Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to sharpen the grinder blade of my brain?

I'm applying for graduate programs in food & sustainability for 2010 and it is hard.

It's hard for your average smartie-pants and in nearly a year of operating outside of your traditional "get-it-done," information heavy, fast-paced, analytical work environment, I've definitely lost some of my so-called edge. My brain was never a knife -- more like an awesome antique grinder that chews up various pieces of meat and adds some spices and leaves it to age until it's spicy and delicious and totally new -- but now the grinder's dull and I'm feeling like I may never get back into any sort of game or groove.

I'm trying to juggle work here on the farm with packing up to go and setting up appointments with professors. And as if that wasn't enough, I feel like I have to go into these meetings with my future life already laid out in my mind's eye and my mind's eye has pinkeye or perhaps is permanently nearsighted and there's no lasiks doctor to be found.

So instead of impressing the hell out of professors with my intense focus and passion for just one thing, I'll have to settle for telling the professors the truth. The less sexy, and quite complicated truth that I'm not sure what I want to do, but I do know that it has to do with figuring out the role that social enterprise and social responsibility and business innovation plays in creating a more sustainable food system and using what I learn to do something.

Does that mean I want to open a french-fry truck that grows its own potatoes on the roof and uses excess fry grease as biofuel? Maybe.

Or perhaps I'd like to work as a program manager for someone like these guys. Or do research and teach and consult on the side for small food start-ups. Who the heck knows? If I'm honest, not me. At least not yet.

What I have realized is that I do know some things about food and sustainability and business and I need to start sharing what I do know with others instead of just piling up knowledge in my brain without really processing, organizing and using it for something.

This puts me in mind of a story I heard once (or maybe it was a dream?) about a hermit who holed himself up in a shack for years and years and years and read and read and read exhaustively, refusing to talk to anyone or engage with the world until he had figured out the meaning of life and secrets of the universe. Eventually, when he was old and wizened and barely able to stand, he emerged from his shack in the middle of the desolate woods, pronouncing triumphantly that he had solved the secrets of the universe. Then, if I recall correctly, he fell down and died.

Let me not be that hermit.


  1. I think most of us feel the same way you do, Jess, about not knowing exactly what we want to do and when discovering what it is you want to do, feeling late in the game, not caught up, or accomplished - I know I do. And even those who know exactly what they want to do, it's still a process of discovery and negotiation between our ideas and desires and what's out there in the real world. Given all of the changes taking place - just to cite one example, I never thought I'd live to see a healthcare reform debate in my lifetime - who knows what the world will look like in 2-3 years when you're out of school? So, "...throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain. And I've no doubt that of the many wonderful people I know, you are one of the ones I don't need to say this to - so just take it as more encouragement from my little corner of the world. You have so much to offer Jess, I've got faith in you! Can't wait to see how things evolve next... xxx

  2. Don't sell yourself short, Jessica. You were always one of the smartest people I knew.

  3. wait, what? there are graduate programs in food and sustainability?! where?!

  4. @ Heddy and Derek

    Thanks friends for the encouragement! I've been getting in these negative moods -- out of character and not very productive, but your support and belief in me means the world.

  5. @ teal!:

    Yup! They're popping up all over the place. I'm looking at Michigan State, UBC, Tufts, UC Davis, UCSC, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Presidio Graduate School, and a few other places. I'm hoping to share more about the process as I get further along!

  6. What a beautiful and witty sentiment. You will not be that hermit; you are a leader.

  7. By the way, I really like the French Fry Truck idea. Can I take the lead in your A Round of Financing?