My entire life—at least ever since I can remember—I have been torn by following the footsteps of my mother whom is a free-spirit, or my father whom is a businessman.
As a child, I was drawn towards flowers and the mantra of, “peace, love and happiness.” My favourite t-shirts were tie-dye, and one that said, “Earth Day is every day” while depicting a happy ecosystem in full harmony. I wore a dolphin ring every day when I was ten until it eventually broke. And I thought the idea of growing and making your own food seemed so cool.
I was also into sports and was a bit of a tom-boy. I frequently wore tie-dye shirts with Adidas shorts. I was dedicated to routine and structure getting up early to go to swim practice. In high school, my dedication continued as I played sports and wrote daily in a journal. I also began to learn about business through a program for teens called, Junior Achievement (JA).
The idea behind JA was to teach students about business concepts and have them formulate a small company under the leadership of a community volunteer. My group had to develop a product, and then market and sell it, all while maintaining accurate accounting books and keeping a steady supply of products.
I enrolled in JA for two years straight, and won a top performance award each year. My experience led me to like business and inspired me to take it in university. While attending post-secondary school, I enjoyed learning about sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line, all while working at a small vegan cafe on campus. I remember feeling on the outskirts of my business classmates, being “too much of a hippie” for them, and yet I was “too business-y” to fit in with the people at the cafe or in my non-business classes. At this point, it really felt as if I needed to pick a side and stick with it. Was I a structured businessperson? Or was I a globally-minded vegan food supporter, a.k.a a hippie?
Couldn’t I be both?
That thought had crossed my mind, but I had no idea how to be both; the concepts seemed polarizing.
After I graduated, I continued to pursue both business going directly into sales and customer service, all while expanding my “green” hobbies of growing vegetables, trying vegan recipes and purchasing locally sourced products whenever possible. I traded in my tie-dye for business attire Monday to Friday, but wore it on the weekends. At the workplace, I began to voice my opinion on issues and people listened. It wouldn’t be for years until I realized that the workplace was where I began to see how influential my point of view could be. I suddenly became an accessible hippie—not one with dreadlocks playing hacky sack in the park—the kind business-people try to avoid. No, I wore the business clothes and looked the part, but I acted differently.
This kind of difference was welcomed, much to my surprise.
I have learned that I can be a hippie without being the kind of person to ask for handouts. I also learned that I can be a successful business person without needing to accept the notion that monetary growth is what defines success.
I realize now that it is completely possible to be a “hippie business-person.” Because that is already what I am.
Image: LA Times