Life shapes us. Through a series of events we create a directory of memories, each of them teaching us something important about life. Some of these memories will fade with time, while some are pivotal, forever stamped in our minds and hearts. One of those central moments came for me in elementary school when I had to make a family tree.
We all have one. A collection of roots, branches and leaves that give us a glimpse into who we are and where we came from. Most of us have had to construct our own at some point in school, the assignment given with the purpose of helping shape our identity. I remember feeling different from my classmates. Unlike most, I had more than one tree; my adopted family and biological family. Could I truly know who I was? One tree gave no blood relation while the other was full of blank spaces. How was this assignment supposed to help shape and mold me? I felt like I didn’t wholly belong as part of either tree, and found myself conflicted on how to complete the work so that I didn’t stand out from my peers.
I do not remember which family I chose to complete my project. But, I learned something important that day and it has stuck with me since: everyone is different, yet everyone is the same.
Not one person’s tree is going to look exactly like another. Some are simple; a few branches stemming out from a small root. Some are intricate with vines and various types of leaves adorning it. Some have broken branches, missing leaves, or chipping bark. We are different and unique. Yet, we are the same. We all share in humanity together, navigating through life, each with a story to tell. When all the trees come together, it paints the most beautiful of forests, planted in unity and colored in hues of depth and understanding.
My family tree is broken but bright. It’s a mix of people, blood related and not that have come together to help one another grow. Some branches are missing and some bark has been torn off, but it’s my tree. And, I have learned to love and find an incredible amount of beauty in each line and groove.
So, own your tree. Find the beauty in its brokenness and uniqueness. Embrace the differences and similarities around you. Let’s make that forest. Leaf by leaf, branch by branch. And eventually, together, we will have the most beautiful assortment of trees, growing alongside each other.