Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bloom Where You're Planted

The first time I heard the phrase “Bloom Where You're Planted” in a context that held meaning for me was in 2002. I had reached the end of a military training school and all of us young officers were waiting to find out where we would be stationed. The staff at the school decided to make the assignment process a three part event.

First, an assignment team came down to the school and presented a power point presentation on our options describing the unit, location and number of slots. The only location with multiple slots was Korea. I had set my sights on Europe. There was one in Italy and two in Germany, but at different bases. The only other tour that somewhat appealed to me was in Hawaii. The school threw a banquet dinner for the assignment team, consisting of three members, and unleashed 75 barracuda students to mingle with them. The goal was simple: find a way to make yourself memorable and state what you want while giving a compelling reason for it. Not an easy feat.

The second part of the event was in a controlled environment littered with political minefields. Each class of twenty-five students had the delightful opportunity to have a cutthroat lunch with the Deputy of the school. Objective was pretty much the same as above. The one catch--understand the political dynamic of the staff, know who their favorites were and steer clear of trampling on their toes, and don’t say anything that would piss off the Deputy or cast you in a negative light. No sweat, right?

The final part of the process was like a game show extravaganza. All three classes, totaling 75 officers, gathered in a ballroom. Each class stood at the front of the ballroom as a group while a slideshow was presented set to music, chronicling the last six months we had spent in school. At the end, a picture of each student was put on the big screen, also set to music for dramatic effect, and your assignment was announced with everyone watching you to see how you’d react. This is not a joke. It really happened.

Before they began the big announcement, the commander gave a speech on how to bloom where you’re planted. The words were motivational and quite inspiring, but all I could think was, what blooms in Cannon, NM? I’m no desert rose and not every flower can thrive in any environment. The meaning was lost on me at the time as I watched one officer breakdown publicly when faced with being stationed in Idaho for two years.

When my turn rolled around, I was so nervous my heart throbbed in my throat and my skin tingled. Watching a slot in Germany go to one of the Deputy’s favorites, I held my breath. As the Deputy’s second little pet got Italy, I’ll admit that nausea hit me so hard I nearly puked. Hawaii went to a buddy of mine, which put a smile on my face, but at the same time it was my second pick. I already knew who my rivals were for Ramstein, Germany. As they dropped one by one getting Korea, New Mexico, and Korea, my odds improved, but the gut-wrenching nerves lingered. Finally, my picture popped up on the “jumbotron”, a drum roll erupted in my mind washing out the background music … then Ramstein flashed on the big screen. Joy and relief gushed inside of me and I actually jumped up and down with glee. I quickly tempered my elation as I scanned the faces of the other barracudas who didn’t get what they wanted. Yep, I just admitted I was once a barracuda. How do you think I got the only slot at Ramstein?

Eight years later, I heard a sermon by Joel Osteen on the very same topic of blooming where you are planted. He discussed how life’s challenges and the “challenging” people we encounter are all designed to teach us something to improve. Think of them as sandpaper, he said, smoothing away the rough edges. I found the insight brilliant and it resonated on multiple levels for me. No matter what job we have, what city we live in, who our co-workers or friends may be, each day we have a choice to accept we are exactly where we are supposed to be and face our current circumstances with joy in our hearts.

Of course I am ready to have an agent say, “I think you’re talented and want to represent you”, and to finally have one of my books published. In the meantime, I choose to accept the present as a gift. I will enjoy each day and spend it with loved ones, reading, traveling, indulging in decadent delights, and most definitely writing. As I bloom where I am currently planted, I can hear the angel at my side whispering in my ear, “Grow.”