Make Like a Tree: Leaves

This is the fourth post in a 5-post series entitled, “Make Like a Tree.” Feel free to check out each of the posts!

Last week we talked about our “branches,” or the goals we strive for and the ways that we reach out into the world. This week we’ll look at our leaves – the way we choose to express and present ourselves.

I think, before we move too deeply into today’s topic, it is important to reiterate a point from last week. As we move up our tree and away from our roots, the level of disposability increases exponentially. The same is absolutely true for our “leaves.” Depending on the season of life, the interests, hobbies and passions that we choose to pursue will create shifts in the way we present ourselves to the world. The way that you presented yourself as a teenager was different than the way you presented yourself when you entered into the career-world, which is also different from the way you would present yourself as a get the point. This disposability is a necessary feature as we grow. Just as a tree must shed its leaves as winter approaches, we must shift and change as well.

It’s interesting that the most varied parts of our lives are what people pick up on most quickly-and often value the most. Think of it this way – when we have reached our goals and aspirations (come to the end of our branches) we have a choice as to how we want to exist in that new space. Do you dance in the end-zone, or do you calmly hand the ball to the ref? Do you buy a fancy car and a big house, or do you save responsibly, or even give to charity? Do you follow your kid’s every move, or do you give him a long leash? These attributes are the most visible parts of who we are, yet they are simply the disposable product of deep and permanent structures in our lives; there is nothing permanent about our leaves.

Even still, our leaves garner lots of attention. We like to show off our colors, don’t we? This makes sense to me, though. These things are the icing on the cake of our lives, the things that we have worked hard to achieve; it’s not hard to understand why we’re proud. This is only an issue when we forget that leaves change, fall and then turn into mulch. We can’t cling to these final products, for they will all be lost one day. Money is wasted, lost, stolen, spent. Goods fail, break, rust, rot. Children become adults. Our bodies grow frail. We must be prepared for our lives to change with the seasons. We must be prepared to change how we express and present ourselves to the world.

We must remember that our “leaves” grow from our goals and passions, which are defined by an identity that rests firmly on our history. We would do far better to build an understanding of our lives via the lens of our identity and development than through the lens of our accomplishments.

Next week we’ll take a look at what is left behind when our tree is toppled.

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