Oh, hey. It’s been a minute. (Consistent? No. But here when inspiration strikes? Definitely.)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what–from a career perspective–you might call ‘lost time’: the years I spent mothering and homeschooling 24/7.

I left my career as a naturalist and educator over two decades ago, when I was pregnant with my first child. I had mixed feeling about that at the time (who was I if not an environmental educator?), but we were committed to one of us staying home, and I drew the short straw. I brought in less money, so I was it.

Despite my reservations, motherhood suited me; grew on me. As my role as mama wove itself deep into my very being, the discomfort faded and disappeared. I settled in and found comfort here.

Mama became my first role and my first choice, not something secondary. It was a privilege that I learned to embrace, staying home with them day after day; year after year.

And today, I truly can’t imagine who I would be if I’d made a different choice.

But as it happens, they’re suddenly grown (or nearly so): 16 and teetering on the brink of 21. We’re still homeschooling, but not for long. That chapter of our life is in its final pages.

And I wonder: who am I now?

Where do I fit when this beautiful journey draws to a close?

This question is something I’ve been chewing on for the past half-decade, as I stretch and grow–almost imperceptibly–back toward myself.

As I find myself once more.

Much of me, it turns out, has hardly changed at all. My primary joy dwells exactly where it did when I was a scruffy fourth grade, with a bowl cut and bib overalls: in plants, in nature, and in my love of photography.

Does this resonate with you? Do you feel like you are who you’ve always been or are you just awakening to your essence now after a lifetime of searching?

For me at least, just like I was at 10 or 20 or 35, at 50 I’m still so damn enamored with plants. Herbalism and foraging specifically, but also plants and ecosystems and botany in general. Because: plants!

Nothing brings on my nerdy (offspring-annoying) teacher voice faster than plants.

And often these days I dream of making a proper career for myself again, sharing my love of plants, foraging, and herbalism with others.

* Enter imposter syndrome, stage left.*

Sure, I’ve written a book about foraging and herbalism and hosted half a dozen herbal retreats. But sometimes (lately) I feel anxious that I’ve lost so much time. Two decades is a long while to have stepped to the sidelines, books and retreats or otherwise. A really long time. There are qualified teachers out there who were toddlers when I stepped away from this career.

How could I ever catch up?

And I find myself fretting: if there are people half my age who know twice (thrice? exponentially?) more than me about wild foods and wild medicine, botany and ecology, is it too late for me? Have I lost too much time? Did I make a mistake?

I’m sharing this because I suspect I’m not the only one chewing on these uncomfortable possibilities as we move between life chapters.

And then I lovingly remind myself that that’s nonsense. If someone half my age knows twice as much as me, imagine what I can learn and absorb in the next decade! The sky is the limit! And mothering taught me things that two decades in my career never could.

Like how to surrender and let things unfold as they will without hurrying, pushing, or forcing. Like how to be patient and go slow; how to drop my agenda and let life effortlessly unfold.

Parenting has taught me how to move through frustration with grace and love, and how to find magic and beauty in the chaos. I’ve learned how to forgive (mainly myself), and how to grow, evolve, and learn alongside my kids.

I’ve remembered how to explore and adventure; how to listen and trust; and how to be present and play.

And I’ve discovered how to love and trust more deeply than I’ve ever could have dreamed.

These are lessons I found only here, outside of my career and knee-deep in motherhood.

Sure, I’ve lost a few years of ‘career growth’ along the way, but fuck it. There’s more to life than work or career.

And today, I’m more inspired than ever to re-discover my passions and gifts that exist outside of parenthood. Things like plants and ecology and mycology; herbalism and foraging.

Can I learn it all? Absolutely not. Will I ever “know the most” in the room? Nope. Not a chance. But I don’t need to. Because it’s not a race and it’s not a competition. And all of these amazing people surrounding me are here to share, inspire, and support me and anyone else who finds joy and meaning in this path.

To quote one of my favorite foraging mentors, Sam Thayer (speaking about another foraging teacher): “We’re all on the same team!”

Indeed we are.

Like I’ve told my kids these past 20 years: there’s no such thing as “behind” or “late” when it comes to our own unfolding. We’re all happening right on time and exactly as we should. And just like crawling and walking; reading and sleeping through the night: there’s no schedule; no checklist; no time limit.

And everything we need will come right on time for us, if only we can remember our joy, surrender to the journey, and give it all the space it needs to unfurl.

Here’s to that beautiful truth–and our own unique journeys–no matter our age.

10 thoughts on “Career/Parent

  1. kar H says:

    This is a timely message for so many. Especially me right now, who seems to be in freefall. But I really want to say is that it’s not always How much you know, but how you deliver it… and yours is always a sweet, peaceful, knowledgeable and kind vibe that conveys over the airways, so I can only imagine how warm it is in person! Yup, you bring something unique that nobody else has — and that is “Yourself” and all it’s glorious living–and there’s no imposterhood in that, Plant Mama! (Cheering with the squad!!)

    • Kili Bong says:

      Rachel, beautiful inspiration! You are!! I’ve been following you for many years and forage for stinging nettle every spring because of you. Other treasures have stuck in the cycles of time in nature. Yes, this transition, daunting and then so very freeing and full of excitement. Growth is hard and also so glorious! I feel you. Trust yourself and know that the way you are in this life will provide everything you need. You already know the answer, it’s just a matter of bringing it into the light. I’m in it, so many of us are, as we face a new time in our lives where our children are becoming their adult selves. Sisters! I’m looking forward to what you’ll uncover next, no matter big or small.

  2. Joan Phelan says:

    You said it all… all that is in my heart (I’m 75, a retired Kindergarten teacher who offered a nature-based curriculum). Life offers us a long, long tutoring in all the things you mentioned. Thank you for reminding me.

  3. Kathleen Kendrick says:

    Beautiful post! I could have used this about 30 years ago. But your descriptions of your experience make me happy and hopeful! Thank you for that! ❤️

  4. Ali says:

    This resonates so deeply with me. Thank you for the gentle reminders that we all have our own unique paths that cultivate valuable learned experiences and skills. Your words are inspiring.

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