My life began as a seed.
The gardeners dug a hole in the ground on a cold, slushy morning and placed me in it. Then they covered it up with warm, fluffy soil and let me germinate. Sometimes they would come and water me as I basked in the warm sunlight underneath my blanket of dirt.
I grew quickly, shooting up faster than any of the other seedlings, and my gardeners were proud. They fed me plenty of fertilizers and made sure to keep me growing straight and bug-free. Soon enough, I would spread my first foliage, I promised myself. Make them see how beautiful I’ve become.
There were no other trees around me. No saplings, no seedlings. The sun kept me company while the gardeners weren’t tending to me and the rain gave me nourishment when the gardeners couldn’t. The wind sang me songs and I continued to spread, both through the earth and above it. I tried not to feel lonely, since there were birds and squirrels and inquisitive pets who sometimes came around. I tried so hard.
One day, the gardeners came again. They dug another hole, not too far away from where I stood. There, another seed was placed in the ground and covered with warm, fluffy soil.
They still cared for me, but they cared more about the other seedling. It grew, and it grew strong, fast, faster than I. Whatever mistakes they made on me, they made sure not to make on him.
I began to realize that we were competing for the same space. Discontent to lie back and be taken over, I pushed myself harder. Grow more! Grow more!
The gardeners began to pay less attention to me. Oh, they still fed me the same amount of fertilizer as usual, but they lacked the caring, cultivating touch they used to have. They began to pay more attention to the other sapling, who was much larger than I, giving me up as the test case and the lost cause.
I fought back. I feared being forgotten. I feared defeat. Often I would punish the other tree, exacting retribution for his perceived wrongdoings. The gardeners punished me when they found out, clipping me back and out of the way.
I grew sad and wild, though the gardeners were careful to keep me pruned out of the way. But nonetheless, I could feel the poison seeping into my roots. I knew that the other tree could, too. I fought it, and I fervently hoped that he didn’t.
I grew bitter, whatever fruit I used to give was small, hard. Whatever fruit he gave was larger, more yielding, and I knew he grew arrogant. He would unabashedly shake his limbs, issue challenges and taunts. I stayed silent, repressed, angry, desolate. Sometimes in the night, I cried out silently. I sought approval in my own silent way, hoping that perhaps the gardeners would listen to me. I was sick, couldn’t they see?
Of course not, for mine is a sickness that they won’t see until I’m gone.
I can tell that he is insecure. He grows big and strong, while I grow wild and untamed. Despite that whatever I do is merely a stepping stone for him, despite that I am his pioneer, despite that the gardeners clearly prefer him over me, he is unsettled in his roots. The disease makes him uncomfortable, and he lashes out.
I, though, I have learned my lesson. I have grown silent and I struggle alone in my silence. Although I now have company, he and I live in two separate worlds. One that is driven by the towards a dream, one that continues to pursue alone what seems to be a dream.
Today, I continue to grow. I no longer grow in a straight line, but rather in a curve while he stands tall and straight. I have grown flexible and accommodating while the poison taints my roots. I feel directionless, but I am always around for a perch. I make a better perch than he does and my limbs are littered with bird houses. I grew to accommodate him and I feel empty.
The gardeners still don’t see that I need help. They only see that I don’t live up to their expectations, that, despite how strong I’ve grown, how hard I pushed through the shit they dragged me through, I was still unable to grow as straight and as tall as their favorite.
They can’t see how beautiful my leaves are in the fall, how much life I sustain in the spring. They only see me as the bitter, wizened failure that they’d not the foresight to cut down.
But despite the neglect, I will continue to grow. Because I fear being forgotten and I fear losing. I will continue to persevere because I may not love myself, but I do still love the gardeners. I want to please them, and prove to myself that I am better. That I always will be better. Because I know it deep in my heart, but I never hear it on the wind. As the poison eats away at my roots, I will continue to fight, and hopefully one day I will no longer have to fight it.
Hopefully, one day, I will be able to dance as I used to, be happy and content. But until then, I will continue to grow, twisted and tough.