Work: Learning It

In the fall of 2009, I had an uncommon opportunity: I was able to return to school, as an adult, in order to learn a new skill.  While I was not able to attend a hand-picked dream school, or even to attend as many classes as I had hoped, I was able to try something completely new about which I had wondered for years.  In the end, this unassuming one-year diploma from the affordable, accessible, no-frills community college turned out to be my favorite academic experience, more practical than my Big Ten undergrad adventure and just as rigorous as my small, private-school Master's of Teaching degree.

It is possible that the final degree was my favorite not just because of what it was, but also because of when it happened.  Given the same circumstances at past decision points in my life, I made the best decisions for those times.  Without the critical thinking and cultural skills wrought from the first two degrees, the clear-cut work and the starkly different hands-on nature of apparel development might have felt a lot like preparing for life as a low-wage garment worker.  Instead, I now have a mixture of skills that I hope will join together as I move forward.  I have learned that I love using my hands, but my bookish ways remain ever-present.  I am the only apparel person I know who looks for answers in books and lists of steps.  I always want the philosophy, history and science of the task before I cut the fabric, thread the needle, or plan the garment.  It slows me down, but the learning is complete.

I loved the process of getting my apparel diploma.  It was a lucky break to be able to spend the time and energy and money to do it as an adult, knowing what I know now about the pressures of adult life.  I am also enormously grateful that it was a possibility during my husband's crazy transition from Louisiana to Calgary.  And now I have a much more mobile skill, one which will not require new tests, licenses, and permissions each time we cross a border.

In my new field, I have an enormous amount of learning yet to do.  There is no program here in Calgary like the one that I experienced in Minneapolis, which is disappointing.  There is an art school which has some classes that may help me as I move forward, but I feel reluctant to pay for more education at this point, when in my gut I feel what I need is to practice what I already learned.  It seems as though now it is time for me step away from the safety of classes, and engage in some do-it-myself, and possibly on-the-job, continuing education.