Food for Thought Personal Growth

“There is beauty in the bud” and other Lessons I learned from Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.

April 8, 2018

With snow and a little hail yesterday, it seems like spring will never come. This can be similar to times in our lives where it seems like the hard times will never end. But just like Cherry Blossoms waiting for spring, with a little patience and perseverance we can bloom into where we want to be. In the meantime, we need to learn to appreciate the budding stage we are in.

I came to this epiphany recently while I literally stopped and smelled the flowers at the Washington D.C. National Mall and Tidal Basin.

cherry blossoms tidal basin jefferson monument

I was in D.C. for a townhall meeting for the Young African Professionals DC Network (YAP.DC). I live in the DMV, but without a car, getting into town is a trek and a half so if I have one thing I’m doing there, I make sure I make the very most of the day.

I got to meet up with two amazing people from my alma mater, and chat about where I am in life and where I think I’m headed. Besides the life advice, it’s always great to catch up with old friends.

After my meet-ups, I spent the rest of the day at the National Mall and the Tidal Basin as I killed time until the YAP.DC event. It’s almost Cherry Blossom season here in D.C. and I’m never in town for the Cherry Blossom festival, so I wanted to check out this iconic area of D.C. I’ve been checking the Cherry Blossom watch and I knew that they hadn’t yet reached peak bloom (when most of the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin are in full bloom). But I wanted to check out the area anyways and I’m so glad I did.

cherry blossom festival national monument

The Cherry Blossom festival runs for about a month, and has various events highlighting the history of how the Cherry Blossoms came to be in D.C. (a gift from Japan) and other great events that let people take in the scenery, like the signature Cherry Blossom Parade.

Peak bloom is much later this year than most years, just because winter refuses to leave! If you’re in the East Coast or you follow me on instagram, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The late frost has kept the Cherry Blossoms from blooming at their typical time.

This is the optimal week to view the Cherry Blossoms this year: April 5th to April 12th, 2018.

This year, the Cherry Blossoms hit peak bloom on April 5th.  During this time–although they have already started trickling in–tourists will descend on D.C. to witness the beauty of Mother Nature, human architecture and landscaping at their finest. Large pink blooms will dance in the wind, reflecting in the sparkling Tidal Basin, and framed by a gorgeous blue sky with large architectural wonders completing the background of the tapestry. I simply can’t wait.

If you plan to visit D.C. during the Cherry Blossom festival, you can find out more information here.

In addition to just appreciating the sheer beauty of the blossoms at peak bloom, I also can’t wait because I’ve spent an entire afternoon appreciating the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms at their budding stage. And that was the biggest lessons these flowers taught me:

There is beauty in the bud

cherry blossom bud

Often times, we are so eager to see the flowers in all their glory, we don’t take the time to appreciate them when they are just starting to bud. Similarly in our lives, we are so eager for our end goal, we don’t take the time to appreciate the stage we are in and the growth we are experiencing.

We have to learn to love and appreciate the buds, and the process of blooming and not just the final product of the bloom.

As someone who is working hard towards my goals, and currently in an in between stage, but also trying to share my lessons and progress with you all,  I often feel like a bud surrounded by blooms. I know I’m in the budding stage of many of my goals.

Cherry blossom festival

But rather than being eager to get to that bloom stage, it’s important to fully embrace the bud stage, make the most of it, find the beauty in it and allow it to run its course without forcing the bud open – that’s how flowers die, that’s how dreams crash and burn. Like a caterpillar creating a cocoon as it turns into a butterfly, that budding stage is essential to the final product of the bloom. Don’t take it for granted, but rather appreciate the beauty of this season.

cherry blossom tidal basin Jefferson monument

This was my biggest take away from staring at the Cherry Blossom trees around the National Mall and Tidal Basin, but I spent over 3 hours here, so I picked up quite a few other lessons along the way. So here are the 4 other lessons I learned from walking around the Tidal Basin and the National Mall:

You might not bloom when you think you will bloom

Sometimes we need to be in the budding stage longer than we hoped. You never know, God might be preparing you for something even bigger and more beautiful than we thought. Or simply we weren’t quite as ready as we thought we were.

cherry blossom buds spring

You can’t force the bloom. You can, and should, work diligently day in and day out. But there is no guarantee for when your big break will come. You might think you are 100% ready for it and yet it doesn’t come. That is what has happened to the Cherry Blossoms this season.

The original peak dates were originally predicted for March 17th, but were pushed back several times due the weather (in your case, the universe, God, etc.). Cherry Blossoms are in tune with that and know not to bloom until the right time, when the weather is ready for their majesty. They bloom at just the right time, and only Mother Nature knows when that right time is. So be patient, and in the meantime, continue putting in the work. Your time will come.

cherry blossom festival

Every flower has its season

We don’t all bloom at the same time. Even if we are planted in the same soil, or even growing on the same branch, that doesn’t guarantee that we will bloom at the same pace. And we all know for a fact, that age is not a determinate of when you will bloom. (Bloom in the extended metaphor I’ve been using of reaching our goals, not bloom in the sense of puberty).

cherry blossom festival information map

A map of the Tidal Basin and National Mall showing visitors which variety of Cherry Blossoms are planted where and what months they typically bloom.

There are a variety of Cherry Blossoms species around the National Mall, the Tidal Basin and D.C. Peak bloom is determined by when the Yoshino variety blooms because they make up the vat majority of the trees around the basin. But there are many other Cherry Blossoms – and trees – that naturally bloom earlier or later.

cherry blossoms blooming budding

So rather than comparing yourself to the next person over (I know, it’s REALLY hard), you have to realize that you are running your own race, and growing at your own pace. Focus on your own growth and appreciate your own season.


Who is to say how long the bloom will last

Chery Blossoms have a notoriously short bloom stage. After peak season is over, the petals start to fall and blow away in the wind, leaving just their brilliant green leaves behind above a week after their peak bloom. If it there is heavy wind and rain or another frost, that life span could be 3-5 days.

cherry blossoms national monument

Sometimes we are running to bloom because we think that is the only important stage. But think of those people that peaked in high school. Think of people that were one hit wonders. Ideally, that’s not what we want. But if we learn to appreciate every stage we are in, we know that whether or not the bloom lasts a week or a year, we are secure in ourselves and who we are.

This requires a conscious effort of working on deepening our roots so you last through all the seasons and not just the current one. This is so that when the blooming stage is over, we don’t wither away forever. It means hoping for spring, but always ready for winter. It means we have established our internal strength so that we are ready to bud and bloom again when the season is right.

cherry blossoms wilting

I picked up this lesson in particular from some Cherry Blossoms that were already starting to wilt. They were a different breed of Cherry Blossoms that simply bloom earlier in the season.

We need to protect ourselves when we are in the growing stage.

This is similar to the idea of not forcing a bloom when it’s not time yet. Or the idea that our budding season is longer than we think it should be because we are protecting our craft, our sanity or something else. Or we simply need to protect ourselves from the climate of that season.

Whatever the reason, your budding season is precious and insulating yourself a bit might be necessary.

This doesn’t mean closing yourself off from the world. It means being intentional about who your surround yourself with. Another spring metaphor for you: birds of a feather flock together.

tidal basin floral library tulips

Seeing the fence around the floral garden made me think of this lesson of protecting ourselves. But seeing the budding tulips themselves made me take it a step further to think about the type of company we keep when we are in the budding stage – or any stage for that matter.

We need to surround ourselves with people who understand the struggle, and the stage that we are in. When I was applying to fellowships, I would spend time with fellow students that were doing the same thing.  We motivated each other and kept each other accountable. If nothing else, we could vent together about the whole frustrating process.

floral library tulips spring tidal basin

In addition to people who are the struggle with you, it’s also important to have people in your corner who have been through it and can inspire you. For that same application process, I had lots of mentors cheering me on and looking at drafts. Similarly in all our goals, we want to have friends and mentors that can cheer us on, and if we don’t look for inspiration in others that have been through it all.

And then one final lesson I learned from the floral garden is this:

Opportunity could be anywhere, so be ready

The weeds that surround the budding tulips look gorgeous right now. Imagine just working diligently on your own thing, then suddenly thrust into the limelight – will you be ready to shine? Keep striving at it, and you surely will be.

Like the weeds, keep growing no matter what, because you never know who is watching.

spring flowers weeds

Was this super cheesy or super motivational? Please please please let me know in the comments below!

I love extended analogies and I have been finding myself drawing inspiration and life reminders from natures and the moments around me lately. I want to keep sharing those lessons with you all, but only if I don’t come across like a complete dork! Haha.

Also!! What are your thoughts on plucking flowers?

lady taking picture of cherry blossom

I saw this lady pluck off a flower from the tree and I was just so shocked. Here I was reflecting on their beauty and their resilience in blooming and getting to this stage, and she just plucked it right off to take a cute photo.
I honestly have mixed feelings about this because:

  1. There was definitely a sign somewhere on the Mall that said “please do not pick flowers”
  2. But I’m also the type of person that loves a vase of flowers on her desk,

squirrel at national mall

Is there a difference when you are picking flowers that are meant for public view, versus buying flowers from a store – those were plucked at one point too.
I’ve been meaning to invest in some potted plants (we have a lot in my house, but they are too big for my desk). And I think this incident just motivated me to do it sooner rather than later.

But would love to know your thoughts: plucking flowers: yay or nay?

Extended metaphors: keep them coming or too cheesy? 

Comment below, subscribe to the blog and keep striving towards your goals even when winter seems to last forever.


Omolayo Nkem

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