When I was a kid I remember visiting my grandma’s house for various holidays. Family gatherings wouldn’t be complete without the cousins lining up behind the laundry room door and marking our height on the dainty heart patterned wallpaper. I remember straining my neck and squaring my shoulders hoping that as the oldest cousin I would still claim the tallest cousin title. Year after year we would count how much we’ve grown since the last line up and rank the cousins by height. I’m sure the marks are still there on the wall. Faded of course, but still telling stories and holding such pride behind those tick marks.
It’s been many, many years since my actual height has changed. However, even though my physical growth has stopped my personal growth continues to evolve. I wish I could back my heels up to the trim on the wall and mark my personal growth year after year. I wish all of life’s events produced forward growth but that’s not always the case. Some seasons I confidently stretch my spine taller, square my shoulders against the wall to see if I’ve past my last growth mark. There’s been moments in my life I feel like I’m the same height in my personal growth as I was six months ago or a year previous. But other years the growth is so apparent.
My seasons and years have rhythms to them. Annual trips, special dates or new calendar years. Each of those things feel like a tick mark on the wall. I like to use those events and spaces for self evaluation. How am I feeling since this event last year? What do I need right now? How would I describe my current mindset, needs and feelings? Has anything shifted since last year? I’m also fortunate to have a few close and trusted friends that I can lean on. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your friends what they see. Have they noticed any growth spurts in you recently? What areas in your life do they see that need tending to? What are they most proud of in you? Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to call out and celebrate your personal growth.
I know personal growth isn’t as obvious to ourselves as what physical growth can look like. But just like growth spurts in height we can also experience growth spurts in our hearts. We can experience the aches and pains of being stretched emotionally, mentally or spiritually. We can lay in our bed at night and feel the pain points in our life. But over time we transition out of the hurt and into the healing. Growth is forward, even (or especially) when it doesn’t feel like it. The ache we feel is transition, our new self stretching, reaching. The pains fade and our new self emerges.
And just as we outgrow clothing as we grow up we can also outgrow many things in our personal life as well. Friendships can be outgrown. Relationships can be outgrown. Jobs can be outgrown. Lifestyle and habits can be outgrown. How do we know when we’ve outgrown things? For me it’s the still small voice, my gut, that’s nudging me towards something new. Encouraging me to open up to new spaces, offering different perspectives and relationships that challenge me. It’s not always easy, but it usually becomes obvious. It takes courage to recognize your personal growth and step into new spaces. It takes courage to let go of something certain while you’re waiting for something new.
I know self growth doesn’t sound alluring. Growth is messy, uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It’s a process that requires things I don’t like: grey space, patience and vulnerability. But committing to and trusting the process has brought such meaning to my life. Keep reaching, friends. Keep your head high, shoulders square and chin up. I see your growth, even in the hard, and it’s producing beautiful things.