Monday, June 02, 2008

I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me

It started with me thinking about why I knit but don't sew (bear with me, I promise not to talk about arts & crafts for the entirety of this post). I have wanted to learn how to sew for some time. Well, I should modify that- I knew how to sew, once upon a time, but I have wanted to refresh myself on the subject and actually do it well. But then again, I have been saying that for some years now and have never actually put my mind to it.

But there's actually a big difference between knitting and sewing. I couldn't figure out knitting when I was younger, and so I never even really got started. Sewing, on the other hand, was easily learned, especially since we actually had to learn it in middle school as part of class. When I was younger, sewing appealed to me. Have a plan, lay it out carefully, tend to it with precision and detail, execute and there you have it.

Knitting has never gone that way for me. Technically, you should be able to approach it the same way, but there is always something that I haven't accounted for with knitting. There is always something I am tinkering with along the way, always something that turns out differently than I expected. And it's fine, because you can almost always go back with knitting. It's a forgiving thing- you can unwind and unravel, clean the slate, start from scratch, approach it differently until you get it right.

Not so, for the most part, with sewing. You need a clear, focused vision, a full understanding of all the components and how they will play together, before you ever turn on a sewing machine. When I was young, I had all kinds of grand plans for sewing, and it was both a triumph when the plan led to fruition and a tragedy when it all went awry. But either way, it was fairly irreversible.

I did not mind that so much when I was young. I sort of thought I would just do better next time, learn how to reliably achieve perfection. And now. Well, now I do not have such delusions. I still believe I can be better, that I can learn. But I don't believe in perfection anymore. And that's why knitting is so attractive to me. Nothing need go to waste. If it goes to waste, it's because you gave up on it, and in that case, you have only yourself to blame. And best of all, even if you do give up, you can go back. You can come back to it later, it will be waiting for you.

Yes, it's a lot of work, in some ways more work than sewing, but the amount of flexibility and reversibility it offers makes it attractive to me. And I came to see that means something in my life. I had, a few months ago, remarked in passing to classmates that I'll likely never buy an apartment or house. They looked at me with pity and tried to assure me that I certainly would some day. What they failed to see is that my prediction had nothing to do with means, and everything to do with permanence.

I am trying to figure out how I got from there to here. From there, where I yearned for roots and a sense of belonging, to here, where I am forever unraveling myself from seams that sometimes form, always calculating the manner in which I can unshackle myself should the need arise. I suppose that back there, I made a lot of plans, and they sort of never worked out. I suppose also that back there, permanence and commitment were dangled in front of me, and every time, I would step just this close to it, and then balk. Every time someone tried to bind me, something inside me said it wasn't for me. I do not think I was running away. I think I was running for my life.

Even medical school, in a strange way, is more like knitting than sewing. Sure, it is a commitment. But nothing's set in stone. I remarked to W, it seems a long time ago now, that I might be the only person on earth to go to medical school to figure my life out. But such seems to be the case.

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