Hardwood Grows Slowly (A heavy-handed metaphor about growth + change)

Now you know how awkward I was as a child. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, INTERNET. 

Rather bizarrely, I spent a large portion of my childhood thinking about wood. 


I grew up in rural Minnesota, eight miles outside a town of 2,000 people. We ate fish my dad caught, vegetables my mom grew, and heated the house with wood my dad cut down, chopped, and piled (meticulously and perfectly) in the driveway.
Every summer I’d help pile it in the driveway and then, every winter, I’d help re-pile it in the basement. I also spent huuuuuge amounts of time complaining that I was missing Saved By The Bell because I was stacking wood.
By the age of 12, I knew how to start a fire in the furnace or fire pit. I knew which wood you used to get the fire going (birch), which wood burned fast (pine), and which wood burned hot and slow, keeping your house warm so you don’t have to get up in the middle of Family Matters and throw another log on (ash, oak, hickory.)
Why did those specific types of wood create more heat? Why did they make a better fire? Because they’re hardwood; they grow slowly
Now here’s where that heavy-handed metaphor comes in:

The good things in life
a career you really love
a loving, supportive relationship

emotional security + stability
or, in this case, a crackling fire and a warm home
are often the direct result of very slow, deeply unglamorous work.

There aren’t really any shortcuts to getting the good stuff. Discovering your talents, polishing them till they shine, and finding out how to make a living from them? That takes years (or 10,000 hours.) Trying things, failing, trying again, learning to cope with tough stuff, and emerging a smarter + better person? That takes years, too.

So you haven’t landed your dream job yet.
Or you haven’t amassed that 401k.
Or your writing skills aren’t where you’d like them to be.

Be patient. Be gentle with yourself. It takes an oak tree 20 years to produce its first acorn.

You’ll get there, slowly but surely.
And – cheesy as it sounds – you’ll burn brightly when you do. 

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

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  1. Abby @ The Frosted Vegan

    This is exactly what I needed to read today, so thank you Sarah! I'm slowly becoming VERY frustrated with a corporate career and want to strike out on my own. After a frustrating week, this is music to my soul : )

  2. Kelsi Stoehr

    Thank you for this, Sarah! In the past six months I actually DID land my dream job and finally started contributing to a 401k. But I often struggle with feeling like I'm not "good enough" to be here… like it could be pulled away from me at any second. Clearly, they wouldn't have hired me if they didn't like my work, but I still experience this creeping anxiousness about my abilities not being diverse enough to be a true asset. I know these fears come from being stifled for years at my last job. I want to keep learning because I'm happiest when I'm growing (even slowly!). Thanks for reminding me that I won't become an expert in a new skill or program overnight, and that it's okay. I now intend to be kinder to myself in the process.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      A huge congrats on your new job, Kelsi! And yes – be gentle with yourself <3

  3. Kristy

    Ooh, that pesky 401k just keeps coming up. I really need to jump on that…especially since I've been at my job for 12 years and likely will be until I retire.

    This is a lot of great information and I adore the references to Saved By The Bell and Family Matters, those were the bomb back then.

  4. Abbigail Kriebs

    This was what I needed to read this morning. I started my blog Jan 1st of this year, and it is slow going!

    Also: I think we re-stacked our woodpile in rural IL (also just outside a town of less than 2,000) at least three times a year since my father was always having an "even more brilliant" idea of how he wanted our property set up.

    I am resisting putting a wood-burner in my house for this very reason. My husband who did not have to split or stack wood as a child just does not understand.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      When my mom read this post this morning she emailed me and said "You're very brave for posting that photo and reliving your childhood dreams (or nightmares)."

  5. lily

    This post reminded me of another symbolic experience that I've carried with me through tough times and times of growth. My mother and I were tasting wine in this underground cellar in France (a memorable experience in itself despite what happened next) and the vintner was explaining how land was (is?) sold for growing wine grapes – not in square-ish parcels like I thought, but in long strips running horizontally across the hills down to the valleys. The most expensive land is at the top of the hill, where the soil is rocky, the water runs over and washes down the nutrient-rich soil to the valley below, and the wind lashes across the summit. "Why is the land at the top of the hill so desirable when it would be so much easier to grow grapes in valley?" I asked.

    The vintner told me, "The vines that struggle bear the sweetest fruit."

  6. Amy B

    Love this metaphor. As someone who lives in a tornado prone area, something else I have learned about hard woods…they are stronger and don't break as easily when things get stormy! The number of broken, fast-growing Bartlett Pears and Poplars in my neighborhood are a testament to this!

  7. Darcie

    oh, the woodpiles. we. have. stacked. and re-stacked. i love your family for many things, but those perfect piles in the driveway are one of my favorite about them. we are lucky our dad's taught us these things- too bad it took so many years to sink in…at least for me. 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! Last summer I was super impressive to a house party full of drunk suburban 22-year-old boys when I shooed them away from the bonfire (WHICH THEY WERE TRYING TO BUILD BY PUTTING LOGS IN A ROW ON THE GROUND). I was all "Step aside boys. I'm from Up North." ;D

  8. Jacklyn Lee

    This was exactly what I needed to hear today. Patience is definitely not my strong suit, especially since I've been unemployed for what seems like forever. Just need to breathe and remember that good things are around the corner…

  9. Kourtney Thomas

    Aside from the fact that the moral of this story is wonderful and true, I identify so hard with you on the wood stacking! I grew up in Northern Wisconsin and spent so much time stacking both outside and inside, whining the entire time! I thought I was the only girl whose Dad forced them to do that horrible chore 🙂 Gave me a huge smile today!

  10. Dragonfly

    Thank you… I most def needed to read this today 🙂

  11. Donna Stricker

    I like this story a lot. Pictures lol. And I guess it works the same way for us all. Learn. Grow. Short cuts usually don't pay off, but sometimes they do. All the best. I'm liking my calendar, Sweet Putin. ;Donna

  12. MK

    LOVE this post and greatly needed this insight. THANK YOU!!!!!!

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