I recently went through an identity crisis, of sorts.
Ever since gaining admission to the Air Force Academy in 2001, I have been connected to a large, corporate organization or institution. After honorably serving in the Air Force I was hired for an organization called Providence Health & Services. I started at the bottom in the marketing department and gradually worked my way into a role where I was responsible for the email marketing for not just Providence (which includes Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and California), but also Swedish Medical and Kadlec.
Of course, there has almost always been this farm, too. First as a homestead and then a Grade A Licensed Goat Dairy. For the past seven years I have been balancing this farm with my job in corporate America.
I gave Providence ten really good years of my life, but, finally, we decided it was time.
Time for me to quit splitting my attention and to focus on this farm full-time.
It’s romantic, I know. Leaving your big bad corporate job to struggle and try to make it as a full-time farmer was not just my dream, I know it’s many of yours.
But I super-duper struggled with it.
You see, I’ve never not had a job where I wasn’t salaried, with benefits, and all that paid time off. I rolled right into Providence from the Air Force and never once saw a gap in my health insurance, paychecks, or quality of life. My job at Providence is the only reason this farm still exists. Without it’s steady paycheck there is no way I could have made it as a single mother running a farm, going through a fairly dramatic and debilitating divorce. Leaving that kind of stability, and, in a way, tying my livelihood not just to a bunch of goats, but also a man (you know, that cute guy I married and started this dairy with), is scary in so many ways.
I weaned Banzai. After 2.5 years of nursing, we called it. Add to that the 15 months that I pumped for Sissy. And then of course the time I spent growing both those kids…and the miscarriage before both of them…I did the math, and for the last six years my body has been used in service to those around me. Taking back my body wasn’t the all-empowering event I thought it would be. In fact, it was heartbreaking. I suddenly felt so small and so menial (and I’m not just talking about what happened to my boobs). In the hours after putting the kids to bed I moped around like a shell of a human.
Two bookends of my life: growing/feeding babies, and working for corporate America, were officially no longer on my bookshelf.
Who am I even?
Luckily, the healing powers of the farm are bountiful.
The quietness of the off season was both a blessing and a curse, a time to reflect, recharge, and think.
Slowly, stumbling at first, I came home to myself.
I came to realize, your occupation is just a small sliver of who you are as a human. We are not defined by our jobs. I am not a collection of the lines of code I wrote, or the countless emails I replied to, or even the hundreds of meetings I sat through over the years. I am, however, the energy that I brought into those spaces. Ridiculous, adventurous, empathetic, mildly inappropriate…those things about me don’t change because I no longer have an access badge or an ID card.
Recently, Matthew and I went camping with the horses and our dog as a way of celebrating our third wedding anniversary. It was our first “vacation” without the kids, a honeymoon of sorts. We froze our little butts off, slept in the back of our truck under the stars, and covered 17 miles of backcountry terrain. One of these trails led us to the top of a mountain…a mountain that gave us the most clear and pristine views or Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams, and The Olympics. It was there, breathing in the painfully crisp air, I filled my lungs and let go of every pre-conceived notion of what it meant to be “successful.”
I came off that mountain rejuvenated…repaired…recalibrated.
The root of who I am is a person stands in me and me alone. My children are a living and breathing extension of my soul, yes. I would never argue with that. They are the only humans alive who know what my heart sounds like from the inside of my body, but they do not define me. Matthew, who healed me in ways I didn’t even know I was broken, is my husband yes, but he does not define me. This farm, these goats, all of these animals…they’re a part of my story but they aren’t my only story.
I am who I am because of me and me alone. Things do not happen to me. They happen, and I react. How I choose to react is a reflection of who I am and who I am becoming.
Because, you see, I am always becoming.
We all are.
To sit stagnant in the face of this amazing, beautiful world we live in…that would be criminal.
And so, for today, for this moment in time, I am going to become the best farmer and cheesemaker I can be. This farm, this intentional and purpose filled farm, is bursting at the seams with so many unrealized possibilities.
The food we will make this year, the lives we will touch, the people we will help through their own identity crises…I know this farm is a gift. And it’s a gift I refuse to squander.
Let’s do this.