My sister is coming to visit, forcing me to clean out our guest room/room-where-we-put-everything-that-we-don’t-know-what-to-do-with. I have a box called “The box of Perpetual Good Will” that goes to, unoriginally enough, Goodwill, but still the piles pile up until someone announces that they are coming into town and we are forced to overhaul the whole system. I’m grateful really; it’s usually just about to spill out into the hall when it’s visiting time and we must face our overwhelming consumerism and clear the space so that our guests don’t have to sleep in the tree house. All of this is fine except for one thing; the guest room closet is full of what I call, “the death of a dream”.
Once upon a time, many moons ago, a young mother had a dream. It started with sewing a simple dress for her daughter out of a pretty dishtowel, and became an empire. I may be exaggerating slightly for effect, but I did have a small business on Etsy where I made (mostly) little girl’s dresses and skirts. I travelled to local crafts shows, school bazaars and festivals to set up shop and had nice steady online orders as well which kept me plenty busy when I wanted to be.
I stopped teaching after I had my son and hadn’t gone back yet; this seemed like a good way to make money and still be able to stay home with my little ones until they started back at school. Not to mention that it was incredibly satisfying to watch pieces of pattern tissue on fabric become a garment that I loved so much that I had a hard time letting it go. I chose vintage fabrics, table cloths, bolt after bolt of prints that caught my eye and relished the time that I had being creative for a living.
It all fell apart though when we realized that not only was I not making money, we were actually losing money. It was hard to price handmade items so that people would buy them and make a profit. After a year and a half, I closed shop and returned to my first career, teaching. I packed up everything related to sewing. I went from sewing for 4 to 6 hours a day, to not sewing at all. I put it all away, closed the closet door and put it’s contents out of my mind.
I wasn’t angry about going back to teaching; I had a wonderful opportunity to teach at my children’s school and was amazed at how quickly the pieces fell together. I walked back into my career in a way in which I’m grateful, because it isn’t that easy for most. For some reason however, because I wasn’t able to make my business work, I could no longer sew at all: something that I truly loved. It was all or nothing, black or white. I was a success or I was a failure. So I locked my failure in the closet and moved on. Unlike Lot’s wife, I did not turn around. I did not become salt.
Today though, it was different. Cleaning out the closet today I found things that I had forgotten about. Patterns with notes written on them, order slips, notes from customers. A stack of business cards that was almost full, labeling slips and photographs of my daughter and her friends modeling a line of “scrappy skirts” made of fabric scraps (my absolute favorite garment) and I was able to look at them without feeling angry or depressed, but more just nostalgic. I still miss it; but I can see it more as a fun adventure rather than a business that made me feel like a failure when it flopped.
I cleaned the closet out, putting piles upon piles of patterns in a large plastic tub, destined for the attic because they were taking up valuable real estate. As I handed it to my husband, he asked what it was and I jokingly said, “the death of my dreams.” He laughed and said, “They aren’t dead, they’re just sleeping. They could wake up again one day.”
Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. I don’t know that sewing is my dream anymore anyway, because dreams change. But it’s nice to know that they’re still there in the attic, sleeping until I decide. Until then, maybe I’ll find enough gray area in my life that I can sew something just for fun and find that little piece of myself again that I closed up in that closet for so long.