I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the saying — perhaps even the cliché — “bloom where you’re planted.” While I’ve always understood the notion and thought it was an idyllic — if simple — sentiment, it’s never resonated with me before because of my life map to date. In a literal sense, “bloom where you’re planted” would mean Yangzhou, China for me but that opportunity wasn’t possible. My adoption led me away from my country of origin to the USA. But in New York, the grounds of my childhood, I never quite felt at home, either. Instead of “blooming where I was planted”, I often sought alternative routes along which I could start generating roots. In fact, leaving where I was planted originally is what truly allowed me to bloom.

Over the past few years, I’ve “bloomed” while living a transient lifestyle, traversing six continents and approximately 50 countries with vastly different cultures. But the common threads woven through those locations are the bonds I created with incredible people while I continued to discover and unpack new facets of my identity.

The pandemic, though, has me in the same place for nine months so far with no plans for changes in scenery. I went from completing my education abroad and being on the road for nine months out of the year for my career to being back in New York, just five miles from my childhood home. I haven’t been in one place consecutively for this long since the beginning of ninth grade, and even then I think my family took the odd long weekend away during the school year.

This year, “bloom where you’re planted” is a reality I’ve finally had to face head-on, without options for alternative landscapes. It’s been one of the hardest adjustments, and I know I say this from a very fortunate position compared to many. Personally and professionally, I’ve had to stabilize and strengthen my roots in the USA once again while always in the back of my mind feeling pulled back toward different places and people, temporarily inaccessible. At times, there is solidarity in this journey, as people around the world, regardless of the generation to which they belong, the country in which they live, or the language through which they communicate are experiencing these reality shifts. There is also feelings of isolation as if I’m planted in a barren field without opportunity for meaningful connection in my vicinity.

I hear so many people saying this is the new normal and they’ve adjusted. They enjoy working from home, they have adapted to their new routines. At times, I also dwell on the positives — I am safe, I am making responsible decisions professionally and personally, I am with my family instead of stranded abroad during this tumultuous time. But to be honest, I don’t want to completely adjust to this reality. Of course, I want to survive this time, and even thrive during it — to bloom, so to speak — but I don’t want to become complacent into thinking it’s normal. I don’t want to accept the “bloom where you’re planted” notion without an acknowledgment that even though it can be done, even embraced, it is not always ideal. I’m still walking the tightrope of hopefulness and realism, dreaming about re-blooming elsewhere sometime soon.

If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/lessons-in-moving-on/

by joyfulhannah

Hannah Joy Sachs is an experiential educator passionate about building connections through storytelling. Adopted from China and raised in a predominantly white suburban community outside New York City, Hannah has grappled with her identity, sense of belonging, and understanding of ‘home’ for as long as she can remember. In search of community, adventure, and a better understanding of herself, Hannah has been privileged to visit 45+ countries. After obtaining a BA in Sociology from Davidson College and an MSc in Migration Studies from University of Oxford, she has been leading GAP year, study abroad, and learning service programs around the world. Her travels and educational pursuits are guided by this notion that achieving social justice and collective healing happens through cultural exchange, service, and acts of empathy that, in turn, empower whole communities.