One of the more difficult aspects of my job as a Mental Health Clinician is watching individuals suffer and struggle through intense and seemingly chronic life situations, while desperately doing all they can to just survive.  

As I’ve worked with these individuals, I often find myself thinking and asking questions such as, “Why are these issues lasting so long in this individual’s life? Haven’t they been through enough pain and suffering? How much longer will they need to wait to be able to reap the benefits of their hard work?” 

In my experience, the answer to some of these questions can be brought to life from the story of the “Chinese Bamboo Tree”. 

The Chinese Bamboo Tree

The Chinese Bamboo Tree is a very unique type of tree, said to be able to grow 90 ft in just 6 weeks and to heights of over 100 feet throughout its lifetime! However, in order to reach full height, it takes this particular tree around five years to grow. While 100 feet may not seem extraordinary for the height of a tree, what is really interesting about the growth cycle is that for the first 4 ½ years, this tree does not break through the ground. 

Now, think about that for a second. If it takes five full years for this tree to grow to heights of over 100 feet, and at 4 ½ years the tree hasn’t even broken through the ground yet, where is the growth happening??

The Roots. 

For 4 ½ years, and in order to sustain such growth at such a quick pace, the nutrients of this tree are focused towards the roots. This quiet effort below the surface helps the tree to receive the nourishment necessary in order to be strong, secure, and dependable. When we think about the different elements that can affect and weaken the stability of trees, such as rain/wind storms, pests or insects, pollution, and even the type of soil it’s in; It becomes abundantly clear that the health and strength of these roots can have one of the greatest impacts on their ability to survive. 

Not only is the growth rate of this tree of particular significance, but I would also like to highlight the patience, persistence, and dedication it takes in order to grow and develop this tree. Constant sunlight and water are necessary each day in order for the tree to reach its full potential. Now, watering a tree for 4 ½ years can seem like a very daunting and overwhelming task, especially when the growth of the tree isn’t always visually clear. However, it’s the caretaker’s diligent and persistent care of the tree that ends up making the biggest difference in the long run.

Similarly to the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree, I believe all of us in some way, shape, or form have experienced the overwhelming, exhausting, and draining sensations of giving every ounce of effort, without seeing significant results.

Maybe you’re a single mother working a couple of different jobs just to make ends meet, or a college student taking 15 credit hours while also working a part-time job. You may be someone who has been continuously working on improving a seemingly broken relationship from the past, or even an individual trying to claw and fight your way back through the dark depths of an addiction

Whatever the situation may be or whatever the cause, feeling stuck does not mean that there isn’t any progress happening. Perhaps your hard work and dedication is focused on building up and creating your foundation; meaning that when the time does come for you to sprout from the ground,” your foundational roots will be in place, ready and prepared to sustain substantial growth as you work towards and achieve your full potential.

Remaining patient and persistent, even in the darkest of times, is one of the best ways to combat the negative feelings of defeat and exhaustion. Believe it or not, the time will come for you to reap what you have sown. It may not always be the most perfect timing and to one’s exact liking, but I believe that it can, and does happen. Keep up the good work!