dusty skills


Over the years, I’ve picked up and summarily abandoned many new skills. Call them hobbies, interests, or even fads (for how quickly some of them came and went in my life), but I’ve dabbled.

That means I have a lot of junk, because things like sewing, painting, drawing, scrap-booking, cake-decorating, reading, even writing now (I have more than a foot of printed words), all take supplies. Some of it’s gone, given away, dried up, dusty, or resigned to permanent storage.

Sometimes I look back on all the time, energy, and money that I expended and think, wow, if only I had just stuck with one of those things. (Er, I stick with writing, but honestly that’s not what’s clogging up the basement and kitchen).

But other times, I realize that this is the nature of experimentation. And for the most part, I did enjoy all of these things while I was doing them. I just can’t picture myself, for example, waking up tomorrow with the sudden urge to make a scrapbook. I mean, it’s not like I’ve taken many pictures in the last five years.

Does that mean it’s lost? No. I think four years ago I would have said yes, but the funny thing about the passage of time is all the things I’ve learned about life and myself. I see one thing in common with every single hobby I have ever attempted: the need to create. The need to express. And while I didn’t have the stamina, or the courage, or even the dedication to see any one thing through to excellence a decade ago, I see every lopsided cake, every chapter of that comic book I never finished, every scrap of cloth purchased with some grand vision of a skirt or coat, not as failures but as steps to the person I am today. A person who can say “yes, I can do this thing.” A woman who can finish what she starts.

The things we do always come full circle. I have to believe that because I have seen it, this year, in 2012, in ways that I can no longer deny. I may not bake cakes every week or make money selling sweets like I had one day dreamed, but the occasional commission from cake pops has been my book money. Getting rave compliments from my family–all three of my families–is worth every moment spent fussing over icing that wouldn’t smooth.

Those two comic books I started and never finished? They are novels that needed thirteen years’ incubation time. I finished them last year, put them into beta readers’ hands this spring. They will see print.

Speaking of writing, teaching myself to write has made me enjoy books on a whole new level. And it’s changed me in ways I am still trying to understand, as a means of self-honesty and the way I relate to people. When I’m not tongue-tied, my vocabulary has increased–as has my confidence to say funny or brave things. Me, funny? Apparently sometimes it does happen.

And while I put my sewing machine away for more than five years, it has come out to save me several times in the past three months. I altered my wedding dress with surprising ease. My favorite pair of jeans has busted stitches–twice–and I’m still able to wear them, albeit mended. This weekend I was looking at baby slings and realized I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on something I could make myself. A few minutes on the internet and I was using long-since forgotten fabric to put an old skill to very good use.

Oh, and all that scrap-booking? My intuition says that by year’s end, I’ll have the creative urge to take lots of pictures and memorialize them with pretty papers and inks. I’ve heard motherhood tends to do that to people.

So I can’t believe that any of these hobbies were wasted. These things make me me–not just the person I was when I took them up–but the person I am now. Nothing has been wasted, not time, not years, not opportunity cost, even if those skills never get perfected and supplies get packed away in the attic.

Dusty skills can be brushed off, tools given a little grease, techniques refreshed. They will serve you when you need them.

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