The succulent paradox: What I learned from succulents

Recently I’ve been in a rut with my blog writing because I’m not sure what I can write that people want to see and will actually add entertainment and educational value to their lives, but I came to the conclusion that I should just write about what I want to write about and what’s going on with my plant care. It is my own blog after all, and that’s kind of what blogs are about.

I suppose there is a fine balance to be struck between shouting into the abyss about anything boring thing you want and writing for the purpose of entertainment and education. However, I suppose with over 45 posts on this blog, most of which are educational to some extent, I guess I’ve now hit a place where I certainly have more knowledge to pass on, but it’s on topics I’m not particularly interested in or find fun to write about, like pests, humidity, etc.

This discussion of a perfect balance is kind of a great segue into what I want to talk about today too: what I call the succulent paradox.

I recently moved all but one of my indoor succulents outdoors, because I found that while it made me happy to look at them, I found that I could possibly get more joy from replacing them with other plants and putting them outside. It’s a weird thing I do with my plants. As a plant parent who is also gradually becoming more and more of a minimalist, I find myself moving plants outside or downstairs so that my room doesn’t become a jungle. My succulents were some of the first plants to be moved outdoors, which might surprise those of you who have been reading my blog from its conception because you know I love succulents: they’re hardy and beautiful, they flower consistently and they’re very diverse and fun to look at.

Yet this specific mixture of traits is exactly what constitutes the succulent paradox: succulents don’t have rapid growth spurts out of nowhere, but they’ll never just die on you, they’ll survive just about anything because they’re dependable but because of that you don’t feel as rewarded for their growth, and they’re so low maintenance that you don’t really get the feeling of satisfaction from watering them and checking on them constantly, because they’re so fiercely independent.

This is obviously all great, but it makes them hard to truly love to the same extent that you love some other houseplants: caring for them leaves you lacking a sense of being rewarded. Part of me feels bad for thinking like this, but I also know that I’m not the only person who thinks this way. If you look at houseplant enthusiasts on the internet, they talk about their aroids and orchids far more than they will talk about succulents. This is probably because there’s really nothing to talk about with them, they just chug along steadily at their own glacial pace with no regard for the care or lack thereof administered.

This might be a little off topic, but it is my blog, so I’ll write what I want, but sometimes I feel like I’m kind of the succulent at work (not my current job, in case anyone I know irl wonders what I’m talking about), uni, volunteering and sometimes at home with my family. Social psychology suggests that we all evaluate ourselves in a more positive light, so I could just be a bit delusional, but sometimes I feel like I’m dependable to a fault, so when that dependability lets up even a fraction (despite my performance still being objectively and numerically very good and comparatively superior), it becomes a big deal. There needs to be a bit of a balance in my life, I suppose. It’s great to be dependable, and it’s a trait that I shouldn’t be made to feel is a liability, but at the same time, I know I shouldn’t allow myself to be the organising force behind every group project; the one who consistently shows up earlier than necessary for work; the one who goes above and beyond for every student I teach; the one who knuckles down the get things done around the house when others won’t; the one who feels the need to drive academic discussion in silent classes and the one who puts their hand up for coordinating collectives and helping to run events in terms of student life.

Of course, this is not to say that others don’t do enough, or that I’m being unfairly treated. I do my best at everything because I’m passionate about the things I do and learn (as well as being a borderline control freak), but at the same time, I think that I, like most succulents, need to learn to scale back on the quiet dependability and learn to let others take care of me and worry about me sometimes. I have people who are willing to do just that for me in my life, and for that I’m very fortunate. In the occasions where I reach out to them for support, they are always there for me. Obviously I don’t want to burn them out, but I think in general, what I’ve learned from succulents is that I need to sit back sometimes and not let the world rest on my shoulders 24/7, because having your finger in every single figurative pie at once (god I would kill for apple pie right now) is tiring.

succulents
The smaller succulents I moved outside. The yellow on the Graptopedalum definitely makes me happy, but I’ve decided to move it outside.

Published by plantboye

Tech illiterate and pretending to be proud of it.

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