Today is my last day on staff at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. It has been my privilege over the last eight years to create some amazing things with colleagues, partners, stakeholders and neighborhood residents to improve the quality of life and promote a sense of community through horticulture. To all I have worked with and near, thank you. I am especially grateful for the amazing friendships and connections that I will carry with me always. I have grown and changed in ways I could not have predicted because of the nature of the work and the support I have received from a very dedicated group of individuals. I've had some really great teachers here -- some were sort of obvious, like my supervisors and mentors, but some of the best lessons came from peers, co-workers and partners even if I wasn't ready to hear them at first. My heartfelt gratitude to you all.
At my going away party at PHS last week, I offered up some of my learnings from my experiences that will carry over long past the time when I turn in my key card. I told my friends and colleagues assembled that evening that I would share them here.
1. Prioritize friendships, partnerships and relationships over projects. Be that person that other people want to work with, individually and organizationally. Sign up for projects with people you haven't worked with before. Build wide and deep, both here and with outside partners. You'll probably have more fun and may build lasting friendships (or at least generate some good stories!)
2. Have patience and perseverance. A metaphor for life, urban greening and partnership-building is marathon, not a sprint. The stuff that takes the longest to make happen and with the most partners has the biggest impact: Hawthorne Park took 10+ years, many partners and lots of community to bring to realization. And nothing lasts without maintenance -- bringing intention to landscapes, partnerships, and friendships. On the job too -- individuals may come and go as co-workers, but the relationships continue and the value of the work that benefits the city and the people and communities doesn't stop as long as there are people still invested in the spirit and maintenance of the project and partnership.
3. Be open to new ideas. Some of the best projects I've worked on at PHS at first sounded too big or too out there. I resisted a couple of ideas (but supported them anyway!) that turned out to be leading edge projects that have changed the landscape of urban greening around the country. I've learned to listen to new ideas more openly, and I've also learned that without dreaming big, you probably aren't aiming high enough. I will never lose my pragmatic bias, but I've learned to shut up and listen to stuff that I first think is nuts.
4. Embrace forgiveness and second chances. Everybody deserves to receive both, but more importantly, everybody deserves to give both.
5. If you are fortunate enough to work someplace that provides paid time off, take it! Plan and announce it far in advance if you have to. Life is about experiences. Go to the family reunion. Take that trip you've always dreamed about. Get that home project done you've been meaning to tackle. Take your partner to a beading convention. Visit Knoebels with your kids while they're still young enough to appreciate it. Do the ziplines and treetop adventure at Lums Pond State Park. Seek opportunities for professional development. You owe it to yourself to live a life that is rich and full and varied. If you are somebody's boss, encourage it and set a good example.
6. Find a way to be happy. It comes from within and can be found in any situation. There are actual things you can do to make yourself happier. This is not just pollyanna stuff. Nothing is more important. If you're still reading this blog post, see if you can find 12 more minutes to watch this TedTalk from Shawn Achor about happiness at work, then check out his picks for other TedTalks on happiness when you can.
I'm sure there is more. I DO go on. For now, let me say "so long" to PHS. Even though I'm very much looking forward to getting started on my new adventure as Director of Communications and New Media at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, I will savor the PHS memories, cherish the friendships, and carry the lessons with me always.