friendship, good ideas

August

August

One day about five and a half years ago, when I was living in Vermont (a time, by the by, when my student debt was only half—half!—of what it is today), I was hungry, so I bought an avocado at the general store for about a dollar.

Okay, that’s a bit misleading, because yeah I was hungry, but I also had a much larger plan. I ate the avocado, and then I suspended the pit in some water, and I waited for it to hatch. If you have ever done this, you know that it can take many weeks. This one was particularly slow to awaken. I started the pit in April, and the first crack appeared in August. So I named her August.

August grew roots, and a sprout, and the sprout grew leaves. I transplanted her into a pot with soil, and she grew taller. I watered her carefully and picked off her dead leaves. She moved to Boston with me, her pot anchored on the floor between the two front seats of the moving truck, and she moved with me twice more within the city after that. I always put her next to the best window in whatever apartment I was living in so that she could see the sun.

August was tough: she survived a cat attack, a hurricane, and many long weekends without water. She never produced any avocados (whether due to age, sterility, lack of pollination, or simply lack of desire, I never knew), but she continued to shoot a new green leaf out of her top every couple of months. She was smart, too: she’d sprout an extra crop of three or four leaves all at once in early January, just after the days had started to get longer again, as though she wanted to let me know that even though there were blizzards raging outside, the light was starting to return, and spring was approaching.

August made it to the winter of 2015, when, feeling guilty about keeping her in the same small pot for years and concerned that her roots needed more space, I ordered a large pot from Amazon and repotted her. And I watered her a lot, because I didn’t want her to be in shock from the transplant.

But it was too much water, and the pot didn’t have any holes for drainage, and I didn’t realize any of this it until it was too late. And now my wise, patient green friend is no longer standing next to the window.

*                          *                             *

I learned a lot from August during our time together:

Lessons from an avocado tree

August taught me that small things matter, and that small things, if cared for, can grow into much bigger things.

She taught me that patience is key, and that most things that are truly worthwhile take years to develop.

And most of all, she taught me that meaning and money vary independently from one another. I think we all already know this in our hearts, but a gentle reminder from a three-foot-high avocado tree who provided friendship, wonder, and a constant supply of new green leaves for nearly five years, and who cost a grand total of $1.00, doesn’t hurt.

Thanks, August.

I realize this is kind of a weird post for a personal finance blog,
but I just felt like writing about August today. 

We’ll be back to slightly more typical money-related musings next week.
In the meantime, thanks for reading.

August meeting some new friends (The Minions) who were gifted to me in December 2014

August meeting some new friends (The Minions) who were gifted to me in December 2014

My new, as-yet-unnamed pit that started to crack open last week

My new, as-yet-unnamed pit that started to crack open last week

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29 Comments

  • Reply Michael @ Financially Alert November 13, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    First of all I LOVE avocados! 🙂

    Secondly, I (think) get it. It’s all the little things that add up to make big green in the end. But, you can never take things for granted. Life happens, and when it does, you pick back up and start a new… this time with new found wisdom and meaning.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 13, 2015 at 8:55 AM

      I think that’s as good an interpretation as any, Michael! There are a lot of lessons to be learned from August. 🙂 Life definitely does happen, and there’s not much we can do other than try to learn from it and forge ahead, a little wiser than before.
      And yes, avocados are delicious!

  • Reply Jillian November 13, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    Awwww now I want an avocado tree! Also, I’m sorry that August is gone 🙁

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 13, 2015 at 8:57 AM

      Thanks, Jillian, me too. If you’re interested, I definitely recommend growing an avocado tree — it’s so much fun! I’d suggest getting an organic avocado so you know that nothing weird has happened to it. It does take a while for them to hatch, but it’s worth it!

  • Reply Des @ Half Banked November 13, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    I am SHATTERED that August is gone. Absolutely shattered.

    This is so wonderful, as usual, Sarah. Only you could break my heart over an avocado plant. Really well written 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 13, 2015 at 9:03 AM

      Thanks so much, Des, I really appreciate the compliment. This one pretty much wrote itself because August was SO COOL and there is so much to say about her.

      And yeah, shattered: you and me both. I definitely cried a lot when I realized she wasn’t going to make it. It surprised me what a strong emotional reaction I had to it, honestly — if someone else had told me a couple of years ago that they were really sad that their plant died, I would have assumed they were exaggerating a little. But now I get it. Who knew that plants could have such an impact on our emotions?

  • Reply Alyssa November 13, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    Okay first of all…WHAT?! Am I the only one on the internet who didn’t know you could grow an avocado tree out of an avocado pit? I feel so ashamed. August is actually a beautiful plant, and this post was so beautifully written 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 13, 2015 at 1:37 PM

      Thanks so much, Alyssa, that’s so nice of you to say. And yes, you absolutely CAN grow an avocado tree from a pit! Get an organic pit to be safe, and follow those instructions that I posted in the link in the second paragraph up top (or just google it). I highly recommend it, even for people who haven’t had a lot of experience with houseplants. 🙂

  • Reply Hannah November 13, 2015 at 11:54 AM

    Awww, I remember August.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 13, 2015 at 1:35 PM

      I love that August also knew all my friends! 🙂

  • Reply Alyssa @ Generation YRA November 13, 2015 at 5:47 PM

    This is a lovely story! 🙂 All great things do grow with time – and this is a great reminder. I am happy to hear that August survived so many transitions in life with you! Last year, my fiancé & I decided to grew sunflowers from seeds. We envisioned they would be about the height up to our knees. Whenever we were in the backyard doing yardwork we would play music (I thought Sam Smith’s voice would help them grow strong & beautiful lol) – we took a lot of great care to water them, I even (crazily) decided to speak to them. By the end of the summer, those sunflowers grew like CRAZY! They surpassed the height of our roof. They also provided an abundant amount of seeds. Your story of August reminds me a lot of our sunflowers – thank you so much for sharing!

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 14, 2015 at 1:40 PM

      Thanks, Alyssa. 🙂 Ooh, sunflowers sound like a fun project; I bet you could see their progress pretty easily from week to week. And it sounds like they liked Sam Smith! It’s interesting to think about how our relationships with plants might be really different depending on whether they are annuals that we know will die at the end of the summer/fall, or if they’re houseplants that we expect to last for years. In any case, it sound like you enjoyed the flowers all summer and enjoyed the seeds even after the flowers were gone. I would love to do this — perhaps someday when I actually have a yard!

  • Reply Our Next Life November 13, 2015 at 5:48 PM

    Aww, man. That’s rough losing a companion, human, canine, feline, avocado or otherwise. 🙁 I killed my spider plant of 10 years last winter, and still haven’t recovered.

    I love all the analogies you drew here, and your lovely-as-usual style. It is so true that successes that come quickly rarely feel that fulfilling, and that the best things in life take patience and perseverance. Hope your new avocado pit sprouts into another wonderful tree! Happy Friday. 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 14, 2015 at 1:44 PM

      Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your spider plant! Ten years is a long time. I really still can hardly believe that it’s possible to get so emotionally attached to a plant; if someone else had told me a sad plant story before I had August, I would have figured they were exaggerating or trying to be funny, but now I totally get it. Thanks for the well-wishes for my new pit; he’s doing great so far! 🙂

  • Reply Taylor @ Freedom From Money November 13, 2015 at 6:57 PM

    Aww, Sarah! Wonderful, thoughtful writing as usual. I hate that August is gone! 🙁 I accidentally killed my orchid a few months ago and was SO upset. I now have a small cactus that is supposed to be impossible to kill, haha.

    I love all of the analogies that you pulled. I think that this kind of writing is amazing and something that the personal finance world needs more of. I hope your August-type posts always have a place on your blog 🙂 Happy Friday, friend.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 14, 2015 at 1:46 PM

      Thanks, Taylor, I’m glad you enjoyed reading about August. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your orchid too. I hear that orchids are really temperamental and fragile, so I’m impressed that you took one on in the first place. I’d like to branch out (haha, branch out!) at some point — right now I just have the new pit, and The Minions, but I’m on the lookout for other new green friends. 🙂

  • Reply Laura Beth @ How to Get Rich Slowly November 15, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    I loved the post. We read a lot about money and finance and it’s nice to read something off beat once in a while. Oh the lessons we can glean from growing a plant.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle November 15, 2015 at 8:19 PM

      Thanks so much, Laura Beth. 🙂 I’m realizing that one of the perks of having your own blog is that you can pretty much write about whatever you want, haha. And yeah, plants are pretty awesome; I’m excited to see if my new pit reaches August-sized proportions. 🙂

  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money November 16, 2015 at 11:51 PM

    This is a really great post! I know a lot of bloggers (myself included) feel weird steering away from their niche, but honestly it seems like it brings out the best in people. It’s really cool how you kept August with you and how consistent August was. Sometimes we need that consistency, even if it is a plant.

    • Reply Sarah November 16, 2015 at 11:54 PM

      Thanks, DC. I actually almost didn’t post it because I did feel like it was too off-topic, but in the end I figured, hey, this is something that’s meaningful to me, and there’s at least a small connection to money. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

  • Reply Jennifer November 17, 2015 at 5:42 AM

    You had this tree for 5 years! And you grew it from a seed! … it’s ridiculous how much this impresses me! 🙂

    • Reply Sarah November 17, 2015 at 6:46 AM

      Aw, thanks! It honestly wasn’t that difficult — I don’t really consider myself a plant person generally, but this one just needed water and some sunlight, and she did great!

  • Reply diyjahn February 23, 2016 at 6:09 PM

    This is a beautifully written post. Poor August. But I’m glad you learned so much from her. I’m trying to grow my own avocado plant as of now, but I don’t think I did the first one right. Now to try again! 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Noelle February 23, 2016 at 9:00 PM

      Ah, thanks…I actually started a new pit, which seems to be doing well so far. I’m sorry your first one didn’t work out, but don’t get discouraged — they are a bit finicky in the hatching stage and sometimes will not make it even if you do everything right. I definitely recommend trying again! 🙂

      • Reply diyjahn February 24, 2016 at 1:50 PM

        I definitely will be! I planted some tomatoes, celery, green onions, white onions, and an apple seed at the same time so it’s been fun watching them grow!

  • Reply Jef March 6, 2016 at 9:49 PM

    That’s really cool; it’s amazing how we can take lessons for any areas of life right?
    Thanks for posting although I’m somewhat late to the part here haha!

    • Reply Sarah Noelle March 7, 2016 at 10:44 PM

      Definitely: there are lessons everywhere! Even coming from houseplants. 🙂

  • Reply Elle @ New Graduate Finance March 13, 2016 at 5:54 PM

    I love this. I have a massive avocado tree that feeds me daily avocados.

    Amazing how much our plants can teach us, huh?

    • Reply Sarah Noelle March 14, 2016 at 5:46 PM

      No way, you have one that actually produces avocados?? I’ve never heard of an avocado houseplant that actually did this. Do you have more than one? (Did one fertilize the other?)

      My new pit is just starting to sprout, so I’m excited!

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