Last year, when a family friend gifted me my first houseplant — a spider plant — and implored me to take good care of it, I was fully prepared to let her down. I could hardly keep myself fed — let alone take care of something else — and my apartment was too cramped and ill-lit to keep anything healthy and strong. Nevertheless, I did my best to keep it alive, even if it occasionally felt more like a chore than any of my school work.
When COVID-19 hit last spring and I moved back in with my parents, I brought my houseplant home with me. Surprisingly enough, I had managed to not murder it by that point. With a sigh of relief, I entrusted my mother with its care, and it prospered under her watch. She even potted three spider babies that had grown from the stem of the mother plant.
Before I knew it, it was time for me to pack my bags and move into my new place back in Charlottesville. Much to my dismay, my mother sent all four of my spider plants with me. I was now in way over my head, but my new room had a nice window with the perfect amount of space underneath for my plant family, so I set them on a stool and hoped for the best.
Delightfully, my plants thrived in their new environment. They reached new heights and turned a rich, dark and healthy shade of green that I’d never seen before. They were all growing strong and sturdy, and I was thoroughly enjoying the experience of watching them flourish. I figured I’d push my luck even further, so I picked up a few more plants from another friend and added them to my happy bunch.
With the fall semester fully underway, the days dragged on and began to blur together — more and more time spent in quarantine meant there was nothing to differentiate them. I started to notice that I was becoming more attached to my plants than I’d ever imagined. I used to have a hard time waking up in the morning, but I started snapping out of bed as soon as I woke up so that I could open my blinds and feed my plants some sunlight. When back-to-back Zoom sessions droned on to the point where I felt like I would explode, I found myself glancing at them for a warm hug of comfort.
I had fallen completely in love with my role as a Plant Dad. When my last Zoom meeting of the semester ended, I slammed my laptop shut, jumped to my feet and drove to Fifth Season on Preston Avenue. I bought myself three little succulents to add to my plant family as a reward for making it through the semester, and it was truly the most fulfilling “congratulations” I could have ever hoped for.
Now, I’m no expert on mental health, but I know that the experts say that taking care of a dog helps you take care of yourself. As a college student, unfortunately, I really don’t have the time or money to take care of an animal, but plants seem to get the job done more than well enough. Besides, inviting sunlight into my life while I’m trapped in my bedroom day in and day out doesn't just keep my plants happy — it helps put a smile on my face, as well.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate the little things in life because you never know when they’re going to be gone. What had seemed like the most trivial thing to me before — taking care of houseplants — has become a vital form of life support. If I can offer the slightest piece of advice to anyone reading this, it’s to find a little thing you love to hold onto when the going gets tough. I’m clinging onto my plants, and it’s a newfound love I know I’ll get to hold onto for the rest of my life.
Next semester will certainly make sure that I’m trapped in my room for hours on end again, but at least I will have my plants to provide me with much-needed comfort and support — something to get me out of bed every morning and something I can count on being there for me at the end of yet another long day.
Aaron Doss is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com