There are certain decisions that change your life. Forever. I mean, this seems obvious – but I’m not talking about big decisions like choosing to have a baby or move to Tibet or try heroin. What I’m intrigued by is those accidental choices that seem small at the time but end up having a ripple effect that continues on and on, like a pebble dropped in a smooth pond.
Right now I’m finding that for me, this is flowers. What?? Weird, I know. Let me explain. The summer after I graduated from college, I stumbled upon an internship on a flower farm in Virginia. I applied on a whim, mostly because I was bored with searching for actual post-grad jobs, only to be told there were no spaces left. Ok, no big letdown because I didn’t really intend to pursue flower farming as a career. But then I got turned down for the internship of my dreams, and in the same week got a call from the farm saying one of their hirees dipped out and was I still interested.
Basically this thing fell in my lap and I spontaneously decided to defy all logic and take the summer to be a nearly-unpaid intern on a flower farm.
It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The other interns and I lived in a big, OLD farmhouse on the property. We took turns cooking dinner and had copious amounts of vegetables at our fingertips, courtesy of the veggie farms we traded with for flowers. We got up early and worked hard in the sun, cutting flowers and later processing them and creating bouquets for the farmers market, florists, and Whole Foods. We took tequila shots at the processing station. I collected fresh eggs and got attacked by a rooster and learned to drive a tractor (albeit poorly). We got too tan and showered in an outdoor shower with nothing but sky above us. We became fast friends and took day trips to hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
And, ok, it was the best summer ever, but initially I wrote it off as my summer of fun and restoration before entering the real life and emotional challenges of a career in social work. The “problem” is that, having spent a year working with some awesome but rough kids in a job that totally fit my career, I find myself realizing that the farm summer changed me. I crave sun and physical work. I yearn for the smell of fresh dirt and flowers. I love the community and the laughter and the simplicity of it all. As I spend my few months nannying and deciding what’s next, I’m starting to feel like the “what’s next” part might not be as straightforward as my plan always assumed. Because a linear career in social work with youth, going from direct care to case management, getting my masters and eventually becoming a clinician or program coordinator…where does that fit with the things that make me truly joyful? Where is the sun and the flowers?
Is it possible to have a career that combines these passions? Or will one be the job and the other be the hobby? What if there’s room for both?
These are the things on my mind today. It’s interesting how one silly spontaneous decision can continue affecting you long after…