Posts Tagged ‘careers’

Who Am I?

July 16, 2012

Who Am I?

Little Me


A couple of weeks ago I began wondering who, and what I am. A kind of mild depression I suppose.
A visitor had been looking at my framed pictures — watercolour and ink drawings mostly, with a few oils and pencil crayon — hanging on our walls. My visitors were impressed. I looked at these pictures and wondered if I would ever be able to get back into art work. More recent efforts had come to nothing. No, I could never call myself an artist.
I came to the conclusion that we go through phases during our lifetime. But somehow we can’t go back to what we were unless hit by an irresistible creative force. That is, a time when things seem to flow and come out right, as if by an unseen hand. Nonsense? Maybe, but that is the thought that came to me. Likely an excuse for inertia or lazyness, but…?
Many years ago I was a dress designer and pattern cutter. I had little training but I loved what I was doing and, yes, things seemed to come out right. Ideas flowed. Not all winners but mostly so. Patterns came out right ensuring a good fit, and exactly according to my sketch.
Circumstances changed. We had three young children and we then lived some distance from garment manufacturing. Even freelance work required travel. I saw a poster, which encouraged mothers to take up teaching. We had a training college nearby. I was taken on as a mature student. It was not easy. Some lecturers did not enjoy having mature students in their classes, especially ones with young children. (Two mature students were given the push for being absent when their kids were ill!) Three years later I qualified. So began a teaching career. I was now a teacher. Except when teaching very young children, I never ‘felt’ like a teacher. What are teachers supposed to feel like? Well, it felt good when youngsters began to read and write quite well. Well it would, wouldn’t it?
When I was fifty I took early retirement to train for the Church. That was not easy either. At that time quite a few clergy (all male of course – no other kind then except deaconesses, which I felt called to be), and some parishioners, were opposed to women being allowed to do what had, for many years, been the prerogative of ordained males. I was not ordained. Whether our new anti-women vicar had influenced the decision is neither here nor there. I was however licensed to do many things as a lay reader. The only thing I was not allowed to do, not being a deaconess, was baptise babies. (Although I do believe some lay people had done so.)
For years I no longer knew what, and who, I was. Some clergy treated me almost as ‘one of them’ — reasonable human beings with a sense of calling. I was able to have a real, alive ministry. But it would always be outside the privileged ordained membership. Others treated me as a convenience to fill in when needed, or to avoid when possible — NOT one of them and never shall be. It could be a lonely existence. Things have tended to change over the years. Women have been fully ordained for some time now. They still have some way to go to be equal with men. But Church ministry is not about equality; it is about calling. Clearly, the church gets it wrong many times. A person is deemed to be called by God. But humans decide who has a genuine call. Humans are fallible creatures.
It had been decided that I had a call, yes indeed, but not to ordained ministry. I lost contact with those in training. I was not ‘one of them.’ I felt an embarrassment. At ministerial occasions, I was an outsider looking in. A lady vicar, actually walked away when I told her I was not ordained. She thought I was clergy because of my presence there, and so she was quite embarrassed.
I did a lot of studying and training to improve my skills, especially in Counselling and Pastoral Care. I also took a Diploma Course in my spare time. Then I did an OU degree and gained an upper second. For a while I knew who I was — a student! A Student of Life. No bad thing.
When I was seventy I left Church Ministry never to return. My eyesight prevented me from driving, and there was something else for me to explore — WRITING. I have no doubt that my life’s experiences affect what I write.
I would not call myself a writer but I do a lot of writing on this computer. I have written a number of books but they are not likely to become best sellers! So what?
I approach eighty with no clear picture of what, or who I am. Yes, I am a wife, a mother, a granny. Different parts of my life, and activities I once enjoyed (or agonised over), seem remote — little, or no, part of the ‘me’ I now experience. And yet I am a sum of all these things.
Is this not so for all of us?

Advertisements

Clearing the attic — goodbye to the past

September 21, 2009

Wolfscotedale, Derbyshire

Wolfscotedale, Derbyshire

When I entered the exam for entrance to the Nottingham Secondary Art School at the age of thirteen, I was asked what job I wanted to do. I wrote down DRESS DESIGNER. I was told by several people that it was almost impossible to get into designing. So I crossed it out and wrote BOOK ILLUSTRATOR. I was told that I would never be able to get into that sort of business. Better to opt for dress designing. So I crossed out my illustrator option and wrote designer again. Whoever read the form likely decided I was good at dithering. How true! I dislike having to make choices — too bad, life is full of them.
I have written elsewhere how I got into designing and eventually, to suit family life and cut down travelling, decided to go freelance. I could never have done this at the start as I was unknown and untried. But I was able to carry on at the same firm, plus design and pattern cut for a lingerie firm, then take on the design and pattern cutting of nightwear and housecoats. Now I could see my designs on display in a large range of stores.
Three years after my third child was born I saw a notice asking for married women with experience of children to train as teachers. By this time I was quite interested in education and thought this would be an ideal occupation as it would fit in better with my family. We lived at a distance from the manufacturing cities and so I still had to travel when designing. But was I cut out to be a teacher? Did I have the qualifications to enter the local training college?
The story of how I accomplished this, plus the training and enormous problems when my husband became redundant and we had no choice but to move 220 miles to a totally different environment, will be the subject of another post. Enough to say here that I still continued to do a few designs and cut patterns for one firm for quite a few years. Such was my value to that firm — reliability is essential — that the manager would travel many miles from his factory in Nottingham to ensure he would get his perfect patterns. I recall on a few occasions, working in my workshop (a purpose-built shed in our garden) at five in the morning so as to get the patterns completed. It also enabled me to work while the children were still in bed. On another occasion, the manager relaxed in a deck chair in the sunshine, with cigarettes and cool drink, while I was sweating away in my workshop — I was heavily pregnant at the time. Such was my reliability.
Changes in garment manufacture, especially with the growth of imports, and a severe credit squeeze, forced many manufactures to give up and buildings to be sold. Nottingham’s mills, indeed mills all over the country, seem to have been turned into apartments. Britain has largely lost its manufacturing base. I can buy clothes cheaper today than the cost of material. Once I made most of my own clothes, all of my mother’s clothes, the children’s clothes until they went to school and needed a uniform, and clothes for relatives and friends. I made wedding dresses and bridesmaids outfits, I even made the carry cot for our first child. With industrial machines (lockstitch and overlock) and a Viking to do embroidery, there was little I could not attempt. Pram covers to fancy patches on our sons’ jeans!
Now with my diseased eyes, I only do essential mending. But I still had all my basic patterns in our attic. Pattern blocks are the tools of a designer-cutter. They were shaped and perfected over years of use. There was no pattern I could not cut using those blocks. A pile of them, all cut in Swedish Craft paper: basic blocks for all garments — knicker, cami-knickers, nightdress, slips, housecoat, coat, dress blocks of different sizes – my personal block and those of family members etc etc. A stack of them hanging up and in a large flat box. Once worth a lot but now completely redundant.
Yesterday, I took them all out, made a huge parcel of them, and took them with other rubbish to the recycling bins. I am still left with collections of designs I did years ago. Those were the days when dresses had to fit the figure. Soft drapes or neat collar, shapely bustline and waist, pencil skirt or mid-calf flowing skirts — all so feminine. I smile at some of today’s clothing — I had patterns for baby-doll nightware that would do nicely for what women buy today!
So my pattern blocks are gone — the end of an identity I once had.
Lots more to clear out of the attic yet — materials for teaching, especially art and reading. Amazing what I have hung on to. I have cleared out boxes of fabric — useful for many purposes. And old Nativity costumes etc. etc.
Still to go — and this brings tears to my eyes— my cassocks, surplices and cloaks, used when I was conducting funerals, services and when preaching or assisting with baptisms or with Communion.
Then what? I have already sold off books I used for studying with the OU and other courses. I once thought of writing novels associated with my fields of study, especially the Victorian age and maybe a Roman romance. Or a school yarn? It will not happen. So I have thrown out many essays and so on, although I have kept two long dissertations — well, I did get a distinction for one and just a few marks off a distinction for the other. Pride!
Now, about my writing…. Time to be realistic?

I looked through the photo album to find a photograph that seemed the most relevant at this stage of my life. I decided on this one. Looking forward. I am standing alone, and that is the way it has been in most of what I have done and achieved — academically and in the workplace. But I am not alone in my life. Does our work define who we are? To me that is a side issue. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, a homemaker, friend and neighbour. If we cling to what was, what might have been, to faded hopes and dreams, the ‘stuff in the attic of our lives’ then we miss the scene around us and the joys that may well lie ahead.