Have you ever wondered why this blog is called Awkward Botany? I have. Naming things can be difficult, and there are days that I question whether Awkward Botany was the right choice and if instead another name would have been more appropriate. Most days I am happy with the name, but I also perceive that there might be questions about where it came from and what it means. Or maybe no one cares? Either way, I figured I would start the year off by putting this out there. It may or may not be of interest to anyone, but so be it. Rest assured that regular programming will resume shortly.
Awkward is a word that best describes my general state of being. I am uncomfortable in virtually all social situations. The degree to which discomfort manifests itself varies depending on the circumstances, but it is always there. Anxious is another fitting word to describe me. On the surface I may appear calm and collected, but my mind is constantly racing. It’s hard to relax.
I am a high level introvert, and there was a time when this really bothered me. I didn’t like feeling so shy, nervous, and bumbling. I didn’t like that my voice got shaky every time I talked in front of a group of two or more people (no matter how well I knew them). I wanted to be able to make a phone call or start up a conversation without first having to rehearse what I was going to say a dozen times in my head. I envied people who could socialize so freely and who could dance like no one was watching even when plenty of people were. I saw my shell as a curse and thought I was defective because of it.
These feelings haven’t gone away, but they have waned. In my adult years I have grown to accept, even embrace, my awkwardness and introversion. I’m not particularly thrilled about being this way, but I find ways to celebrate it. Claiming the awkward title is one way that I do that. It is nothing to be ashamed of, despite at times feeling shamed for it. Just acknowledging that fact makes tiptoeing out of my comfort zone that much easier.
Awkward can also mean amateurish or inexpert. I am a degree holding and professional horticulturist and I have taken a number of graduate level plant science courses, but I certainly don’t claim to be an expert botanist. I am passionate about botany, and I love to study and explore it, but I am not on the same level as professional botanists. I could be someday, but that isn’t really the point. I would rather illuminate the amateur aspect, the part an enthusiast can play, the role of the citizen scientist…or citizen botanist in this case. The point being that anyone can join in the conversation regardless of their credentials; all that is required is passion, enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn (and to admit when you’re wrong). That is why I have settled on the tagline, “citizen botany for the phytocurious.” Perhaps this approach will inspire other awkward entities to emerge, like awkward history, awkward herpetology, awkward astronomy, awkward linguistics… Just a thought.
I am unapologetically obsessed with plants. It is not something I fully realized about myself until I was in my twenties; still it feels like it must be in my DNA. I spend significant portions of each day thinking about plants, reading about plants, writing about plants, and working with plants. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I am this taken by plants, then why not botany?
But why should people care about plants? Those who already find themselves fascinated by them don’t really need an answer to this question, and the space it would take to enumerate the myriad reasons why plants matter is more than I want to take up in a single post. Suffice it to say that if plants were not around, we would not be around. And if the vital functions of plants don’t convince you to care, just imagine a world without green things and ask yourself if that’s a world you’d want to live in. Dr. Chris Martine, a professor of botany at Bucknell University, defends botany famously in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post last summer.
This is a nebulous question, and I could take it in several directions. To simplify things I will address this line of inquiry: why am I blogging now, rather than expressing myself using some other medium (or none at all)?
When I was in the 7th grade, I discovered that I like to write. It feels wired into my DNA the same way my interest in plants does. I have been writing regularly ever since. At first it was just poetry, short stories, and song lyrics. Then when I was in my teenage years, I discovered punk rock and along with that fanzines, or zines for short. I had been envisioning something similar to zines before I knew about them, so once I came across them, I knew that I had to make one. Over the course of about 17 years, I produced at least 66 zines under 9 different titles. My two main titles were Elephant Mess and The Juniper. While I haven’t completely given up on zine writing, I have been on hiatus for about two years now.
My hiatus is largely due to the expense of doing zines (photocopies, postage, office supplies, etc.) and the markedly reduced interest in them (a PO Box full of mail used to be a fairly common sight for me; now it never happens). So I blog instead. I hesitate to compare blogs to zines, though. For a seasoned zinester like me, that feels blasphemous. But there are clearly some similarities, and now that the internet has become nearly ubiquitous, for someone who likes to write and publish content regularly, blogs seem like the way to go.
But I don’t see this blog as the end goal either. I love to write, and I have long wanted to be a writer. Maintaining a blog doesn’t necessarily mean I’m on the road to a successful writing career, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. For now, Awkward Botany is where I hang my hat, and I am more than happy to call it home.
I love your name and now your explanation. And I have really appreciated the links with other’citizen botanists’ around the blogging world. Have only just begun myself but I might be a more awkward ecologist and I am certainly an awkward linguist! Love Chomsky but linguistics!
Very cool. Thank you for reading. Always good to know there are other “awkward” folks out there like me engaging in the things they love. Also cool to know that there is an awkward linguist out there.
I enjoyed reading this, even though as a mom, specifically your mom it is a little painful. I don’t think I ever realized the extent of your “awkwardness” as a kid, but I will say that I believe it is an essential part of what makes you the interesting “awkward botanist” and person you are. Love reading your stuff, I am I think awkward in many things- I think I am an awkward botanist, and awkward mom, and an awkward yarn spinner.
Thanks mom! No worries. Being an awkward kid wasn’t all bad. Learning to embrace that awkwardness and run with it took time, but the journey has been worth it. We are all awkward in our own ways, and you are the best “awkward mom” that this “awkward botanist” could ever ask for.
Not only am I a botanist who loves to write, but I also have two high level introverts in my life (my husband and son). Being somewhere between an intro and extra myself, my son doesn’t believe me when I give him advice, so reading this was like therapy for him. Normalizing our feelings (and ignoring societal pressures about what we’re ‘supposed’ to be) is the best way to find peace inside our racing minds. You did that for him. Perhaps only for a moment, but I saw it on his face and I am grateful.
My journey has been very different than yours. I found botany in my teens but didn’t start writing until my thirties (besides scientific papers – they don’t count). I always throw a bit of botany or nerdiness in my books because, like you, I love sharing my passion for plants with my readers (even though they came for happy ever after romance, not a botany lesson).
I hope you keep writing. The world needs more awkward botanists. 🙂
Thank you for this. It made my day. 🙂 So cool to know that you are sneaking a little botany into the books you write. Injecting plant nerdiness into the masses – I love it!
LOL I don’t know about ‘masses,’ but I do what I can! I keep thinking about your post and even told my son’s therapist about how great you are! An adult introvert openly talking about their feelings. It’s perfection!
Wow! Thank you for your generous compliment. 🙂
Sorry to put this where others can see it. But I have always loved that you write. As your mother I like to think that part of the reason plants and writing are in your DNA has to do with me. I love your explanation. Keep being who you are.
No need to be sorry. 🙂 I think that’s true. We have always shared those common interests, and I love that.
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