O is for Opportunity

You know the expression, “bloom where you’re planted?” I’m certain I never heard it before we moved to the South.

It’s a lovely phrase, for some. I like the idea, as I’ve written, of working with a place to make it the site of your dreams. We can’t all live in Boston, after all.

Yet deployed in a particular way, the phrase can feel like a weapon. Community matters, and if you’re not of the majority, not everywhere will have one for you. It’s simple, if you have an identity that’s common, to assume that an open personality can build community anywhere. That may be true for the minority — if you’re willing to forego or neglect nurturing key parts of your self.

But that doesn’t even begin to address the problem of opportunity. New career opportunities rarely present themselves. I had the first inkling I might not want to stay in academia right after we lost our firstborn son. I searched job listings in Ann Arbor, where we lived, a month or so later. I came upon one listing that looked promising, but I was hoping to try again for a child. Few fields open to me were as flexible and family-friendly as academia. I recommitted myself and didn’t think about changing again for a few years.

Had the market been more open, had the economy not failed, I may have stuck it out. We may have ended up in a place where I could have bloomed.

A younger friend recently asked for advice about graduate school. I don’t like giving advice. He may complete his PhD and find the perfect job in the perfect place waiting for him. Or he might not. He’s not married, but he wants to be some day. He might find a partner who can go almost anywhere, or he might not. He might be able to make his own opportunities, or he might not.

When I applied to graduate school in 2002, it was because after three years out of college, I couldn’t imagine anything I wanted to do more than study history. I’m not that person anymore, but I had no way of knowing then what I know now. I took the opportunities I had at the time, knowing what I knew then.




3 thoughts on “O is for Opportunity

  1. I’ve wondered if I should go back to get a master’s degree (I’m 50-something) but I can never muster the energy. I work as a director of marketing and I really love my job. I think I’d enjoy college more now but I’m not sure it would make much different in my career. I have the years of experience which are as valuable. I enjoyed reading your blog! I found you through the A to Z Challenge. http://www.dianeweidenbenner.com


  2. I remember the first time I saw that “bloom where you’re planted” expression–it was on a Mary Engelbreit mug we were selling at the flower shop where I worked. At first I almost liked it–you know, as a sort of sweeter way to say “suck it up” or whatever. But the more I thought about it, the more reductive and silly it seemed. If you are a PLANT, blooming where you’re planted is certainly better than wilting where you’re planted. If you’re a human being with the ability to change your environment to greater or lesser degree, blooming where you’re planted sounds like a lot of extra work when you could put yourself in a more suitable environment with a little more effort.

    And as you said, there are environments that are much less conducive to blooming of any kind for all sorts of people and all sorts of reasons and, ultimately, this expression is not at all helpful.

    I think you also hit on the big dilemma of opportunity–the unforeseen ways in which the opportunities we take may impact our future selves who may be only vaguely recognizable to the person we were when we made the initial decision.

    Nice to “meet” a fellow A-Z Challenger.


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