Change Yourself…Change The World.

Learning Life Lessons Through Gardening
September 12, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: Paraguay

Has there ever been something you had always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity? Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, or become a master at taekwando. Perhaps you’ve dreamt of cooking a mouthwatering Chicken Tikka Masala, or speaking a new language.

I can attest to wanting to learn all of these things above, but I have also always wanted to learn how to garden. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay, the land of bountiful fruit and brilliantly red fertile soil, I dreamed of a backyard laden with grapefruit and mango trees, along with my very own vegetable garden and compost bin. Fortunately, I’ve come a step closer to this reality: one, I now own a house that DOES have a grapefruit and mango tree. And two, I’ve stumbled upon the perfect opportunity to learn: Wilma, an agriculture professor in my city has a lush and fully organic vegetable garden, and last Saturday she invited me to come over to her house to discover the finer art of horticulture.

Growing my own vegetables has always been something I’ve aspired to, but never learned due to time, space, and quite frankly, fear. When it comes to wanting to learn said ‘things’, I always feel like there’s some secret formula on the ‘best’ way to do it that I don’t know about, since I’m a novice. And since I always want to learn how to do things the ‘best’ way, I decide that I must first research and perfect- knowing every twist and turn and the answer to any possible issue that may pop up- before starting. But then the daunting task of doing such research is so overwhelming that I quit before I start, and therefore look to all of these aspirations with longing but without action.

How sad is that? How did it come to be that I am SUCH a perfectionist that I don’t even start projects for fear of not doing them in the best and most efficient way possible? As I started to seriously think about it, I realized how this branched out to many aspects of my life- wanting to buy ‘the perfect’ notebook for my ‘perfect’ notes, that I then never use for fear of messing it up. Getting extremely excited about a business project I’ve never tried before, but then backing away from it when the time comes to execute, because of my fear of not doing it right.

Last Saturday, I planted my first tomatoes. I was expecting Wilma to first lecture me for an hour on the finer points of having a green thumb, but it was the most no-nonsense, uncomplicated affair I’ve ever performed. We first dug a hole in the tilled soil, put in some composted dirt, watered it, mixed it around, and then popped in the tomato seedling plant. And well-la! Faster than blinking an eye, I learned how to plant a tomato. It didn’t take three books of instruction or a YouTube video. There was no time to stop and worry about whether I had put in enough composted dirt, or EXACTLY how much water I should give to the tomato- Wilma was completely nonplussed over the entire experience, and pretty much left me to figure it out on my own. And at the end of the hour, we had 19 new tomato plants to show for it.

It was an extremely proud moment for me- not just that I had learned something that I’ve always wanted to do, but that I overcame my fear of not being perfect enough.

So today’s life lesson is to get out there and plant your own tomato seedlings. It may not be perfect, but it’s the process that counts.

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