While all of my camellia cuttings died without rooting, I found solace in my experiments with chrysanthemum cuttings. I got this obscure variety of Chinese chrysanthemum—supposedly edible, and supposedly the kind used in chrysanthemum tea—but I never got to try it last year because it only produced a measly three blooms. This year, I’ve split it into eight plants, each flourishing in pots and in various places around the garden. New stems are growing, and the leaves are a lush, vibrant green.
Wistfully though, I probably won’t be able to see them bloom. This late-blooming varietal was at its peak just before the November frosts last year, and by the time they unleash their beauty, I will be far away in another land (or so I hope).
In a sense, these plants parallel my current experiences. They grow each day, unsure of what’s to come, but with a sense of natural determination. As I work to prepare my garden to grow independently for years to come, I am also accumulating skills to thrive alone for the next few years. While I certainly haven’t grown professionally in the past year, I’ve picked up many good habits in the kitchen. I’ve rekindled old friendships and delved into many of my hobbies. And yet despite all that, the pressure of professionalism nags at me. Not that I care about a gap in my resume—I consider myself extremely apathetic towards the arcane norms of the business world—but the feeling that I am slowly digging myself into a financial hole is uneasy to say the least.
After doing the math, I’ve concluded that I’m still (mostly) in the black. I worked a decent number of hours last year, despite making a salary that I agreed to out of a charitable mind, and spent virtually no money in 2020. In one sense, this is my time to enjoy the fruits of my labor and have one final blast of a summer before disappearing into the unknown once again.
But then I think about the people I could be meeting if I was working somewhere positive. Perhaps I’d be learning a different skill set. Although come to think of it, I carried the same expectations when I joined my previous workplace and left more disappointed than ever. While money is an easy way to evaluate one’s productivity and literal worth, refining oneself brings an incalculable worth. How much money will I save over the course of my life by learning how to cook delicious and nutritious meals? How much more in earnings will I accrue by refining my foreign languages?
Rather than actually calculate reasonable estimations for this, I figured it’d be smartest to do what works best with the situation. Especially during the onset of the pandemic, the likelihood of getting a decent job was so low that I resigned myself to a year of working with students. Seeing as I wouldn’t be making much anyways, I’d at least be making an impact on the next generation. After my contract ended, I considered jumping into a part-time job of some sort—and I haven’t entirely erased this possibility—but I decided that it’d be more worthwhile for myself to take some time to slow down. However, now that vaccinations are happening and jobs are opening left and right, I do feel like it’s about time for me to jump back into the world, refreshed after my year in personal retreat.