Freebird

I am sitting here at my desk, completely wired on happy. Perhaps you would like to hear why? (Unless you are my secret archnemesis, in which case you probably want to hear no such thing. Secret archnemesis, why do you hate me so?)

See? I’m giddy. Giddy because I have just spent the first two weeks in my new life. My new life that I chose for myself. My new life that it took me six years to convince myself to commit to. My new life that seemed like a crazy pipe dream and now it’s real and it’s going really well.

After six years of graduate school and 13 years as a college professor, I have officially resigned from academia and have begun a full-time career as a knitting designer, teacher, and writer.

Loyal readers of this blog are thinking, weren’t you going to do this about six months ago? Yes, yes, I was, but then a colleague convinced me to job-share with her for a while, and you know what? As kind as it was for my institution to let me have some job security while I figured things out, neither teaching nor scholarship are jobs you can do well when your mind is more than half somewhere else.

So, I resigned a couple of weeks ago. Since I’ve been preparing for — and having near-anxiety attacks about — this moment for years now, imagine my delight to find that IT’S GOING REALLY WELL.

Fear #1: I won’t be able to make even a meager living as a knitter. What am I, 22 years old with this “I’m going to be an artist” crap?

This is a legitimate concern, and I have had my earful of knitwear designers telling me you can’t make a living at design. They’re no doubt right. So I’m not trying to make a living at that — at least, not exclusively.

I’m also teaching, and not just at my LYS, but also looking at nursing homes, play groups, knitting conventions, and fiber festivals. Teaching pays better, and I’ve always loved it.

And I’m doing some interior design work, making one-of-a-kind fiber pieces for an architecture firm.

And most recently two of my favorite people in craft, Shannon Okey and Heather Ordover, asked me to help out their creative ventures on a freelance basis.

And I might apply for a grant. And it’s… just all coming together. All coming together after six years of planning and fretting and planning and back-filling with contingency plans and sweating creative sweat out of sheer panic.

But still.

Fear #2: After nearly two decades in academia, how can I be intellectually challenged enough by knitting?

This is more my friends’ fear than mine, but it’s worth talking through. I’ll be the first to admit that working with one’s hands requires a different kind of mental challenge than teaching about, say, postmodern historiography.

But just because those mental challenges are qualitatively different does not mean that they are quantitatively different. Let me tell you, my head was completely exhausted after trying to figure out how to construct this damned macramé light fixture last week.

This is engineering I’m doing. And algebra. And art. It is stimulating and variable and alive, and I cannot imagine tiring of it.

Fear #3: I will become a crazy person working at home.

Now, this one the jury’s still out on. It’s been only two weeks and already the cat is being subjected to this kind of monologue during the day:

“OK, I came in the kitchen for… what? Oh, that’s right, the dye pot. I have left the motherf&*^in’ heat on under the dye pot again. Criminately, I’m going to burn the house down if I’m not careful…. Ooh, cheese sticks!”

And so on. Yeah, clearly I’m going to need to schedule some OUTINGS. I promise I will wash my hair beforehand.

34 thoughts on “Freebird

    • I appreciate that, Christine. As you guessed, I wanted to emphasize all of that because so many people want to make a living in craft, and I can definitely say it’s not easy to get that going.

  1. This sounds wonderful, Elizabeth, and I am so happy for you! On really hard teaching days I think about you and how life might eventually take me in a more crafty direction. I’ll look to you for inspiration!

  2. Awesome!! Congratulations to you! I’m extremely envious and wish you the best of luck. (Just make the cat in charge of that dyepot. He’s probably not too busy).

  3. De-lurking to say I think it is fantastic you are forging on with your dream for that. As someone who has worked at home for 20-odd years now (OMG – that makes me sound ancient), outings are DEFINITELY REQUIRED. Otherwise you realize you’ve had on PJs for 3 days straight and are more okay with that than you should be. 🙂

  4. Wow, congratulations! I can definitely appreciate concern 3… But teaching will surely take you out and you can also do so many things away from the home office if you have a laptop. (Of course, your actual design work can be done outside too…)

  5. Hurrah! Congratulations! It’s so exhilarating and terrifying to finally get to enact a long-held and life-changing plan. It’s great to read that it’s working out for you!

    (Your answer to fear #2 made me laugh—I recently finished one degree, withdrew applications for others, and moved across the country to cheerlead my partner through his Ph.D. and knit. “Aren’t you… bored?” is something I heard a lot. Nope, it’s challenging to balance all the considerations that go into a mitten!)

    • Thank you, Rebecca. It’s great to hear from someone who understands #2 from both sides of the equation. I was looking at your blog and saw this: “It is too bad that departments don’t award PhDs to partners of PhD candidates, because now that I have seen some of the abusive ugliness that academia enables and encourages, I am never signing up for one myself!” Amen to the first part, and oy vey, I’m sorry to hear it to the second part. At the college where I worked, I got to work with a lot of beautiful, supportive people, but there are no guarantees of that in academia, I’m afraid. I hope your sweetie’s diss process wraps up well.

      • My sweetie is insulated from the worst of this particular ugliness, because sexism is the department’s main problem and he is a dude who is not working on a feminist project. It’s still awful to see what’s happening to our friends and how little recourse there is, though. Thanks for the good wishes! For you I wish endlessly interesting and rewardingly complicated projects.

  6. Last Thursday’s WSJ headline was “What’s Wrong with Wearing Pajamas All Day?”. My Dad showed it to me, while wearing his pajamas. Dress up every once in a while just as a reminder of how cute you are, and how liberating it is to not have to dress up anymore. Revel in your new life – I will too.

  7. So exciting! Following your dream and passion…we celebrate with you! And two handsome models you have there…I know they must be thrilled for you, too!

  8. You sweet darling! You DO understand what is going on here! I AM going through the exact same things that you are ! wow – i had no idea (and now I feel like an idiot). Good luck to you and I KNOW it will go well.
    🙂 Thank you so much for being in my life now… 🙂 I feel really privileged.

    • I had no idea what you were going through when we met a couple of weeks ago, either! Isn’t that funny how you can have this parallel story with someone who’s standing there right in front of you, and you don’t even know it? Makes me wish we had had even more time to talk — well, presumably we will see each other again at a fiber event!

      I also realized after listening to your latest episode that I know EXACTLY what I’m going to design with the luscious orange-and-brown bison yarn I bought from you: something for Peeta (to go with your scarf for Katniss). 😀 It’ll take me a little while to get to it, since I’ve got some deadlines pressing, but I’m excited about it….

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