Working From Home has become the new normal for most of the country these past few months, and we’ve all dealt with it in ways as different as we are. So we thought, why not share how our own team has stayed inspired and productive outside of the office? This week, FUEL Account Manager Georgia invites us into her home to take a peek at a few personal projects that have helped her stay grounded since WFH kicked off in March – from turning her porch into a multi-functional workspace to accidentally starting a papaya orchard in her back yard. You read that correctly.
On the first day of WFH, I had a glassed-in porch that no one ever used. A few months later, I have a private island, home office, greenhouse, studio, and a classroom, all overlooking a tea farm. How exactly? Let me tell you about the eight projects that have kept me positive and motivated during WFH!
1. Creating a Workspace
Back in March (so, a decade ago in COVID time), Warren and Meredith told us we’d be working from home for the foreseeable future. After only a few days of working from my bedroom floor, I realized the importance of a designated workspace that was not steps away from the world’s most inviting mattress. I needed a FUEL away from FUEL. A new FUEL. Fortunately, we had a glassed-in porch that no one ever used, so I sallied forth and claimed it for myself. Thus, the island of New FUEL was created.
2. Turning My Workspace into a Jungle
A few days into working from New FUEL, I made a discovery. It was tropical. I mean coastal South Carolina in August—hot and humid! On the one hand, it felt like a vacation, but on the other hand, something wasn’t right. Something was missing. That something was an ecosystem. So, I started filling the space with plants—plants I bought, plants I grew from seed. All sizes, shapes, and manner of plants appeared on New FUEL.
Now, my island looks different every day. It’s motivating to see the constant growth and change. If these little guys can grow whole leaves in a single night, I’d better do something productive!
3. Turning the Jungle into a Classroom
Unlike many of my amazing coworkers who have transitioned into part-time educators, I do not have any young minds to cultivate. So, I’m stuck cultivating this aging one.
Currently, I’m pursuing an MBA though the Darla Moore School of Business at USC. Our second semester began the week of the shut-down. New FUEL became more than an office. It became a classroom. I spent many nights listening to lectures about net present value and pro forma under the canopy of my ever-expanding forest.
4. Turning the Classroom into an Art Station
One week into WFH, a friend started dropping flowers on my porch. I couldn’t leave my island to buy her a “thank you” card, so decided to use the resources available to make one.
Years ago, I painted and drew constantly, but that hobby fell by the wayside as my focus turned toward work and school. My friend got me into a routine through this accidental trade agreement. At the beginning of each week, she’d drop off a bouquet of flowers. Over the week, I’d paint the flowers, and at the end of the week drop the painting off on her front step. We never saw each other, but it was a fun way to stay connected, and it helped me reconnect with a passion that I hadn’t made time for.
5. Making Mistakes
I’ve also made some mistakes while working from home. For instance, I accidentally ordered 200 lotus seeds (they were 20 packs of seeds not 20 seeds…oops). And now all of the lotuses (and I do mean all of the lotuses) are sprouting and are quickly outgrowing the kitchen glasses I have them in.
I also accidentally started a papaya orchard. It began with a craving for green papaya salad. I bought a papaya from the grocery store and threw a bunch of its seeds in a pot to see what happened. I was hoping for one or two sprouts. At last count there were 50+ and they are growing fast.
These mistakes (or “happy little accidents” as Bob Ross would say) have definitely kept life interesting—and are sprouting more home projects as I try to find places to house these growing buds.
6. Planting a Tea Garden
For years, I have been talking about planting a tea garden. So, a few weeks ago, we finally staked out a 14’ x 20’ plot, leveled and tamped the soil, and planted fourteen tea plants around the perimeter. Ten are Camellia sinensis var. assamica and four are Camellia sinensis var. sinensis. They are very small and won’t produce for several years, but in no-time, they will become New FUEL’s primary export.
7. Helping Others
Soon after we started WFH, I received word from a dear friend, an envoy from Belgium. His uncle, a 72-year-old artist in India, was deeply troubled by the plight of migrant workers in his country. In the first weeks of quarantine, he’d created a beautiful painting of the Buddha surrounded by eight symbols that were relevant both to the Buddha’s teachings and to our current times. He told me that painting had helped him through so many challenging times, but he was just one person. Was there a way to help other people through his art? We put our heads together and decided to try a fundraising campaign that doubled as an auction for this painting. The highest one-time donor would be gifted the original painting, but all donations would go directly to our charity partner.
Fortunately, Oxfam India agreed to partner with our project and has been supporting our fundraising efforts ever since. After the first week of our four-week campaign, we had already raised enough money to feed 3,944 people (funds also go toward PPE, sanitary supplies, COVID prevention training, and other important services).
8. Bringing in the Light
Whether it is work, school, or a personal project, I work late most nights. New FUEL is great during the day, but when the sun goes down, I’m left in the dark, squinting at my computer screen.
After sketching some ideas, I decided to build a hanging box that could (of course) hold a bunch of plants, but that could also house LED lights. Now I can hang out and work in my tropical paradise all day and all night.
It can be difficult to remain positive and motivated when the world is so scary and uncertain. Stranded on New FUEL, these projects have helped me find a little joy in every day.