Over the past several years, I was struggling with a feeling of unrest in my career and a lack of overall fulfillment. Parallel to my character and my motto, “if you don’t like it, change it”, I started searching for something new. This led to many twists and turns with an astounding discovery and real life change. Reflecting back, I realize the power of connections.
Search for a Change
My search for a change, started with polishing my resume and applying for a PT job in another location. I interviewed and didn’t get the job. I thought about opening up my own clinic. I talked myself out of that one. I then looked “outside the box” and applied to be an anatomy professor at a local college. I interviewed and was let down again. I began to wonder if someone is looking out for me and trying to tell me that this is not the right path. I realized I was dreaming of something different. I just couldn’t put my finger on what that was.
These dreams were tremendously varied from online personal trainer, blogger and nutrition coach to renovating properties and going back to work with my husband in construction. I got certified in nutrition coaching, signed up to be an online coach and started a blog. I enjoyed each of these things yet I didn’t felt fully satisfied or motivated to push forward enough to make it be life changing for me.
Urban Farming Dream
In early summer of last year, my husband and I drove to our favorite greenhouse in northern WI to purchase plants for our cottage. This greenhouse is attached to a home of couple who described growing plants as a two season business. Their plants are incredibly healthy and their operation appears to be a thriving gem hidden on a quiet country highway. I left inspired and wondered how I could make a living growing plants for only 6 months out of the year. Knowing this wasn’t realistic, I began to wonder what else I could do that would allow me get my hands dirty but year round?
A Fire in Me
During one of my online searches for clarity and inspiration, I came across a you tube video of a man from WI who has successfully grown vegetables year round and is making a living doing so. I soon discovered that he has many many videos and I got engrossed in watching most of them. I felt a fire in me.
I was ecstatic to think that working with plants year round may be a possibility. His concept was a form of hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) called aeroponics. Aeroponics requires less space and enables you to grow year round, even in WI! Imagine, fresh local greens in February!
My search took off and I was been completely engrossed in online information, library books, facebook groups and you tube videos. I wanted to get started growing right away. Well…I went off in this direction for almost a year.
I searched google maps for hydroponic farms in WI. Amazingly, I found a successful operation, Canopy Gardens, in Antigo which is 40′ from our cottage. I messaged them on facebook and got an appointment for a tour. My husband and I drove to this farm and was very impressed with both the 20 year operation and the knowledgeable owner. We observed a traditional hydroponic system for tomato plants on a large scale. We learned that this is a very viable business. However, I left feeling overwhelmed. I didn’t envision myself running a business of that size and wondered if my dreams of a quaint urban farm was unrealistic. I also wondered if my mobile aeroponic garden was the right purchase.
When we arrived home, my mobile garden was waiting for me in a very large heavy box. With somewhat reserved excitement, I opened up my new mobile garden and put it on my back porch. I imagined this unit loaded with dark healthy greens that I would share with everyone I knew. I would wheel this garden into the back of a truck, drive it to some local restaurants and get them excited to buy from me. My new career would then be a reality! However, a part of my newly educated mind was a bit skeptical and I wondered if these greens could actually be enough to make me a living?
I shoved that thought from my mind and moved forward. I planted the shipped non-GMO seeds in the rockwool cubes I received, adjusted the pH of the water with my new pH kit, found a plant heat mat in my basement and got the germination started. I then felt paranoid. I’ve never had luck with growing plants indoors from seed. I was determined to make this happen so I’ve attentively attended to “my babies” and have watched them start to grow.
While waiting for these plants to grow large enough to transplant into my new mobile garden, I continued to read everything I could get my hands on. I discovered that the term “urban farming” would populate with the majority of my searches on hydroponics. I learned that hydroponics is a form of urban farming since it can be done anywhere as soil is not required. I also found that urban farming includes traditional soil growing but at a smaller scale. I am drawn to soil and understand the desire to grow more authentically in mother earth. I began to wonder if the nutrients used in the water of hydroponics are organic and if I would feel disconnected from earth. I wondered if my sister Alyssa would approve. I yearned for her to tell me what to do.
Several days later, I literally dreamt of being some version of a farmer and recall hearing someone tell me “don’t use chemicals” over and over. I wondered if this was Alyssa reaching out to me. I know my sister loved her soil but I think she would be a supporter of me trying this hydroponic thing provided I figured out how to do it organically. I felt a new mission underway. I joined an organic hydroponic facebook group and started asking about how to do this organically. Are the nutrients I received organic or do I need to look for a new source? Of course, this became quite complicated with a debate over semantics. There was a large variety of opinions and perspective with an assortment of complex home made nutrients to ready made bags.
Fast forward a few months…
While happily growing my greens, I continued to make a living as a physical therapist in a hospital-based orthopedic clinic. Although I enjoyed the general construct of my job, I really didn’t look forward to the day to day semantics. My mind was torn between farming and figuring out this PT thing. I began to listen better to the people in my life. I heard over and over that I am meant to do physical therapy. It was naturally engrained in me. I was told that I am good at it and that it would be a shame for me to give it up. I had a gnawing feeling they were right, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it in a way I actually enjoyed.
A New Opportunity…if you just listen
I discovered some incredibly inspiring podcasters, particularly, Dr. Jarod Carter, DPT. He talked about offering physical therapy in a way I only dreamt of. Less paperwork, more patient time, greater autonomy and a whole lot of creativity. Once again, I was thoroughly engrossed in learning. New ideas started to formulate inside of me. I began to notice the key players that were masterfully placed in my life at this time. I listened attentively.
I revisited the thought of opening up my own PT clinic. Once an impossible idea I quickly dismissed, was now very real. I reverted back to my old motto, “if you don’t like it, change it”. I just made a decision. I was going to have my own PT clinic. I wasn’t exactly sure how or where, but, honestly, once I made that decision to do it, everything fell into place. Within a few days, like clockwork, I was asked after a yoga class, if I was interested in practicing PT in the same building the class was held. I couldn’t believe it! It was like I was watching the next steps of my life being magically woven into place.
Anything is Possible
I met with the building and wellness studio owner, Gina Armstrong. Our visions were spot on and Juniper Physical Therapy was born! I resigned from my day job and started immediately working on shaping my vision. It felt so natural and for the first time ever, I felt my true calling. All those years of questioning, “what am I supposed to do with my life”, were answered.
Yes, this was scary. But, what pushed me forward, was my dear husband, Eric. He said that I would never fail. He confidently knew that I would make this work. Even if there were rough spots, I would figure it out. He told me I do not fail. It just isn’t in me. This was all I needed to hear. He knows me best and said the perfect things at the perfect time. Now, I don’t always believe this about myself, but I am definitely using this as my mantra every single time I feel any fear. And, well, it works!
BTW, my plants are still growing strong hydroponically. I fed my family fresh greens in February! Maybe this is all I was meant to do with them? Maybe they will feed my healthy patients and friends? Who knows. This path has been incredibly exciting. Stepping aside and listening to ALL of the people in my life has made all the difference for me. The thing is, the people who I consider my “key players” were not just family and friends. I listened to strangers, podcasters, and the naysayers. It is actually quite astounding how powerful we are to one another when you take the time to notice how your life is masterfully woven. The power of our connections with one another is amazing.
An ode to my key players…THANK YOU