This is my ginger plant.
I have not historically been very good at growing plants. My mama has a green thumb known throughout her town (or at least among friends and neighbors, who turn the corner at the end of the block and see her garden exploding from the row of grassy lawns that surrounds it). Like me, my brother lives in a city apartment. Unlike me, his windowsills and fire escape burst with lovely green life. Many plants have graced my city sills – bright amaryllises lovingly potted by my mother every Christmas, fresh herbs to brighten my home cooking, flowers brought as hostess gifts – and many have withered in my care. When the topic of gardening comes up, I’ve been known to go a little wistful. My identity, when it comes to gardening, has long been that I greatly admire those who grow plants, but I’m no good at it myself.
Similarly, I have never thought of myself as someone who is good at marketing. I have long admired those who excel at it, especially in my own field, but it hasn’t been something I have historically enjoyed. I have, in fact, uttered the phrase “I hate marketing,” on more than one occasion. (I’m sorry, awesome marketing people with whom I share this internet space. I haven’t said it in a long time, but I have said it, and I’m sorry.) The thought of promoting myself, at least in the abstract, still fills me with mild dread. I am not sure of the exact origin of the belief that I’m bad at marketing, but I suspect it has much to do with working for a long time in a field that I didn’t love. In my early twenties, networking felt awkward and forced, and I explained my desk job with rote descriptions devoid of passion. I am a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of girl, and my heart was very rarely in my work, so trying to promote myself (or my organization for that matter) was uncomfortable, and I chalked it up to hating self-promotion or promotion of my business, to not being a “marketing person.”
But here’s the thing: the notion that one can simply not be a “marketing person” is a myth. I remember very clearly the first time I realized this. I was at a friend’s birthday party, fresh out of massage school and newly licensed, wary of launching my private practice (if I built it, would they come?), baby stepping into my new career by working for a chiropractor and at a spa. Someone I had never met asked me what I did for a living, and I told her. She told me about a pain in her neck, and the conversation flowed from there. We talked muscle attachments and trigger points, posture and exercise, different ways to approach bodywork and self-care, and, somewhere in there, I realized that I was being downright effusive, bordering on bubbly. For years, talking about my work with strangers was my absolute least favorite thing to do at a party, a formality to get out of the way before really getting to know someone. Yet here I was, talking about my work, connecting with this new person, and it was the best part of my night. As the conversation drew to a close and she headed out the door, I gave her my card. Wait a minute. Had I just promoted myself and thoroughly enjoyed myself at the same time? My mind, as well as my identity as a hater of self-promotion, was blown.
Alas, a remarkable overnight transformation did not ensue. I did not realize one night that promoting my work could be fun and wake up in a swirl of enthusiastic private practice marketing the next day. A couple of years later, I still have to push myself fairly hard sometimes to generate blog posts and emails and the like. Talking to people about my work is a blast, but making the initial connections that lead to these conversations and ultimately to client relationships is still a bit of a slog for me. But it’s worth it. Working in the treatment room of the yoga studio I love, keeping my own files, bringing people in and having the opportunity to listen and connect all on my own merit is the most gratifying work that I have ever done. When I get an email from someone who has read my blog and thinks I might be just what they’re looking for, it goes straight to my heart. Really.
What does this have to do with my ginger plant? The internet, with its infinite knowledge, informed me a few months back that it was possible to grow a ginger plant from the very ginger you find at the supermarket (it being a rhizome and all). Brooklyn is not necessarily the ideal climate for ginger, but I had some on hand, and I thought it might be fun to grow a little something. What did I have to lose other than this little ginger nub that was already past its culinary prime, sporting the beginnings of baby green shoots? I threw it in a pot of dirt and gave it lots of water. For a few days, I covered it with a glass bowl to keep it cozy hot and humid. And it grew! Weeks passed, then months, and my plant is still alive. It is getting tall and lanky now, still sprouting new stalks. It looks like bamboo, a little slice of tropical Zen in my front window. I see it first thing when I come home, and it serves as a reminder of the growth that can happen when you toss out negative old ideas of yourself and try something new.
I’m not saying that my thumbs are now glowing green. I will continue to bring home potted herbs because I like plants, and it’s more economical than buying them cut anyway, and I will try my darnedest to keep them alive, but some of them might not make it. I’m sorry, guys. I’m really, really trying, but sometimes there are aphids and weird molds and not quite enough light and probably other stuff that hasn’t come up for me yet. And I am far from a master of marketing. I might spend a whole afternoon thinking up and writing out a really great promotion or ad that doesn’t actually bring anybody through my door. That’s a thing that can happen, but it’s OK by me. I may not be a master of gardening or marketing just yet, but there’s evidence on both fronts that my efforts are worthwhile. After all, neither plants nor my practice will ever thrive if I don’t give it a whirl.
Megan Spence is a Licensed Massage Therapist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She is continually astonished by just how much she loves her work. You can read more about Megan’s adventures in massage and various other things body-related at Bodywork Brooklyn.