Settling In and Embracing Incompetency

After nearly three weeks here in Little Rock, we’re finally settling into a flow and rhythm of life. Kait and I have been learning the ins-and-outs of keeping chickens and goats alive, tearing apart fire ant-infested garden beds, and replacing them with some creative alternatives.


Nothing goes to waste here at Ferncliff. Several bathtubs were donated to the camp, and naturally, the best way to put them to use was to create a handicap accessible raised bed!

Working in the garden has been a surprisingly difficult adjustment. It’s exhausting; call me an overprivileged white girl, but this is the first time I’ve ever done physical labor for a job all day. I’ve already taken more naps in Little Rock than I did in the entirety of my year in DC.

One of my favorite things about gardening is that I can always find some metaphorical resonance that connects to whatever my existential crisis of the day happens to be. The answer seems to always be surprisingly simple, but I needed to stick my hands in the dirt to make any sense of the answer.


As much fun as it’s been to ponder garden/life metaphors, I’ve been a bit apprehensive about working in the garden. I don’t have much experience, and I honestly don’t know much about how to make things grow, or even keep them alive. I know that folks at Ferncliff may read this, so I want to be honest: I really don’t know what I’m doing.

If not having a clue about how to make things grow in the garden wasn’t bad enough, I also decided to join the 2nd Presbyterian’s phenomenal choir (sidebar: this is a big deal for me. Ever since I saw people literally cover their ears during my performance in a middle school talent show, I’ve been a bit self-conscious about being musically disinclined). I’ve been to one choir rehearsal so far and have participated in one Sunday worship. I was totally lost during both experiences (though wonderfully kind choir folks took care of me and helped me navigate these unfamiliar musical waters).


navigating actual waters

Between the garden and the choir, I’m reminded of just how little I know. That’s where I’ve found grace; everyone has been so patient and willing to answer my 8294356219372 questions. This last week has exposed my deep-seated fear of being perceived as incompetent. I admitted my fear to Marie, our site coordinator, to which she responded: “Have you ever been in a place where you didn’t have to achieve?” Hm. No. Honestly, I’m not sure that I have. But if I let go of a desire to achieve, I can also let go of fearing failure and embrace an opportunity to learn something (w)hol(l)y (&) new.


Maybe my YAV year will be about embracing my incompetency, learning to love failure, and intentionally surrounding myself with people who know way more than me. All this while given the grace to explore and expand my horizons without judgment of how little I know at the start. Today I’m thankful for patience and grace.




2 thoughts on “Settling In and Embracing Incompetency

  1. I was just learning more about a hip pedagogy in the Bay Area called design thinking that teaches kids to find multiple solutions to a problem. It encourages failure as it only means that we get close to our final conclusion by eliminating faulty methods. Also, overcoming failure develops grit, which, many people say, is the number one indicator of success! So, basically what I’m saying is you are experiencing exactly what I’ve been learning about! Rock on, Emily! 🙂


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