Evolution. We see it every day on our land. What started as dense forest system, every day is moving toward a working forest based ecosystem. Overtime that evolution happens within us and outside of us too. With myself, with James and with Ellie. It happens with the business and with our dreams.
Often times, I wake in the middle of the night to my heart racing. I never know what sets off the palpitations until I’m slightly more lucid, a few seconds after popping up. My heart isn’t the only thing racing, it’s my thoughts. I try to separate the thoughts pounding in my head and the beat jumping from my chest. I get up and splash my face with cool water and lean over the sink, breathing deeply, still working to make sense of what’s running through my head. It’s nearly always about the farm, something that I don’t think I might have done, suddenly coming into my head. “Did I close the brooder? Did I plug the fence back in? Did I remember to refill that water before bed?”
But often times it is the farm presented in thoughts of fear, the fear of failure washing over me. Thoughts race through my head as I stand over the sink. My own mind saying terrible things to myself like, “You had a slow market yesterday, what did you do wrong this week to cause people to shop less? You are losing your touch.” “You better start worrying about money. If your markets continue to be slow, you might as well start planning to sell the farm.” “You’re never going to be as good as that person.” “That person is going to come along and steal all of your customers and you’ll run out of money and have to sell the farm.” “Why are you trying so hard? You’re going to fail anyway, end the misery now.” I stand there wondering why my own mind would say such horrible things to me, why the irrational thoughts come in and overpower any rational thoughts and feelings I might have left inside of me.
Dealing with irrational thoughts in my head is a daily and nightly problem I struggle with. People come to the farm or see me in public and say things like, “you have really got “it” going on.” I just smile and say “I’ve got something going on. Not sure it’s “it” but it’s something.” I’m not sure if I make what we do look easy, but it’s anything but. The financial pressures are debilitating at times. The struggle of wanting to do so much more but not having the money or time to do so is overwhelming. The competition is sometimes exhausting to face. At times it is unbearable to watch as competitors grow and thrive and you feel stagnant. Working in a business that is now, somewhat of a lifestyle trend, is exhausting as we battle daily, those that pretend that “farming” is fun and shiny and easy when in reality, if you’re actually doing it, it’s dirty and hard and heartbreaking more times than not. Separating the real from the fake in my mind is a task that can stop me in my tracks. Separating those that are in my circle versus those that are truly in my corner is as equal of parts of exhausting as it is keeping me up at night from the anxiety of never truly knowing. The desire to be successful and build a household name for a local community where you’re an outsider, at times feels like the loneliest place on the earth. Those debilitating feelings leave it difficult to motivate at times, they leave it difficult to trust others and open up on truly personal levels.
Another farmer friend in Louisiana recently told me to use the fear of failure as a way to “light a fire under yourself to be an EVEN BETTER version of you and what you’re doing.” Evolve. Just as the land around us, just as our relationships as a family, as a husband and a wife, evolve the farm, evolve the business, evolve as a leader. Every day I work to evolve, I work to evolve myself as a person and a business woman and as a leader. I evolve by admitting these faults, admitting these fears and owning them. Owning the irrational thoughts and saying to myself, “that is irrational” and reminding myself of what is true and pushing through to find them. I evolve by consistently working on myself through the journey in hopes that by focusing inward at my demons, I can evolve and grow outwardly in my business, as a person and as a leader. I try to evolve by letting go of the judgements that others have made against me and I work even harder to let go of the judgements I have made about myself and my successes and my failures. And sometimes it seems most of all, I work to evolve into a daily place of getting out of my own head space to stop worrying about what is happening outside of the 40 acres of this farm.
Part of my problem however is that I am an overachiever. I always have been. In a sense, the fire that all of this fear lights under me, is one that I have to curb from being so bright, that it burns me out. For as long as I can remember I’ve been an overachiever, even as an 8 year old equestrian, always out to prove I wasn’t just good enough but I was the best. I was like this until I sold my horses at 18.
I remember in high school riding the NJ TRANSIT bus to the YMCA at 5am to train before school for tennis, only to work out again at lunch or study hall, only to then go to practice after class. I may never have been able to say I was the best tennis player, but I’ll be damned if my coaches didn’t tell me I was the hardest working, most determined player they’d ever seen. I spent my high school career accepting that if I couldn’t be the best, I’d be all the other things, and dammit I was. There’s been studies conducted that show that successful people and overachieving people are often times the most depressed. Great is never good enough, success isn’t ever truly success because the goals are always increased, expectations heightened. It’s an exhausting way to live, a life spent overachieving, only to look in the mirror and see failure and underachievement. At times that fire ignites so fiercely under me that I feel unstoppable, the fire so warm and bright shines and lights all the good I have done. But it’s that same fire that can engulf me if I allow it to, if I allow those fears of failure to create a blaze so bright it turns me to ash.
You never learn how truly small the world is until you’re fully out in it. All of your thoughts, your family, your life, your hopes and dreams, on display for everyone to see. Your successes, your failures, your fears of letting others down, the fears of others overtaking you consumes what you do until you feel powerless in the life you’ve built up for yourself, the business you’ve created, the lines you’ve blurred in the name of transparency and honesty, in the name of hopes and dreams. Your fears of never achieving what you feel like you were truly meant to achieve haunting you in your sleep as you watch the world around you change and evolve and you watch others achieve what you feel like you should have long ago. And in the swirling vortex of painful thoughts, you find that fire and you remember to let it burn but not engulf. You remember to evolve, but not into someone unrecognizable. You remember to work to evolve the emotions and comprehension of your feelings on the inside, even more than you work to evolve the outside. It’s a daily task, sometimes hourly, as the thoughts and fears consume. But in my truly darkest moments, in my moments where fear breaks through in heart palpitations, I at least know that I can look at myself in the mirror and remind myself that I am still evolving. I have come so far, yet I have so much further to journey in my evolution as a person. I remind myself that in evolution there are growing pains, I’m feeling them now as I evolve. But when I come out on the other side, the growth will be an achievement in and of itself, if only I can allow myself to see it.