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I went gardening and learned to use a pickaxe

Newsflash: There are three types of fun

When the company I worked for over the summer announced the interns would be spending a day gardening at a local elementary school and racking up the firm’s service hours, I had quaint visions of myself planting a flower or two — maybe even using a watering can. I’ve never been known to have anything close to a green thumb — as a point of reference, I may be the only person that has actually managed to kill a succulent, which is incontestably the trendiest and most low-maintenance of all the plants. My first year, I bought one and had it artfully perched on my windowsill, and although I did manage to remember to water it a couple of times during the semester, the poor plant met a gruesome death after being repeatedly smacked by my descending blinds too many times to count.

So, I thought that this could be my chance to redeem myself for my previous botanical failures. It wasn’t the most fun way I could imagine spending a Monday, but it seemed like a nice break from the office. However, the idyllic little scene I had envisioned shattered upon arrival, when one of the “gardening rangers” — yes, an official title —  that was in charge of us instructed me to grab a pickaxe and begin breaking ground.

I looked at the pickaxe, looked at the massive patch of weeds that I assumed was the “garden,” looked back at the pickaxe, then looked to Mr. Gardening Ranger.

“Um, could I maybe use a rake?”

“We don’t have any rakes left, girly. Grab a pickaxe and get started.” Gosh darnit.

What followed was the most physically demanding four hours of my life, punctuated by frequent trips to the break room, where my friend McKenna and I took cover from the 100-degree heat, chugged water like our lives depended on it and reveled in the modern marvel that is air conditioning. While we hid from responsibility, a group of other interns distinguished themselves as full-blown deserters, taking a break to “go get water bottles” for the rest of the team and returning 45 minutes later with 7/11 slurpees in hand.

While we all proved to be relatively worthless outside of the office, we really had nothing to complain about, compared to the intern who took a nosedive off the front of the drivable lawn mower and had to go to the emergency room for stitches. It may have been a voluntary, last-ditch effort to get himself the heck out of there, though.

Needless to say, I don’t foresee myself gardening anytime soon in Charlottesville — the most physically demanding activity I subject myself to here is the oh-so-torturous walk up 14th Street towards the Corner on my way to class. But looking back, that day of gardening at my internship was one of the most fun of the summer.

The “Fun Scale” sorts the concept of “fun” into three categories — Type I, Type II and Type III. Type I Fun is the things that are fun in the moment, like a milkshake from Cookout at 2 a.m., streaking the Lawn — streaking in general — or surfing. Type II Fun is where things like gardening with your intern friends or getting lost at sea would fall — things that are a bit dismal in the moment but are always fun to look back on. Type III Fun describes the things you never want to do again ever, even if someone gave you a million dollars or a lifetime’s supply of Bold Rock to do it.

While I don’t think I’ve really had my fair share of Type III Fun, I have had a pretty good dose of Types I and II. And while we all tend to value those Type I, fun-in-the-moment memories like walking on the beach or consuming an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting, I’d argue that Type II Fun is just as valuable. Those less-than-ideal experiences become the memories you reminisce about, laughing about how Jake rode his shovel like a make-believe pony through the garden at the end of the day or how Logan should have been our biggest physical asset and yet spent his day doing nothing other than moving a few bags of soil.

I feel like I could throw a gardening analogy at you here about how there’s beauty and growth that can result from pain and hard work, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll leave you with this — enjoy it all. All the types of fun and all those things that are only kind-of fun. Because now summer’s over, and I’m sitting in a classroom writing this, wishing I could grab a pickaxe and go cough up dirt with those other interns.

Ellie Hanson is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at