Monday, June 6, 2016

Where Have I Been?!?

Lately, I've been feeling a bit blue about how much my life has (temporarily) changed over the past few years. I used to do at least a few big costuming projects every year, plus lots of miscellaneous costume and crafty shenanigans in between! But a few years ago, I decided that I needed to go back to school. I've probably alluded to it here and there in various posts I've written, but I don't think I've ever written directly about it, so I thought, why not write a little post, even though it's rather off-topic from the sorts of things I usually blather on about in this blog!

How the school thing came about is that I spent almost a year unemployed and barely able to get even so much as an interview, because even though I have a ton of experience working in the health care industry, and several of that specifically as a business analyst, it seemed I was not even being considered for most positions. I think it has just reached a point where you have to have some sort of a degree, or a great network of buddies who can get you a job, or you won't be taken seriously. I got lucky and a friend of a friend was able to help me land a position as a contractor. That solved my unemployment issue at the time, but a contractor is a temporary position, and I knew I'd be back in the same boat again eventually!

I started mulling over what I should pursue. In my perfect dream world, I'd work in a living history setting, making and keeping up a historic wardrobe for the living history interpreters, and having my love of studying and recreating historic clothing and accessories mean something. The reality is that there are so few jobs like this out there, and I have the added challenge of not being able to relocate for school or a job. My husband is very close with his family, has a great job that he's comfortable in, and we own and love our home. Relocation just isn't an option, and that means that it would be very foolish of me to chase after my dream position, since there's only one place I could work, and they almost never have openings. The final nail in the coffin on this dream is that I could only find one place to go to school for anything even remotely close to what I'd want to study, and it would leave me $200,000 in debt. It would be idiotic of me to put myself that far in debt for a job I'll probably never have, and even if I do, will never pay a salary that would allow me to pay back that debt in this life time!

I tried to turn my focus towards finding something that would be a more practical choice. I made a list of everything I enjoy doing, and tried to figure out how I could make a career out of it. The problem is, almost everything I love involves making things or teaching others how to make them, and I'd just never be able to pay a mortgage that way! The one thing I enjoy that seemed to have a flicker of promise is making web sites. More than a decade and a half ago, I decided I wanted to make a web site to share my love of historic costuming with anyone out there who might be interested (which was like three of us at the time, ha ha ha!) I spent a tumultuous weekend wrapping my brain around the basics of HTML, but from then on, it was smooth sailing, and I found I really love making web sites! I got excited about the potential for adding things like javascript to my site, had a ball making graphics for it, and found myself doodling layout ideas on scraps of paper. Long story short, I decided to go for a computer science degree with a programming concentration. I thought, there are plenty of jobs out there for programmers, including in my area, and there's a good chance I'll enjoy it, since I've had a taste of it with making web sites (or so I thought!)

It turns out that "real" programming is a whole other world from writing HTML! Those first couple of semesters almost killed me. It was like I had to train my brain to think in this whole new way that it didn't naturally want to do. . . Yet I was convinced it could be a good match for me because I have a lot of the personality traits that should make it work. I have great attention to detail, I'm persistent, I like tedious things, I like to challenge myself, I love puzzles. . . I just felt like, if I could just get my brain to think like a programmer, this could work! Also, I had a fantastic teacher who went above and beyond for me, being patient, supportive, and available for lots of outside-of-class-time tutoring. And then, one random day, everything just clicked! It was seriously like I'd been trying a ring of keys to open a locked door, and I'd finally located the right one. All of a sudden, I was figuring things out on my own, finding homework assignments alarmingly easy, and even speaking up in class with ideas on how to solve problems (which is a huge deal for this total introvert who typically avoids saying anything at all in class!)

So, that is what I've been up to, and why my costume-related posts have become so few and far between over the past few years. The good news is, I can see the finish line! Assuming all goes according to plan, I have only eleven months of classes standing between me and a degree. Hooray!!! I am so excited for this to be over so that I can go back to making things like I used to! I have grown so tired of feeling like there's some assignment I should be working on, or something school-related somehow looming over me, making me feel guilty every time I steal some crafting time. I'm also really excited about the prospect of having a job that I could potentially enjoy, and that is challenging and rewarding!

I wish I could say that I at least have the summer to make things, but I actually signed up for summer classes, to expedite this whole school thing! That means there won't be a lot of big projects to write about over the summer, however, since my last post (almost a half a year ago?!) I have managed to make quite a few small things. I have several skirts to write about, a couple of small costuming endeavors, and assorted other random crafty-type-things to babble about. Most recently, I've been embroidering up a storm! I took a notion to try crewel embroidery one day, and realized that embroidery projects are so wonderfully portable and easy to pick up and work on when one only has a few moments to spare, making it perfect for my lifestyle at the moment! I also got a spot in an upcoming embroidery workshop that is going to be awesome, and that I can't wait to tell you all about. So, thank you for sticking with me, and I hope I'll have some enjoyable posts for you to read in the very near future!


  1. Good for you, and congrats on being near the end! I'm also in tech when I'm not costuming, and it's amazing the ways your brain can (and does!) adapt to see new ways to solve problems. Best for your final year!

  2. Exciting that there is light at the end of the school tunnel, Jenni! I hope the rest goes more smoothly than the beginning did.