Recently, my husband and I were on a hunt for wild blackberries in a natural area close to our home. If you’ve ever picked blackberries, you know that flesh wounds are nearly inevitable as the juicy berries are nestled among sharp thorn bushes.
I was reminded of that afresh as I incurred scratches all over my arms and legs reaching for the sweet, fruity reward. All the memories of picking blackberries as a child came rushing back. Suddenly I was upset with myself for wearing a tank top and shorts, rather than at least jeans to help shield my skin from the unforgiving thorns that seem to pierce it regardless of how careful I am to avoid them.
It occurred to me that the pursuit of a bounty of delicious, sweet blackberries is a fabulous analogy for the struggles of life.
Fruit, of course, refers literally to the harvest of antioxidant-rich blackberries. Fruit can also be defined as “the result or reward of work or activity.” E.g. “The fruit of her labor is increased profits.”
When we view fruit as the figurative term in the second definition, the analogies flow freely. Just as the physical work of picking blackberries yields real fruit, comparing the potentially painful labor to the figurative fruit demonstrates noteworthy comparisons. Allow me to enumerate a few.
Little blood, little fruit
It can be frustrating to be the latecomer to a blackberry bush. You arrive with a bucket in hand, hoping to collect a bountiful harvest with little effort. Instead, you find that all the easy pickings upfront are gone, and you have to reach into the thistles to get the fruit that remains.
Was the fruit that was easy to grab plump and delicious? Maybe, maybe not. But it is gone, so you’ll never know. All that remains is to start your first of many long reaches, hoping to grab the ripe fruit that is nestled among the thorns that tear your clothes and skin.
Getting to the best fruit can incur injury or risk
So it is with the best figurative fruit that life has to offer. Most of the easy stuff is picked over before you arrive on the scene, so you must decide. Will you keep looking for easy pickings: the job that doesn’t challenge you, the romantic relationship with the first person who shows interest, the friends that are quick to take and slow to give, or the college that is eager for students, but may not be the best choice for your career path?
Those opportunities are bountiful, but they get snapped up by average and underachievers. You can keep walking to the next bush to find more of the same, or …
Will you risk reaching into the unforgiving, sharp brambles for the juicy berries at which the lazy people can’t be bothered to grasp? As you reach for them, no matter how careful your moves, branches will unexpectedly snap back at you and draw blood with startling rapidity. As you begin to load your bucket with delicious fruit (life experience), the wounds will add up.
That job for which you are qualified, but seems like a reach from your current position, for which you stay up all night customizing your resume … you might never get the courtesy of even a callback.
That person you’d love to have as a friend, that you think would make your social life complete, might show disinterest at your invitation to get to know them.
The person you’ve been crushing on, for whom you research all their interests so you have something to talk to them about, could reject your request for a date.
The promotion at work that is a no-brainer: given to someone else because they have the right connection to the decision-maker.
These scenarios and countless more are the sharp bushes that wound us as we reach for the better things in life.
The risk, payoff and learning process
My contention, as I survey the bloody scratches on my arms and legs, and see an unsatisfactory amount of blackberries in my bucket, is that I want more fruit. That means reaching back into the danger zone with more cuts a probability, if not a certainty.
As soon as I get home, however, the pain of the cuts fades into the background as I begin to enjoy the harvest of delicious blackberries.
So it is with striving for higher goals. Temporary setbacks and discouragements abound. It’s wildly intimidating to switch careers knowing that you are back at the bottom of the learning curve. I imagine it takes a tremendous amount of courage to ask someone out for a date that you think is out of your league. (I’m so glad my now-husband did that, because if he hadn’t taken that first step, we’d never have even started dating. And as it turned out, I was dying to get to know him, but willing to wait for him to make the first move.)
I am confident you’re catching the drift of the analogy. The point is, the best things in life require effort that costs us something. It may leave a scar or three in the process. But what we eventually get in return is a sweet bounty of that which we’ve pursued. Whether it is meaningful relationships, a satisfying career, working through our own psychological baggage to be healthy, or any number of challenges that seem insurmountable before we start.
The work is worth it. Would you agree?
If you have comments or want to share a story about your triumph over a figurative sticker bush, I would be honored to hear it.