Earlier this evening, my boyfriend (who is close to finishing his last quarter of graduate school) mentioned that he felt like the old man pictured on the last page of The Giving Tree. Not being able to recall this book from my childhood, I went ahead an looked up the Wikipedia article. The plot description nearly brought me to tears. Watching the following video all but pushed me over the edge:
In fact, I could only watch portions of it because seeing the story unfold through animation was just so depressing.
I suppose what saddened me most about this story were the sacrifices made by both the tree and the boy. In order to make the boy happy, the tree gradually allowed parts of her to be removed to be sold or constructed into a house and boat. The tree gave freely, while the boy simply took and took in return. Ultimately, only the tree's stump was left.
The boy, on the other hand, sacrificed his carefree childhood spent with the tree to fulfill "adult" tasks such as working, making profit, and accumulating and maintaining assets (such as the house). Despite this, he still found life unsatisfying and used the tree's trunk in an attempt to escape. In the end, the boy, now an old man with simpler needs, found comfort sitting on top of what was left of his lifelong friend.
I suppose The Giving Tree tells two stories here. One is about unconditional self-sacrifice due to love. The other is a lament for a simple and carefree childhood lost to the adult world of endless responsibilities. Both stories resonate pretty equally with me. Having been with my boyfriend for almost two years, I know I would probably make the same sacrifices the tree made for the boy in a heartbeat. Now that I'm done with school and work, I sometimes long for those childhood days that seemed free from care and worry. With the work I do with the elderly in the hospital, I can't help but sometimes feel like I'm aging at an accelerated rate.
Before going to bed, my boyfriend told me that rereading The Giving Tree helped him put things into perspective. Indeed, this story has given me new insight into the meaning of unconditional personal sacrifice and reminded me of the joys of a carefree life. These are definitely important lessons I intend to incorporate into my own daily living in an attempt to decelerate my self-perceived aging!
I'm not scheduled to work tomorrow. Perhaps I'll look for something cheery to do during the day.