FINDING BALANCE - KIM MAGGS
Balance – a state of perfect equilibrium – that perfect state of being. Whether we are full-time gardeners, weekend allotmenteers, or office workers with a pot plant on our desk, our ultimate happiness usually comes back to that one word. Balance.
I suppose I’d always done everything you’re ‘supposed’ to do – I did well at school, went to university, and have carved out a successful corporate career for myself – but rewind about 6 years and I was in a job that left me feeling unfulfilled, and yet seemed to define my whole existence. If I wasn’t at
work, I would spend my evenings riddled with anxiety about my day, and what I’d haveto do the rest of that week. Perhaps you know the feeling – that tight, nervous feeling in your gut on a Sunday evening? Yep, that’s the one.
We had just bought our first house, and back then the garden was right at the bottom of my list of priorities, if it was even on the list at all. It wasn’t until a climber, that could probably feature on the set of Jumanji, literally started taking over the garden, that shame forced me into taking action. The
more I nurtured and watched my garden take shape, the more I found myself spending every Saturday morning getting up early to be in the garden, and, like so many people, it became a place to escape, relax, be creative and the only place I felt I could truly be myself.
But finding this happiness at weekends only made the void in my Monday-Friday feel all the more apparent. Lacking the confidence that I could be one of those people that has a ‘career,’ and not just a job I did ‘until something better came along’, I looked at what I could do outside of work and stumbled across an evening course at my local college where I could learn more about my beloved plants!
So every Tuesday, I would finish work by 5:30, get the bus to college, and do 2 hours of plant study towards my RHS Certificates in Horticulture. Despite the long day, I never once felt like I’d rather just go home – I soaked up the knowledge and loved meeting people like me who loved plants enough to endure the crazy hours! People were from all different backgrounds – young, retired, men, women, professional landscapers, hobby gardeners, but as adults we were all terrified of 1 thing – the exams! I’d say my academic background prepared me in some ways, but in others it was a complete culture shock, and I wouldn’t say it gave me an advantage – in fact, a lot of the older people who hadn’t done an exam for 40 years got higher marks than me, and good on them! Doing this course lit a fire inside of me, and I realised that if I could do something I love outside of work, then I deserved to love what I do during the day too. The seemingly small act of putting my happiness first and taking the time to do something I loved was my first act of Self Love, and it has completely snowballed for me from there!
Whilst it’s always a work in progress, I feel like I’ve found that balance in my life that I craved. Doing something just for me made me realise that life is about putting my own happiness and needs first – life should be full up with things that inspire and excite you, not full of dread and lacking joy. It inspired me to leave the job that wasn’t lighting me up – I have so much more work-life balance in my current career, which allows me to spend more time doing the things I love. found I do actually enjoy the challenge and pace of corporate life, but I also love the calm and stillness that the outdoors brings. For me, I find I can’t do one without the other – at work we are always rushing around, but in contrast, my garden grows slowly, in its own time, and being around plants brings more of the calm into my life that I need.
I’ve also recently been pregnant and suffered with preeclampsia which gives
you high blood pressure – I have a monitor at home, and I’d go out in the garden and I could literally watch my blood pressure lower. Nature really is magic!
I am proud to say I now hold the RHS Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture (having now completed the theory and practical courses), and it’s led me to some of the most exciting things! I was so proud to wear my purple RHS t-shirt to volunteer at Hampton Court Garden Festival, and just as proud to be a Horticultural Steward at the Royal Norfolk Show. I’ve been on a garden design course with Adam Frost, my hero! But these are all things that you can do too if you want to extend your passion!
I would ask yourself – what can I do to bring myself more happiness and joy – and do more of that!
And of course, I’d encourage everyone to get outside!
Follow Kim on Instagram @kimgrows
I don’t mind admitting that this is pretty difficult to write in words as its a very dark point in my life. You see when I was 17 I had 3 circumstances in the space of 2 weeks which lead me to this dark space. I was stabbed (I say it was more a slashing but it was called a stabbing), my best friend had a heart attack as we walked home one evening and I found a dead body in a pond. These led me to suffer with ptsd and depression.
For the first couple of years I tried to cope with this on my own, I didn’t want to tell anyone I had a problem but my life was crumbling around me due to how the illness affecting me. I wasn't sleeping, I was often off work ill or was late getting into work. I was moody and very much an asshole.
However once I admitted I had a problem and got help I started to rebuild my life I stated to realise that I needed something in my life that made me happy and that's where gardening became a positive force in my life.
I had always gardened throughout my life be it my collection of succulents and houseplants or a vegetable patch I had in our previous house but I realised that when I was a teenager I was always happy in my vegetable patch. What I also realised when I was analysing my life was that as a teenager I would self harm (I Am not proud of this) but this was usually in the darker winter months when I couldn’t get into the garden.
Armed with this and on my road to recovery I started working in my parents borders and build a cottage style garden full of hollyhocks, delphiniums, lupins to name just a few.
Pretty soon I had expanded this border and added more and more plants in tubs and baskets all over my parents garden. This project really helped me. It gave me a reason to get up on weekends, it gave me a project to sink my teeth into and as it grew and improved it helped my self esteem and a sense of achievement. The only downside is as people would walk past my mum got the credit for a nice looking garden.
Now 20 years later I believe that gardening is more then just creating a nice looking garden. It creates a positive mental attitude, a sense of achievement and more importantly it makes me happy.