When we’re teenagers, we need labels. We need an easy way to self-identify, to compartmentalize and sort ourselves and others. This is part of our emotional growth. We figure out who we are, partially by figuring out what “group” we belong in, or want to belong in.
Eventually, hopefully, we grow up.
And we reach a point in which going our own way, and following our own path, is the only way that makes sense.
I’ve been marching to the beat of a different drummer for most of my life, it seems. But professionally, I was perfectly fine with wearing the label of “garden writer.” I write about gardening, therefore, I’m a garden writer, right?
The problem is that I’m starting to see that my vision of gardening is vastly different from most professional garden writers’ vision of gardening. I don’t see the garden as a force unto itself. I don’t see beauty as the ultimate goal. I don’t believe in telling people how to conform to everyone else’s idea of what an “acceptable” garden looks like. And I’m not interested in schmoozing with “garden celebrities” (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.)
I believe that gardening is so much bigger than most garden writers are willing to admit. And I believe that there’s room for everyone to garden, whether they grow a perfectly adorned formal herb garden or a haphazard veggie patch. I don’t believe in formulas; in telling people “my way is right and yours is wrong.”
Do I want to help people garden? Yes. Do I want to help them learn about how to grow organically? Absolutely. Am I here to separate the world of gardeners into “haves” and “have nots?”
I believe that as a gardener and as a writer, I can use both my garden and my voice for good. I can call out injustice when I see it, and fight to the bitter end to defend someone else’s right to garden — someone who will never know me beyond a name and maybe a URL.
I will never be famous. And I’ll never be rich. I don’t want to be either of those things anyway. I say what I believe, and I fight for what’s right. I don’t have to calculate the risks of saying something unpopular, because I’m not trying to win anyone’s favor. The only thing I have to answer to is my conscience. And it and I are on pretty good terms with one another lately.
So I’m not a garden writer. That is too small a title. I’ve outgrown it. And I’m thinking I need a new one.
But for now, simply being “Colleen” is good enough.
“I’m not a woman, I’m a force of nature.” — Courtney Love