What 'The Giving Tree' Can Teach You About Finding True Happiness

by Alexandra Strausman

As young children, we are inclined to believe that no matter what -- no matter the battles and wars and people in our way -- our soulmates, our "one true love" exists at the other end of all of our bridges.

He or she is waiting and knowing what we have been through to find them.

Now our world exists in early morning text cycles to our friends, gushing about the love we found the night before in the hopeless places our wondering bodies led us to.

And then, before you know it, that love is gone by the following week.

Sometimes it feels like relationships are drawn out for us with pens placed in shaky hands and insecure minds.

We find ourselves so caught up in our search for happily ever afters, and forget (or maybe we just ignore) how to define the symptoms of true love.

Shel Silverstein’s "The Giving Tree" illustrates the stages of love in the saddest version of our 21st century Millennial happy ending.

It's a story of love depicted through the relationship of a young boy and a tree that keeps on giving.

The relationship is perceived as loving and nurturing at first, but one-sided and neglectful later on. This, unfortunately, is a perfect metaphor for the Millennial trials and tribulations in true love.

That is, unless we change our visions on how we want our love, or our happy endings, to be written.

Here's all the we can learn from "The Giving Tree."

And it begins:

"Once, there was a tree… And she loved a little boy."


All of our stories start out with this idea of everlasting, unconditional love and all of our mindsets strive to drive down that path, no matter the battles and wars and people in our way.

With young relationships, we hold onto the excitement of "firsts" together, and aggressively flirt our way into the honeymoon stage, hoping to remain there.

"He would gather her leaves and make them into crowns."

We all know and love the beginning of a relationship. He’s perfect. She’s perfect. We’re perfect.

This is called the Honeymoon Phase.

It's the phase in which everything in the relationship is happy, shining rainbows that can never be overshadowed by any dark cloud.

Things are so ideal during the Honeymoon Phase that most of us forget that even a seemingly perfect paradise has the potential to fail, yet we still make crowns and be princes and princesses for each other.

We play house. We plan for futures.

But we forget that in this Millennial age, what seems to be the beginnings of love can turn out to be a brief fling with a person whom you thought to be "different."

"They would play hide-and-go-seek."

Then, finally, the perfect vision shatters.

He runs. She hides.

He finds her and she runs again.

The games turn into overthinking conversations, and there becomes reason to doubt everything that “once” was so great.

Hope becomes lost but there still is reason to hold on. There's still a reason to play hide-and-go-seek. At least that's what we tell ourselves.

We get caught up in the mindset that there is always reason to hold onto something even when our reasons are fewer and fewer.

Our reasoning is always happiness or love.

In moments of happiness we feel inclined to hold on; we're inclined to fight for more of these moments.

"And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree… very much… And the tree was happy."

Relationships seem scary in the beginning.

They give two people a reason to feel the need to be bigger and better not for themselves, but for the person they are with.

Relationships are meant to foster growth.

And we forget, relationships are meant to foster happiness. Happiness scrounged in brief moments is not real happiness.

For a long while, Silverstein approaches us with a one-way relationship where the boy takes from the very giving tree.

He visits the tree often, she offers him her love, he takes and she claims to be happy.

But is she happy? Or is she blinded by the brief moments of attention the boy gives her and compromises her definition of happiness?

"And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away. And the tree was happy… But not really."

When our so called "true love,” or in the case of "The Giving Tree," the boy sails across the world leaving us idle, we wish we could attain happiness if not for ourselves, then for them.

But this enormous pressure of holding onto the hope that what we once had could work, leaves us fragile.

We start to lose sight of what it is/what it was we worked so hard to hold on to. We worked so hard to be happy, but did it work? Was it worth it?

And so, when the boy comes back (like they always do), he wants to rediscover the comfort she once so blindly and willingly gave to him.

And so, the story ends:

'I don’t need very much now,’ said the boy. ’Just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.’ ‘Well,’ said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, ‘well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down… sit and rest.’ And the boy did. And the tree was happy… The End.

Happiness comes in waves of moments.

It sneaks up on you in unexpected ways, and sometimes, for a moment, it becomes everything.

When two people find happiness together, there is a reason for them to stay and fight.

But happiness is more than just decorated moments.

We look to dive into new relationships and cradle old ones. But we forget to treat ourselves with respect when others don’t give it to us. We make excuses for the people we love and still, we find reasons to come back and hold onto what once was.

We have to readjust our views on happy endings.

The only way to do this is to define happiness.

We have to quit trying to attain happiness for others.

We have to quit scraping up moments of happiness when in the comfort of others.

There is happiness in knowing yourself, happiness in independence and happiness in knowing a good thing when you feel it is right.

Now it’s our turn. Let’s rewrite what we know all too well, but with a happy ending.

And it begins: “Once, there was a tree… And she loved a little boy.”