decluttering, downsizing, highlight, rightsizing
Comments 4

What a tree taught me about life.

Today I said goodbye to an old friend. It was a tree, but that tree symbolised something for me.

The day I started my first proper job 20 years ago it was sitting in a pot on my new desk neglected – nothing more than a stick with one lonely leaf on it.

I nurtured that plant, and it started to grow. I nurtured my career and that, too, started to grow. When I left that company to take a job that was bigger and better, the plant went with me. It took up a whole corner of my new office.

As my life grew with a bigger job, bigger family and bigger responsibilities, so too did that plant. It got so big that when I bought my first house I planted it in the garden. There it kept growing and growing without any thought for the consequences. But the foundations it was growing on weren’t as solid as they needed to be. One day that tree was going to collapse and take everything around it down with it.

Today we took a chainsaw to that tree. I thought I would be sad. But what I found underneath was another tree. It’s not the same as the old one, but it’s every bit as worthy and every bit as beautiful despite having been hidden away all these years.

And suddenly I understood. Just like the tree, my life had been growing out of control – bigger job, bigger family, bigger responsibilities. Just like the tree, I was cut down in my prime by the chainsaw of burnout. And just like the tree, I discovered another life – it wasn’t the same as my old one, but it is every bit as worthy and every bit as beautiful as the one that was there before.

So instead of sadness for what is gone, there is joy, excitement and hope for what the old tree, the old life, has been replaced with.


  1. I love this analogy. And I love that the ending wasn’t sadness but something new and different growing up in its place. There’s another analogy about a tree that I really like in Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar. Maybe you’ve read it but if not, she is standing under a fig tree and all the figs look delicious. She is paralysed with indecision about what fig to choose and, because she waits for so long, the figs start turning brown and falling from the tree. Obviously this is a metaphor for life: you have many options, but you can’t choose them all. At the same time, if you never choose anything your options eventually close off to you. If you wait too long trying to have everything, you might wind up with nothing.
    Anyway, I love that piece because it illustrates how perfectly that you can’t have everything, but you can choose one thing or one life and then enjoy what you have. Perhaps the metaphor is relevant to feeling burnout, too.


    • Love the fig analogy – I think we do often get paralysed by indecision in case the decision we make is the ‘wrong’ one. But as you say, best to choose something and take the best out it, than choose nothing.


  2. John Foote says

    how about keeping a cutting off it Polly? an expert here tells me that would work. then in 20 years time……….


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