The Summer Solstice: Seeding your Second Bloom

I love imagining the equinoxes and solstices as magical portals through which we sail from one chapter to the next along our annual voyage around the sun. Today is the summer solstice where at 1:50pm PST we bid farewell to a fruitful spring season and say hello to the bright and energetic abundance of summer.

Safety in the Shade

Painfully shy, self-consciously tall, my early life seasons were all about staying as invisible as possible. I sought sanctuary in the shade and any sort of spotlight set my pale skin afire in blush and blister. The flashy, Day-Glo 80’s attire was completely lost on me.

I didn’t always understand the “She’s afraid of her own shadow!” reference, but in time, I decided it fit. I liked being in the shadows, but my own shadow terrified me. Along with clowns, corn mazes, and single red balloons (thank you, Stephen King, and you’re still one of my favorites.)

High school speech classes just about did me in. My internal shadow told terrible tales of eternal embarrassment and everlasting social rejection. But those portents paled in comparison to the omens of what would become of me had I chosen the alternative class: Improv. Seriously? That would have been fatal, I’m certain.

Early Blooms

Away from home for the first time, college brought new friends, experiences, and opportunities that added a touch of SPF to my life. It didn’t entirely protect me from the painful rays of visibility, but it helped me tolerate a bit more of the light. 

I still preferred the shadows but knew this wasn’t a reasonable long-term plan. Admitting defeat to that truth, I turned to elaborate over-preparation for all things social or public: investigating all the where, when, and who before attending the smallest events, pristine color-coded notes tirelessly memorized for any setting that required I speak in front of others.

Theoretically, it worked. My social circle grew, and my academic performance topped the charts. Accolades were plenty, which only served to confirm the efficiency of my new approach. Yet inside, I felt hollow. I had simply become a good performer, regurgitating what I learned without any real personal flare or flavor. 

Fade or Flourish?

Over time, I became a seasoned “performance actor” when it came to any type of public speaking, reciting memorized facts and praying I wouldn’t fall on my face. But it still felt empty and fake. I took a risk by accepting a position as a civilian contractor at Naval Base San Diego to provide safety awareness education for active-duty service members. I spoke to small groups and packed auditoriums alike, my trusty notecards in hand and mechanically repeating the same information over and over.

After a few months of this, I was asked to conduct an assault prevention training to 25 flag officers at a high-security off-base location. No pressure, right? Oh, and dress sharp and don’t be late. These are the top-tier who will not tolerate any sub-par service. Break a leg!

Arriving early to set up and to squeeze in some deep breathing in hopes of not passing out, I prepped the room to perfection. Projection screens up, PowerPoint cued, pens and notepads thoughtfully placed. And then…

Where are my notes? My beautifully color coded, exquisitely ordered, marked with the number of seconds I had to review each slide’s content, lifeline notecards weren’t there. Apparently, my subconscious decided this would be a great time to give my well-worn stack a well-earned break from my sweaty hands. Not funny. Not funny at all.

It was too late to claim illness or emergency as the tightly composed, stoic group arrived, promptly took their seats, and gave the nod that I was to begin. 

Somehow, I made it to the end. The serious, pokerfaced group left in the same unceremonious manner in which they had arrived, giving me absolutely no indication of how the training landed. That’s it. I’m done. Head hanging, I went back to my office hoping my firing would at least be quick.

A Surprise Life Preserver

“Dr. Pleasants, I heard you did a great job today.” What? Is that sarcasm? Not funny. Tinny, mocking pings from my computer alerted me to inbounding emails. “Thank you, that was very helpful… Well-done, we hope to see you again.” What on Earth is happening? 

Digging into this upside-down experience unearthed a couple of hidden kernels that ultimately led to my first official second bloom.

The first gem: You know your stuff. You’ve worked hard, but now it’s time to trust that everything you need to be out there and visible exists inside of you. It’s not about the data. It’s about you.


The second, bigger, mind-blowing one: All that prep and practice certainly helped get you here, but those were just the seeds. Important seeds, yes, but now, those fancy notecards, the rote memorization, the robotic regurgitation only keep you hidden in the shadows. They don’t help you shine.


Seeding the Second Bloom

Some seeds bloom once while others, with special care and feeding, will bloom time and again. And still others, under loving guidance and support, will not just re-bloom, but will do so with a brightness and abundance not seen in earlier stages. Big, bold, and brilliant, bursting forth in unabashed glory to be witnessed and heartily received by the world.

Today we enter the fiery, vibrant summer alongside an invitation to harness the fruitful energy of spring and take our well-tended first blooms to the next level.  Where might you elevate your efforts, stretch your reach, and welcome new challenges in an effort to grow, flourish, and shine in ways never seen before? This is the season for turning up the heat of aspiration and bringing yourself fully into the light. It’s not about the data. It’s not about what you produce. It’s about you.