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Have you ever wondered how I got here?
The answer is: just barely.
As you can probably tell, I love my work. So it's hard for me to slow down, introduce myself, explain where I came from or why I do what I do.
So I thought I'd do that in the next couple of emails. (Don't worry, I'll be showing you some sweet garment design too!)
That picture up above, yes that's me - I'm guessing I'm between six and seven years old. We're parked on the oceanside strip in Huntington Beach, California, and I guarantee it's sunny outside. I've got one foot on the family dresser drawer and one on my brother's bunk bed, in the back half of the bus I grew up in.
Yes, that's right, a bus. I lived with my family in this bus from age two to about age eight. People have asked me MANY times what it was like to be homeless as a kiddo, and I also get asked whether people made fun of me. Well I can tell you I am one hundred percent positive people made fun of me, because people are cruel sometimes, but I have no conscious memory of that kind of thing.
Sometimes I think my painstaking need to be deliberate in my purchases, to not buy things compulsively then round them up and "donate"/throw out, only to repeat that cycle over and over - well sometimes I wonder if that comes from an obvious root: my formative years in a domicile (of sorts) where space was a premium. Maybe - maybe not.
And sometimes I think my unusual upbringing may be one reason my current foursome - myself, my partner, and our two teen children - live so peaceably as career unschoolers and then two years into a pandemic. I'm used to close quarters, with the ones I love.
By this age - seven - I had already been placed in a "Gifted and Talented" program (I've written about that here, a little), I was already being steered as that "bright" child who was supposed to go on to leverage my smarts into a mid-level STEM career. My desire to create art, my desire to live in a counter-cultural space, my desire to liberate sll beings from abuse and oppression - these drives of mine were dismissed as silly dreams by most the adults in my life.
Obviously it's impossible to sum up a childhood in a short email, and I won't attempt that here. There's a point to my sharing. When I think of my chlldhood self I don't feel angry that my adults didn't do better, and I don't even feel sad for "what could have been" (because... things could have gone worse, too)! I've spent a fair amount of time in self-help literature, with therapists, in recovery groups, delving deep into Buddhism, and surrounding myself with love and support. Usually I feel some acceptance about my past. It is what it is, as the pithy saying goes.
No: when I think about my childhood self I feel fear. I feel fear for a past where I was unprotected, and less-than-loved. I feel scared at how close a thing it was, that I got through it at all. That I lived into adulthood and got healthier. That I picked myself up from a bad place and got my shit together. (Eventually!)
What does this have to do with my design work today? Well, besides everything.
Today I am reclaiming that space. Reclaiming the part of me that wanted to make art - on my terms. Reclaiming the part of me that knew my ethics weren't silly - they were a strength. Reclaiming that part of me that wanted fairness for all, and was ready to re-commit to that ethos every day.
What space would you reclaim - if you knew you could get away with it?
I'd really like to know.
Next week I'll be back with a little second chapter. (Don't worry, I'll share some lovely sewing pics, too!)