Seven years ago, I just showed up in Philadelphia one day. I didn’t know anyone except the person I was with. I walked into a room of 200 strangers and sat down. By lunch time I had introduced myself to a handful of those strangers, all of whom did what I did, many of whom I admired. I walked with them in the 100+ degree heat throughout Philadelphia chatting and visiting gardens.
I asked questions, I listened, I visited gardens and I was welcomed in a way that few other groups of people had ever welcomed me. Philadelphia was my first Association of Professional Landscape Designers conference and just by showing up I found kindred spirits who spoke my language, laughed at goofy work related jokes and actually listened to my opinions and found value in what I had to say. All I did was show up. I was asked at that first conference to help start a New Jersey State Chapter.
From that first experience I worked behind the scenes to help elevate my profession through the only group that represented landscape designers. Not garden designers or landscape architects, they’re somewhat different, although some also call themselves landscape designers. Two years later I submitted my (at the time) best built work for APLD’s peer review certification process.
Being certified upped my game further. Not only did the process validate my work, my clients all asked what the fancy new letters were after my name in my correspondence with them when I passed the muster. It was also a way for me to personally and professionally elevate the profile of my profession. I joined the national association’s Awards Committee. Another year later I was asked to serve as Membership Chair on the National Board of Directors.
In Philadelphia, I just wanted to see what it was like and to visit a few gardens. I was curious. I wanted a professional community. Now seven years later, crisscrossing the country, attending APLD’s annual landscape design conferences I have met and talked to hundreds of other designers…all of whom showed up too.
What I now know is how valuable this community is to me personally as well as our profession at large. In 2014, I will be the President of APLD ushering in what I hope will be changes that will continue to elevate our profession and help it navigate the profound changes that will occur to the land we live and work on as well as how we define landscape design in the 21st century. I never thought this would be the case–all I did was show up.