How My Failed Attempt At Gardening Made Me Realize Something Major About Self-Worth


By Jillian Stacia

Let’s talk about gardening.

Two years ago, my husband and I bought a house with a garden. And by garden, I mean a place to put a bunch of pots. And by a bunch, I mean three. So yeah, two years ago, I bought a house with three potted plants. 

But they were pretty and gorgeous, and they made the house feel a little more like home. So I promised myself that I would learn how to garden, and maybe even add to the collection.

But then we had to rent a moving truck and unload boxes and wash carpets and buy a sofa, and I guess I don’t have to tell you that those three potted plants didn’t make it.

I was devastated. I mourned the loss of those three plants for days. Not because I loved them, but because the whole situation symbolized failure and was clearly indicative of all the ways I was failing as a homeowner and as a wife and as an adult and as a human in general.

Anyway, this year I was determined to redeem myself. I woke up early on a Sunday and headed off to Home Depot to buy some plants. Have you ever been a neurotic twenty something woman with post traumatic plant issues trying to pick out flowers at Home Depot on a Sunday morning? No?

Well, let me tell you, it is rough.

There are flowers EVERYWHERE. There are big flowers and small flowers and plants and herbs and weird cactus things and annuals and perennials and bushes and trees. It was mayhem. I spent the next hour walking around aimlessly, trying to keep my head above the plant ridden water.

It wasn’t until later that evening, when I was trying to explain to my husband about why I had bought five weird cactus things, that I realized I had a problem. And it wasn’t gardening.

It was my tendency to associate self-worth and success with external factors. Somehow I had linked “gardener” with “successful homeowner” and “competent adult”. In my mind, homeowners gardened. They had plants that lived longer than a week. They knew how to navigate Home Depot. If I couldn’t do that, what business did I have owning a house?

This is not the first time this has happened.  I’ll assume that, in order to be a good wife, I need to know how to cook a roast chicken, or that my home needs to be well decorated, or that I should be able to successfully curl my hair. There’s always something left to do, another box to check to prove that, yes, I am a successful adult and I do, in fact, belong here.

Adulthood is just a big game of imposter syndrome. It is round after round of trying to impress people and hoping like hell that no one notices that you’re just winging it.

But here’s the secret: you don’t have to do things you don’t want to do. You can say no to things that don’t interest you. You can opt out.

Being a crappy gardener doesn’t mean I’m a crappy homeowner. Ordering takeout doesn’t make me less of a wife. Not wearing makeup doesn’t make me less of a woman. Those are just things, just arbitrary things that society has chosen as a metric of success. They don’t have anything to do with me or my self-worth.

So yeah, I think I’m going to pass on the gardening. Because it’s stressful and overwhelming and doesn’t feel good. At least not right now. Maybe one day, I’ll take it up again, but it’ll be for the right reasons. Not because I want to look impressive or feel validated, but because I crave the feeling of dirt under my fingertips.

Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. Apply to become a Contributing Writer by clicking HERE

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