Root bound: the unintended consequences when roots stay put.

As someone who grew up without deep roots, I’m always fascinated to get a glimpse into how the other half (so to speak) grew up.

I recently got to make a trip “back home” with a friend of mine whose roots run deep in Mississippi. As life would have it, my own roots had tickled Mississippi soil a few times in my younger years and getting to see the mighty and muddy Mississippi River again was a lot like reuniting with an old friend.

One thing about having deep roots that I’ve noticed: it’s hard to change.

I think it’s a lot like those plants that you buy from places that don’t sell a lot of plants (like a hardware store or something) and you bring the plant home and realize it’s been in its small pot for too long. The roots have tried so hard to grow and spread out and push deep, but they ran out of room. So, they just wrap around each other and run in circles and twist themselves into knots. They are root bound.

I think that happens sometimes with people. I see it in small towns. People get painted with a brush. Maybe it’s the brush of a rebellious youth, or the brush of hanging out with the wrong crowd. Maybe it’s the brush of addiction or failure or lackluster achievement. Maybe it isn’t even their brush at all that they were painted with… maybe they got painted with their parents’ brush or even their grandparents’.

Their extended family, the community, the town – everyone has already made up their minds about that individual based on those brush strokes of a past from which they are never allowed to escape.

Much like that potted plant, try as they might to break free from the confines of their environment, they are not allowed to grow, to change, to mature, to move on.

Maybe they work hard to overcome an addiction. But those roots… everyone has seen them, everyone knows how low they fell, everyone knows “it’s only a matter of time”. Everyone puts him back in his pot… everyone paints him with the same ol’ brush yet again.

Some people are able to break open their pots, finding the freedom to grow and mature and change while staying rooted where they are; but I think those people are rare.

Some people find that it’s just best to be transplanted elsewhere. They need fresh soil, open minds, a clean slate to fully move into the life they want to inhabit.


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