is quite fetching.
She has the look of a southern belle about her. She has blonde hair, and there's something about the way her mouth is shaped.
There are whispers of a drawl in her words.
They seem like the types who bonded years ago in a sorority, and since graduation have lost touch.
There is the occasional stumble in their excited banter when one or the other begins speaking before the other finishes.
But both are polite, and quickly recover with a customary, “Oh, go ahead."
There is also a lot of nodding. There is so much nodding that I begin to fear for their necks, which seem to be perpetually bobbing this way and that.
They are familiar and conversant, if not a little forced.
Because they are attractive and I am nosy, I listen to their conversation. Also, they are loud.
This is how I justify my eavesdropping.
I catch snippets of their conversation between the jaunty bluegrass tunes in the background, and what I hear compels me to write this.
The first — the more attractive girl of the pair — who I'll call “Lilac," gushes about what she expects from her upcoming engagement to her hubby.
The second girl, who I'll call “Petunia” — in keeping with my ridiculous, yet metaphorically appropriate flower theme — continues to nod.
Exclamations and sentiments are squealed in a register only suitable for dogs and other household pets, hands are held and Lilac positively glows.
Never mind that her hubby has yet to actually pop the question. That’s not important.
It’s hard not to smile in the face of such innocent and romantic joy.
A part of me is as happy for Lilac as Petunia seems to be.
The other part of me – the part that now scribbles passive-aggressively in my journal – is hesitant.
Lilac then launches into a lengthy soliloquy about the engagement’s impetuous delay, her hubby’s shortcomings, kids, white picket fences and some other gibberish that is lost on me.
Petunia nods. I lose consciousness.
At some point, sex is brought up, and I snap back to intrusive reality with a quickness.
They lean in close, and with hushed tones, discuss both of their sex lives.
They do not realize that in addition to having an expansive knowledge of flower names, I also have exceptional hearing.
What they say startles me.
It startles me not because of its intensity or carnality, as these are things that make me feel warm and fuzzy.
It startles me because it possesses neither of those things.
In fact, it possessed very little of anything, including time.
It becomes apparent that Petunia is single, and she laments that she just wants to find a man and settle down for something serious like Lilac.
“How old are you again?” Lilac asks. (Close friends, indeed.)
“Twenty-two, but I just feel like I’m going to be alone forever,” Petunia laughs unconvincingly.
“Don’t worry, girly. I’m 24, and I felt the same way when I was your age. But you’ll find one who makes sense,” Lilac sagely says, with a nod of her own.
The conversation is not so subtly steered back to Lilac.
Time passes, the band plays on and Petunia nods.
Eventually, the two ladies decide to leave and I am robbed of my voyeuristic entertainment.
A few moments after their departure, I am struck with a sense of sadness.
Why my sudden somber feels?
It hits me.
Lilac and Petunia’s interaction reminds me of damn near everyone my age.
Sure, we are all beautiful, unique snowflakes (or flora), capable of free thought and decisions.
We are all creatures of identity, regardless of what that identity is.
So, why are we all doing the same sh*t?
Why are we rushing headlong into commitment only to find the shackles we so eagerly slammed shut yesterday will impede our futures tomorrow?
Why are we shuffling and sulking around, miserable with our own company, hoping for someone to come and make us forget all our insecurities?
Petunia and Lilac’s coffee date provides for us a bitter but insightful allegory for life and what it means to live it.
I believe too many Petunias become too many Lilacs.
Too many people our age rage and rail for independence, only to find it's not to their liking when they gain it.
The air is colder, the distance is greater and the weight is much heavier than we thought they would be.
Many of us are gifted with the ability to form our own identities.
Our culture is more understanding and accepting of this than it has ever been.
Now, more than ever, there is a place for you in this world.
But finding your own identity is hard. It requires introspection, a task that is brutal in its honesty and patience.
It is so brutal, many abandon it and look for their identities elsewhere: careers, hobbies and most commonly, in other people.
They're afraid of what they'll find within themselves, so they have someone else do it for them.
Like anything else in life though, there is much to be gained by doing something for yourself, by yourself.
What I’m getting at here is Petunia is her own beautiful flower, but she has not yet bloomed.
She must be sure to give herself plenty of the things required in life: attention, time and most importantly, love. These are not hard things to give.
If she can give them freely to herself and to others around her, in time, she will bloom into something not just beautiful, but irreplaceable to the lucky one who finally picks her.
Grow at your own pace.