Trying to Grow a Sunflower: An Open Letter to Myself About Uncertainty

Dear Alys,

For the last few weeks you’ve been trying to grow a sunflower. It started as a tiny seed, a third of the size of your smallest fingernail, yet so packed full of just the right combination of things to reach your height. That’s incredible, isn’t it? I guess we all start off small. Some of us soak up the sunlight as we age, others shrink into the hedgerow.

Sometimes I feel like it might be time for you to poke a petal out into the light, have a look at what the world looks like in the brightness, rather than observing from the shadows. I guess you’ve managed that at times. All sorts of moments require that bravery: little things like picking out a t-shirt you’re not sure others will like but wearing it anyway because you like it. Or big things like upping roots and trying to ground yourself in Australia for a while. Yes, you’ve definitely done some things.

This week you don’t feel like stretching out your leaves, or searching for the sun. You feel the smallness of a little spruce in an endless forest. How can you possibly reach the sky when there’s a canopy of others, desperate to get there too? Maybe it’s better to stay in the undergrowth, you tell yourself. It’s safe down here, quiet. Just the rustle of a passing creature every now and then.

But I know that doesn’t satisfy your hunger for something else. I know you. And I know that settling for something due to stubbornness is a skill you can be brilliant at but also hate. You’ve had the chance to take the easy route quite a lot, but often haven’t. You had the perfect setup to do something very academically conventional and be great at it, but you didn’t. Why? Because there’s a strong, albeit very tiny and often hiding, part of you that seeks something else.

You’re not too sure what it is that it’s looking for, but just the fact that it exists and has a desire to push against some things, and pull you towards others is a good start. Ignoring this part of you will not make you happy. Forcing yourself to make a life down here in the mulch is silly. Sunflowers don’t belong in the dark. That’s like stubbornly suggesting a fish will do fine in a puddle. I don’t want ‘fine’ for you, I want you to flourish. But that doesn’t happen overnight.

You’re going to have weeks like this. Weeks in which everything feels tremendously and catastrophically difficult, blown out of proportion in some ridiculous way. But you can’t make a good plan whilst you’re drowning. You’ll just be doing everything you can not to breathe in the water and salt. Desperately thrashing for a quick fix, to not let the black take you down. And if safety, in the form of settling for something, offers itself up at that point, I’m not blaming you for taking it. Anything to not feel the sea replace the air in your lungs.

But what if I told you there’s another way? Stay still. Stop jerking your limbs around; don’t fight it. Let the hurt and uncertainty take as long as it needs to pull you in its tides. At some point the water will push you up to the surface. And only when you emerge, draw in a breath, and take a moment to know what’s up and down, only then make some decisions. Trust me, a slightly delayed decision made in the calm of a fresh morning is always going to be better than a faster decision made in the smoke-and-mirror illusions of midnight.

Anyway, I think you’ve done well keeping that little plant alive. It’s looking healthy and happy, but I’m not sure how much longer you can shelter it inside. It needs fresh air, direct sunlight and space to stretch out. It needs a bigger world to explore and you can help it do that. So I guess this whole letter is just a reminder to plant your little flower in the garden. Don’t forget please.

Lots of love,


May 2018

If you liked this post, you might like:

You Don’t Have To Eat Oysters: An Open Letter to Myself About Making Decisions

Dear 2017 Me: An Open Letter

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33 thoughts on “Trying to Grow a Sunflower: An Open Letter to Myself About Uncertainty

  1. whatismaria says:

    You are such a talented writer, with an ability to capture complex emotions with skill and precision. I love what you said about making decisions once day comes instead of during hazier moments when everything seems unclear, and combining acceptance with striving to grow onwards and upwards. Thank you so much for sharing this piece, and I wish you all the best xox

    Liked by 1 person

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