Olathe & Southwest Joco

The landscape of a quarter-life crisis

Her first purchase? A red maple.
Her first purchase? A red maple. Special to The Olathe News

After I did a rough, post-coffee mathematical estimate I realized that it was a quarter-lifer crisis that brought the team of five men and lots of equipment to my backyard.

The mid-life crisis is a well-known punchline for jokes and a catch-all explanation for odd behavior of the middle-aged set, but it’s also real. When we reach a certain age, a lot of people take a pause, accept their mortality and look back at the path their life has taken. A hard assessment often highlights all the missteps and missed opportunities — all the I Shoulda, I Woulda, I Couldas. It’s not uncommon for the resulting mid-life adjustments to look like an attempt to relive our youth.

Is that a shiny new red sportscar in your driveway, Bob?

While this isn’t entirely wrong, the reality is much more nuanced: less going back and more doing it again with the benefit of earned wisdom and increased disposable income.

Less known, or a perhaps less admitted, is the quarter-life crisis. Sometime in our 20s, a lot of people have a similar reassessment of their life choices and the path they’re on. Some older folks might scoff, “Your life is just starting, Whippersnapper, you haven’t had time to make enough long-term missteps or omissions to be fretting over them.”

I’m of the Let People Have Their Issues When They Have Them school of thought.

Why invalidate someone’s feelings and experiences? (Plus, issuing a “Buckle-up, Buttercup” statement makes you seem like a jerk.)

Be it a mid- or quarter-life crisis, both phases are a time for do-overs, fix-ups, and life-path reorganizing.

I think my yard had a quarter-life crisis recently.

When we began to landscape around our new house 18 years ago, we were garden newbies with a very limited budget and a lot of over-ambition. Up came large swaths of sod and in went flowerbeds with themes like the butterfly garden, the birth flower garden, the shade garden. Within a few years almost the entire perimeter of our property was lined with some type of landscape bed.

Within a few more years, another kid, and the loss of my full-time stay-at-home mom status, almost all of those beds were a mess. There’s a thin line between “Cottage Garden” and an unsightly mass of overgrown plants and weeds.

A full year of ignoring the gardens altogether left me overwhelmed and unsure what to do next. I began to rethink all my plants, location and care choices. I had learned a lot about gardening over the years — nothing will teach you about plant care as much as killing a $50 shrub — and I had learned more than enough to know that I was in over my head. Even with my family at my side, we couldn’t keep up with the unwanted growth, dying shrubs and bagworms.

I called in the pros. That’s why five men and some heavy-duty landscaping equipment showed up one morning and gave me a clean slate. They did in one day what took me 18 years to mess up, and would have taken my family a summer of weekends to accomplish.

The next morning, I looked over our backyard. There was a lot that wasn’t touched — successful roses, healthy hostas and the garden my daughter had taken over and filled with her favorite flowers — but a great deal of the yard had a clean slate of fresh dirt.

Now what?

Now I’ll take my time, hard-earned wisdom and acceptance of the amount of time we have to maintain the landscape to make better choices for the next 18 or more years. I began with my first, big purchase: a long coveted, big, shiny new red…maple.

Susan is a Kansas City based writer and podcaster. To listen to the women’s history podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.

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