I’ve recently realized that true wisdom often comes in unexpected places – a kid’s book, a bad date, a boss you hate, whatever – life lessons typically take us by surprise.
So where did my most recent learning choose to manifest itself? Sure enough, a wine tasting. As the daughter of a terminal alcoholic, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the situational irony here. No, it’s not what you think – we all know too many glasses of the grape-y goodness can result in some unfiltered truths and emotional outpourings, but this happened well before I had my first sip.
Turns out, before the barrel, the bottle, or the bartenders’ hands, baby grapes are forced to suffer. To struggle. To prove their worth and defend their place in this world. As our tour guide explained it, deprivation is necessary to produce the highest-quality wine. Since grapes are grown in desert-like conditions, vineyards further limit the water and provide minimal nutrients, forcing the vines to fight for their lives. It’s in this self-defense process that the most complex crop is produced.
Leading to an ironically simple truth – complexity is the direct result of adversity.
Now I’m no botanist, but I was captivated, so much so that I was the loser taking notes at a vineyard. It doesn’t take a scientist to see the parallel between wine production and reality. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? We must suffer before we succeed. While it may seem like a – sobering? – thought, I prefer to think of it with a long-stemmed glass half full.
Because this realization is about fermentation appreciation. For imperfect parents. For every guy, job, and school that rejected me. We’ve all been there, and we’re better for it. For the people who push us. For the experiences that force us out of our comfort zone. For the relationships worth saving and the struggles worth surviving.
Everyone – even a baby grape – has a story. And what good is a story without conflict and compromise? How boring is a hero without any hardship? It’s time we develop a fear of rejection perfection. Because like the best glass of Bordeaux, we’re a complex blend. Of our experiences. Of our setbacks. And with time and tenacity, of our successes.
While I suppose I always knew this to be true, I guess at 25 wine makes things seem more relevant. In vino veritas, right? It may seem like a nerve-racking reality, but complex thinking never comes from a textbook. My most valuable life lessons were taught in rehab, not theology class. The demise of my parent’s marriage became mental motivation to succeed in my own someday. My dad’s rock bottom became the foundation for which I built my life.
Because like those poor, persistent grapes, we only truly flourish when our limits are tested and we learn to drink think responsibly.
So cheers to all you well-conditioned crops out there – those who stemmed from a different vine. Not flawless, but flavorful. You’re the ones worthy of a toast. So may your glasses remain half full and your challenges boost your confidence. And when in doubt, just remember, you’re always as strong as your wine.