Dear Charles,

In Sunday’s Reading Journal I mentioned that Julie and I could only even attempt to farm because I have an established career off-farm. I am my own financial backing. I know next-to nothing about marketing, herd management, and grass management. Farming is so much harder than it looks in a book. But we are learning. We are living on-campus and paying for our education. My off-campus job requires me to sit at a desk in the air conditioning for hours on end, 5 days each week solving challenging tech puzzles with people I consider friends. I suppose there are things I could have done to accelerate our farm’s earnings but I’m OK with moving slowly…adapting my lifestyle as I learn.

But I almost missed it.

I got tired of tech. Long, late nights and listening to morning radio as I returned home for 2 hours of sleep then back to it again. On-call rotations working with remote technicians in remote places. No sunlight. Cubicle hell. Low pay.

But I enjoyed woodworking. I made bookshelves, a hutch for our kitchen, beds for my kids, crown molding…I wanted to work in a wood shop. Surely that would be better than working in a data center for another minute.

I met a man who owned a cabinetry shop nearby. He spent quite a bit of time with me on a Tuesday evening and was probably late for dinner. He said he could tell by the sound his equipment made whether or not the employee was running the machine at capacity. He explained to me that he would be happy to hire me but he hoped I would reconsider. I would be better off, he said, to stick it out and apply myself in my career. In time it would bear fruit.

That was 2003. I would like to thank Charles for his advice.

Dear Charles,

You were right. I will never know what could have been and I don’t care. I have no regrets (about that decision anyway). I continue to do a little woodworking as a hobby but stayed the course in my career. And, surprisingly, I’m not unhappy.

Some of this is because I have simply decided to be happy where I am. …to grow where I am planted. But some of it is maturity. I live in a dream world…on my family farm with my wife and children, next to my parents. I don’t think this could have happened if I had given up on my career.

At what I feel was a critical point in my life, you gave me the push I needed. I stuck it out. I studied. I worked. I did what you said I should.

And, at least to this point, I am winning.

Thanks for the help.

Chris Jordan

My job can’t make me happy. Neither can my farm. I have to make me happy. Most of that is a simple decision.

Will I ever farm full-time? I think so. But I can’t make that leap immediately. I have a lot of learning and growing to do. Biological processes take time.

But wait! There’s more.

It is true that Julie and I are only here because I have a job. But Julie and I are also only here because Julie doesn’t have an off-farm job. If you ever want to make me angry ask, “Chris, does your wife work or does she stay home?”

Julie does more before 9 am than most Army folks do all day. Julie makes everything work. Chris is just a worker. Just like his job, Chris has to wake up every morning and make a decision to continue in his relationship with Julie. Chris has to make decisions to keep strengthening bonds and support, encourage and enable her in her work. I choose how I feel about Julie. And I choose to love her. Every day.

I could continue listing factors that make living here possible but that has nothing to do with Charles. Today I was thinking about Charles.

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7 thoughts on “Dear Charles,

    • Dear Charles,
      Thanks for being so supportive of the blog. You’re a pretty cool guy and I hope we get a chance to hang out sometime.

      Last night I made a Hayek reference in conversation with Julie. Low interest rates may lead to increased innovation as more developers can afford to pursue their crazy ideas…but somebody has to pay the piper. She rolled her eyes. I thought you might appreciate that.

      Your friend,
      Chris

  1. I LOVE this! Sometimes the careers or trades that look so appealing lose the shine after a couple days’ immersion. Your cabinetteer (is that a word) mentor sure did you a favor while not only saying hang tight in your career, but he didn’t squash all your dreaming aspirations, and it’s great you remember that conversation/experience after all these years so you could also share it with us. The way you guys are doing farming, growing into it while absorbing the quality of life and stewardship perks for all, is so smart but it requires patience. I was homeschooling myself in farming for the first 7 years when I still begrudgingly had a day job, but kept the dream and leapt when the time was right. Not that it’s all perfect now… I leaned in carefully to read your statement about being happy and that it’s a choice. Winter can be hard, what can I say?
    ps I want to remark how refreshing it is that you honor your lady so beautifully for all she does and is!

  2. Yes, I know this Charles. Something I believe we forget to do is say thank you to people who make a difference in our lives. Sometimes a conversation isn’t a big deal at the time, but it becomes more important when thinking back on it. This was an enjoyable read.

  3. It was a good read. I think many of us have similar experiences with dreaming of greener pastures than the one we currently toil upon. I have more than once. I’ve also been blessed to have had the opportunity to try different jobs. Now, “semi”-retired I get to combine them.

    I also applaud you on writing letters to past influences. It’s good for us to thank others, but it’s also good to hear/read the thank yous of others.

    • There are a group of people in the little town where we went to college who were extremely influential. I have to mention several of my major professors here but also bosses. Julie’s grandpa was my boss when I was 17, He didn’t fire me, he encouraged me to do something else with my time…lol. It was just the kick in the rear I needed. After that, for a few years, I would work for him off and on between semesters or between other jobs. Obviously I maintained a positive relationship with him. Heck, when I used to travel for a living I would call him every week or so and chat with him about things I was doing and seeing on the road…things that were directly related to his business.

      I have written about him before. He told me one night that his boss years ago gave all of the management self-improvement pamphlets on a fairly regular basis. One pamphlet said something like, “Who are, arguably, the smartest people? College professors? What do they do outside of class? They write books. If the smartest people have figured out that they need to do extra work for extra money, why haven’t you figured that out?”

      Consider that dot connected.

      That’s just one example.

      Another was a guy with his own manufacturing business. We were talking about business ownership and his bass boat. 30 years ago he bought a bass boat he has never used. When he told me that (10 years ago) I was sad for him. It took me some time to realize it but he’s not sad about it. He’s doing what he wants. The bass boat was a mistake. The business is his passion. That’s what he was telling me.

      I could go on.

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