Create your own (life)

“I think I want to be an entrepreneur,” I typed at 10:28 a.m. on December 16, 2016.

One balmy December morning, I decided to take a stroll outside during my four weeks of recharge (5 miles on a fractured fibula, but that’s another story). I wasn’t really looking for an intense workout, with my injured ankle and all, nor was I searching internally for career trajectory – just a baby-blue sky and a mind wide open for ideas.

The thought appeared to me suddenly, as if the waters to promised prosperity evaporated, and I could finally begin to see the path to my future purpose.

I think I want to be a local-food, regenerative agriculture, organically minded entrepreneur (who just also happens to be a vegan, a minimalist, a yogi, a storyteller, and an intersectional ecofeminist – nonexclusive entities in this contract called life).

I thrive on giving myself directions. In the mornings, I have my 7 a.m.-start routine and a methodology that works pretty well the rest of the day. I didn’t particularly like my collegiate expectations, so I made my own. And while I have a research position on campus and classes to attend to, I report to me-myself-and-I most of the time.

I’m always churning out ideas for projects, for poems, for essays or for new slogans on business cards that could somehow encapsulate my ambitions in 30 words-or-less (it’s not worked so far, after 3 or 4 tries). I tried so desperately to fit myself into boxes that I never realized I could be my own box – happily, too – until this past semester.

Now, I’m sitting here typing this account over a month after the fact.

The future still seems a whole lot more confusing and overwhelming than this clear-eyed vision that struck me in mid-December. For starters, I don’t know one thing about creating my own business or product or service. Over the past three years, I’ve built my own brand, so-to-speak, but not anything like a business plan. I don’t even know if I have the credentials to call myself a budding entrepreneur, at this point!

What I do know now is how that initial spur-of-the-moment thought made me feel: Not overly ambitious, not wholly inadequate, not filled with trepidation, but content. Satisfied in a weird way, like I’d finally found the words to guide me through the final three semesters of my undergraduate experience.

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I value authenticity, agency, and action.

I’ve always believed in making my career vision(s) part-and-parcel with my everyday reality, but I’ve scarcely made the time to reset the internal clocks. This has been the first year — the first time EVER in my life, in fact — where I’ve given my ambitions considerable, honestly critical feedback at every juncture along the way.

Is this right, right now? Is this really me?

Naive and easily excited about my endless buffet of career possibilities, I once flocked to any professional goal that appeared even the least bit intriguing, to add it to my ever-expanding future resume. I sought so hard to work in D.C., a working town that would ‘get me’ and my caffeine-addicted 19-year-old philosophy. I gained an overflowing collection of what if’s and could be’s — but I struggled to fit back the puzzle pieces that were me.

I was hungry for prestige and desperate for attention. I wanted my byline on as many Internet searches as could be, and I showed up for all the meetings — even those I wasn’t necessarily invited to. I sometimes mention my ‘involvement deforestation’ (a running list of all the occupations I’ve applied for and then didn’t make the cut, or accepted and promptly changed my mind) whenever I talk about my career evolution. The list is longer than I care to admit, but I now look back on it with more hilarity than anything. Look at all these things I thought I wanted! How delusional! How grandiose! How much does time change!

Life is a journey. Every step, every person, and every pressure-cooker moment along the way punctuates a turning point. It’s not the product that matters but the process. I now have the courage to ask: Are you happy with your process? and answer myself with integrity.

I knew I had to change careers as soon as I started counting down the days until my undergraduate ceremony of ‘freedom’ (approximately 954 days, at the time). Who wants to wish away their precious 20-fun years? Not I, certainly!

I still don’t know where I’m going.

Don’t be fooled by this latest proclamation of professional development. But let’s be honest — we all don’t know what we’re aiming for all of the time. We mostly just try our best, and I still think that’s a beautifully messy business, in itself.

But I do know a few things. I know that my Earth needs healing. I know that regenerative soil practices are actually some of the most ingenious, non-technocratic ways of curbing carbon in the atmosphere, naturally. I know that we will all need to eat food — real, good, honest food — to do all the building and the saving and the rallying we will do, must do, along our way as a society. I know that I will never be able to stop thinking about food, not enough. I know that I’d much rather learn from my own two hands than at the hands of an institution. I know that I want to be outside and out living life for and with other people.

Could that really be enough?