3. What Will People Think

We are so vain that we ever care
for the opinion of those we don’t care for.

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

When I first became a gardener and was introduced to people, I was worried I would be judged less than worthy when I uttered "I'm a gardener". I felt a bit ashamed, like saying I am one of the hired help. My vanity would then hurriedly backfill the anticipated moment of silence with “but I used to work as a Director of Marketing” and then I would reel off an elevator pitch of my corporate work history.

In contrast, when I worked for The Washington Post, it had instant cocktail party currency. ”So, what do you do for a living?” At the height of the dot.com frenzy, saying I worked for washingtonpost.com, the online side of the paper, made for easy chitchat and I would be peppered with questions.

Funny thing is that, the opposite happened. Most people were absolutely fascinated and wanted to know more about my back story. More often, there were people who wished they could quit their job to do something else. Enthralled with the idea of saying goodbye to their day-to-day headaches, they enjoyed hearing about someone who chose to do something less stressful and more relaxing.

Over time, I felt less of a need to offer up my 5-second career resume and relaxed into just being myself. Many people actively garden in their spare time and love to talk about their gardens, enthusiastically sharing stories about their favorite plants or gardens they have visited. I often get asked questions about certain plants or trees. Like the doctor who is asked to give medical advice at parties, people sometimes pull out a pen and start sketching on a napkin, seeking free landscape advice.

Occasionally I would bump into a former co-worker and they would ask “So what are you up to?” Some people would simply be disinterested. But who really cares about the opinions of mere strangers and acquaintances?

Authenticity is an attractive quality in people which is enhanced when you pursue what makes you feel good about yourself and your daily contribution to the world. You will find intrinsic value in the work itself and not the external approval of others. You will discover that most people will applaud your boldness and wholeheartedly support your endeavor.

Excerpt from the forthcoming book Getting Dirty. If you would like me to let you know when the book becomes available, just send your e-mail to adriennejenkins@verizon.net.

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