I'm currently on my regular once a month business trip, and during my free time, which I have a lot I am often left to my own devices. I can't speak for others, but I personally find it hard to be away from my family. That being my wife and my 2 month old son. So as to take my mind away from the distance between us, when I'm not working I\u00a0usually spend that time hiking and thinking. Now onto the story. While I was taking a hike I passed a house with a small garden in front of it. That kind of set the wheels in motion and got me thinking about this metaphor, how some people are tomato plants, some people are weeds, and other people are the support which the tomato plants need. If we say life were a garden, or even a field of tomato plants, then most of the people you know have some kind of metaphorical role within that garden. Tomato plants, properly watered, fertilized and taken care of, can grow delicious fruit. And im talking home grown tomatoes or those from the farmers market, not the store bought kind. Because anyone who had proper home grown tomatoes knows, they don't taste nor feel like store bought ones - not even close. But if we ignore that and go forward. A tomato plant can't grow tomatoes to its fullest potential without something like a simple stake or a cage wire you can tie the plant up to as it grows. If you don't do that, the tomato gets very heavy, and can pull its limbs or the entire plant to the ground, which can potentially snap some branches in the process. If that happens, then the fruit it bore sits on the ground vulnerable, to various diseases that can rot it away. That or some animal can come along and eat it. The point being, without the support system in place, the tomato plant can't grow to its fullest potential. Now during various times in our life, we are the plant. And in order to grow and fulfil our greatest potential, we will need a support system around us. A support system we can tie ourselves to. That keeps us protected and helps keep our branches strong, and free of as many problems as possible. A support system that will keep us up off the ground, away from disease and predators that don't have our best interests in mind. They want nothing more than for us to fall to the ground, so that they can devour us. Now, we aren't weak for need that support system. After all, each of us has the potential to grow into something grand and magnificent. There's nothing detracted from our ability to reach our potential because we had support to help us climb and grow while we did so. Not every battle hast to be fought alone, not every growth spurt in life has to be done locked away in solitude. Most of the time, we won't be able to find and achieve our greatest potential without a proper support system in place. The kind that will be steadfast in the rains and wind, and tie us off so that we can focus one one thing, and that is being the very best version of a damned tomato plant that we know we can be. With such a support system, we can not just survive, but thrive. \u00a0And bear fruit that we couldn't have done so without it. Of course, even with that support system, we will have weeds in our life too. \u00a0And their purpose is to do nothing but try and suck as much of the nutrients out of the soil away from us as possible. Without a good gardener, another part of the support system - who cares for and loves the plants, the weeds can take over really fast. \u00a0And eventually the tomato plants can succumb to the weeds. At various times in our life, we need a gardener. Someone who will alleviate the weeds that rob us of our nutrients, that keep us from growing. Someone that will tend to the soil, and prepare it for us ahead of time to make sure we are given the best chance to succeed. Someone who will get their hands dirty for us, and get on bended knee and do laborious work with their hands so that our foundation is strong. As kids, it will be incredibly difficult to reach our potential as adults without a strong support system in place to help us grow. This is why, our jobs as parents is so fundamentally important for them. We are the stake in the ground. \u00a0We are the gardener. \u00a0We are the one that is supposed to tie them to us so they feel protected and loved and taken care of. We are the one that is supposed to work tirelessly to pull the weeds from around them. \u00a0So that they have their best chance to grow without succumbing to what is trying to rob them of their potential. It doesn't mean all out protection. The rains and wind and storms will all test both the plant, and the support system. \u00a0They need each other to thrive even without the weeds trying to overcome them. But even as adults, we need to find our place with the people we love and care about in regards to these things. Sometimes we need the support, and sometimes we need to be the support. We need to understand when we need to tie ourselves off to that support system because our problems have made our branches heavy and wary. And we need to know when to tie our loved one off to us, so that we can be the broad shoulders they need, and the strong arms that can carry them for a while. Most importantly, we should never find ourselves becoming weeds. We shouldn't find ourselves sucking the life out of the people we claim to love and care about, due to feeding our selfishness. Yes, there are times where we need to be selfish enough so that we pull away from the weeds, but that's not really being selfish as it's more about personal survival. People can and will suck the happiness and life right out of you if you do not pluck them from the ground they are trying to overcome from you. It's not selfish to want to grow into something that is the best version of who you can become. It's not selfish to want to disconnect from people who wants to tear you off that stake or your wires because they want nothing more than to see your fruit lay rotting on the ground. It's selfish to be the weed. Family, friends, romantic partners....the relationship should represent the stake, the gardener, and the ever growing plant. \u00a0The roles should all be intertwined and interchangeable at times. Without surrounding ourselves with people who want to be those things for us, out of nothing more than their love and desire to see us grow, then we will struggle to grow the best to our ability. \u00a0And so will they.