Sometimes I feel as if my life takes place in a secret garden full of winding paths, dead ends, and exquisite surprises. I’ve been lost in this garden quite a few times but also found brilliant inspiration, blooming possibilities, and paths that have led me to incredible places. PBS published a remixed song out of quotes and sounds from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (http://youtu.be/OFzXaFbxDcM) that sums up this whole analogy (plus Mr. Rogers is wicked cool). “You can grow ideas, in the garden of your mind,” he says.
Thinking back to my childhood, I wanted to be an artist, a marine biologist, and an environmentalist. I used to paint rocks and sell them on my street (or try to) so that I could donate the money to an environmental organization. I once adopted a whale and a tiger with the proceeds. Dreaming up comic book characters, music shows, and art projects with the neighborhood kids was a daily fair. There was always a new thing to learn and experience.
Fast forward through an engineering degree, two stifling cubicle jobs, a sustainable design certificate, a master in landscape architecture, another miserable cubicle job, tears, questions, confusion, and guilt for spending so much money on an education I didn’t want to use. I wasn’t at all living the life I had imagined. Somehow, along the way I had lost sight of what I wanted and I was living my life being practical and on other people’s terms. Although I felt passionate about my landscape architecture degree, the day-to-day realities of the profession had turned my beautiful mind-garden into a dull, flowerless place. Something had to change.
So I took Mr. Roger’s advice. He said, “It’s good to be curious, about many things. You can think about things and make believe. All you have to do is think and they’ll grow.”
That’s when I decided to put my curiosity cap on and start to live my life doing what I loved on my terms. That is, building a business that supported my dreams, my ethics, and the lifestyle I wanted. I’m naturally a curious person who loves to learn, so I started my business with little direction but a lot of ideas. I was in exploration mode. Everything was new and exciting.
I played on my strengths, building a business with many different facets. I tried out different business ideas, experimenting to see which ones would take root in the military – based town I now live in. My first inclination was to design residential yards but I quickly learned that with such a transient population, vey few people wanted to invest the time or money into temporary housing. So I added another skill to my seed bank: graphic design. My services stretched beyond the boundaries of my town, I landed a few jobs and the business seemed to be growing. At the same time, my husband and I decided to start a photography business based on our combined passion.
I thought I could have this gorgeous garden with three beautiful types of flowers spreading wildly, but instead I found it was too much for one novice gardener to manage. To free up time to devote to the other two endeavors, I dropped the landscape design effort since it was the least productive.
As time goes on, my garden is evolving. I’ve restructured my business several times, weeding out the things that don’t work and sowing in new seeds when it feels right. I also changed my business name at one point to better reflect the essence of what I want to bring into the world. My business became Joyful Roots because my main goal is to infuse joy into every service I offer and every thing that I create. I like to think of it as planting joy seeds and it’s so fun to watch them grow, blossom, and reseed.
As of now, I still have a lot of seeds being cultivated at once, but I’m becoming better able to handle the variety. In fact, I’m starting to embrace it. Currently, I’m offering graphic design services, working on developing pattern collections and fabrics, and creating a bunch of artwork for my Etsy shop. I’m also planning on pitching my art and products to some local galleries and boutique stores.
The thing is, despite being such a varied assortment of flowers, my garden is working together in a good way. It seems to be getting into the rhythm – when one flower is fading out, another one is beginning to bloom. It takes a great amount of care and attention, making sure my garden is healthy. It’s not perfect either. There are some weeds in there, but I’ve found that as long as there aren’t too many, a few can stay it and it won’t do harm. Eventually, I’ll weed them out.
It feels like the journey through my garden of business and life has only just begun. In fact, my life is about to change in big ways because I have a little bundle of joy growing inside me right now, and he (or she) will be coming into this world in the beginning of October. I know it will change my life, my garden, my business, and my world and I’m so excited about that. I’m not sure how it will evolve, but I’m continuing to go into the future with a bundle of curiosity and a pocket full of new seeds.
I’d like to see all of us grow ideas in the gardens of our minds. I’ve included a pretty one-page printout with Mr. Roger’s quote to record your top ten ideas that you would like to grow this year. Click here or the image above to download your copy of the PDF. Hang it somewhere visible to be reminded that if you think it, you can grow it! I would love to hear some of your ideas you plan on growing in the comments below.