Sometimes Mondays
The Burning Question

Paring Down: Another Focus Post

"Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do."
                                                            -- John Carmack

About this time of year - when my garden is somewhere under inches of snow and the temperatures barely reach freezing - I really start to think about gardening.  I dream and scheme and plan.  I get that "itch" to dig in the dirt again.  I want to look out my windows and see . . . color.

I satisfy myself with my amaryllis, here in the meantime.  But the pull of the garden is getting stronger each day.


(View from the top.  A very hard-working amaryllis putting on a most-welcome show right now.)

And it's been this way for a long time -- this pull of the garden.  

In fact, 14 years ago this pull led me to seek out the Master Gardener program.  It seemed like a natural extension of my interests at the time.  I loved to garden, and I was interested in learning more about "real" gardening and maybe even garden design.  I wanted to become a more knowledgeable gardener.  Besides, we had recently moved to Kalamazoo, and I thought it would be a great way to get to know other gardeners and connect with my new community.  (There is a strong volunteer component to the Master Gardener program.)

So I did it.  I signed up for the program.  I sat through months of horticulture lectures, did my assignments, passed the test.  I worked hard as a volunteer in gardens all around the community.  And in 2006, I became a certified Master Gardener.

Which, in turn . . . introduced me to gardening friends.  Who got me involved in "ancillary" garden groups like the Hosta Society and Garden Club.

And, of course . . . there were requirements (both educational and volunteer) to re-certifiy each year.  Which led to MORE classes and new certifications and tours and conferences and events.

And here I am.  12 years later.
And WAY overcommitted -- and grumpier every year about the time I'm NOT spending in my own garden.

Last summer, when the notion that maybe it was time to let the Master Gardener thing GO . . . first crossed my mind, I was horrified.  Because I loved the program, really.  And I have so many gardening pals who are also involved.  And I had made a huge investment of time and money and passion for so many years!

But I started shedding those ancillary groups.  (It was easy to say good-bye to the Hosta Society and the Garden Club.)  And I decided to pack my Master Gardener commitment into one of those "maybe" boxes of closet cleaning fame . . . to just see if I could live without it.  I stopped attending conferences and meetings.  I cut way back on my volunteer hours.  I unsubscribed from the email alerts and newsletters.

And I discovered I didn't miss it at all.

In fact, it made me feel free!

My gardening friends think I'm nuts to quit.  And the program director is taking it personally.  But I'm very much at peace.

The Master Gardener program was great for me when I first started out.  It "fit" me then.  I was energized and excited.  But, over the years, it's just gotten a little tight and itchy.  

It's time for me to let it go. 

And now that I've decided to let it go, I'm amazed that it was such a hard decision at all.  Why was it that my personal "investment" and a sense of obligation kept me involved . . . even when I knew my heart wasn't in it anymore?  Whatever the reason, getting rid of this huge commitment in my life will make it easier to pare down even more.

(I'm looking forward to more time in my own garden this spring, y'know?)





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When I let the volunteer board, the parish council, etc. go I never felt better! I said I would go back after a few years but you know what...I haven't and I don't miss it at all. The time will come when I'll need...something...but until then time spent at home and with Doug is just what I need. xoxo


That's fantastic! I think a more focused Kym is going to be a happier Kym!!


This is so inspirational. Sometimes opting out is the best plan. Wow!


To everything there is a season (and seasons don't have to last forever). It sounds like you've made a wonderful decision that you're very happy with! (And that amaryllis is seriously focused on blooming!)


Awesome! I didn't know there are annual commitments to be re-certified as a Master Gardener (my brother was taking the courses for awhile and then stopped...perhaps because it ate up too much time that he could have spent puttering in his own soil?). Good for you!


I truly love this post, and not because of you letting go of something. But, rather for how you shared your process - how you thought about it, how you tried it on, and how you evaluated if this is what you want to do.

I am in the midst of something like this in my own life right now and it is scary! In more ways than one. There is the censure of friends and mentors, and the guilt. Oy, the guilt.

Thank you so much for this post! AND!! For your perfectly timed card today! It made my day! XO


I was thinking as I read this, 'Well, it will give her time for her own garden, and she'll enjoy it even more,' and then you got there right afterwards! Hooray for you, and enjoy every second of Your.Own.Time.


I can only imagine how much angst went into this decision but I'm thrilled to hear you say that it's made you feel free. I didn't realize the Master Gardener program was a life long commitment - I figured once you got certified you were done. Like Library School., hahahaha. Even if you don't do all.the.things anymore, you will always be a master gardener in your own heart and that's the only place that really matters.


Obligation is a tough word/place to be in...hooray to you for putting Kym first! I know that you gave your time with the MG program your very best and sometimes it's best to be a tad "self-centered." In a good way!
I did that in 2012 with a community college course I taught for 17 years...and when it was time for me to leave, I did...and I've not looked back since! We know when it's time to say goodbye...
Looking forward to seeing your 2018 garden come to life!


Sounds like you made a good choice. I too often stay with a commitment out of obligation and the resentment that follows is not good for anyone. I am pinning way like crazy on a new garden Pinterest board and very much looking forward to getting back into my garden.


It fit you then and you learned great things from your commitment, but now you have time to use that knowledge for your own garden and more time for the place you love most. Many of us can identify with giving up the "job" of being involved with an organization that promotes an art you love. But, when it's a "job" and no longer coming from the heart, one needs to listen. You have a new commitment to yourself. That is admirable, too.


Wonderful! You made the decision that is right for you. Although there is some letting go, I also see an embrace of what is real and important for you at this time in your life. Thank you for sharing your brave decision.

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