June 14, 2017
Fresh off the announcement of our Grow by FarmHer events for the upcoming school year, I have been thinking about my message. At all of the past Grow events, I have shared the wisdom that I have gathered along this journey with the young women in attendance. Some are lessons learned from the women I meet, some are lessons I have learned myself, and usually learned the hard way. My hope is that by sharing these lessons through my message that at least a few of the bright young faces looking at me from the audience will soak that in and carry it with them to use when they need it the most.
Each Grow by FarmHer event is all about empowerment, having a “you can do it” attitude, and the message of “this might not be easy, but stick with it if it is what you want.” One theme that I always talk about is not giving up. If I look back at the last 19 years of my life - since I started out in college to where I am now - that has been the main factor that I can credit any success (and failure haha) too. Just keep going and don’t give up. If you want it bad enough, you will get there. Now, that said, every time I stand on that stage and speak those words a little voice always nags me from somewhere buried in the back of my brain, reminding me that there have been times that I have given up.
Just a few short years ago I had a “successful” career in corporate agriculture. I had climbed that ladder as fast and furious as I could for over a decade. The promise of a higher salary, more stability, and respect from my peers was always in my sights, until the day it wasn’t. See, those years there took a toll on me. For starters, I always had two different sides of myself - Work Marji and Marji Marji. Work Marji STRESSED ME OUT, forgot to laugh, was a little too proper, left too much unsaid and was usually very frustrated. Where I worked, being a woman, and a young one at that, always felt like a cloud that floated over my head. I felt like I had to work harder, faster and smarter than the guy next to me just to prove myself. Then, for the last few years of that career, it just felt like I had hit a wall. No matter how hard I pushed, fought or tried that I was just never going to break through what was left of that “grass ceiling” and to be honest with myself, I didn’t really want to. That, combined with the fact that I was less than inspired by the work I was doing and the feeling that I was a fish out of water all of the time led me to the decision to leave. So I quit. I gave up. I stopped “sticking with it.” Since that day in February of 2013, I have felt like maybe I should have taken my own advice and fought through. Where would I be now if I had? My days would surely be a little calmer, my travel schedule not quite so crazy and my bank account fuller, but I also know that my heart wouldn’t be nearly as complete.
Sitting in the Pennsylvania Grow by FarmHer event earlier this year, I heard a young woman ask our keynote, my friend and former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden, what would she suggest doing if you just don’t feel like you are getting anywhere. Krysta’s answer was simple. She said that sometime’s it is okay to walk away. Imagine that...a woman as highly regarded as Krysta saying that sometimes it is ok to just walk away. I took so much comfort in hearing a woman of her stature say those simple words. As I listened to her talk, I couldn’t help but think about my career and the choices I have made. I used to look at myself as a little bit of a quitter when it came to my former career. Someone who couldn’t walk the walk or talk the talk. Someone who couldn’t or didn’t want to keep pushing through like I am always telling girls they should. But, as I listened to her talk, I realized that I didn’t quit, at least in the negative sense. I simply took a break, and changed paths. I altered the way the story was written in my head. After I left, I kept going, found my passion in FarmHer and since then have pushed, climbed, scraped and stumbled my way into something so much better, and so much more for myself and my talents.
So, if today you are struggling with a decision about changing the way your story is written, remember that the person most hung up on what path you take might just be looking at you in the mirror. Remember, there is a difference between quitting and knowing when you have had enough. Quitting today doesn’t mean you have to quit forever. Use that change and those decisions to propel yourself forward to the next big thing, the next bright idea or the next little joy in your life.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Quitting is leading too.”
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