As much as this blog allows me to celebrate everything that’s going well for us, there are a lot of things that I wish could have gone a little differently this past year.
This was my first year out of school and my first opportunity to have a full-time job that lasted for more than the summer months. It was also my first year of marriage and the opportunity to fully pursue the “homesteading dream” that Ian and I have talked about for so long.
It was a year full of sky-high expectations, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I ended disappointed with myself.
As an example, I wrote a post about the disaster of this year’s garden a few months ago. It was a great post. I got to pretend I was completely over the weedy chaos and ready to laugh at our failures. The truth? I wasn’t, and I’m still not.
I never had much of a garden growing up, but I’ve spent many summers working on farms (even in Hawaii), so I just assumed that when it came to managing my own property I’d be naturally fantastic at it.
The gradual change in seasons is serving as a cruel reminder of all the fall crops we aren’t bringing in- no squash, melons, late tomatoes or even hardy greens. How did this happen? How did I flop so big on something I wanted so badly?
I can give a hundred excuses; blaming the weather, our crazy schedules and the clay-filled garden soil. But that’s not the full story.
The truth is that I have an obsessive personality. And it’s hard to be obsessed with more than one thing at a time. My innocently started hobby of freelance writing in early May quickly became a death-blow to any outside work I hoped to accomplish this summer.
So there it is. I failed my ideal. I couldn’t pull a garden together, and all late summer I cringed every time I caught sight of it. Thinking about next year was even worse. Who wants to be constantly reminded of their dashed expectations for themselves? Not me.
A Change in Mindset
That is, until I read an interesting little book that changed my whole mindset that’s called, well, Mindset. It’s a long winded self help book with a single point to make, but somehow that one point is powerful enough to carry the book. Essentially, there are two mindsets that we all internalize about ourselves: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that you are born with your abilities and intelligence built in. Success displays your worth to the world, and failures are an example of all your inadequacies.
In contrast, the growth mindset allows you to think of every new skill as the equivalent of learning to walk; you’re going to suck at it the first dozen times you try. Pushing through isn’t only expected, it’s a no brainer for any worthwhile progress. (Imagine if babies just gave up on learning to walk because they weren’t naturally “good at it”- we’d all be still be scooting through the world on our behinds!)
This perspective is liberating. Failing at my garden (and anything else) doesn’t make ME a failure. It’s true that I didn’t live up to even half my homestead ideals in this past year, but Ian and I are farther along now than when we first moved in, and you know what? That counts for a lot.
Learning To Accept What Is
And so with renewed resolve to adopt a growth mindset of my abilities, I recently stopped seeing the garden as a complete failure and, after months of shutting my eyes every time I walked past, decided to go back into the overwhelming jungle. And lo and behold, there was food in there!
We may have blinked and missed all of tomato canning season, but the beans were still flowering and producing when I dug through the vines to find them. Moving aside some weeds revealed that our hot peppers had quietly produced a tidy little crop. The sweet corn withered and died long ago from lack of love, but my plucky popcorn somehow limped along and I should be able to salvage enough to snack on this winter.
Letting Go Of Ideals
Did this past year look anything like what I expected? Not in the least. I spent way more time in front of this laptop than I ever imagined- a complete 180 from the girl who initially declared that she didn’t want a WiFi connection in the house. I haven’t learned to successfully bake my own bread (I still burn most loaves) and I never traipsed through the woods looking for morels or ginseng.
But there is a silver lining. My gardening efforts may been have abandoned in favor of writing, but it turns out that plants can do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves.
And the time that I invested in professional writing has paid off in more ways than I could have anticipated four months ago. Because I decided to go all in, I’ve managed to establish myself enough to be able to quit my job to pursue it full-time this fall. It’s still early, but so far I’ve never been happier to “go to work” right in my bedroom office everyday. Next summer I’ll be working from home, with far more opportunities to get out in the yard to play in the garden.
Paradoxically, giving up on this year’s garden has almost assured next year’s success.
Instead of cringing about what could have been, I’m moving confidently into next year with a better garden plan in place. Out with the slip slop, uneven planting of last year and in with the square foot gardening method! (A big perk of freelancing is that I’ve been WRITING all about successful garden techniques, so we now know what to do next year.)
We’re going smaller, more controlled. Maybe it will be enough to keep out the relentless Appalachian weeds, and maybe we’ll have to readjust again for next year. In any case, I’m not letting my own mortified mind stop me from planting my fall crop of garlic seeds this year.
So all is not lost. Our garden this year may have limped along so badly that we’ve already put it out of its misery with a weed whacker, but you know what? It was good enough. And I’m okay with that.
The garden flopped, but we’ve found other ways to produce our own food. Check it out!
Has your mind also been convincing you that you’re failure instead of allowing you to take an honest look at what HAS been working? At least you know you aren’t alone.