Not Looking Back: A volunteer’s memoir

On February 2nd, 2013, I was at the lowest point of my life. I was suffering from agonizing anxiety and debilitating depression. That night, I was admitted into a mental hospital and placed on a 72-hour involuntary hold. It was the most difficult, trying experience I’ve ever faced. I felt hopeless. When I was finally released, I was engulfed with uncertainty. I did not know what I was going to do, but I knew things had to change. I could not continue living life the same way, without purpose. In all honesty, that was not truly living. I needed something positive, something meaningful. I am glad to say I found it. Around March, I visited my old high school, Central High School/All Peoples. I felt that would be a good place to begin my road towards a better life. I was not disappointed. While I was there, I found that the garden program was still alive and well. That made me happy. At that moment, I knew there was something right in front of me that I needed to be involved in. I went home that night feeling particularly optimistic. From that day forward, I volunteered in that garden, doing anything and everything I could to help. It began with one or two days a week, then it was two or three, eventually it became entire weeks. The more time I spent there, the happier I was. I didn’t know at the time, but there was something about gardening, something special. Gardening is not just a pastime. It is a powerful tool and an influential act. For me, it was a means to reclaiming my life. But it wasn’t just the gardening, it was the community that was built through it that had the greatest impact on me. I believe that this is the beauty of it, the most influential part. It is an amazing thing to see people come together and work towards a common goal; building community, transforming neighborhoods, and so much more. Gardening allowed me to see that. It is now December, ten months later, and I have not once looked back. I cannot express how grateful I am for what gardening has given me, for the people it has allowed me to surround myself with. It has been a surreal experience. 2013 began as the worst year of my life; gardening has made it the best. —— Jorge volunteers for All Peoples and the AFSC on a weekly basis. Jorge recently became Victory Garden Certified and will be applying to LA’s 2014 Master Gardener Program.
Written: 20th December 2013

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