Clawed back from nature…

This won’t mean much to you, but since I’ve been working on it almost since I bought the house it’s one of those things that means a hell of a lot to me. You see, I’ve been trying to claw back about 500 square feet of back yard the pervious owner let go to the woods. Although 400 square feet is hardly worth a mention in man’s great efforts at deforestation, I’m taking it as a great achievement and point of personal pride.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time clearing brush and then deciding which trees and saplings to take to make that corner feel like part of the yard without clear cutting it. Although the heavy lifting was finished early this spring there were a few stray stumps that deviled my ability to bring in the heavy lawn care equipment.

Yesterday morning’s temperate conditions proved beautiful weather to hammer down the stumps with a maul and an ax – and marked the first time I could get the riding mower into that section to keep things cut down to a more yard-like style. It’s still filled with weeds and some of the native mountain laurel looks like it could develop into promising pieces. Considering where it started, I’m well pleased with where we stand now. After beating nature into submission with both blunt and sharpened steel, yesterday was the first time a cut and trim started to fall inside the realm of regular weekly lawn care instead of being a “special project.” Give it another two years of carefully tended growth and it should be a fine little plot of land.

Because virtually none of what takes place outside of my fence line ever feels like it’s ever completed work, I feel good about this small win.

What do you want?

Six months ago as part of the annual mandatory evaluation process that pretty much everyone who has ever had a job goes through, I got asked a variation of the most common question ever put to an employee – What do you want out of your career / What are your goals? When faced with that question most people give the stock answer about gaining more experience, growing their position, and taking on more responsibility. That’s the answer everyone expects to hear when they ask that question. The call and response of that question are so ingrained in the professional world that they’re practically boilerplate.

I guess sticking to a script was never one of my strong points. When an idea pops into my head, there’s always a good chance it’s going to come flying out of my mouth in the form of words. The ones that came hurtling out of my face in response to what should have been an no-brainer kind of question still make me smile six months later. That’s probably because they formed the most honest answer I’ve ever given to that kind of question. The look on my interlocutor’s face made veering wildly off the party line all the more worthwhile.

So if you’re asking yourself by this point what is it I want out of my career or what my goals are, the answer is surprisingly simple. As best I remember, it went a little something like this:

I want to stash enough cash away to buy up 20 or 30 acres of West Virginia; a little property, maybe with a stream running through it, with lots of trees, seclusion, and a strong gate at the end of the driveway. A little cabin, a wood stove, solar panels, and not much reason to come down out of my own personal Walden. I want to spend the days writing and the long summer evenings sitting with the dogs on the porch with my feet up watching the sun drop behind the mountains. When it snows I want to not care how long it takes to melt or how long it will be until I can leave. I want to not be driven by a relentless morning alarm, six meetings a day, and an inbox that never empties. I want to balance the scale a lot more towards life and way less towards work. Those are my goals, since you asked.

Trust me, that’s not the kind of answer your boss is looking for when they ask the question. It’s not the answer I should have given and it’s certainly not the one I’d recommend anyone else giving. It does however, have the virtue of being the first time in almost two decades of work that I answered that question honestly. I still feel kind of good about that.