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There were always so many colors in my family’s garden. I remember plucking cherry-red tomatoes from bowed branches and twisting orange bell peppers from their strong stems, but the memory that stands out the most to me is just how bright everything was. There were so many colors: red, yellow, purple, orange… And green. There was so much green. Some of it came from the lush foliage of all our carefully-spaced vegetable plants, yes; but most of it was from a less desirable source: weeds.
The unwelcome plants spiraled up from the red Tennessee clay, spreading their roots and stealing water. They grew so quickly that I sometimes used to wonder if they stretched inches higher every time I turned my back. Of course, I know now that the weeds’ fast growth was due to something far less mystical: my own negligence.
I always focused so much more on the “fun” parts of gardening; quick, easy accomplishments that never took too much effort. I loved planting seeds and seeing them when they sprouted, and I would get excited about what they would grow into. That excitement would never last too long, though. Honestly, by the time the plants had grown taller than my tiny stature, I would already be tired of the effort needed to have even an average-looking garden. The weeds grew tall and proud.
This sad horticultural decline would occur every summer until I turned eleven. That was the year when I thought, ‘Hey, what if I put a little bit of effort into it this time?’ So, I started to do something very important: I finally began to pull the weeds.
Several months (and a truly alarming amount of blisters) later, the garden quite literally blossomed into something lovely. The plants were taller than they had ever been before, and their branches were heavy.
I learned a very important lesson that hot summer. Even though it’s much easier to focus on the positive, like the vegetable plants that I grew with such care, I also need to deal with the negative, such as the weeds.
“Weeds” form in every aspect of our lives. They could be anything: toxic or abusive relationships, bad habits, negative and self-damaging thoughts, and even unjustifiably pessimistic or cynical world views. When left unchecked, they spiral out of control, choking out all that is good in our lives.
Like many other young adults, I spent a lot of my time hanging out with very negative people. I belonged to a group that did nothing but hate everything. Each one of us, including me, constantly belittled people, whether they were in the group or not. Petty squabbles reigned supreme, and none of us were ever truly happy.
But after about a year of that, I finally had the courage to get out of the little group and prune away all that hateful energy. It was scary at first; I had to make all new friends. I’ve never liked change very much, and this was a big one. However, away from the constant little fights, I became so much happier. I was surrounded by new people who gave off so much positive energy, and of course I was affected by that. Smiles came easier to me, and so did everything else. I began to look at strangers differently; instead of just walking sources of potential harm, they were multi-faceted individuals, capable of joy, love, hate, jealousy, longing, and so much more. Life was better.
Even though I had so much more positivity around me, I was still prone to producing my own “weeds”. Like most teenagers, I constantly host a turmoil of emotions. My moods could turn around on a dime; happiness to sadness, love to hate, pride to self-loathing.
To understand my state of mind back then, imagine a cluttered room. In this room, mismatched furniture stands in every side and corner, blocking all but a single pathway. A mess of papers and mementos colonizes every available surface. There’s no space to live, no space to work, no space to breathe. No space to calm the nervous mess of emotions that were slowly suffocating me.
After I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during sophomore year of high school, I realized it was time for a change. My own thoughts and habits and pessimism had grown into weeds, bringing with them a darkness that I simply could not live in. I didn’t want to be trapped within those twisted and shadowy acres of weeds; I wished to stroll along a sunlit path in a lovely, healthy garden.
So I began attempting to adjust the way I felt about the world in general. I started to neaten the mess that existed in my mind. Whenever I caught myself thinking in a way that was unduly cynical, I would try to alter it to make it more positive. (I never tried to change my unique perspective on the world, though. I merely put an optimistic spin on things.) And when I noticed that my thoughts were turning to that familiar battleground of shame and self-loathing, I hastily leapt to a mental narrative of confidence and pride in myself. I transformed the landscape in my mind from a ruined wasteland to a resplendent oasis.
I pulled the weeds that were taking over my life and overwhelming my mind. Without them, my spirit was finally able to flourish; grow tall and strong. To anyone who lives in the shadow of toxic people and poisonous thoughts, all I can recommend is this: If it’s a weed, pull it. When corruption is rotting away your happiness, it doesn’t need to be in your life.
If your significant other isn’t supportive of your lofty goals, it may be time for a change. If your friends are making you miserable, make new ones. If negativity is spreading inside your mind like a field of weeds, grow flowers instead!
Your soul deserves to blossom; pull the weeds so that it can thrive.