Growing is a responsibility we each have to ourselves. Growing sounds like such a good word, such a happy, positive thing. It makes me think of sunlight, and plants, and this fantastic bright green color, and joy.

In reality, growing hurts like hell. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling. Growing makes me cry, and I act frustrated and irrational. Remember puberty? That sucked too. What no one ever tells us is that we will always be growing emotionally and mentally. There is no emotional plateau we reach. If you’re at an emotional plateau, congratulations. You’ve discovered a brief moment of balance. Now try to maintain that balance—in time you will feel your emotions sink and rise again.

Think about a plant. No, think about a tree first. A tree grows, it has roots that we don’t see, and its branches stretch out tall and wide. It looks strong, but think about it—the branches of a tree are always reaching out, stretching taller and further. It’s actively growing and moving. Now think about a plant, an ivy maybe. It grows and crawls, it grabs what it can and continues to extend further. Think about any plant that is desperate for sunlight; a plant will bend and stretch to seek the light it needs to grow.

Now think about how quickly a plant grows… snore. This is why we watch time lapse videos of plants growing. The change and growth is so slow, so tiny, so seemingly immeasurable that it seems unremarkable. In truth, the little in-between stages of growth that no one notices are the most important. They bring you to the point where you begin to blossom. Everyone crowds around and admires the flower, but few people appreciate how the flower came to be.

These millimeter changes have felt so impossible to me because I’m always looking at the place where I want to end up. Too much of an “eyes-on-the-prize” mentality and not enough thought or focus on what I need to do in the present. But now I recognize and congratulate each tiny movement I make forward, with a continued commitment to grow and stretch even if it is uncomfortable at first.