I taught high school from 2016 to 2020.
I loved this job. I loved the kids, being creative, inspiring others, and getting to know my students really well.
But it sucked the life out of me.
Hindsight, I started my teaching career with minimal self-esteem or personal confidence. Some upsetting and unsettling events had taken place as part of my student teaching experience just a few months prior, and I was just so thankful to have a job and feel like I was back with my people.
I thought I had "made it." That this was my life, I was checking off boxes, and that I was safe since I was back in the school I had grown so attached to during student teaching.
What in fact was going on was that I gave over my entire life, energy, thoughts, and sense of self to teaching. My sense of worth lived and died by the success of my students and feedback from my superiors.
Any small setback or piece of constructive criticism to me meant I was failing and needed to work even harder to be the best teacher I could for my students.
What's heartbreaking is that often this narrative is reenforced for teachers, and many other service jobs, like nursing, social work, counseling, and more.
What ended up happening is that I quickly burned out.
I was having breakdowns all the time. I was miserable.
I lacked any kind of compassion or love for myself as a human being.
Four years later, I stepped out of the classroom and into a new space where I still get to teach people things that help them.
This fall 2020, I officially launched my online business, Kendall Barger Plants.
A space to learn how to confidently grow plants and ourselves.
I'm not here to tell you that plants magically "fixed" me or transformed my life into a beautiful dream. I still experience anxiety on a daily basis. I'm a firm believer of and advocate for therapy and mental health services for all.
My journey back to myself and putting my physical, emotional, and mental needs first coincides with my journey into plant-parenthood.
As I learned more about plants, spent more time gardening, and began sharing my planty insights with my community, I started setting more boundaries with work and prioritizing my mental and physical health.
I began making changes in my life in terms of the people I surrounded myself with.
I started getting more and more intuitive messages about what my next step should be.
Plants are a safe space for me. They allow me opportunities to create. To learn. To try new things. To experiment. To make decisions.
As I've learned more and practiced with plants, my confidence has increased.
I know I can do a hard thing--I brought my Trader Joe's $3.50 dying Fiddle Leaf Fig back to life and now it is tall with mature leaves and growing a new one as we speak.
When your confidence and sense of self-worth has been whittled away, sometimes a seemingly small thing like a plant can be a step back to a journey to taking care of yourself first.
That's what they were for me, which is why I am now so passionate about teaching the basics of plant care, so individuals like me can rebuild their personal confidence.
A plant needs you in your home to thrive. You control the water. Where it sits. What surrounds it. That is powerful. And a sacred responsibility.
If personal power, responsibility, and confident decision making are not areas of strength for you, practice with a plant.
Talk to your plant. Say nice things to it.
I struggle to say kind things to myself.
But if I start by saying it first to one of my plants, it feels a little safer and more natural to then say it to me.
Plants can be a piece of your journey back home to you and confidence in yourself.
That's what using plant care as self care means to me.