Four years ago I was spending 40+ hours a week at “work” and 40+ hours a week getting my hands dirty somewhere – digging in our garden, helping friends with garden designs, volunteering for the farmers market, etc. It was clear that I needed to make a choice between those two lives. I chose the one with dirt under my nails.

2009: Turning in my application to the department

I turned in my application to the University of Oregon’s masters in landscape architecture program. The department accepted my application and the three year adventure in graduate school began! I learned about public park design, ecological design, river restoration, historic landscape preservation, park trail design, master planning, urban planning and how urban farming can increase community food security.

2012: Accepting my masters degree with Junebug in tow

I walked across the stage to accept my degree with little Junebug tucked into my robe. The announcer said my name and then added “…and child” and the crowd exploded in applause and cheers. That felt great! Because, yes, it was damn hard to finish a masters degree with a baby – but I did it!

My family was there to cheer me on, which meant the world. We headed over to the Urban Farm for a picnic afterwards to celebrate – the place where it all began.

The Urban Farm was where I made the decision to enter graduate school. I had been touring the campus and talking with the department – it seemed like a really great fit. But when I toured the Urban Farm, I could really see myself there. I decided then and there to bravely follow my heart.

The farm became my home-away-from-home for three years as we temporarily moved off our homestead and into a series of Eugene rentals. With family all around me, it felt like my worlds had finally come together. They got to see why this place was so special to me.

It’s amazing what my life has looked like over those three years. I had red punk-rock hair and wrote a book. I drove 10,000 miles all over the country. I was lonely at times and claustrophobic with people at others. I was pregnant and watched my body and mindset transform in a few short months.

It was a time of personal growth when I learned just as much about myself as I did about landscape architecture. I met some great lifelong friends through my program who I will miss dearly. But it is time to move on and I am ready. The next chapter is waiting to be written.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson