On Identity and Gardening
I am a 38-year-old mum, wife, teacher, gardener, bartender, businesses owner, pet owner, and not to mention a cleaner… Is my identity a sum of all these parts?
In many ways the answer is yes, of course, yes. I have chosen the life I lead and love it. Each aspect of my life highlights and emphases different parts of my personality. But what about my true identity? The quieter, less visible part of me where I feel the most confident and at peace with my purpose, values, motivations and beliefs. It may come as no surprise I found my true identity in the garden.
I was a loud and extroverted kid. I had three fantastic big brothers and I wanted to be seen and heard by them and their friends… all the time. As I entered adolescence my outgoing personality started being chased quietly by self doubt and anxiety. Although it would have appeared that I didn’t have a care in the world, I would often leave social situations questioning and criticising myself ruthlessly.
I longed to be a wallflower. I would leave for a social outing priming myself to be quiet and calm, but the thrill of the party always took over and before I knew it I was in the centre of the party and probably the attention. As I grow older I accepted that being an extrovert was a part of my identity, but I longed for something to balance me out and to quiet the anxiety.
I longed for a stillness where I could find my purpose and my confidence.”
I always knew I wanted to work with children. I went travelling after high school and worked as a nanny, thinking I would become an early learning educator in the end, but my path changed direction slightly. I started to become aware of organic gardening practices and something about it really resonated with me. I decided I wanted to teach children to grow their own food, to connect or reconnect them with nature.
I committed to the idea, and when I returned to Australia I began my study first at Rudolf Steiner where I could gain qualifications in teaching and biodynamic gardening.
At this point I had never planted or grown a single thing. Like a budding music teacher who couldn’t play an instrument or an aspiring art teacher who couldn’t draw, I had decided to be a gardening teacher. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realised how funny it was to dedicate my life essentially to gardening without really knowing at that time whether I was going to enjoy it or not!
Fast forward 17 years and (spoiler alert!) I am a gardener and an organic gardening educator. When I finally found myself in the soil, all the pieces came together. My energy had a quiet purpose, I went to work and the earth repaid me by clearing my mind.
I loved all aspects of gardening, from the harder physical jobs to the meditation of dead-heading flowers. The garden was the place I went to re-centre, where I would go to become the wallflower I longed to be. Even in writing this piece, which was harder than I thought it would be, I turned to the garden to clear my mind and to remember the feeling of knowing yourself so well in one place. And that sums it all up.
Gardening for me has been the space where I feel my place in the world. Where I feel life is much bigger than me, I feel connected, I feel strong and I feel calm.”
The garden is where I found my identity. Even though I have so many different roles in my life, they all come back to the garden. I spend time with my family in our own garden, I talk to parents at school pick up about their gardens, at the bar we own I bring in excess fruit and veg from our garden to share with our community and everyday I teach children and their families to grow their own food, to be in the garden.
Gardening is my love, my hobby, my meditation and my job. Gardening is the core of my true identity where my purpose, values, motivations, and beliefs are rooted (pun intended).