On my first day at Volunteer Maryland, there was a sad little potted plant sitting at my desk waiting for me. Think “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree,” and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it looked like. I’d never had a plant before, and I didn’t want it to die because I didn’t think it would be a good reflection on me if it did. I started watering it, and sometimes when I was working late by myself, I’d talk to it. I’d heard that it might be a good thing for plants, and it helped me work through some of the self-doubt I felt at the beginning of my service year. Besides, my dad always talked to his roses when he was frustrated by something at work, and his were some of the biggest roses I’ve ever seen.
After a while, my plant started to turn around. It started growing and filling out, and for now I don’t think it’s going to get any bigger. This weekend, though, I’m going to buy a bigger pot for it, and some potting soil (dirt, actually, but that’s another matter). You see, my plant stopped growing. I was a bit afraid that I had done something to make the plant stop growing, so I started reading about plants. It turns out that when a plants roots can’t stretch out, it stops growing.
One of the things I really appreciate about my service years with Volunteer Maryland is that I’ve had so many different opportunities to stretch out my own roots. (I bet you were wondering where I was going with this, didn’t you?) Last year when I worked with the Maryland Department of the Environment, I had to learn a lot in a fairly short amount of time. I had to trick a computer program into doing something it was never designed to do, and I had to talk in front of a group of more than two hundred people, including the Secretary of the Environment (who is an alumnae of Volunteer Maryland Class 1). I’m sure that if I had gotten some other job instead of joining Volunteer Maryland, I never would have had the chance to grow.
I’ve gotten a much bigger pot this year. I’ve done things I never would have done if I hadn’t continued with Volunteer Maryland, and I’ve learned a lot more about things that I didn’t know anything about, how to balance the demands of an active work and social life, that sometimes you need to take some time to play, and how to be more like Vanilla Ice. Not only that, but things that I’ve learned this year have helped to open up a new career path for me – something that I didn’t even know existed a year and a half ago.
How big is your pot?