Bloom Where You’re Planted (or Not)

I first heard the phrase “bloom where you’re planted” at a leadership event in college. The slogan, the theme of the weekend, was emblazoned on all the meeting materials and banners, including souvenir plastic flower pots that were given to all the students. My pot never housed any plants, but rather over the years served as a catch-all for pens, paperclips and laundry money in my college dorm.

It also traveled with me to my dietetic internship in Chicago, and stayed with me through many career transitions. I stress transitions, as my career path has been a rocky one scattered with stressful layoffs and jobs that just weren’t quite the right fit. All the while, the little pot’s message was never lost on me – even when circumstances aren’t exactly how you want them to be, you should always do your best. That notion is one that I can’t quite shake, even when I want to. Akin to my perfectionist tendencies, the idea of being the best you can be under all situations is ingrained in me. I laugh to think that during the standard interview question, “where do you want to be in 5 years?” my answer has always been the same, “I want to be happy and doing great work.” Maybe that’s why I generally end up working for small companies. The bigger companies seem to want “go-getters” who strive for the corner office. Someone looking to simply bloom is not exactly corporate material.

Blooming is an interesting concept, as it doesn’t always happen the way we’d like. That is certainly true for the avid gardener who fertilizes only to find they are nurturing weeds instead of encouraging beautiful blossoms.

I think that is why “bloom where you’re planted” just popped into my head recently. After experiencing a series of situations where things just hadn’t turned out as I’d like in my career, I needed a solution to what seemed to be stagnation in my growth. That little saying gave me comfort, and even guidance with its gentle reminder that no matter what my situation I could still be my best.

I was hopeful that my best could be achieved even in the less than fertile environment that is the current economy. But, I also accepted the fact that my freelance writing business had slowed down, and I was genuinely missing the team aspect of working with others. So, I decided to accept a part-time job with a long commute and a paycheck less than half of what my skills are worth. I knew deep down that it wasn’t a wise decision, but I was so eager to begin growing again that I acted like the impulsive early buds of spring, trying desperately to bloom more quickly than the harsh New England weather will allow.

After just a few days of work, I started to feel wilted and overwhelmed by the huge list of responsibilities my new position brought. To cheer myself up I took a little shopping trip to one of my favorite stores, The Christmas Tree Shop. There in the very first aisle I happened upon a sign that said none other than “bloom where you’re planted.” I couldn’t help but smile. I decided it was a reminder to get me through this less than ideal time.

In the end however, I’ve decided that although making the best of your current situation is always noble, to truly bloom we all need the right environment (lots of nutrients, plenty of water, and ample sunshine).  Sometimes knowing when to uproot and find more fertile ground  is really what blooming is all about.

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