In April 2019, I was laid off from what I’d call my dream job in professional football, when I was a part of the ambitious attempt to launch the AAF (Alliance of American Football) ahead of Vince McMahon’s ill-fated / ill-timed depending on you look at it, return of the XFL in 2020. There’s so much more to that story, but this post is about what I did after that amazing experience came to an abrupt halt.
Since I’d started at the AAF in October 2019, putting me 2 months behind my counterparts in the other 7 cities marketing their teams, I didn’t really have the luxury of taking time off as I was wrapping up my last role, which culminated in my final production of the 2019 MarTech Conference in Boston, the week before I started the football gig. And honestly, for the last year or so, I’d been going pretty non-stop with event production cycles so it was adding up.
So, after six months of pulling 12 hour days, sometimes 6 days a week with some of the best teammates on the planet, the unexpected downtime was kind of a needed break. And thus began the summer of ‘funemployment’. I was constantly job searching, applying and interviewing, but I also knew after my great experience in pro sports, that my standards would be high, and I was focused on finding the right role, not just any job at that point in my career.
In any event, with more time on my hands to mountain bike, hike, SUP, and relax by the pool, I also started to explore whether I’d be any good at more seriously growing a vegetable garden in my backyard.
Ten years ago, we’d redone the landscaping and planned for a considerably sized garden, with drip irrigation plumbing available to it, but life got in the way, and we were busy, so we never built it out. So with all this newfound extra time on my hands, I started a small raised bed garden in Spring of 2019, just to see if I could not kill anything and develop something of a green thumb.
Upcycled old furniture into garden beds:
I’d not thought to video chronicle my gardening attempts until this year, but this recap captures how I got started during the forced break in my career:
The pictures below are what I grew during that time off, and truth be told, it was such an unexpected way to relieve stress, find comfort and reassurance during a time that had many job search frustrations, and the negative feelings that come with being laid off or passed over for a role you know you were the right candidate for.
Having tangible proof that you were good at something you didn’t know you would be good at, or giving yourself an opportunity to learn new skills personally or professionally, is always a mental health boost. In this case, a physical one too, with eating healthy, organic, homegrown veggies!
The things I grew turned into many dishes over the summer and early fall – from grilled squash to zoodles, fresh caprese salads, to homemade hot pepper salsas and one deliciously spicy habanero mango salsa, gardening became as much of a stress reliever as cooking is for me.