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I LOVE TO FAIL
plants give me the gift of trying again
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CW: Suicidal ideation, suicide attempt
In the mid-2010s, when I was trying to dig myself out of the thick of suicidal ideation, one of the things I turned to was plants. I bought a small cactus for my windowsill in a small apartment in Midtown as a reason to care for something. Back then, my walls were painted seafoam green and had twinkly lights lining the bedroom perimeter, and I couldn’t stand myself.
I used to be afraid to fail. Once, I told myself if I couldn’t keep a cactus alive, that was a sign I shouldn’t try to keep myself alive. I was depressed and looking for any way out. I’m happy to report I am still alive, and today, I planted flowers beside my mailbox at my home outside of St. Louis. Nothing makes me happier than tending to my plants.
My husband and I spent the winter planning our garden and are daydreaming of our no-lawn front yard, and it’s finally coming to fruition. Last year, almost none of our seedlings made it because we started them too late and didn’t harden them off properly. We bought some tomatoes from Lowes to replace them, but the deer ate almost all the fruit. It was a devastating yet needed reminder that sometimes failure is out of our control.
Before I bought the flowers, I Googled to make sure each one I planted was deer resistant, but I don’t trust everything I learn on the internet. I may fail to keep my pink geraniums and yellow lantanas safe, but I can always try again.
We can always try again. As I get closer to my graduation date, I am reminded of all the times I failed out of college and didn’t graduate high school. As I turn in the final draft of my manuscript, I remember all the times it was rejected. I think of the deer as I prepare to plant this season’s tomatoes.
I love to fail. I love getting rejected. I love spending time with something until it works. I love to practice. It’s what keeps me alive. It’s because of failure I am still here. Bless the opportunity to try again.
This year, our seedlings are coming along nicely. They have strong roots, and we built a fence to keep the deer out. The cactus I bought for my Midtown windowsill is now eight years old, and I am over two years self-harm free.
After I realized I could keep a cactus alive, I tried again with more difficult plants: calathea, fern, fiddle-leaf, and alocasia. I killed them all, but I learned something new each time. I’ll be honest and say I opt for easier plants these days. I wouldn’t say I’m having a hard time keeping them alive, but there are days I can’t harvest myself from the soil of despair, and they suffer. But I try again.
The cool thing about plants is that they give you signs when they need care. Yellow, brown, or dropping leaves are signs attention is needed. I am trying to listen to my body the same way.
I finally put my seedlings in the ground and check feverishly each morning for signs of survival. I found each plant in place, but a few feet from the beds, a lone geranium petal sat in the grass. It turns out the variety of geraniums I planted are not deer-proof. And many of my flowers were uprooted by moles. I didn’t account for moles. But I replant them and try again.
Trying again is something not all of us have access to. To not be afraid of failure is to have the resources to get another chance. I have been able to try again because of access, and I am always curious about how we can support one another in trying again.
And there is room for us to look at failing as an invitation back to ourselves. All the times I have failed, been rejected, or messed up were a place for me to go back to my inner drawing board. What do I really want? Where can I ask for help? How can I slow down next time? How can I approach this differently?
When our seedlings didn’t make it last year, I spent the winter months watching YouTube videos from farmers and gardeners, researching the average frost date, and looking at the weather with curious eyes to see the best time to set them out without scorching their delicate leaves.
When I fail to keep my brain away from the darkest depths, I tell someone I love. I sit by a body of water. I cook a good meal. I water my plants. I put my hands in the dirt and wait for joy to grow because it always does. It always does.
I submitted the final draft of my manuscript! Pre-order info coming SO SOON. 🥳
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