“Do what you love” is not bad career advice

girl writing in journal

Photo credit: Erin Kohlenberg

I put my high school years behind me 30 years ago, but some memories still resonate. It’s not the social ordeal caused by being an introverted, day-dreamy girl with ADHD in a small school seemingly filled with focused extroverts, nor the crisis of self-esteem engendered by feeling huge, if not morbidly obese, at 5’9″ and 150 lbs. (if I’d only known). No, the memories that stick—and sting—have nothing to do with the students I shared my high school days with but the adults who were supposed to be showing me what it would mean to be a grown-up.

The Perfect Storm

I rocked my English classes. My English teachers loved me, and I loved one teacher in particular. Miss U was a zaftig, kaftan-wearing, long-haired pseudo-hippie who taught all my favorite classes—College Prep English, Creative Writing, Journalism. When I was a high school senior, I wanted nothing more than to be like her, a popular teacher, beloved by her students, a guide through the wilds of the English language and written text.  I wanted to be a teacher. And one day I confessed this desire to Miss U, certain she’d be thrilled that I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Instead, she sighed. “Don’t be a teacher,” she said. “There are better careers out there.”

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How To Build an Indoor Seed Starting Setup

Several years ago, provoked by Spring fever and taunted by the sight of seed starting flats and racks of seeds in the local home goods store, I decided that I would grow seeds indoors. I cleared a corner of a little plastic shelving unit by a sunny window in my mud room, watered down the little Jiffy seed starting pellets I’d purchased, added seeds and hoped for the best. A week later I was amazed to see seedlings sprouting. A month later, I was saddened to see that my seedlings had grown tall and droopy and looked weak, despite my best efforts to sustain them. A few tomatoes survived to be planted outside, but they were never very healthy and I don’t think they ever produced blooms, much less fruit.

What had I done wrong?

It’s All About Light

A little research was all it took to help me realize where my seed starting experiment had failed. My sunny window wasn’t enough to get my seedlings to thrive–they needed much more light. The reason that they’d grown tall and spindly was because they were reaching for the distant light shining through the window, desperately trying to generate enough energy to grow. I decided that if I wanted to try starting seeds indoors again (and I did, because what better way is there for a gardener to chase away the late-winter blues than to sprout green things indoors?) I would have to devise a system to generate light and lots of it. I did more research, and came up with a system that has worked well for me now for a couple of seasons and cost far less than the seed starting setups you’ll find in catalogs.

Here’s what I did… Continue reading