I NEVER THOUGHT I’d be a writer or speaker. I’m a horticulturist.
But every so often I get impulsive (and that can drive my wife, Shelley, crazy). Luckily for me, one of those impulsive moments brought me to where I am today.
I can still picture the look of surprise on Shelley’s face the day I came home and casually mentioned that I’d quit my job as a recruiter.
I sucked at that recruiting job. I left a job in agricultural marketing to work as a recruiter because I wanted to be closer to home. I wanted less commute and more time to help my parents and to be with Shelley and my young daughter.
Now, thanks to my impulsiveness, I had lots of time. Just no job.
The recruiting? I was great on the phone, having been a call-centre slave in previous jobs. And in the recruiting office I was part of a fun team; we had lots of laughs in that little office. But I was hopeless at getting people to decide to change jobs…and we were paid when people changed jobs. I didn’t place a single person in a job. I earned no money.
So back to that fateful day: I went to work as usual one Friday morning, and by lunch I decided to quit. I really felt I was in the wrong place. My boss, Bob, was surprised and asked me to reconsider—which was quite kind, given my hopelessness at the task. I left that afternoon knowing I wouldn’t be back on Monday.
I got home from work and announced to Shelley, “Oh, by the way, I quit my job today.” That’s when she flashed me that memorable look of surprise. But she was remarkably understanding about it—I think she knew I wasn’t cut out for what I had been trying—and failing—to do.
Soon after that Shelley finished her maternity leave and returned to work. And I started my new role of coaxing a double stroller into the trunk of a Chevy Cavalier. It had two child car seats in it, one for my daughter and one for my nephew. (I had managed people in a call centre before, but nothing prepared me for managing two toddlers.) The three of us had lots of fun adventures.
I think I did a decent job of being full-time diaper changer and dad/uncle. But I started to think about reinventing myself. The problem was that I had no experience as an entrepreneur. And I wondered how I could create a job and still maintain a family focus. The answer came to me when I was on a plane. I unknowingly sat beside an editor for an online magazine. We chatted, and she asked if I wrote. Bingo.
So I announced to Shelley that I was going to be a writer. This time she didn’t look surprised. She must have figured it would be a good fit for me.
In retrospect, my attraction to the idea of being a writer makes sense. English and language-based assignments were always what I aced in school and work. I love looking at information, thinking about it, and then packaging it in a way that makes it useful to other people.
So off I went to take night school courses on writing and journalism. Then I joined a garden writers association, a farm writers association, and a professional writers association because I really didn’t know how to go about becoming a “real” writer.
With trepidation I left the house for my first garden writers meeting, feeling like a fraud. When telling people I was a writer I covered my mouth with my hand…I was that unsure of myself.
I nearly walked out the door when I arrived at the garden writers meeting. There was a sea of grey and grey-blue hair as I entered the luncheon room. And the attendees were nearly all women. As a male in my 30s, I felt out of place.
But I stayed. I had lunch. And at lunch, I struck up a conversation with Donna Balzer. She was doing something I aspired to: She shared her passion for gardening on radio, on TV, in books, and in her newspaper column. We swapped business cards before she left. When I called Donna to interview her for a journalism project, she graciously told me all about what she did and encouraged me to stick with it.
In the end, we collaborated on our book No Guff Vegetable Gardening. I haven’t looked back.
And I can credit Donna not only with helping me imagine myself as something I wanted to be, but also with getting me to wear makeup for the first time.
We were sitting together in the waiting room at CTV Calgary to talk about vegetable gardening. My palms were sweaty and my head felt a bit light…I was nervous about being on TV. Donna cracked a big smile as she pulled a makeup kit out of her purse. Then she nonchalantly said, “Your nose is shiny. We’ll have to do something about that before we go on TV.”
Life moves on. We can choose to do things that feel uncomfortable. And some of them take us to great places.