Two years ago, I planted blackberry bushes along the fence in our backyard. I bought them on a whim on our 10th anniversary. I could tell you something lofty, like it was a metaphor for having a fruitful marriage, but the truth is I bought them on impulse while at Whole Foods to pick up some goodies for dinner that night. I ran to the store for steaks, and came home with blackberry bushes.
And they have been fruitful, though it takes them time to get established. Last year we harvested a dozen; this year we’ve harvested several pints, and there are plenty more to come.
My girls love to pick those berries. With no prodding from me, they’ve made the picking part of their morning routine: dress, breakfast, sun hats (not that they need them at the early hour) and then out the door with their “picking baskets” in hand. They spend longer than needed pouring over the vines, and come back to the kitchen with baskets full of luscious deep purple berries–and quite a few more that are only partially ripe.
I chided them for those: Don’t pick before they’re ripe. Easy enough, right?
But then one morning I went with them to pick those berries–and found out that it’s not easy to tell if a blackberry is completely ripe. Sometimes it’s obvious the berry isn’t ready: the top half will be purple, the bottom half pale red. But othertimes, it’s much harder to tell. Blackberries don’t ripen evenly.
That morning I wished I’d never chided them, as I picked berry after berry that wasn’t quite ready. The parts I could see were ripe–but blackberries don’t ripen evenly, and many parts of the fruit were still developing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ripening this summer. I’m speaking at the Influence Conference this fall, in the heart/voice track, about the journey that is the 20something and early 30something years. I’ve been thinking a lot about what women in their twenties and early thirties want to know, need to know, about their lives and faith and families and work. I’ve been thinking so much about what I wanted to know then, about what I still want to know now. I’ve been thinking about what those years are like.
They’re like blackberries.
Looking back on my twenties, one of my biggest shockers was that I didn’t ripen evenly. I didn’t know then that nobody does. I graduated from college, and I thought that made me mature–and I was, in some ways. But in other ways, I needed more time on the vine.
I was ready to get married at 21, but I had no clue about so many other parts of my life. I knew what I liked but didn’t know what I was good at. I was ready for marriage, but I hadn’t yet learned to develop good boundaries. I would learn these things, in a few years time. But I wanted to know then. I didn’t know that we don’t ripen evenly.
I was sorry I chided my girls for picking those berries before they were ripe. They didn’t know those berries don’t ripen evenly.
And I’m sorry I was so hard on myself when I was in my twenties. I thought that I was supposed to have it all figured out by then, but I didn’t know that I wouldn’t ripen evenly either.
Can you relate to this? What do you know now that you wish you had known at 21?