I have these monthly calls to check-in with the Iowa FoodCorps fellow, Marlie Wilson. Our December call was smashed into the sliver of time between those restless moments before winter break and the seemingly endless expanse of holiday madness that is winter break. During our call, I was driving from my service site in Oelwein to my hometown, Iowa City. Marlie and I chatted about the typical stuff: short term and long term goals, how I was feeling, general updates etc. “My January is going to be pretty crazy as I’m teaching an afterschool program series three days a week at the Middle School, presenting to the school board and county Master Gardeners, organizing an official Garden Committee for the district, and teaching my typical nutrition lessons. I’m planning to put in a bunch of hours over the next few weeks of break to get everything planned before getting back to school in the New Year,” I shared. My thought here was ‘set yourself up for success’.
“All of those programs sound amazing. Just don’t forget to take some time over break to actually break. Taking time away is important,” Marlie replied. I am all about the ‘set yourself up for success’ idea; however, in this moment, I was forgetting that success is complicated and moreover comprehensive. I am not particularly hip on the socially accepted qualities of ‘success’. Call me anomic. Anyway, I have my own working definition for this complex idea. There is a quote from David W. Orr’s Ecological Literacy: Educating our Children for a Sustainable World that succinctly describes the success I work toward: “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.” GAH! I have to take a moment to let those words sink into my bone marrow every time I read them.
Success is not a 40+ hour work week over the holidays. Marlie was so right in reminding me to take a break. In NOT working during this time, I have enjoyed friends, family, and even a few moments to myself. I read three new books, which helped to recharge my brain with fresh ideas. I played board games and went for a walk with my family where we laughed to the point that my mouth and ears were aching. I slept. I took time to cook and time to eat. I visited with old and new friends. I let myself be a person outside of the work/career realm of life.
Now, it is the weekend before heading ‘back to school’ and my to-do list sits undone; however, I feel recharged as a person. My time away from work has allowed me to cultivate the passion and energy that empowers me to do this work well. It is winter and I have been living well in my place. This is to say that I am writing from a fleece cocoon on my living room couch. Come Monday, I will shed this winter fleece recharged and ready for the busyness of first graders shouting about vegetables with excitement, middle schoolers eating their first kale chips, and starting spring garden transplants with the high school FFA. I predict that it will be a very SUCCESSFUL 2015!