13 March 2006

Knitting Olympics: Lessons Learned

… Or, there’s more to socks than heels and toes?

[Warning: This is on the wordy side. Sorry, pics and less navel gazing to come in tomorrow’s post.]

While I find it a bit strange to was poetically about knitting socks, I wanted to post a sort of summation of my lessons of late. On the one hand, I know that knitting is really just sticks, string and a good way to waste time. I’m a bit skeptical of the knitting as metaphor for life kind of thinking, but at the same time, it does make some sense. When I think about that other hand, the one struggling with doing a yarn over correctly or choosing the right set of sticks and string, knitting is something that I do. I invest my thought, time, and money into my hobby. I work at improving. I connect with others to help them improve or learn from their skills. It’s a social endeavor, sometimes the center of a social gathering, sometimes more of a backdrop to conversation and time with friends. And sometimes it teaches me a thing or two about myself.

I entered the Knitting Olympics because I wanted the deadline, the restricted time where I had to work on something that I set up as a personal challenge. And then, hey, I entered because I’m a joiner and wanted to be a part of the whole international phenomenon idea. While I try to pride myself on being independent (which is really just code for “I try not to care that I’m dorky and a bit off”), in reality, I often succumb to the idea that if everybody else is doing it, I should too. Yes, I’ll take that leap off the bridge and meet you at the bottom.

Anyway, I set out to learn socks. I contacted a fellow knit-blogger/grad student who seemed maybe even slightly more insane than I am. That Lone-Knitter… she teaches like 8 gazillion students, works 20 jobs and still has time for knitting… oh, and a writing career. Can you tell I’m impressed? So really, I thought my lessons were going to be about heels and toes.

But that’s not all. Like most of the other Knitting Olympians who have posted about their experience, I learned how hard it is for me to be monogamous. Don’t laugh, you’re all as bad as I am. I know how many corn dog boxes containing unfinished quilts reside in various homes in the Midwest. I found that confining myself to one project and one project only kept me more organized and actually made me more productive during my knitting time. No searching for the yarn, the pattern, or the needles that I had magically misplaced or put into another project. There was a goal, a deadline, and a public forum where I had to confess my wandering eye (and hands) or inability to whip out a project for my mother. (I added that “for my mother” part just to up the guilt factor in case I felt like giving up. Can you really abandon a project for the woman who carted your lazy behind to umpteen million French horn lessons, softball games and even a math contest or two? (Yes, I did math contests on Saturday mornings in high school. Laugh and you’ll never see a pair of socks knitted for you.))

I kind of expected to learn these lessons. Finish one thing before you start something else. Been there, heard it before, and promptly forgot it.

What I didn’t expect what just how wily my own lack of dedication can be. Did you catch that post about Sock Experiment A and B and C ad infinitum? Um, hello, with only one sock down, Super Girl here decides she should undertake a sock knitting master class the likes of which Sock Queen Nancy Bush would struggle with. I started innocently enough. If I complete my first sock in a weekend, and the Knitting Olympics involve three weekends, then there should be plenty of time to actually produce three socks, maybe even four if you factor in the midweek knitting. So despite knowing that in reality, a pair of socks in 16 days was a challenge of its own, I wanted to make it harder, to see what kind of knitter I really was. All in the name of a perfect pair of socks.

And you think I only do this with knitting? Let’s just look at the evidence. Getting a PhD? Hard. Getting a PhD while adjuncting at two other schools, editing someone else’s book, taking three simultaneous classes at the yarn shop, trying to run a first 5k, moving approximately 34 times, searching for the perfect boy amidst 8753 bad dates, deciding I needed to cook more, and every so often mopping the kitchen floor? Harder. I have this little disease, you may have heard of it, perfectionism, otherwise known as over-achiever-itis. It all sounds so innocent, until you wind up losing two weeks of your life and waking up with some really stinky laundry that needs to be dealt with… immediately.

And the kicker, I usually wind up doing pretty shoddy work on that whole list of tasks.

The thing I learned though is just how easily I get myself into these boondoggles. It was just going to be one extra sock, just to check out a different heel. I had good reasons and the whole idea seemed plausible. But that’s the thing with bad habits, even really destructive ones start out very small and possibly even innocent.

In the end, I only knit two socks. The second one had a tighter gauge overall so I’m hoping my mom has one skinny foot and one plump foot. The heels aren’t very good and I wish the cuffs were longer. But most importantly, they’re finished. I tamed the perfectionist beast long enough to finish a project.

So, translating knitting lesson into life lesson… be less of a perfectionist. Just throw out any ol’ diss and be done, right? Well, see, this is what I’m struggling to learn. I’ve given up on the diss being perfect. It stinks right now and it’ll stink when I turn it in. The problem is that I’m trying to be perfect everywhere else. I’m this close to signing up to work with a trainer at the gym who wants to put together a team for a half-marathon in October. Work projects are bringing me into the office on days when I’m supposed to be writing. I often feel like I’m a garter stitch dishcloth knitting newbie when I look around the blogworld and see all these amazing things that I’m not knitting. (Not to rag on the dishcloths, because really, that’s where it’s really at… get it, “rag”? ba dump bump) The point is that I have a really hard time just saying no to the over-achiever urge, even when I know it’s just going to bite me in the ass (which is way too big to even consider a fourth of a marathon, let alone half of one).

“Good enough” are hard words to swallow, especially when that means that I’ll just be good enough to not get fired, I’ll just be good enough so that the health department won’t condemn my messy apartment, I’ll just be good enough to knit at the rate of one project per year, I’ll just be good enough to not fall off the treadmill while I’m walking at a ho-hum pace, and I’ll be just good enough to resist my over achiever habits as much as I can.

1 comment:

Lone Knitter said...

Great post! I think to make my life less insane, I've decided to knit simple, no frills socks. Good luck grading those Sterne papers!