Today’s post evolved differently than my other posts:
- I read an article on Wednesday about former Martha Stewart EVP and Director, Margaret Roach.
- Margaret left Martha and a high-paying, high-stress, high-life career in NYC to create the life she wanted.
- Then she wrote a book about it: “And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road“.
- I loved the article and thought the theme was perfect for Wishful Thinking Works – my “garden” is life coaching.
- So, I emailed the author of the article, Deborah Dunham, and asked if I could repost.
- She said, “Yes”. Thank you, Deborah.
- Here it is.
- I am looking forward to reading Margaret’s book.
- And, the article reminded me a bit of the choices and courage of next Wednesday’s Returned Peace Corps Volunteer “up close and personal” interview, I think you will enjoy it, too.
- The end.
- Or, perhaps a new chapter in the lives we are living.
PS I don’t believe you have to leave something to find something, but I do believe sometimes it happens that way.
The following is reposted from mydaily.com, 3/9/2011.
Margaret Roach did something that many over-stressed, over-worked women wish they could do: She ran away.
As a highly successful executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia who lived a fast-paced life in New York City climbing the corporate ladder and found herself more and more in demand every day, her former life sounds like a dream for many. Just working for Martha herself is enough to send many of us crafty, cooking, gardening, decorating, color-coding-our-underwear-drawer wannabes into a tizzy as we imagine how “Martha-like” our own homes and lives could be.
So while Roach loved her high-powered career, which had all the makings of an existence rich with everything a girl could want (including a platinum Saks card she would use on occasion to blow through stress –- and $5,000 in 15 minutes), Roach craved something more. Or, actually, something less.
In her new book, “And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road,” Roach describes how she survived corporate-ladder-climbing days by gardening with a vengeance on weekends at her small cottage in the country. Those weekends and those plants turned into her solace, her refuge from the long hours, the endless meetings and her squelched creative side that was desperate to be heard.
Turns out, Roach wasn’t actually running away in 2008 when she quit her job and left the city to live in her rural home full-time. Rather, she was running toward something: herself. Her goals for a new, ideal life? 1) Gardening offline and online; 2) changing 3,000 lives; 3) having lots of great sex; 4) writing a bestseller; and 5) living without asthma.
We had a chance to talk with Roach about her life-changing decision and why she says the only regret she has is not shacking up with her Hylomecons sooner.
MyDaily: In reading your book, it appears, at first, that you were unhappy with your life at Martha Stewart — a job you say many would consider a dream job. Were you unhappy?
Margaret Roach: I wasn’t unhappy for most of the years. I actually loved working there because I worked in newspapers for 20 years prior, which was a big corporate industry with far fewer women in high ranks. When I came to Martha Stewart, there were so many women. No idea was too big and creativity ranked, which was wonderful. But what happened was, the more I succeeded in my career, the more I ended up managing other writers and editors. That’s called a promotion, but it takes you away from your own work.
I am left- and right-brained, but I’m also a good writer, a good gardener, a good cook, and good at creating and decorating –- all the stuff I didn’t have time for anymore in my life. All I was doing was going to meetings. I took on more and more responsibility and got further away from my brain that wanted to be creative and express ideas. I wasn’t unhappy, I was more frustrated because that other self was screaming for some air time.
Photo by Erica Berger
What was Martha like to work for?
Well, it’s a very expansive environment, and there’s no thinking that something can’t be done. That was very different for me and extremely positive. In a way, I never would have been able to do this if it wasn’t for that thinking. Martha started her magazine, TV show and corporation when she was in her 50’s –- what an example for me. She was definitely an inspiration.
She’s also obviously extremely high energy; she never stops. She makes me, a total type A, look like a slug. She’s fast, she wants to travel, she wants it all. I get over-stimulated in that environment. Solitude sustains me. It was exciting to work there, but also exhausting. My team was all the people who created the magazine and reported to me, and it was amazing. In 1994, I freelanced for the magazine, in 1995 I became the first garden editor for Martha Stewart Living, then I became executive vice president and editorial director of magazines, books, specials and Internet. It was a lot.
I love how you say that the corporate world can snuff out someone’s creativity. Why do you say that and how can we avoid that?
You can really get swallowed up by a big corporation. I don’t actually believe that multitasking is possible. I’m a person who can do a lot of things, but that is, to me, totally antithetical to personal creativity. I think you have to pick a path. I don’t think you can say, I’m going to be the EVP of Martha Stewart and oversee 180 people at a given time and make sure everything is perfect, and by the way, I’m not going to come to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays because I’m going to write a book. That’s not realistic. Given the finite hours in a day, it’s a personal decision on what you want to do, like maybe giving up a promotion. If I had stopped as garden editor, I could have written books, been a great corporate citizen and still been a success. You have to say no sometimes to things that are very attractive in order to obtain things that are attractive in another way.
Describe your life now.
I still work a lot. I came here to write. I’m trying to piece together a livelihood of things that are personal, self-expressive and creative. I’m focused on my blog, awaytogarden.com, where I do all the photos and writing. It doesn’t pay anything, but it allows me to have a connection in the community, which has really cheered me on with this book and what I’m doing.
I’m also starting another book and I do a little freelance writing for some income, and some Web consulting. So I kinda back-fill this existence here with things that are creative and satisfying. I’ll probably work forever, but here’s the thing: Some mornings I get up at 4:30 or 5:00am, and I may do my best work of the day. Then, if at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, I decide I want to watch several episodes of “Friday Night Lights” or get some tea and read another author’s book, I do it. I’m not wasting time commuting, dressing for success, blow drying my hair or going out to eat. I work when I want, sleep when I want, play when I want and garden when I want. It’s following my own rhythm.
You say that Martha taught you “Learn something new every day.” What do you continue to learn that’s new each day?
For a city girl, I knew a lot about nature before I moved here full-time, but I will say that by living here, hardly a week goes by where I don’t observe some kind of animal behavior or event that I didn’t know about. For instance, we all know about spiders, but it was just when I was writing the book that I found out Daddy Long Legs are not spiders at all. To be a spider they have to have certain physical characteristics. I know that doesn’t sound like a big revelation, but for me, I had to learn and research about them. And the great thing is, when I want to do something now, I do it. No one’s watching me on a clock. I used to say I didn’t have the time, but now I can read a book about spiders if I want. That comes from living in a much closer relationship with nature.
How have people responded to your decision to give everything up and move to the country?
I have had people say I was dropping out, but when I got here it was really more dropping in. Solitude is really more contemplative. I think there are nine houses over a couple of miles here and two dairy farms. There are people, but you’re not right up next to each other. There are no street lights. It’s rural. We have a lot of ice, thunder, violent weather and wild animals.
If I were to sit in my old office with my former staff and ask for a show of hands of who would like to live like that, everyone would start laughing. But they would say, “You would, Margaret.” You can’t go to Starbucks or order a pizza here. It’s just different. It’s more rural, and for me, that’s perfect.
Have you ever regretted your decision or second-guessed yourself?
No, not at all. Once you get a little further away from a paycheck, you do go through moments and say, “Well, this is interesting”. But all you have to do is look out the window, see the light and you feel like you can breathe deeper. I just feel so relieved to be here finally.
You would have to think many women who are over-worked and over-stressed would be envious of your decision and lifestyle. Yet, they know something like that is just not practical given their financial situation, family, kids, etc. What advice would you give them?
I know many of my friends are married with children and they’re not suddenly going to move to a rural place, but this was my heart’s desire, my craving. Finding your own craving can make a huge difference to finding more joy. It doesn’t have to be moving to the country, it can be looking at “I don’t have time for ____” and then decide how can you carve out time for that. It can be much less dramatic than what I did.
This suited me. I’m single, and I have no kids. What I craved was to live in my garden, so I did that, but everyone has different cravings. I would recommend to everyone that they find some time for solitude, some quiet time, even if it’s just an hour. We tell kids to chill out and have some down time, but we don’t do that for ourselves. Turning off the TV, doing yoga, meditation or trying to be outdoors more is really helpful. That time for rumination and reflection is very catalytic for a better life.
What’s your plan? How long to you intend to stay in the country?
My plan is to fall face down in the compost someday. This is where I’ll die. I don’t foresee ever leaving again. I hope I can make some success and cultivate readers to enjoy what I’m writing, I hope my website will grow, I’m still trying to have creative self-expression. My garden is now 25 years old, and like people, it needs attention, there’s a lot of editing to do. This will be a very rejuvenating year for the garden and a new adventure and direction for me. I’m excited about that. But mostly I’m excited about being here. It’s been an unexpected blessing.
Do you still keep in touch with Martha?
I just was on her show last Friday. She invited me and did a blurb for the book. She was always my boss and mentor, so I was nervous to talk with her about what she thought of the book, but she appreciated it and felt like she got to know me better. That was kinda wacky to be on her show, but we do stay in touch. She was an important person in my life.
Deborah Dunham is a freelance writer who considers herself very un-Martha-like, yet she adores self-expression and creativity.