"Chester"—-our favorite living lawn ornament.
I mowed the lawn today. Yes, you’re reading that right. In between Finance and Accounting, Decision Analysis and Global Economics, oh yeah, and my full time job as a consultant, I stood behind a gasoline-powered machine and walked around my back yard. As I did so, a few things came to mind, notably that this was a distinctly EMBA activity.
Now for anyone with lawn-mowing experience, the words “mowing the lawn” probably elicit some combination of nausea and ire, while probably generating some form of pity or confusion from those fortunate folks spared the experience. Maybe others envision a large man on a tractor, a can of Budweiser resting comfortably in his non-steering hand.
However, none of those feelings (or images, sadly) is true and I actually don’t feel too bad for myself.
Lawn in full regalia, hosting some badminton.
In fact, when my wife and I got married two years ago, we also relocated from Venice, CA, to Charlottesville so she can pursue a Ph.D. at UVA. Back then, mowing the lawn was pure nostalgia, as it had been nearly a decade since I’d stood behind a lawn mower (undergrad in St. Louis followed by five years living at the beach in California). Weirdly enough, mowing the lawn brought back mostly fond memories of a fairly typical suburban youth spent at my parent’s home outside Philadelphia.
Indeed, mowing the lawn in Charlottesville was both a strange way to reminisce the days of yore and also a chance to assert my “near-adulthood” via routine home maintenance, just like our other good neighbors seemed to do. Never mind the fact that we rent our house and they own theirs; you’ve got to keep up appearances.
And although its surprising that my nostalgia for lawn-mowing has lasted this long, it’s waning…fast. So this evening, plodding behind the mower and considering alternative activities I might otherwise be enjoying, I realized that mowing the lawn wasn’t the reason I spend so much time in my backyard. Walking past neat rows of snap peas and trellises for our cucumbers, I remembered why: our veggie garden.
Okra, with pretty flowers (relative of the Hyacinth)
Yes, another way to identify yourself on my downtown street is by growing your own vegetables. It seems like almost everybody has a garden here, even if some are just a few potted plants on the patio and others are huge, ornate landscapes. And it doesn’t take an MBA from Darden to realize that Charlottesville is a pretty perfect place to do some casual urban farming: just look around you, the hills are green, the sun is hot, and the air is high on the insane-o-meter of humidity.
But my wife and I truly love our garden, trivial as it may be next to some of our neighbors’. There’s just something supremely satisfying in potting seeds indoors while the winter thaws, planting those seedlings in some carefully tended earth, and then watching it grow until one day you enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Chiles for Mole.
So what was I thinking about today that I’d evidently missed every other time I was mowing the lawn? Well, today I was actually thinking about my schoolwork, mulling over a Decision Analysis reading and the concept of EMV, expected monetary value. And I realized that, just like the beetles who have taken a fancy to our cucumbers or the mysterious animal who keeps eating our tomatoes, our lives are filled with unpredictability—”uncertain events ” to use the language of the article.
And whereas in the past these uncertain events (read: failures) in the garden were subject to intense speculation and even some anxiety, I now realize that there’s more to our gardening than its expected monetary value, which in my absurd garden analogy is a cucumber and its relative tastiness. Yes, I now realize more than ever that much of what I hope to gain from my time at Darden is that which cannot be precisely calculated. Even more so, I think the lessons we learn from our failures, even the occasional bad decision, often teach us the most about ourselves. In the end, if we’re too caught up in the process I think we risk missing out on half of the fun.