Sunday, July 30, 2006

neither fast nor easy

In my blogging absence I've had a wonderful 40th birthday party, gotten myself a full-time teaching job, decided that one of these old days I'm going to move to Austin, and had a noticeable downturn in finished knitting projects (and a serious upturn in new projects cast-on but not finished).

Lots of highs, some managable lows, and the job is the biggest thing. It's hard to craft when you don't know where your next meal is coming from. I shouldn't say that (of all the things I've missed in my life, a meal is not among them), but it sounds sufficiently dramatic. I've come to know that the bigger issue is that, in not having a job, I felt purposeless and idle, even more so than I felt broke.

I've long fancied myself a free-ballin' artiste and, as such, pooh-poohed any sign of structure. Funny how turning 40 is like a kind of flashlight, illuminating the dark and muddy places in your thinking and allowing you to see what's been hiding in those corners all along. The truth of the matter -- and I'm working to accept it -- is that I need structure, and I need to feel useful. This need for structure has duked it out with my need to just, as the rappers say, flow. The grace of clarity that 40 has brought has shown me that it's fine for me to claim my place as a writer and to keep seeking opportunities to live in that place, and that this does not have to be in conflict with working for The Man. That's the part I had trouble with. Jobs have always given me the sense that somebody was trying to yoke me. I've worked a zillion jobs, like anybody else, but only now am I coming to understand that the key is to accept my employment choices, and everything that's come with them, as my own. I will cut myself enough slack to admit I've had some sucky jobs. Most of the time I've worked as some kind of admin assistant, which happens to be the kind of work I admire other people for being able to do but absolutely hate to do myself. Some twisted part of me (stemming from my damaged childhood, no doubt) preferred the kind of job where I could hide, and doing admin work, temporary at that, kept me anonymous, like a migrant tomato picker. All the while something inside me cried out with the need to do work that made me feel connected.

Finding my current job was tricky as all hell and it took a long time, but when it came, it came without a hitch. Two interviews, a couple of weeks, and bam, I'm an English instructor. Full-time with benefits. Oh, and a gang of students I can't hide from in the least. I started this month and so far, so good. I'm sure I'll be posting about my many triumphs and tribulations here, alongside the things I make while living through them. What I can say now is that this is the first time I've had a job and felt self-directed at the same time. (Possibly I felt this way during my Pizza Hut years, since I was working to support a kid and get through college. I thought of going back to the Hut a few times, but I think they still wear polyester and sun-visors.) It's too early to say if it'll come, but the ultimate gift from me and God would be for me to have the balance to hold this job while doing serious writing of my own. If I can get both plates in the air, I'll feel like a real true grown-up.

Now let me ask, What's work without a little play?

One of the best birthday gifts ever is the sewing machine I got from my lovely friend V. My birthday was in May and, with the new job, I didn't think I'd get a chance to use it for a few more months. But last weekend, on the shopping outing that yielded the Yarn Ball that Ate New Jersey, Natalie and I stopped in F&S Fabrics on Pico Blvd to check out the stock and inquire about sewing classes. We'd gone to Sewing Arts Center in Santa Monica (which is how we wound up at Stitches from the Heart, right next door) but decided against having to take a fixed number of classes, on week nights, where we'd have to use the shop's machines and end up saddled with "lounge pants" (think pajamas) as our finished projects. UGH. F&S provided the solution, with its 2-hour class sessions with ample time slots on weekends. Each class is $35 and you can take as few or as many as you'd like. I think $35 is a good deal, especially now that I've been to my first class (yesterday). Years ago I looked into classes in Manhattan. At the time, they ran about $70 for the same amount of instruction I'm getting at F&S for half that. Plus, the staff at F&S is a real trip, from a diva who has apparently fallen on hard times but still can't be bothered to wait on you, to a brother who looks like he ambled in off skid row and never left (you'll possibly want to look down your nose at him, but you'll find its too late, he's already busy snubbing you), to Shirley, who appears to be the manager but maybe isn't but is absolutely sweet and sassy. Then there's Christina, the Goddess of Sewing Instruction (I don't think it's any wonder that "Christ" is in her name):

Brilliant, patient, kind and funny. She really knows what she's talking about and, equally important, how to get it across to people who have no clue about sewing, fabric, machines or anything but want to make cute skirts.

Here's a little essay to illustrate the day:

How was I supposed to know a pattern is no place to jot my sonnets?

At least I'm planning to use fabric to make my skirt, unlike some people:

A few more (see the rest on my Flickr site):

Moment I'm most proud of:

And a surprise visit from a season 1 "Project Runway" star. (There's gossip behind this photo, but I'll save it for another day):


Kim said...

Happy Belated birthday!! Good to see you around again and hey, if you move to Austin we can hang out ;o)

sappmama said...

Hi, Kim! So great to see you. I just went over to your blog and found out you guys have up and moved to TX. I'll be following your chronicles, and, some day, joining you.

We certainly will hang out!

Ellen Bloom said...

Wow! Now, in addition to being an expert knitter, you're going to be Ms. Seamstress Extraordinaire!!! Way to go, Ms. Carla!

sappmama said...

Can't help lovin' them handcrafts, Ellen! LOL!

afrowalking said...

Ha! Love it! Good to read you again!

sappmama said...

Thank you, Afrowalking!

sahara said...

Hey there!

I am sooo sorry to have missed your birthday! Now that I am back with the living––happy 40th! Gosh, you're 40? Black sure don't crack! YOU GO, GIRL!

The best thing about your 40's is that you have enough life behind you to review the lessons learned, and enough life ahead of you to learn more. As for the work/crative conflict––I actually enjoy jobs where I do not use my creativity––it saves that part of my brain.

Good luck with your new job! Those kids will provide you with plenty of material! and enjoy the sewing! Crossing mediums is so much fun. Wait until you combine sewing and crochet; we'll never see you again! ;)

sappmama said...

Hi, Sahara. Thank you! Yes, girl, 4-0. I enjoyed my 30s (for the most part) and am excited about the prospects this new phase of life is bringing.

So glad to have you "back with the living" :). I've been reading your blog, it's amazing, as always.

orchidophile said...

I love this post! You are correct: Most sewing classes taught at community centers/colleges end with PJs as the final project. Mine does. But I've stepped beyond the curriculum toward skirts with zippers.

That shop sounds great! We need one in our neck of the woods.