“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

— Anais Nin

On Wednesday, my granddaughter and I attended her Parent/Student Orientation for her first year in high school.  I will spare you all the wailing about the impossibility that any grandchild of mine could be that old and simply say that I wondered, as we headed toward the building, just who her peers might be at this stage of their life.  Ivy and her friends do spend significant time in and out of my house, but it is these milestone meetings that pull together all the members of her class; and that is always a treat.  The auditorium was swarming with fourteen-year-olds — boys with perfectly gelled hair, girls in denim shorts and sandals, most experimenting for the first time with eye liner — some looking like young raccoons leaving the nest for the first time.  Each of them, in their perfect conformity, is seeking to be an individual and to be seen by their peers as standing out in the crowd.

I think now of my zinnias.  At the beginning of the growing season, I grabbed two packets of seeds for multi-colored results and tossed them in my flower patch at the end of the veggie garden.  I watched and waited, visiting my seedlings as they grew tall and green; and, at last I discovered that the plants all were topped by buds.

They were beautiful in their own right, neat and green and tightly closed, all lined up and ready to burst with potential.  Ninth grade flowers.  It seemed like a very long time before one of these beauties could wait no longer and had to burst open and reveal its color.  The petals opened slowly; and even when the process had begun, it took several days for the full beauty of the bloom to show itself.

I look at the auditorium and see that it is packed with hundred of identical buds just waiting for the right combination of learning and encouragement to convince them to burst open and let their colors be seen.  I reflect on my own ninth-grade adventure and how awkward I felt as I tried to stay wrapped up tightly in the conformity that allowed me to be a part of the group.  I think of my own fearful process of letting myself begin to bloom and showing my own contributions to the world.  It is a process; and sometimes I think we are surprised when we see our first petals unfold.  I suppose you could say that it takes a lifetime for us to experience each petal and take in the joy and magic of becoming who we were created to be.

What will this same group of kids look like when their four years of high school are done?  Who will they be when they are forty or fifty or when they are the grandparents who look back in wonder at this part of the journey to being ourselves?  No matter how tightly we all are encased in the bud, the time does come when the risk of blooming is less painful than the effort to stay hidden under our conformity.

Show your petals!  Bloom!  The world is longing to see your colors!