I did everything right, mostly. I went to college and earned a degree in something I loved (English) and something I was good at (teaching). I specialized in a hard-to-fill niche: at risk students. It was work I loved and a position that was always in demand. I taught eleven years, and in 2009 I got married to a Navy man, and the love of my life (awwwwwww). I didn't make much at my work, but it was enough to cover my bills. I worked a few side jobs that paid for hobbies like my garden.
Life was pretty darn good.
Then it sort of fell apart. Not completely, or as horribly as it could have since nobody died, but it still fell apart. In 2011, we moved as part of my husband's next assignment. The teaching license bureau in our new state proved slower than molasses, and there were only four job openings within driving distance. Without a license, I didn't even get interviewed.
We moved into military housing, which is nice, but were unable to sell our old house. Suddenly, we went from two incomes to one. I applied everywhere for work, but no one wanted a teacher without a state certificate. I was able to get substitute work, for much less per day, and my income dropped to a few hundred dollars a month. I travelled back to our previous state for weeks at a time to work, which was nice but costly. I applied for sales jobs, but teaching for so long had made me underqualified. Crazy.
As winter rolled around, my news feed started popping up stories aout gardening and buying seeds. I looked through them out of habit until it hit me: I didn't have the money to garden this year. It was the last straw. I am a good teacher, but I can't teach. I had worked hard to become fiscally responsible, but now I couldn't pay my own bills. It was a low point as I looked around and saw everything I'd used to help define myself fall apart. I wasn't a teacher, I wasn't responsible, I wasn't home for my marriage or our pets. I had lost all of the parts of me which were extrinsically defined, and I was fed up with it.
There are many things I don't do well. But I'm good at gardening. There's a process to growing things that follows a pattern and isn't set by the economy, politicians or human forces outside my control.
My garden is a place where I have been able to succeed, build, and be creative since I was very young. Summer has always meant fresh garden vegetables, and I grew up learning to nurture them, harvest them, and cook with them. Add to that the fact that garden vegetables are delicious and inexpensive, and I couldn't see any reason to let my financial problems prevent me from retaining this small but important part of my life.
Skipping the spring ritual of gardening seemed like quitting. Every year, I had picked out seeds, dusted off the ones saved from last year, started them inside, nurtured them to seedlings, planned the garden out, and tended it as the summer wore on. I baked with the vegetables and seasoned food with the herbs I grew. This year, I decided to do the same even though we didn't have money for my hobby.
That's how I started my $5 garden project.
I love gardening, and getting to think of it in a different way is exciting and fun. During an economy that has brought me only sad things, it's nice to have a project I enjoy and something I am confident I will be able to do.