(WARNING: This post is long and whiny. I wrote it a while ago, and debated posting it, because I generally try to keep things… a little more positive on the blog. However, this blog really was supposed to document my sewing journey, and I suppose that includes the lows, as well as the highs. So I’m posting it. I plan on doing a follow-up post in a few days, which I have written more recently, that should be a little less depressing. But I am sort of at the point where I really just need to say what I’m feeling without interjections of how I should be managing my life, if only to get the thoughts out of my head. So here it is. Feel free to ignore this post if you don’t want to deal with the moodiness right now.)
When I started sewing just over 5 years ago, I never thought it would consume my life in the way that it has. I mean, I know myself well enough to know that I typically get overly excited and obsessed with things that interest me. I expected sewing to be little more than a fun hobby, a way to exercise my creative tendencies, (perhaps even a way to get pants that actually fit), and a way to temporarily escape from the fears and doubts that only grew during my time at graduate school. What I didn’t expect was that, sometime down the road, sewing would stir the same emotions and fears that I have been running from ever since I was preparing for my Advancement to Candidacy.
Sewing for other people started in a sort of accidental, but mostly rather selfish way. I somehow ended up skating team dance and couldn’t imagine affording a costume from the other seamstresses in the area, so I decided to sew for myself and my dance partner. Which somehow expanded into me sewing some simple club uniforms for a few other people. It only took off from there. Finishing school gave me a lot of extra time, and I liked sewing anyway, plus the extra cash couldn’t hurt, so I figured, why not?
Well, the giant list of “why nots” decided to come smack me upside the head this year.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that I am a very spontaneous sewer. I mean, I can plan and obsess over a project for
months years, but the jump from mental planning to fabric cutting is often very spontaneous and usually occurs in a giant flash of inspiration and mojo. When I am sewing for other people I can’t do that. Mostly because I am on a deadline, but also because, occasionally more often than I care to admit, I just don’t like the project I am commissioned to make. Turns out I’m a control freak, and the less control I have over a project, the less I enjoy making it. It also turns out that copying someone else’s outfit really isn’t my thing (the academic in my brain starts spouting out the p-word, Tourettes style). I mean, I am more than willing to work with a client, to try and create something they are happy with, but when the process lacks that element of design and creativity it just becomes a lot of uninspired grunt work on a deadline.
|This sign is now sitting over my sewing machine.
That is something I never intended to have happen.
The problem then becomes that, at a certain point, I just get so overwhelmed by the list of sewing things that I have to do that I just start to avoid them. Instead I just want to make something nice and elegant and pretty. Which usually results in wasting hours planning projects I don’t have time to make or fabric buying which ends up in my ridiculously overstuffed stash or the occasional frenzied project that ends up being for me. Which makes me feel ridiculously guilty. Nearly all of my favorite creations this year have been for me – mostly because when I made them I didn’t have any outside influence and just got to create what I wanted, when I wanted, as I wanted. And the projects turned out the way I envisioned, and I was pleased with the results. Except that every time I have sewn something for myself it has been at the expense of finishing something for someone else. It was motivation to get back in front of the sewing machine, which was critically important, but it was also time I didn’t have to waste. I haven’t been able to feel pride in any of my work this year, because (with one or two notable exceptions) I am not proud of the quality or design of my commissions, and I feel incredible guilt when I look at anything I made for myself.
It hasn’t helped that very few of the things I’ve made seem to have turned out right this year. There have been more than a few times when I’ve been disgusted by my own sloppy technique (I feel like I’ve spent more time making alterations than actually creating new pieces), and one of my garments may have been so bad that in its unfinished state it reduced a grown woman to tears. Plus, skating being skating, it wouldn’t be right if the audience weren’t full of snide commentary about every little flaw. And, yes, if I can’t take it I shouldn’t dish it out, but it has really gotten to the point where, if this were Project Runway, I would have just gotten auf’d because I let my client take over the design during the “real people as models” challenge.
All of this is to say, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know if I like sewing anymore. The worlds “I hate sewing!” may have crossed my lips (more than once) in the past few months. In a moment of utter frustration I may have chucked a water bottle across the rink lobby. And there may have been at least one total meltdown that left me as a dissolved, sobbing, puddle of goo waist deep in sequins and chiffon. I am not proud of my behavior, indeed, it has ranged somewhere between shameful and abominable these past few months. I am not happy with myself, and, honestly, I haven’t been in quite some time. I’ve been trying to make lifestyle changes (mainly with my diet), which have helped in many ways, but when it gets down to it, at the end of the day, I’m still not happy.
I was recently listening to a podcast (Revolution Health Radio with Chris Kresser) about productivity. You can listen to Part I here and Part II here if you are interested. Anyway, one of his tips for being productive is to have a hobby that you do only for the sake of doing it. Sewing used to be that for me, but now it isn’t. Now it is work. Now it is a job. Actually, at this point almost everything I do is a job, or is sort of starting to feel like one. I’m tired, burnt out, and I can’t find the joy in things anymore. I’ve been feeling this way since I was in grad school, and I assumed it would get better once I had finished, but it hasn’t. In fact, in a lot of ways, I think it has only gotten worse.
I’ve thought about it a lot (because I overanalyze everything) and the main problem, when I just get down to it, is that I don’t know what I want anymore. Not just with sewing, but with life in general. I’ve always been the person who had the next (two or three) steps in mind. I’ve always had a plan. And I’ve never been good at rethinking the plan. I mean, sure, there were backup plans, but they were mostly different routes to the same destination. The problem is I made it to the destination, but I was so exhausted from the journey that I didn’t want to get off the bus. And I don’t regret that. But now I’m not going anywhere. I’m just sitting on the bus, lost, watching the world through the windows.
How long should a person fail before they stop trying? Failing at reaching goals, failing at personal growth, failing at finding a desire to do more. I’ve never really known when to say when, and it’s cost me. I thought I would have learned a lesson from that, modified my behavior, grown, and reconfigured my life. But I haven’t. I’m still the same, stubborn, and unwilling to let go of the things that I decided were important at one point of my life or another. The problem is that I don’t have any new goals or desires being added to them. Things are stagnant. And, as one who has never been fond of change, you would think that I would be ok with this. But I’m not.
I want things to change. I want to find new goals. I want to want things again. People say things will happen when they are meant to happen, and that time and distance will heal the pain. But it hasn’t. I mean, perhaps things aren’t meant to happen right now. And maybe I haven’t allowed enough time to heal. But I’ve never been real good about letting things happen on their own, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for something when I don’t even know what I’m waiting for. I need to find the something. I need to find the ambition, the desire, the plan. Trouble is, I’ve been looking, and I’m still just as lost as I was a year ago, or two. I’m still stuck on the same goals I’ve been stuck on for the past two years. I’m still stuck in an uncreative sewing rut, waist-deep in sequins and chiffon, making things for other people. I’m still stuck on all the wrong choices I’ve made that have led me down this path. I’m still stuck on that bus, lost in my own thoughts, sitting, watching, and waiting.