For those of you who have been following my blog, you already know I live on six acres, a hobby farm of sorts. While I’m not a real farmer by any stretch of the imagination, I grow vegetables 365 days a year (you can do that in South Carolina) and have a home fruit orchard. What you may not realize is gardening is my passion. Not just food gardening but landscapes filled with flowers, shrubs, trees and whimsical garden art. Because spring has sprung and my passion has ignited, I will only be posting weekly during the high gardening seasons of spring and summer through to the first frosts of October. So, lets talk about passions. The kind that makes you want to roll out of bed everyday instead of hitting the snooze button.
Maybe you were one of the extremely fortunate who discovered their life’s passion at an early age, acted upon that knowledge and have lived your life not just making a living but actually living. Most are not so fortunate. I, for one, did not act upon my passion for writing. I did, however, act upon my passion for gardening, but kept it on the back shelf as a hobby instead of a means of earning a living. It’s when you work at whatever your passion in order to also put a roof over your head that you truly live your life. Although the gardening bug bit me in my twenties I couldn’t see myself giving up an established career pattern to start a landscaping business or go back to college to become a landscape architect. That was scary stuff. And, at the time, I was gutless.
A short time later, I came across a man, a doctor as in MD, who gave up his practice to pursue becoming a novelist. He’d always wanted to be a writer but his dad wanted him to be a doctor. So, he pursued his father’s dream, instead of his own dream only to find himself miserable after going to med school, interning, residency and establishing a practice. I have no idea if he was ever successful. I can’t even remember his name. But, I do remember his family was not supportive of his decision. His wife left him. His parents were bitterly disappointed. He pursued his passion anyway. And, that’s what it takes. Ignoring the wants and needs of everyone else, listening instead to your own heart. Selfish, you say? Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another may be looking at the selfishness of a parent who foisted their own wants upon a child to the point where the parent was so proud to brag about their son, the doctor, while ignoring the misery they visited upon that child.
While most of us don’t live our lives working at something we are passionate about and most of us don’t have the gumption to change course mid-stream, we do have a second chance in retirement to pursue our dreams. Retirement, by definition, is a conclusion, ending, termination of work life. Since most of us don’t work at our passion, maybe a more appropriate definition is the conclusion, ending, termination of the work life you dragged yourself to everyday because you had to make money. With that off the table, you can reignite your passions. Finding your passion, however, may be one of the hardest things for retirees to figure out. We’ve spent so much of our lives doing what we were supposed to do, we’re out of practice at figuring out what it is we want to do.
As mentioned, I pursued my passion for gardening for decades, living for the weekends, turning every yard we owned into a beautiful oasis. To Martin’s satisfaction, some of them were nearly devoid of grass. Translation…no mowing! So, ten years ago, when we started looking for property to build our “retirement home”, I knew turning it into an ever expanding garden would my life’s work. With the warming weather, I jump out of bed at the crack of dawn excited to get out there and dig in the earth. I rejoice at every thunder storm sprinkling nitrogen through the atmosphere into my garden. This spring I have divided every plant I could, spreading the wealth into new beds. I’ve seeded tray after tray of vegetables in anticipation of the warming days, planting seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers yesterday along with blue potatoes. I’m also anticipating pulling the onions and garlic I planted last winter. This is what I live for!
For some, what I get excited about is hokey. But, it’s what ignites my soul. And that’s what counts. No matter where you are in life, retired, about to retire or far from it, dig down into the depths of your soul and find yourself and ignite your passion. Who are you really? Not who you think you are but who you feel you are. Not who your parents, partner, friends or society think you are or should be but who you want to be. Do the work to answer that question and I promise you will enjoy a more rewarding, fulfilling life. And you won’t need a snooze button. You won’t even need an alarm clock.