Opportunity Knocks

I quit my job.  (Well,I gave my two weeks notice, I didn’t just up and leave like you see in the movies or listen to in songs).  I quit my job of less than one year, working 37.5 hours a week, with a steady salary, benefits, a Blackberry, holidays off, weekends off, and vacation hours accrued every two weeks.   I am going to go work on a farm.

But first, some background.

I didn’t grow up in an overalls and boots family, although when we moved to Loudoun County in 1991, there wasn’t much around.  Starbucks hadn’t even hit the strip malls, because there weren’t strip malls.  These strip malls, now reliant on $4 lattes, had previously been wide, open cow fields and we drove 20 minutes to get gas.  The Partlow Store was actually a store, although it resembled a food museum with only a couple sundries on the shelves that looked like they had been there for years…chances were they had been.  But it was also our ice cream shop, and it was welcoming.  I have many memories of yardstick ice pops and frozen confections in the summertime.  (Happy to say I still enjoy visiting the store that is now Carolina Brothers BBQ – yum)

I attended the University of South Carolina for a short time and after transferring to George Mason University, found a niche in hospitality, working at a high end steakhouse as well as at a private residential golf course, moving my way up to a position as an Events Manager.  I began to realize that the hospitality lifestyle is not conducive to having a family at any point.  Afraid of getting stuck, but also completely burned out from my long weeks with no time off, I left for a job with the the local government.  Trying to find some type of routine in my daily life, something I craved after working 10-14 hour days,  I was ready for something different and new.  I had never worked in the cubicle nation before, as I spent my summers in college working at the steakhouse and golf course; one summer, my internship was in DC at Washington Life Magazine.

My dad is an IT guy and until about 10 years ago, my mom stayed at home to tend to my sister and I.  We had a pretty sweet garden back in the day (groceries were 20 minutes away, remember!)  for living in the ‘burbs and grew lots of veggies.  That was about the closest to farming as our family got.  A few moves deper into the suburbs later and with economic development, the county changed.  My family downsized into a townhouse; we went through the motions of shopping big box and grocery stores that were more accessible than ever.  But we still ate family dinners. I am truly blessed that my family ate together almost daily, despite the fact that my mom hated to cook and always received some type of complaint from my picky eating sister, or myself or from dad — chicken, again?  She’s not a bad cook she just hates it.  And when you don’t put your love into something you do the end product usually isn’t something you’re particularly proud of – whether it’s a project at work or even something as simple as a meal.

So, for me, it was my job. I didn’t love what I was doing and where I was going.  I saw no future and had no passion; this quickly effected my life in a bad way.  I was irritable, stressed and tired.  I was spinning my wheels round and round and when I did get to my cube, I felt like a sitting duck.  Steady on top but I just wanted to move my feet, get somewhere, do something. I needed to move. I needed to engage. I needed to do something more laborous and hands-on.  So I quit.  Now i’ve certainly been the person on the other side of this screen; I’ve read my fair share of short essays, blog posts and articles about “doing what you love” and i have pinned countless positive affirmations.  This time it’s not all blah blah let me pin it and it magically happens. I made a choice to make a change.  It really began to hit me that I needed a change after I took one of those über-official Gallup polls- The Strengthfinders test.  My results concluded that the following are my top five attributes: activator, futuristic, empathy, individualization and communication (yes, in that order of strength).  I sat and looked at the results.  The paragraphs went in-depth as to what each strength was and they were spot-on, it was uncanny;  they totally described me.   We went to a short training. I thought, “What the hell am I doing? None of those strengths are being utilized in my daily work life.”

I like working hard, lifting things, moving things, making things happen.  I like projects with tangible end results.  I am very much looking forward to this new venture because I have a feeling the job will be able to deliver those tangible results that I know keep me energized and motivated.  When I told people of the move, I definitely received a few scrunched up face looks and heads tilted to the side, “A farm? What?”  I think they thought I was off my rocker, especially if I was dressed in my business clothes and told them. I have a few critics about this new venture, but in my eyes, I am just living by my motto, “I believe in being well rounded.”  I believe my resume will look stronger– I was a Communication/PR/Marketing degree, anyways!  I have supporters too, people who understand.  A colleague at my previous job told me he stopped doing something he loved to do years ago and he regrets it all the time.  We aren’t here on earth for too long, I don’t want just another paycheck.  I want to do something great.  My dear friend, Andrea, shared this Julip Made page a few weeks ago…I had heard Thomas Edison’s quote before, but now, more than ever it truly resonated with me. I got goosebumps and my eyes swelled up.  I hadn’t quit yet, but I was already receiving awesome support. Here it is again.

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My farm job starts tomorrow. And I have a confession. I don’t know the first thing about farming. I have no farming experience.  I wanted to be Martha Stewart when I was 12 and then she went to jail, but I wanted to be her, embody her.  I wanted to wrap my Christmas presents at age 14 with pinecones, glitter and handmade paper (but I didn’t), make caesar salad dressing with anchovies and egg yolk (i definitely did this before I could even drive a car), and have a bee hive for honey so i could have honey and then make beeswax candles (I did make a candle, once, and it didn’t turn out great, so, okay, maybe I can’t be a candlemaker…). Like, what if, she goes to jail again, who’s going to take her place?  I don’t think it’s too late for me to do something like this, and return to the basics.  In fact, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.  The stars are aligning and I have prayed about this often.  I currently reside at home, and I will probably stay a little longer than I originally planned, plus the  housing market is still tough. You miss all the chances you don’t take – if I don’t do this now, when will I?  Will the opportunity knock again?  I am going with the flow right now, something that I’ve struggled with in the past, but let me tell you– it’s working.

I don’t have an official job title to add to my experiences listed on my LinkedIn profile, or even business cards, yet, but I know that the job will have many moving parts — from marketing the farm’s home delivery program to light farm hand work with animals and learning the gorgeous garden to make sure it stays bountiful.  I won’t be working on the farm too often, as I am the “boots on the street.”  But when I am on the farm, I’m going to do my best not to kill the brussel sprouts (especially since they are one of my favorite veggies, can’t wait to fry up with some bacon from the farm) that are growing right now, since who am I kidding — I don’t know about how to tend to a garden, either.  My brain just went into overload…what am I getting myself into?!  But you know what?  I have someone who’s hired me to do a job, and who is trusting me and is going to teach me.  And I couldn’t be more blessed to have this opportunity.  Additionally, I’ll be spending time in the kitchen (okay, finally, my comfort zone, I know how that works, it’s my happy place, come on, brain calm down, we can do this!). I’ll be helping to streamline the cool casual patio service that happens on Saturdays.    I’ll be working a few Saturdays a month, which is okay by me, because it’s not at night, I can still have family and friend time.  I’m going back to my roots, back to hospitality to serve people, show them how to eat well, and welcome them to a place to relax and get away from the Jones’. The farm is inspired by The Weston A. Price Foundation.  All animals are pasture raised, antibiotic-free and hormone-free.  I have finally pledged 100% gluten-free, no more cheating (I am also lactose intolerant) and am excited to add to my knowledge base of clean eating and learning about how to prepare food in different ways. 

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So, I already have my first “job assignment” for tomorrow.  I’m going to be working with lambs. This could get interesting. Very, very interesting.  This weekend I did a re-organization of my closet.  Pencil skirts, collared shirts, suit and blouses to the corners… jeans and teeshirts in the forefront.  Tomorrow my outfit might not be #OOTD worthy, I’ll be in clothes that can get torn and muddied. And you know what?  I am excited. I haven’t even decided if I am going to wear makeup.  Do you think the lambs will notice? Who am i kidding, I need them to like me if I’ll be working with them…or maybe i’ll just settle on a quick spritz of Chanel no.5.  But wait, what if they are turned off by my smell?  Will I be turned off by their smell?  Okay, no perfume. My hair is going to be pulled back, and to the delight of my hairdresser, I imagine I will be blow drying and straightening a lot less, no more heat damage.  Hello, more perks of this job.

I don’t foresee this blog to act as solely a journal for my adventures in farming, although I know the stories will come. I’m on a mission to bring back family suppers but in the meantime, I hope to share entertaining ideas (I love parties! I used to plan weddings, remember?), recipes, photography (my minor at George Mason), fun findings and to share with you ideas on living wholly.  So you can become more well-rounded, too.  Go. Now, do something!  I am. I am following my dreams. And this is the start to my journey.

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I must take a moment to truly thank you for listening and reading.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve sat down to write.  It might not be perfect right away, or ever, but I am looking forward to digging up my style from the journalism and yearbook days. Please bear with me as I do my best to add to this site’s aesthetics and dress it up.  I’m still learning wordpress and all the widgets that come with it.  I know it’s not super-pretty or anything, but I am a plain jane, anyways.

Questions, comments and suggestions on what a good work title would be are all welcome.  Until next time.

the very best, always,

alexandra

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11 thoughts on “Opportunity Knocks

  1. Ally– what you are doing is truly inspiring! It’s out of the ordinary to see a young professional from northern Virginia decide that the sell-out life isn’t for them and do something different! I wish the best for you and I am sure the change will be nothing but positive and rewarding. I look forward to hearing more about it and I sincerely mean that!

  2. Ally-

    I always love reading about the goings on of long lost friend’s lives. It’s funny to me, though we are now worlds apart, the similarities that still remain. I, too, went though sort of a evolution of career-lifestyle-happiness (even including the Strengthfinders test). I am now developing my career in animal welfare and could not be happier – my bank account could be happier, but not I. I can tell from my experience it is scary and hugely liberating and totally worth it. Good for you! I wish you the best of luck and nothing but happiness in your new adventure! Give some love to those little lambs for me.

    Xox –

    Liz (or as some know me, Detective Bob)

    • oh my word…detective bob! I can’t believe you read this! It is so great to hear from you. Thank you so much for your support. I know your parents are living up here now, or so that’s what my parents told me. They need to come out to the farm — and the next time you visit I’d love to catch up! I know it’s been so long but I am so glad to hear that things are going well for you! Stay in touch!!

  3. I’m so inspired by you and your desire to step out of the box! May God bless you in all your endeavors, dear cousin!

  4. Your amazing. Dad and I wish you all the happiness our world has to give. You are well rounded and your beautiful face shows your happy. May God Bless you always.
    Love, Mom

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