What You Need to Hear for 2023

Molly Jacobson
4 min readJan 2, 2023

There is nothing wrong with you, and you are not broken. You have been hurt and changed, but that doesn’t mean you have lost.

When trees are seeds, they are not trees, they are possible trees. As they unfurl their tiny stalky tendrils and push through the hard earth down toward water, and their silky pale green leaves up through the hard earth toward light and warmth, they are all ambition.

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Most tiny possible trees are plucked up by the wind, or dug up by cats, or upended by squirrels hoping to feast on their tender starches before they harden into roots.

Those who survive this are drowned by spring flooding and scorched by summer solstice. If they manage to keep going they twist in the autumn wind and shrivel in the winter snows.

And if they still grow, their limbs are lopped off in storms, their trunks bashed by cars, their roots cut when new sod is put in.

Some trees are carved into, cruelly, by thoughtless people using knives, or by nasty woodpeckers who insist on drilling holes in their bark. As they grow, these holes widen and harden, and infection sets in. The initials distend and warp, the heart turns into a circle. The tender tree inside bulges out, tries to become bark, fails.

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Some wounds are forever, disfiguring.

In other words, things happen in life to trees, and things happen in life to people. No one gets out of this life being exactly the person they thought they would be or doing exactly the things they thought they should do. Every single human who has ever lived on the planet had ideas that never worked out. Very few feel they reached their potential. Everyone has been hurt and stymied. Everyone has been pressed down and flooded and singed.

Every human bears their bully’s initials as heart scars.

Being bent, lopped off, branded, burnt, these things are part of living here on this planet in a body. Mourn them, heal them, and mitigate risk for them happening again… but don’t let them either define you or stop you, any more than you would let the fact that the Dalai Lama is rumored to have a bad temper keep you from admiring his work.

The things that break and bind and scar and constrict are the things that make our journey our own. Otherwise, we would all be pure Fibonacci sequences, endlessly spiraling in perfect, fascist order. It would look like a perfect world, but it would feel like a perfect prison.

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So this year as you flinch from the hurts and cower from the doom, take heart. You are not expected to heal the entire world, to set everything right. You are expected to sew up the tears you encounter, to bind the wounds you can reach, and to attend to your own healing. If you carry scars you are expected to break down excess tissue systematically over time until it is a thin, tough, functional cohesion.

Like the tree, you are expected to continue sending warm life and love blood up and down, all the way out to every branch, twig, leaf, and berry, giving as much as possible, taking as much as is offered, and bringing that back to the receptive earth below you. And if you lose a limb, or a root is broken, repair and replace as you can.

If you can’t, let the dead wood go so it can mulch the ground, while you continue to work where you can, as you can, with what you have. Some years a single leaf is the best you can do, and that is enough.

Accept this is enough, now, because you have had many one-leaf years and a few where you couldn’t even manage that. Maybe every year has produced only one or two leaves. Regretting those and wishing they had been other — wishing you were still that ambitious, only-possibility-seed — will only waste energy.

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You need that energy, because this year you will grow many new limbs, many new leaves, and they will be lush and tender, and only possible because of the strength and happy warrior nature of your deep roots and strong trunk.

What does it matter if you lost almost everything once, as long as you continue to give everything you have to this project of life on earth?

What does it matter if others only have one set of initials, and you have twenty, what does it matter if they have none at all? Don’t compare your wounds and judge yourself more hurt; that way is only depression and sap hoarding.

It’s not what you are here for.

You are here to grow and show forth as many spectacular flowers as possible. You are here to be not just one tree, but many, a forest, plus the ferns, and the flowers in the meadow.

If you are reading this, your roots are still holding. Take heart.

Photo by Zheng Wang on Unsplash