When I was a kid, I knew who I was. I grew up in a small town; I had roots there. I knew practically everyone; if I didn’t know their names, I knew their faces. Even though my world was small, I was comfortable in my own skin. Despite a less than favorable home life, I thrived because I found my niche in life and the things that held me back were few and far between. I was at peace with the world and with myself, despite the normal range of teenage angst.

Then, in the middle of my high school junior year, we moved on two week’s notice to Arkansas, a good 700 miles away from my hometown. I found myself in a totally alien setting. Nothing at all was familiar; the city was much larger, the school was completely different, even my home was far different than the apartment I grew up in. While our family situation had improved greatly, I struggled.

For many years afterward, I continued to struggle. As I worked my way forward in life, from working to college to marriage and family, doing all the things that actually do connect us, I still felt as if I was cast adrift. I didn’t really have other people I considered friends; I’d lost touch with many previous friends. I yearned for a sense of belonging, but I didn’t know what I wanted to be part of.

The rock isn’t wrong. (I found this in a campground bathroom, of all places.)

I remember daydreams — not just of the usual yearning for a body I was fully in command of, but also being happy in my circumstances. Being a writer by nature, I even wrote myself thin a few times, but it never felt right. That Lisa who didn’t exist had everything the Lisa I was at that moment did not; approval, friends, purpose. I spent far too much time yearning for what wasn’t. On the flip side, I spent very little time at all trying to become what I wanted to become. I was frozen by inaction, and as a consequence, I let my shifting world define me instead of the other way around.

Looking back, I know now that I had to overcome allowing a dysfunctional parent telling me that I wasn’t good enough as I was, and that I would never be good enough. Childhood imprints make a lasting cast that’s difficult to break; some never do. I feel quite fortunate to have broken that cast, but there are still the occasional chips I need to clean up.

My weight loss journey, more than giving me a body I like a bit better, has taught me important lessons about inaction. Dreams are great things; they help us define what it is we want to do and be, but if we do nothing to move toward those eventual goals, they’re nothing more than daydreams. Even if we’re given a bad lot in life, it’s up to us to opt for changing our circumstances.

At some point, without realizing it, I shifted into action. I took risks and trusted. I stumbled and failed in friendships and in the various things I tried in order to find purpose, but those risks were necessary. Failing shows us what doesn’t work, so we stand a better chance of succeeding the next time we try. I changed and grew with the attempts and the triumphs. My dreams changed. My command of myself grew, and this process of growing back into myself, while not ever quite complete, is much more satisfying these days. Action and growth have given me the things I wanted so long ago. If I hadn’t ever chosen to risk, I’d still be yearning for them.

I don’t know who coined the phrase bloom where you are planted, but I spent a good portion of my life fighting that, trying hard to look forward to an undefined time when everything would somehow just be better. Now, although perhaps late, I realize that I’ve been able to bloom into knowing and understanding my place in life’s garden. It took allowing myself to put down those roots and nurture the things I wanted to be part of. That desperation I felt so long ago is long gone.

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