My husband and I were looking for a Workaway position in England when we came across Sarah and Will Wint’s Worcestershire garden and bed and breakfast business. A handful of e-mails and eight months later, Dave and I arrived at Brook Farm in the pouring rain, as is a proper British welcome.
I went to Brook Farm full of goals for my time there. I was going to blog three times a week, submit freelance articles monthly, get fit by bicycling to the local village and wandering the public footpaths, and I was going to start my work day early each morning to ensure I had afternoons free to explore the area. I didn’t want to waste a moment of my time at Brook Farm.
If that list is my only measurement for success, then I managed to waste every single moment of the nearly three months I lived at Brook Farm. I never rode a bike to the village, I blogged only sporadically, and I didn’t usually start my work day until after 10 a.m. and worked until dark.
I did other things, though. I journaled over a cup of tea in the mornings. I wandered the garden with my camera, carefully taking perfectly detailed shots of rain drops on green leaves. I watched the chickens eat bugs, and I hunted for hidden stashes of eggs. I stopped by Sarah’s desk in the evenings, laughing about the latest silly thing one of the 13 cats did.
The goals I had for my time at Brook Farm were rubbish. Ticking off items on a list of “proper” ways to spend my time was silly, but I do love a list. So often we think there are right and wrong ways to spend our time. Things we should be doing and things we should not be doing. I should have kept my full-time job in journalism, and I should have still been living my secure Kentucky life. I should not have given it all up in favor of working for a stranger while not earning an income. Luckily, it’s easy to forget those unimaginative axioms when you are busy painting walls, trimming rose bushes, installing fences, mending cracks, obliterating cobwebs and building some of the greatest friendships.
I never made a conscious decision to abandon my Brook Farm goals. But Will told us one night that his best hope for the Workawayers they hosted each winter was that they come and “just be part of the place.” Without realizing it, I did just that. I simply became a part of Brook Farm, another facet to complement its old farmhouse, menagerie of pets, and beautiful gardens. Goals faded away and somehow, I began to just “be.” It was an entirely new feeling for me. I have always been so focused on what comes after the “be”–I wanted to be a writer, be a photographer, be adventurous, be a good daughter, be a good wife, be successful, be fit. I wanted to be so many things, and yet I had never learned how to just be. Brook Farm, with its 550-year-old farmhouse and its acres of English gardens and its silly collection of pets and farm animals worked its way into my soul like no place had done before. The rhythmic creaking of that gorgeous old house and the soothing babble of the eponymous brook became the tempo of my heartbeat. Brook Farm is where I proved to myself that I can do anything, and that includes nothing. The value of my time is not determined by whether I wrote an award-winning article or built a perfect fence. If I stopped to admire the snow drops, listened to the silence or just enjoyed taking a deep breath after an evening rainstorm, my time was not wasted.
About the Author: Amanda Loviza Vickery is an American journalist currently living in England and embracing local life through Workaway, a cultural work exchange that allows her to do anything from building a shed to wiping a cat’s nose.
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