I get asked often, “How did you get started as a florist?” This is usually followed by “Did you go to school?” and I find myself telling the story in a short, condensed format. But I thought this new series maybe would be the best place to tell a little more of the story.
I can’t remember a special occasion in my childhood home that didn’t have flowers. Flowers were a mainstay– from holiday dinners to the weekly table, they were always a part of my life. My grandmother is a gardener, and her house is always filled with seasonal treasures in full, vibrant color. Being around that naturally made me more attuned to what was pretty. I planted my first flower garden with my then best friend the summer before fourth grade. It was filled with a motley of flowers, from an overtime-blooming rose bush to brightly colored petunias and fragrant magnolia. We spent our afternoons tending our garden, taking home cut flower bouquets. I was a very creative child, (read imaginiative daydreamer) and I used to spend afternoons making crowns of clover, playing both roles in a wedding with bouquets made of grass.
I remember the first time someone sent me flowers. I was 16 and worked at a dry cleaners, and I had met a boy the night before at someone’s house– the details are slightly fuzzy, but I remember the next day that he sent me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. I still remember how it smelled– the aroma of oriental lilies coupled with stock and roses– and I remember that I dried every flower in that arrangement, planning to save it for always. I somehow lost those pressed blooms along the path of life, but nothing will ever replace the sheer joy I felt at receiving those beautiful blossoms.
The summer of my senior year of high school, I started thinking about career options and future goals. I drove by a florist every day on my way to my after-school job at a clothing store, and remembered the strong, unyeilding urge to want to work at that florist. I had conversations with myself, “I want to be a florist! I want to make flowers!” When coming back to school and undergoing “career day,” I confessed my desires to my high school guidance counselor, to which he brought up some Government listing of projected salaries per career, and said I should really talk to my parents– as if I went to college, I’d do so much better in life financially (the guidance councellor did not really care about “happiness” or “fulfillment”– he seemed to think more on the terms of the bottom line).
His lack of support was discouraging. I fell into a funk, not really sure what direction to take in life. As a result, I took a few years off between high school and college for personal reasons. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to waste money or time trying to find the perfect fit while in school. Back then, career was really a high priority. After working a motley of jobs from at an animal hospital to the Olive Garden as a server, I decided it was time to go to College. I stayed there a long time, first getting my B.S in interdisciplinary studies <– again, could not decide!) and then my Master’s in English.
I realised a lot during that time period. One, I love school, I love learning. There’s something so limitless about it. In undergrad, I studied a mix of subjects: English, Journalism, History and Sociology. I graduated with nearly enough credits to have full degrees in each subject, and I loved each of them for different reasons: Journalism for the rich history of reporting and writing, history for…well, history, and the fact that when we discover the past we can better know the nature of the possible future, Sociology– a true and deep love of mine– for I love learning and understanding why it is that people do what they do. And English– a love I’ve held since childhood, largely based on a passion for writing and reading. I truly feel at home in the subject, and that’s why I opted to pursue a Master’s in English. I combined my love for Sociology and literature by working within textual studies with an emphasis upon Pop Culture and fan behavior. My thesis focused on the modern-day fan and the conditions of fandom. While in school, I co-authored several books on popular culture with David Lavery and Lynette Porter, on a variety of subjects including two books on Lost, Heroes, and Battlestar Gallactica. I co-edited a book along with Cynthia Burkhead on Grey’s Anatomy, and wrote chapters in a book on Alias and on Fan culture and Cult Television, and contributed to a few text books. I am obsessed with pop culture, and I will gladly waste a day discussing my particular favorites. I’m addicted ( a little) to television, the fact of which shows through my choice of writing subjects.
Some fancy book covers
I love writing, and I had such fun working on those books. I’m looking forward to writing more about weddings + flowers in the future, and hopefully there will be a great market for it when I do. Right around the time I was finishing my Master’s degree, about everyone I knew was getting married. including some of my best friends. I took it upon myself to share my love for weddings with them, and offered to “help” with their wedding planning, their floral design, their design in general. I did programs, I did invitations, I did flowers. I loved it. It was so amazingly fulfilling and fun, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. Around this same time I had started teaching at the college level as an adjunct professor. While I adored every moment in the classroom, I found it increasinly difficult to maintain my financial bottom line. Adjunct professors make a paltry sum at best, and the only way to maintain a decent standard of living is to take on as many classes as possible or go and get your PhD. That meant reading a lot of essays and working long hours on lesson plans or leaving Tennessee to pursue a doctorate program. And I suppose that is when I realized that while teaching was a passion, it wasn’t THE passion. It wasn’t the thing I was put on this planet to do.
That was a really hard time for me– the whole “figuring out what to do with your life before it’s over part” — ever sponatneous in my major life decisions (a bad trait of mine) I stewed and ruminated in silence for months, and then announced over Christmas in 2007 that I planned to take my life and aspirations to the world of Weddings and Events. By August of 2008, Brocade was born– and I was well on my way to following my passion and dreams of becoming an event florist.
That part– the first months and year of being in the industry– is definitely fodder for a later post, and in it I’ll share my trials and tribulations in more detail. I did end up getting an associates’ degree in floral design, and I plan on seeking higher certifications later in my career– as education remains, and always will be, a passion. I still teach the occasional English class, and I am still writing– though most of my work has not gone to the publication rounds as I figure out just how to say what I want to say.
I guess that all I can really say about being a florist and how I got here in a nutshell is that it was a journey. A journey where I took a really long road to get to the final destinaton. I sometimes ask myself— what if I’d had just gone and applied for that job a long time ago— and then I think that if I had done that, then I wouldn’t have such an appreciation for learning and acquired knowledge, I’d not have so many broad intersts, not have met so many friends, and wouldn’t have come to know my husband. I’d also not have had the time to fail and fail and fail again in the privacy of my own home kitchen, where I taught myself the essentials of design and floral construction, where I’d spend hours trying to figure out how to get a bouquet together because I just wanted to know how to do it before I ever did it for a bride, where I’d throw a fit (ok, a small adult temper tantrum) when I couldn’t figure out how to get the flowers I’d grown to configure into the perfect arrangment. I’ll talk more about that in that later post, because I think the trial and error and experiments are worth discussing. But the core of it all comes the idea, the spark, the passion— I didn’t let myself question what I wanted to do. When it came time to make that final decision when I was 28 and just out of graduate school, I kind of trusted in myself and God and my heart, and followed the intuition that had been there all along. There’s nothing saying I’d not have been where I am today if I’d started the path a lot earlier, but I have to confess, the best times of my life– the best in self discovery + actuation, has come in the footsteps, the missed turns, the wrong directions, the journey. And that, my friends, is probably the coolest thing of all.
Till next week–