The title of this post was inspired by the Queen song, which was playing in the background in Shawn’s new NFL video game.* It was a pretty funky remix/mash-up that I probably would have enjoyed had I not been previously engaged with my new sewing machine that was frustrating me to tears.
See, I have this personality quirk – I have very high expectations of myself. Insanely high. High enough that if the task that I’m working on at the moment does not come easily and with the high skill level that I assume I should have, then I very quickly get frustrated and very down on myself. This happened most recently back in New York City in July when I was attending my very first stage combat workshop, and I expected to pick up smallsword as quickly and as well as my fight director clearly had (despite the fact that he’s had years and years of smallsword experience and was, in fact, taking additional courses that week on various forms of fencing outside of the workshop!). My first choreography rehearsal was a nightmare (in my opinion) as neither I nor my combat partner Tobin had ever used smallswords before and had to take the entire two hours learning proper technique. What’s that, you say? Isn’t learning the proper technique first a good thing? Why yes, it’s actually a very good thing. But in my mind, and having seen what other combatants had come up with in their first two hours of choreography rehearsal, I was very, very behind; that I was a terrible stage fighter; and basically I had no right to even be at the fight workshop.
To make a long story short, I got over myself. I re-discovered that I’m actually a very good stage fighter. Tobin and I had a great fight that was well-received and all is well.
But today the fight was with my sewing machine. My mom bought me a brand-new Singer Esteem II 2273 sewing machine as an early Christmas present a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been stuck on sewing for a while now. I first learned to sew back in grades 7 and 8 and did very well… was one of only two people in my entire class that actually finished their boxer shorts project. (The other person was a guy called Brian, and the two of us were rewarded with… extra time to cook something fun in the kitchen. Yes, we got rewarded with more work. Huh.)
I’ve found a ton of really cute patterns online that I want to make, especially pirate blouses! The idea of making my own clothes and gifts for people really appeals to me, because you can really customize things and make them really special for the recipient. So yesterday I got the machine all set up, managed to thread the bobbin and machine successfully, and even got the bobbin thread up through the machine. I know I didn’t do something right the first time though because the stitches on my practice piece are all uneven and the white thread is coming out gray-ish. Do brand-new machines have oil or something on them? But eventually I finished my practice piece, which turned out to be a sort of pincushion. I didn’t have any stuffing, so I stuffed it with cotton balls. It’s a bit lumpy. Oh well.
It was pretty successful for a practice piece. Shawn said he couldn’t even tell where I hand-stitched the opening. (Pretty sure he could but at this point I’ll take his fib to save my ego.)
This morning I woke up nice and early (for me, anyway), and headed right to my sewing machine to work on my next piece, a small patchwork piece. I picked up some really cute, inexpensive material from Fabricland, cherry and peach printed. Clearly I’m not ready for summer to end, eh? I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do with it… it might end up as a cushion, or a doll-sized quilt for Shawn’s niece Liliana, or a wall hanging… who knows. Anyway, I was mid-way through piecing the third group of squares, when something happened… I’m not sure what exactly. All I know is that the threads got all tangled and jammed up and the stitching came out all wrinkly. No worries, I thought, and proceeded to untangle the threads and attempt to re-thread the machine. Except the bobbin thread wouldn’t catch, and I have no idea why. I tried and tried, over and over. I read and re-read the directions. What was I doing wrong today that I didn’t do yesterday? It came so easily yesterday! (Momentarily forgetting that clearly I didn’t do something right yesterday, since the stitches weren’t perfect yesterday either, but at least they were much, much better than today.) Eventually I just gave up in frustration and crawled back into bed in tears. Shawn came and comforted me (bless him) and the tears went away, with promises of distraction and suggestions to call my mom or one of my more experienced sewing friends.
So why the hysterics? Basically it’s my inner five-year-old who wants everything NOW. Patience is not my strong suit. “Grant me patience NOW!” is a common wish of mine. I’ve heard being an Aries and/or an only child has something to do with this, who knows. And, not to sound boastful, but generally new tasks tend to come easily to me. I won the first figure skating competition I ever competed in. I climbed up to the very top of a 40-foot-tall rock climbing wall the first time I tried. I successfully filed my own taxes and got a pretty big refund the first time I tried. The first play I directed for OKTC was nominated for a Brickenden Award.
But what about the other things that I haven’t been so successful at? Why is it so important for me to be great at everything I try, right away? Obviously nobody likes being bad at stuff. But I haven’t allowed myself to be a beginner, to accept the fact that I don’t have all the answers and to allow myself to fail. My fourth-grade self would have probably thrown up at that last prospect – to allow myself to fail. I actually have a written note from my fourth-grade teacher that said something to the effect of “Kerry must realize that school is a place for her to learn, not a testing zone for what she already knows.” (I don’t know if that’s everyone’s philosophy on school, but it’s a fantastic one. Rest in peace, Ms. Riddell.) Learning a new skill is difficult and challenging – isn’t that the point of learning a new skill? And then enjoying the satisfaction when you’ve mastered that skill. Nobody is born a master – it takes time, hard work, and perseverance.
And so I will persevere. I’m not a quitter. Eventually I will master my sewing machine and make all sorts of fantastic things. Until then, I’ll just wait for my mom to get back from vacation and then ask for some lessons. First one? Catching that damn bobbin thread.
*Note: I learned later on that today is Freddy Mercury’s birthday. Hence the Queen songs all day. I thought it was just a coincidence.