6. If I Later Change My Mind, Then What?

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation
and go to the grave with the song still in them.

Henry David Thoreau

What if you are fairly content with your job, make a decent salary to afford all the necessities and luxuries you need, have no major complaints but still have the nagging feeling that something is missing. You wonder if there is something more to life than just getting up every day and heading to work. Perhaps you are scared to leave a sure thing.

The mere fact that you are asking the question is the first step to acknowledging your search for a more authentic life. Long before I made this career change, I searched for answers in books such as those by the revolutionary back-to-the-land pioneers, Helen & Scott Nearing who focused on devoting themselves to a simple life of work and contemplation, homesteading on land in New England. Living off the land and eating the vegetables you grow with plenty of time to read sounded ideal.

Packing up our things to build a farm house in Maine was a lifestyle change too demanding to even contemplate. But I recognized part of what I was searching for was a way to connect to the land and gardening provides this for me. Part of your discovery will be to figure out what most appeals to you about gardening. Then you can determine if you will be content to find this fulfillment in your leisure time or move ahead to embrace it as your vocation.

Quiet desperation is a dangerous thing. It is a yearning or pining for change which is entirely within reach. One of the keys to life lies in finding something you feel passionately about doing and to never compromise on this ideal. Only you are aware of your current needs and can determine how unbearable you find your current situation.

If you are neutral about what you are currently doing, you are fortunate enough to be able to gently explore possibilities without having an accelerated schedule. You have the luxury to earn a comfortable living and fully explore gardening as much as possible, volunteer, work in a community garden and start by working part-time at a garden center or ask if they know of any landscape crew needing help.

Should circumstances change at work or things go well and you want to spend more time gardening as a career, you can explore the idea of a compressed work week or a part-time schedule in your regular job so you have some financial stability while exploring a new gardening career. Even if you are not ready to make that kind of a commitment, you can still work full-time and work either evenings or even just a half day, full day or every other weekend to try gardening for a living.

Give yourself a testing period. In all the times I have made major changes in my career, I have always given myself a year. Things have not always turned out how I have expected but I have never regretted a single decision. Somehow, giving yourself a year gives you an ample amount of time to allow minor course corrections but is not such a serious investment of time to invite regret.

You will find this limited amount of time provides enough of a security blanket to allow you to move ahead with scary changes. Repeating the phrase "this is just for now” also leaves open the opportunity to later change your mind. I guarantee you will have no regrets even if you try gardening but later change your mind. To build momentum and courage, ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen?

Prior to making the leap to a career in gardening, I first successfully employed the worst case scenario mind set when I quit my boring job at the phone company in Vancouver, Canada to move to Washington, D.C. When I met my husband, who at that time was just some guy I met in New York, I left my stable job to move to the U.S. to work independently as a freelance writer.

I gave myself one year in savings and promised myself if things did not work out with the guy or the job, I could always go back home to Vancouver in a year. If I failed, the worst that could happen is a one year adventure living in the nation’s capitol. My foray into freelance writing was brief and disastrous. After a year of working at home, I barely generated $6,000 in income. However, I remained in Washington, DC but returned to work in the corporate world.

It would take another 7 years of tweaking my career with frequent job changes to exhaust every possibility: different boss, title, company, industry, telecommuting, compressed work week before I relented and finally called it quits turning to gardening as a paid career. Over the last few years, you may have gone through a similar vetting process yourself where you are now ready to expedite change.

Gardening has always given me solace and peace of mind. Do you ever go to a garden center and spend countless hours hanging out just for that pleasant mild high, that soothing feeling just being around pretty flowers and greenery? Even when I was just a customer, I would be tempted to deadhead the annuals, tidy up or front a messy display. I seldom dwelled on the meagre wages when I first started out. I couldn't believe that someone was paying me to do something I was willing to do for free.

When I quit my corporate job making $80,000 a year to make $8/hour working at a garden center, I admitted to my husband that I didn’t have everything figured out but to give me a year to figure things out. Now over 6 years later, I am delighted to encourage you to embark wholeheartedly upon the path you are about to take. Unanticipated delights are just a part of what is in store and you are sure to find it as intoxicating as I have. Should things not turn out as you hoped, you will at least have had a fabulous year getting paid to garden for a living.

Now thirteen years later, I celebrate every year with a little prayer of gratitude that I had the courage to follow my own adventure , which eventually lead me from the corporate path to the garden path. Coincidentally, the day I left was April Fool’s Day.

Foolish, I know not. More foolish is living half a life when there is much more to life. Is the thought of leaving your secure, stable life terrifying? Good. Just like a performer with stage fright, it is perfectly natural to feel anxious, to have a kind of nervous anticipation. Use this fear to keep you safe. It will ensure that you don’t subject yourself to a life of poverty, it will spur you to keep learning more about gardening, it will force you to do what is necessary to create opportunities.

Stability is overrated. Keeping a mediocre job is not worth saving. What is a reasonable expectation of risk when comparing the safe to the unknown? Anything in life worth risking is often worth taking that risk. Plus don't you find things often have a way of turning out better than you could ever have imagined when you are prepared to do whatever it takes to be successful. Contentment is not guaranteed but living a life of regret is not a life worth living.

Is it better to be successful in living a life of mediocrity or at least fail in an attempt at the spectactular? If it puts your mind at ease, there is always comfort in knowing you can always go back. Just remember, this is no pie-in-the-sky dream like wanting to be a rock star or sports hero.

Countless ordinary people get up every morning and put on a pair jeans or khakis, grabbing a pair of gardening gloves to play in the dirt everyday. You are so close to making the same happen for you. As you encounter bumps along the way, if you are truly committed, I know you will do whatever it takes to be successful.

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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