I haven’t written on here for a while. There’s a reason for this.
In the last 6 months, 5 have been spent intensely farming in Grenada at L’Esterre. We leveled up our commitment to regenerating the estate. Having a farm manager signaled this change, our intentions were set in stone, the ball was rolling. Changing the way the estate worked and making sure it stuck this time, in alignment with making L’Esterre a profitable and prosperous farm in the long term.
What started as innocently getting our cocoa into better, more rewarding markets escalated into everything I thought could be possible with L’Esterre. There was nearly too much potential.
We started things.
We started estate tours.
We started making spice & cocoa products for retail.
We started making chocolate.
We started exporting more cocoa.
We started making skincare.
We started growing more fruits & vegetables.
We started producing honey and beeswax.
We started to rehabilitate our trees.
We started composting to build better soil.
We started exploring carbon markets.
We started changing the way we worked.
But I got so distracted by the bigger mission that I forgot about myself. I stopped doing the things that fulfilled my soul.
I stopped things.
I stopped writing.
I stopped creating.
I stopped taking photos on my camera.
I stopped spending quality time with my loved ones.
I stopped catching up with friends.
I stopped sharing stories and photos.
I stopped cooking for pleasure.
I stopped reflecting on life.
I stopped baking with my nieces.
I stopped taking time just for myself.
I stopped looking after myself.
I thought that’s what I had to sacrifice to make it work.
The reality of working in development.
My reasoning was that the world couldn’t wait. We had to do it now. We had to prove that farming better led to financial prosperity. Seeing the burden the estate was on my family, I took it upon myself to reverse this misfortune. I was the only one with enough ambition, vision, and energy to make it happen.
I overworked myself. I underpaid myself. All to make it function as a business and keep people employed. Guided by lessons from the pandemic to not put all your eggs into one basket, I ended up putting ours into a gazillion.
Diversifying can prove resilience. But too much diversification means you’re doing lots of things but none of them very well.
Don’t get me wrong I was, and still am full of hope for all that is possible for Grenada to look after itself better.
But better collaboration and delegation will get us there, which admittedly I was terrible at acting on. We are on the receiving end of a deeply unjust global food system but we cannot try to undo centuries-old injustices and discrimination on our own.
Why was I putting myself in this self-deprecating position? Maybe I felt the guilt of my privilege. And at times the estate workers reinforced that guilt, which made me work even harder.
In hindsight, maybe I was trying to atone for my privileges in life. I felt guilty that I could and others couldn’t. Every bone in my body felt the world’s injustices. I suffered to try and make others’ lives easier to relieve the imbalance.
The vision became bigger than me. I saw myself as the girl who could change the fortunes of Grenada’s agricultural future. People told me I had all the ingredients to make it happen. Turns out I won’t be. And that’s ok.
Though I can share the hard lessons I learned from that time.
#1: Don’t take on someone else’s burden, assuming it as your own.
You’ll only drive yourself to insanity and displace yourself from your true self.
#2: Make your life sustainable for you first.
It’s good to be driven. But don’t try to overachieve at the cost of your own happiness. Don’t take on projects bigger than you. Leave ample space to enjoy the beauty of life itself.
#3: Don’t assume global issues as yours alone to solve.
Multiple people’s actions got us into this mess. Now multiple people’s actions need to get us out. Not just yours.
#4: Change is difficult. Don’t do it all at once.
Particularly in a small developing country and in a family business. When making a change, do it slowly so those around you can get used to new ideas and come around to your way of thinking.
#5: Live for yourself and not for others.
You are not serving others unless you serve yourself first. Know what you want for yourself and everything else will fall into place. Not the other way around. Environmentalists and peacemakers need to pay attention to their personal well-being first. Because if we don’t care for the intimate, how can we take care of the ultimate?
#6: Don’t let others' opinions sway you away from your true centre.
It’s good to have advice and put others' opinions on what’s right and the path you should take. They are only opinions, not instructions.
#7: Give yourself less choice.
Simplify life. Do one thing well. I had two jobs. I lived in two countries. It doesn’t work. Trust me.
#8: Just because others are doing it doesn’t mean you have to.
It is good to have role models, a lot of them tend to be high achievers and have accomplished great things in the eyes of many. Be ambitious yes but maybe what’s right for them might not be what’s right for you.
#9 Accept reality, friction brings you closer to what you truly want.
I bit off more than I could chew and have made peace with that. I’m thankful to have explored what’s possible and what isn’t, mostly because it’s brought me closer to knowing what I do and don’t want in life. Being a curious person does that to you– a blessing and a curse.
a better way forward.
I still want to make a difference in the world, and I’m sure I will in some way, but it won’t be at the cost of my own happiness.
Turns out what I want to do is to create. To write, to make chocolate, To develop these skills, even though I’m terrified of the commitment. But I can’t live in that fear, otherwise I’ll just live in regret.
I want to live in one place. Persistently uprooting displaces your soul. To read, to run at my own pace, to grow and preserve food, to sew, to paint, to go for walks in the natural world and not feel guilty for it.
Ask yourself hard questions.
‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’
- John Lennon
What is it that makes you happy?
What are the things making you unhappy?
What do you wish you had more time for? Why aren’t you allowing yourself the time for it?
What does a life of sufficiency look like for you?
Are you pushing yourself to do more, achieve more, earn more, because that’s what society says and that’s the people you surround yourself with?
At the end of your life, what will you regret the most?
The journey for L’Esterre continues, albeit slower and smaller and from a much happier place.
Change the world yes. But make sure you enjoy your life whilst doing it.
‘Only by caring for the soul can we humans find fulfillment and happiness. Nothing can be achieved in life if the soul is starving.’
- Satish Kumar, ‘Elegant Simplicity’