What’s Next?

Did you know trees never stop growing? Though you can’t see them changing, it’s happening all the time. They grow taller … they grow wider … they require nourishment and care … they lose bark …

Trees are a lot like people.

The other evening, I sat across from a friend, beer in hand, and he asked me what I view as a very profound, serious question: “What’s next for Jenni Clark?”

See, I’m a goal oriented, organized, forward-looking person. I like to have hopes, projects, goals and direction — something I’m planning or aspiring to do or see or audition for or change or accomplish — in my sights. I’m a list maker who still carries a Franklin Planner. And, I like to see down the road. I’m the girl with the plan.

Sound familiar?

But, right now, I’m stymied. What IS next for Jenni Clark? Where am I going? What show will I audition for next season? What new project will I begin? What blog will I write? Where will this year’s vacation take me? Who in my circle will stick around and who will go? What needs to change and what should be left alone?

This question has been on my mind a lot at this time in my life, and it’s unsettling. I’m a relatively happy person, I’d say. I enjoy life — my life — and learning and growing. I’m authentic and genuine and comfortable in my own skin. I choose to see the good around me, selecting kindness and compassion over judgement and fault-finding. I opt for joy over arguments, and enjoy in-depth conversations and laughter over coffee, tea or a good beer and other fun beverages. I embrace life — and those I care for — with two hands and live richly.

I like to explore and discover, try new things and even get messy at times. I may look all girly but I’m wild, unpredictable and adventurous too. There’s so much I want to partake in … to experience. I’m a doer. I like to be busy. And I get restless. And, if people are like trees, then I’m a Sycamore Tree.

There was this tree in my grandparents town: Martinsville, Indiana. It was an enormous Sycamore Tree on a sidestreet near the downtown. Seriously, it was huge. The root system may not reach as far as China, but it must go deep. I was always fascinated by that tree. So strong. So solitary there in the square. So majestic and alive.

What’s notable about Sycamore Trees — and I’m pretty sure I repeat this to my kids every time I see one — is their bark. See, a Sycamore Tree has really thick bark. But, as it ages and grows, the bark falls off, leaving this mottled white/grey soft skin-like bark in its place.

It’s messy and imperfect … and it’s beautiful.

A Sycamore Tree keeps growing, keeps changing. It’s been thru stuff and sheds its bark. It’s like how humans rid themselves of things or people that we don’t need or that no longer serve us or have moved out of our life. Like a Sycamore Tree, we rid ourselves of “stuff” and shed the pain associated with it. Yet, even without that protective bark, the Sycamore Tree keeps growing. And its rich green leaves are beautiful, whether it has that thick bark or a mottled grey exterior — or even a few wrinkles (aka laugh/smile lines), a thicker waist and a couple super, super ash blonde hairs …

Just like us.

When you look at a Sycamore Tree, you can tell that it has lived a great life … and that no matter how old it might be — and you really can’t tell that anyway, it’s still growing.

So, What’s Next for Jenni Clark? I don’t know. Maybe it’s this … a little simpler, quieter time. Maybe it’s focusing on being a mom, hanging out with my kids or going out to hear a band with my husband. Maybe it’s reading a book in the sunshine or another Barre3 or yoga workout. Maybe hanging out with my cat — my fellow early riser who wakes me every morning — is cool for now. Maybe King Lear and Shakespeare Royal Oak with my son and Confirmation and Lindsey Stirling with my daughter are what’s right for this time. Maybe a new knitting project, time cleaning my house and a new playlist are what I need. Maybe dance-mom drinks at Cantina Diablo, an unexpected invitation to a play, and time comfortably spent with a girlfriend and her cats are what’s best. Maybe it’s not a calendar filled with rehearsals or things to go to/do but rather a spacious time to grow and experience something I don’t even see coming yet.

Trees never stop growing. And like that tree in Martinsville, I have lost some bark and been through some stuff. I’ve shed things that don’t serve me and nourished myself with people and moments that help me grow stronger. Like that tree, I’ve weathered storms and raised my arms on beautiful sunny days, reveling in the light.

I’m the Sycamore Tree that’s still growing. And whatever comes next, I’ll meet with my feet deep in the dirt — I’m messy like that. I like surprises. It’s okay not to see too far beyond the horizon — even for a Type A planner. I’m just going to stay present and await whatever adventure the “What’s Next” brings … or takes me on.

I’m not done yet, that’s for sure. I’m still growing, learning, and discovering.

What about you? If you were a tree, what kind would you be? Think about it …

                                                                                                          — Jenni



One thought on “What’s Next?

  1. Pingback: Thank you! – Nicolas Heartmann

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