At several of the farms I’ve WWOOFed for, I heard about WWOOFers who left suddenly, either with a hastily-written note or without any explanation at all. I listened to these recounts with silent amazement at the departed WWOOFers’ audacity – I could never do that.
Until I did.
My first five farms were incredible. Sometimes the work days were longer than ideal, but the farmers’ kindness and passion always made it worth it. At each farm I was included and valued, and I always left feeling like I’d gotten the better end of the bargain. For me, WWOOF is about working hard for 4-6 hours a day to make it worth a farmer’s time to teach me and let me stay at their home while getting to know a part of the country I’d never visited before. Sometimes the chores were mundane (I’ve logged many, many hours weeding all over the country), but most times the farmer was working right alongside me, chatting about their life and teaching me about farming in their region. Even when it was hot and miserable and I was covered in bug bites, it felt like a privilege.
It wasn’t like that at my sixth farm. Without getting into details (or ranting), it just wasn’t a good environment for me. Rather than feeling like part of a team, I felt isolated and disrespected; it was the exact opposite of the experiences I’d had at each of my other farms. I spent my first two days there regretting joining WWOOF and kicking myself for getting myself into that situation, at least until realizing I could also get myself out.
On my third morning at the farm, I woke up before dawn and packed up my things, leaving my very own hastily-written note explaining that while I’d have preferred to speak with the farmer about my concerns, there was never a time for me to be heard, and that ultimately my gap year is very limited so I’d best be in situations where I’m happy and given opportunities to learn.
I felt awful – and horribly rude – but mostly I felt guilty for quitting, even though I knew it was the right choice. Those who know me personally are (likely painfully) aware that I have a hard time walking away from a damaging situation, whether that’s a friendship or an engagement, opting instead to stubbornly stick it out as if I have no choice. I’m not sure why I’ve done that in the past, but I’ve made an effort not to let that habit be a part of my future.
Even though it was uncomfortable, leaving was good for me; not only in the short term but also because it reminded me that I can choose to leave the jobs, places, and people that do anything less than encourage me to be great. Life’s just too short.