Today I confessed a shameful secret I’ve been harboring for nearly a decade: I was turned down not once but twice for the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener training in Rensselaer County in upstate New York. The self-disclosure was so satisfying that I’ve decided to go public with it on my blog.
After my Nia class at the Y, I was chatting with two Master Gardeners about last weekend’s flower and garden show at the nearby community college, and they were raving about the flowery archway one of their fellow M.G.s had created at the entrance of the show. Impulsively I pulled one of them aside – she’s a retired psychotherapist with empathetic listening skills – and confided in her about that long-ago humiliation.
I’ve endured my fair share of rejections over the years as an artist, writer and job applicant, but I’ve always aced the application process when it comes to training programs and schools, up to and including top-flight Ivy League colleges like Radcliffe and Columbia. Perhaps that’s why this particular failure rankled so badly – that, and the fact that I had absolutely no clue why they considered me a persona non grata.
But over the years I’ve come to realize they may have made the right decision. Back in the day, I was wild about gardening. I wrote about it, even developed an elaborate proposal for a book called The Blissful Gardener. But I decided that I probably didn’t have the credentials or experience to sell it, much less the gorgeous photographs demanded for that kind of book. My gardening efforts, in fact, were fairly pathetic. I loved the sense of joy and wellbeing engendered by gardening. I had great ideas and design sense, and I loved planting my latest finds, but I lacked enthusiasm for the more mundane tasks that demanded perseverance – minor things like mulching, weeding and watering.
For the interviews, I brought copies of articles I’d written and described the fresh contributions I could make to the Master Gardener program. But I’m afraid I didn’t come across as much of a team player or journeyman worker compared to the applicants who’d put in countless hours as volunteer gardeners over the years.
Back then I was in a depressive phase, still adjusting to retirement and not yet a published author, and I remember sobbing about how I was a total failure and nobody wanted me for anything. But that feeling is long gone, and I’m better off without the serious time commitment entailed in being a Master Gardener. At Saturday’s garden expo I sat in the front row for a presentation on “Tough Plants for Tough Places” by the program head who’d twice rejected me. I peppered him with questions and contributed a couple of nuggets of my own.
Did my nemesis remember me all these years later? I don’t know and frankly I don’t care. All that shame, anger and depression is gone at long last. As my therapist friend says, it’s good to have closure. And though I may never be a Master Gardener, I can still be a blissful one.