Planting. Every Then and Now.

10 Jun

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

Class was done and Angie was one her way to change out of her dobok back into her street clothes. I commented to her, “You are such a different student now than when you started, and now you’re going for your first promotion test!” Angie replied, “I tell people I know that I am doing this and they can’t believe it.”

Meeting Angie on the street, one would take her to be a nonathletic, if not clumsy (sorry, Angie, but you’ve said it yourself!), middle-aged, mild-mannered librarian. She’s not a librarian, but the rest of those descriptors are pretty accurate. Yet, after knowing me for several years through my BNI work, she finally reached the combination of understanding and trust in me and my messages about Taekwondo such that she actually started classes. She wanted to do something physical and beneficial to her health. And her greater self. The self-defense benefit would be good, too. But she could have picked a lot of things to do. She picked Taekwondo.

I’d not heard the tree-planting proverb in a while, but I was presented with it again in this Popular Mechanics magazine article about  Bruce Lee’s amazing one-inch punch.

Regret is probably one of the most prevalent, and most unfortunate, emotions people experience in life. I experience it a lot, so I know what I’m talking about. Regret about mistakes made. Regret about actions not taken. Regret about actions taken. As a 54 year old, I’ve come to a point where I’ve had more and more of the “life’s too short” thoughts recently. Life’s too short to work so hard to please other people. Life’s too short to put off (whatever) any longer. Life’s too short to put-UP with (whatever) any longer. Life’s to short to squander your unique gifts and attributes. Life’s too short to not be yourself. Life’s too short to _____________________ (fill in your OWN blank).

Life’s too short to not TRY STUFF. Like Taekwondo. Or writing. Or dancing. Or beer making. Or taking a class. Or _________________ (fill in your OWN blank).

There are people who try lots of stuff and live life a certain way when they are younger, sometimes even maybe on the far side of too risky (what’s too risky?) or too carefree (what’s too carefree?) or too . . . uncaring(?). I would admire them, to a degree. Still do. Not simply those those who readily tried/try stuff, but those who were/are able to live as themselves and not worry too much about other people’s opinion or the circumstances. I was always too cautious, too worried about what others might think, too worried about making mistakes or looking stupid or being wrong.

I started Taekwondo at the age of 33, chubby, out of shape, and only so that my 4 year old could start class. It was for him, not for me. What kept me going was what I never really learned in other places: the lessons of being courageous enough to risk, that consistent work over time can yield results, and successes. Even in the midst of struggles and failures, even while nervous, self-conscious and even a tad scared at time. I learned that even if I hadn’t planted the tree 20 years ago, I could plant one now and watch it grow and think, “Gee, I wonder what it will become?”  I learned that if you plant it, and tend to it (aka keep trying, show up, etc), it WILL grow. Perhaps not as tall or fully as it might once have, but it will grow, and can still be a pretty nice tree. At least it will be a tree. And, you get to enjoy the tree for being there and being what it is, as opposed to having no tree at all.

It would suck to have no trees!

The lesson? Life’s too short, even if you’re young. Life starts progressing too quickly, and even seems to accelerate at some point. Start stuff. Try stuff. Find a passion. Then find another at some later time. And another. Don’t live for others and their expectations. Don’t worry about what others might think. I’m not saying one should be reckless, or too carefree, or too uncaring. One can easily cross the line into negligent and arrogant. There’s a certain level of being for and being with each other, with and for other people, that’s necessary and proper in life. And that can include sacrificing for others.

What I AM saying is be true to your heart, know yourself and be yourself. Likewise, don’t put upon others in ways that coerce them to be who or what they are not, or be what you want them to be. Don’t force others into your mold or expectations, just as they should not do to you. Respect and appreciate, and don’t let yourself fall into letting others do any differently to you.

And TRY STUFF! LOTS of stuff. Or at least as much as you imagine to. Heck, try Taekwondo. (*wink and smile*)

Angie, you’re one heck of a tree planter.


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