I was always fascinated with nature growing up. I was never the kid who enjoyed sitting with my eyes glued to a screen, fingers twiddling with a controller, yelling at zombies to die or fictional characters to achieve more points and higher levels. It was all very boring to me. I wanted more than what those distractions could offer me.
It all started with a tree.
When we moved into our new home in Southern California, I immediately drew my attention to a massive tree in the backyard corner. I remember running around in my Pokemon slippers with my new neighbors but stopping and staring at that tree every so often, wanting to climb it so badly. It’s one of my very first memories I have of myself, besides singing Frank Sinatra in the back of my Grandma’s car while she drove us to McDonalds. (Side note: McDonald’s used to be the shit, right!? I remember kids used to have birthday parties there at the play-pen!) Those first memories we have of ourselves are so important to hold onto, especially if you have a shit memory like myself.
While most kids begged their parents for the latest Tomagachi or Club Penguin membership (don’t act like you didn’t, bitch.), I always brought up to my Dad how cool it would be to have a tree house. Several birthdays, Christmases, President’s Days, etc. went by and every time I asked for a tree house. This isn’t me whining about never getting that damned tree house, but it might be.
I don’t know! Tree houses just do it for me. They’re so quaint and grounded, even though they are suspended between natural oaks and willows. It’s a perfect combination of home and earth. It’s adventurous– it’s cozy and real. Most importantly, it’s simple and constant. It’s small and creative and you grow with your little home because, well, trees grow.
I think we, as people, can find similarities to the makeup of trees. For example, we don’t grow on our own, and we aren’t mature the second we are born to this earth. Just like us, trees need a lot of resources to help them grow, too. (#ScienceAmIRite?)
The sun’s always watching them like good parents and putting them to bed every night; The water nourishing their bodies like it nourishes our own; Carbon dioxide running through their veins and allowing new air to breathe; And nutrients in the soil, a firm and stable home that allows them to grow, much like the homes our families try to provide for us day-in and day-out.
Cold winters wither trees down to the twigs and branches, a sign of hardship and challenges we face as humans that help us achieve maturity and progress. But the core of the tree still stands through that terrible weather, the stump remaining as a beacon of hope—of unscathed and intact marrow.
Trees also aren’t built in a day. They’re like Rome and…people–it takes as many resources as possible to reach its full potential. It takes time for us to grow, and even when we think we have met our full maturity, we can always achieve more than we had once thought.
For my 20th birthday, I decided to symbolize this growth as a representation to myself of my constant development. But it’s more than just a symbol—it’s a reminder of who I am and what I stand for
I wanted the tree to not be at its full growth, showing that I, just like the tree on my body, still have a lot of growing to do. And I don’t think we should ever stop growing. I don’t want to be 80 years old and feel like I’ve done all I can do, experienced all I can, and have reached my full maturity. When I’m 80, (God willing I make it that far), I will look at my forearm and remember this forever: Growth is the only evidence of life.
I will remember that growth and strength can only happen through continuous struggle. I want to explore and challenge myself; I want to create memories; And, through these practices, I want to push myself to be a better man, open to new ideas and new experiences. I don’t ever want to be fully satisfied with where I am and what I am doing. I want to continue to challenge myself to reach higher and higher.
I want to be the house to that tree on my forearm—the place where it lives permanently.
I finally got my tree house. And my God, it was so fucking worth it.