Alright guys. This is big in my world. It might not even be something you understand, but bear with me.
Today, I cleaned up my bench in preparation to do a little metalwork. I haven’t even set it up since I moved to Montana and did very little metalwork before we moved here. I am trying out a jewelry assembly position soon and I wanted to get everything ready. I’m hoping it will get me making my jewelry and sculpture again, too, as I have several projects I wanted to finish. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people say things to the effect of “you should be making jewelry and sculpture!” Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t really know, but there’s something no one knew, something I’ve been battling a long time with metalsmithing. The ghosts.
I was a different person in college. I mean, of course I was still me, but less… Humble? I guess you could say I was naïve, idealistic, insensitive, or oblivious. I was kind of an ass hole, and people didn’t call me out on it. Not generally, anyway. I guess the best phrase to describe me at that point in my life was “know-it-all.” I definitely always thought that I was right, and better. I know these issues were rooted in some serious insecurities and this obsession to be perfect and always better and I didn’t hold anyone else to any lower standards. Because of that, I could be cruel. I still sometimes torture myself by thinking of some of the awful things I did or said back then, with and to my metals family. I think of the critiques, where I picked mercilessly upon the work of others and didn’t hold myself back at all with one particular sad soul (you know who he is, metals folks). I thought I would explode with shame when my instructor Becky, who I held on a pedestal, took me aside and finally told me I had to back off. I went to the bathroom and cried instead. I shudder to think how bad it must have been in order for her to pull me aside and have to address it.
I made a lot of great friends in that metals shop, and I lost almost all of them. With many of those friendships, I honestly can’t tell you why, only that it was something I probably did. Some of them I do know why, and it was certainly something I did. I functioned back then on my own set of rules, ones that didn’t have much regard for other people and their feelings. To be honest, I was just so consumed with myself, who I wanted to be, how I wanted to be seen. It seems strange to me now, knowing how I acted, but also needing so much to be liked and approved of. It was pretty contradictory, but I didn’t see it back then. By the time I did, I was too ashamed to try to salvage those friendships. I guess I just sort of faded away, hoping all of it would fade away with me.
There are many ways I have changed and grown over the years, as people tend to do. I know I’m not perfect, I don’t try to be anymore. I do try to keep growing and be a better version of myself, but I’m less concerned with these impossible and ridiculous standards and more focused on love and acceptance. Gone are the days of not giving approval because I couldn’t even satisfy my own standards, but I hang on to the guilt. I’ve never been good at letting go, and that’s something that hasn’t changed, but hopefully will one day, with work. I still remember situations, things that happened, that make me cringe while I’m lying in bed at night, trying to sleep. I think what a fool I was, what a child, and I can still feel myself blush with embarrassment. I try to forgive myself for it, to let it go. Most of the time I’m able to, but whenever I even tried to approach making jewelry and sculpture again, I’d get to my bench and just sink into some awful place I couldn’t navigate my way out of.
The ghosts. That’s what it felt like, like I was haunted by my missteps, by my friendships lost, by my obtuse actions and my resentment of my past self. Creating metalwork used to bring me such joy; it was meditative, relaxing. Over time, it had turned into something painful for me and that was just, well, depressing. Then there was life. Working, kids, housework, it all piled up and I just didn’t do much creative. A collage or drawing, maybe writing here or there, but never my metals. Here I am though. Now. I think I’ve gotten past most of it. Time heals, right? My husband found a job on craigslist that is assembling jewelry pieces, and I think it’s just what I needed to get back into it. I’m doing a trial period, but am hopeful. So, preparation was in order.
Today, I cleaned up my bench, organized things and connected my power strip. I checked my flex shaft (needs cleaned and greased), hooked up my regulator on a 5 year old b-tank and tested for leaks. I filled up my pickle pot, added water to a massive, dried out tub of handy flux and got everything ready to go. It was cathartic, like saying hail marys or our fathers or something. I don’t know, I’m not Catholic, but it felt like a religious experience to me. I hope it is the start of something new and wonderful, something that I can find a lot of joy in again. I think it will be. I know my life is in a period of change and I’m trying to embrace that. I’m trying to find careers that complement each other, time for my beautiful family and to still make us good dinner, and always time for growth, change, and love.
A special note: To those I hurt, embarrassed, frustrated, I’m so very sorry. Ignorance is no excuse. I should have behaved better, not hurt you. To those who forgave me, who helped me, who stuck by me, thank you. We never grow without those who tend to us. I am forever in your debt.