I thought my orchid was dying

Jessica Chung

OrchidAnyone who knows me knows that I can’t be trusted with a plant.  Notoriously, plants wilt on my watch, which is why I thought getting an orchid would be a great idea.  I’ve been told that they are tough plants that need very little maintenance as long as I put an ice cube in it every week. It seemed easy enough, and they are absolutely beautiful, so I bought one for my apartment to give my room some life.

I was diligent.  I put my ice cube in each week (I think). It was placed carefully by a window that got a lot of that Instagram-worthy natural light.  Then, after two weeks, my fears were coming true: The flowers, one by one, begin to shrivel.

Worse, one by one, a flower would fall each week, tumbling from the stem to my (dusty) window sill.

Damnit!! Seriously?

(Cue all the suddenly-not-so-funny jokes about barely being able to take care of a plant, much less a child… or myself, apparently)

I second-guessed my choice to spend the money on such a thing.  Frankly, I went into it knowing that I was a sub-par gardener, why did I think this would be different? Did I freeze the roots with the ice cubes? And not to mention it was another opportunity for my sassy green-thumb mother to troll me on killing another plant.  Why did I even bother? 

For whatever reason, I kept putting water and ice in, even though there is one flower left on my dying orchid.

Today, I studied my little plant.

For the first time, I noticed, on the little stretching branches, there were small knobs.

Buds.

So anyone who knows me knows that I can’t be trusted to see things as the way they are, but as a metaphor.  So this clicked for me.  

Last fall I experienced and made some big changes in my life.  Let’s call it a quarter life crisis.  With that came a lot of head and heart work.  In that time I had to revisit a lot of things I thought were True about me and my life – things that I don’t even remember learning but have guided and limited me in so many ways, from little things to big things.  For example:

  • I can’t pull off lipstick (read: I shouldn’t wear lipstick)
  • I can’t pull off a leather jacket
  • I would live in Minnesota my whole life
  • That compatibility means similarity
  • That me being messy is bad
  • …That being emotionally messy is bad
  • That I wouldn’t be successful taking students abroad
  • Dressing in business casual clothing makes me credible
  • I would never be an entrepreneur

When I revisited these “Truths” I realized they weren’t really truths, they were merely Habits and Limits.  It was like finally seeing the illusion, and naming it suddenly transformed them into Possibility.  Suddenly, everything was back on the table for me to pick and choose, to reclaim to reject.

Throughout the fall, into the winter, I was shedding these flowers.  Flowers that were beautiful at one point, and as I decided which pieces weren’t serving me anymore, I let them go, dropping them off my branches.

It felt like I was dying.

And I was.  I was letting parts of me die. And it seems sad and with such loss of something beautiful –

But as the winter becomes spring, it was hard not to see the metaphor of what was happening with my spirit along with the seasons.  Sometimes parts of us have outlived their usefulness, no longer serve us, and can be let go to make room for the buds of the flowers that will take their place.  

Maybe it’s a friendship, something you were told you wouldn’t be good at but you’ve always wanted to try, the role your family or friend expects you to fulfill, what someone told you was “appropriate,” a way you’ve been taught to define success, or whatever.  Maybe it doesn’t serve you anymore. Maybe it’s time to let the flower fall so you can grow something new and True in its place.

It will look messy. It will feel like parts of you are dying.

I thought my orchid was dying.  I didn’t realize it was in the process of evolving.

Keep going.  You are blooming.

Jessica Chung is a Teaching Specialist with the Undergraduate Leadership Minor as well as a leadership, superhero, and calligraphy enthusiast.