What do you do when you’ve spent 38 years working away at something you’re passionate about and then your employer gives you the ax?
I don’t know. It’s never happened to me.
Putting her horticultural degree to good use, LeeAnn had been working for an organic pest control company, which gave her the opportunity to educate people on what they could use organically in their gardens. As a girl, she had wanted to be a teacher, and as an adult her passion had become horticulture and growing organically. It was a perfect combination.
Until it was all taken away in 2012.
“What do I do now?” she found herself asking. Angry at losing a job where she had been able to make a difference, she was forced to recreate her identity.
“When you’re working, your job is your life. You become your job. That’s your identity,” LeeAnn told me.
But when that identity disappeared, she was suddenly faced with the question, “Now who am I?”
Even after decades of a J.O.B., she wasn’t about to just go out and get another one. “It’s not about a job. It’s about doing what you love,” she says.
So using everything she had learned over the course of her career and gathering up the self-motivation she had developed after working out of her home for years, LeeAnn started her own business.
She says it was like jumping into a swimming pool, not knowing if there was any water down below. But she took a leap of faith and trusted that there would be water by the time she fell that far.
She began by taking her organic, homegrown herbs to farmers’ markets and studying up on herbs through adult education classes. With her growing knowledge and expanding network, she began to educate others on the health benefits of herbs and growing organically, much like she had in her previous role.
Now LeeAnn’s turned her herbs into organic teas that she sells in local health food stores. While she hopes to expand into bigger markets, she says it’s not all about the money. It’s about making a difference, educating and helping others, and keeping the integrity of her brand.
I had to ask her what advice she’d give to people like me, searching for meaning, purpose, and joy outside of the bounds of traditional lifestyles.
LeeAnn told me simply, “Follow your heart. Do it. Do what you love. Find joy in it. You can do anything you want. Life is short. If you don’t like what you’re doing, stop.”
Following your heart isn’t all roses and butterflies, though. Sometimes she wants to throw in the towel. But when that happens, LeeAnn says she calls up her best friend, who tells her to go make a cup of tea. Then she compares the armfuls of joy in her life to the mere handful of pain and decides that everything is worth the effort.
“Adversity gives you strength, brings in the good, builds you up. We want to be comfortable. But get outside the box. Don’t be comfortable.”
To those of us out there seeking our own bliss, LeeAnn reminds us to enjoy the search. “You’re on a journey, and you’re not going to arrive,” she told me.
If we can understand that, we may just start having more fun along the way.