These days, there’s no shortage of negativity. Just read the headlines, look out the window at the streets you used to roam, or reflect on the things we took for granted, like that sweet, liberating feeling of bailing on a social gathering.

I normally respond to negativity in a Very Healthy Way: bathe in it, a pint of ice cream in hand, and death glare at anyone who chirps, “Look on the bright side!”

After years of practice, this style of coping has been airtight. Then, TikToker Garden Marcus came along and tricked me into scams like “positivity,” “patience,” and “mindfulness.”

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Design by Wenzdai Figueroa

My inner cynic is no match for Garden Marcus

It was day 37 of quarantine. I was going through my usual evening routine — becoming one with the couch, snickering at videos of clumsy children on TikTok while How I Met Your Mother played in the background — when one of Garden Marcus’s vlogs appeared on my feed. As with many other videos on the platform, I didn’t know what I was watching or why I could not stop. 

The video starts with him, a grown man, jumping joyously holding two shovels. He then starts churning food scraps in an outdoor composting bin. While completing his last gardening task (planting an Easter Lily) he finds chunks of roots growing in the dirt. He takes a whiff of the root and delight overcomes him after realizing the endeavor he had given up on years ago — planting ginger — had been succeeding all along.

He concludes the video by reminding viewers to “be patient with [themselves]” and to “be persistent.” I found myself nodding along instead of scoffing at the triteness of the statement. My normally-furrowed eyebrows softened, and I proceeded to devour the rest of his videos in one sitting.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of being a more positive person — who isn’t? — but I’ve found the flavors of positive rhetoric I normally encounter difficult to stomach; either saccharine or artificial-tasting. Garden Marcus’s variety of earnest positivity was just right.

When I’m anxious about the vagueness of the future, I turn to Garden Marcus

On days when I find myself paralyzed by the combination of rage I feel about the current state of our nation and general helplessness about what to do about it, I watch Garden Marcus. His videos help me escape into a simpler world, one of just a man and his garden.

When he introduces us to a hibiscus plant he believed was doomed but later found flowering during springtime, his reminder to be patient with others gives me strength to not let my partner’s pet peeves deplete me during quarantine.

When he shares that it took him four attempts to grow a sweet potato plant, I feel a little more okay about the rejections I receive as I continue to pursue the career change I embarked on before the pandemic hit. I find the courage to pitch another story or apply for another job after Garden Marcus reminds me that one of these seeds, too, should eventually take root and flourish.

Maybe it’s his soothing voice or his toothy grin, but there’s this genuine and wholesome quality to Garden Marcus that makes it difficult to watch him and feel anything but kindness and earnestness. Here is a man who truly believes in the lessons he learns from his garden.

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My Garden Marcus-inspired window garden

He is not a corporation reminding us it cares about our wellbeing so we can purchase its products. He is not a celebrity attempting to connect with us from homes that look ironically similar to the one in “Parasite.” He is just a guy who believes in the power of patience and wants us to drink more water.

Garden Marcus’ claims may not be particularly revelatory — do not give up, be kind to others, welcome change — but I find his undeniable passion for gardening and the joy he derives from his plants a respite from a culture that encourages the opposite of stopping and smelling the roses.

Cindy is a writer based in Los Angeles who enjoys writing about culture, technology, and food. You can find Cindy on Twitter @cindythou.