beginner – noun | \bi-ˈgi-nər, bē-\
: a person who is beginning something or doing something for the first time
On Saturday, I finally took the growing collection of bags and boxes to Goodwill, reorganized the things we planned to keep, and cleared a space where I could set up a card table and chair as a work station for myself. Then, I pulled out my mom’s old sewing machine — the one she gave me last fall and had been ignoring since — and set to work learning to sew.
Thankfully, between the time she gave me the machine and the moment I actually tried to use it, Mom found the instruction booklet, which came in very handy as I learned to load the bobbin, thread the needle, engage the presser foot, and align my fabric to the feed dogs. I had some old fabric left over from a few craft projects, so I made a simple pillow (which hasn’t yet been stuffed) and a small, lined change purse with a button.
Now, before you get all impressed that I could actually make things on my first attempt at sewing, I should tell you about the seams that don’t match up, the button clasp I forgot to insert, and the lining which … how shall I say this … doesn’t align. You’d be hard pressed to actually store something of any valuable in the change purse without losing it, and when I actually get stuffing for the pillow, I’ll probably be too embarrassed to display it. Thankfully, it’s made with Christmas material, so it’s window of opportunity is pretty narrow.
While I had fun sitting in the basement all afternoon Saturday, I had to resist frustration when I finished. If you must know, this is actually the second time I’ve learned to sew. Mom actually showed me how to use this exact machine more than 30 years ago, though this felt more like a crash course than a refresher. And besides that, who wants to make junk? Not me. I have visions of sewing up beautiful pillows and curtains, bedspreads and tablecloths. Heck, I’ve even imagined sewing clothes for myself and others. But after an entire afternoon, I had nothing but scraps to show for it.
The problem isn’t that I’m not a very good seamstress. The real issue is that it’s apparently been too long since I’ve tried to learn something new. If you don’t count being a wife and mother (which you should), then I haven’t put myself in the position of being a beginner for years. I forgot what it’s like to start from scratch, to pay my dues, to practice, practice, and practice some more.
Scientists tell us that learning new, mentally demanding skills will help improve cognitive functioning. While I’m sure that’s true, here’s another benefit: learning something new reminds us that we’re all still in-process. We all started somewhere; we’ve probably all got more learning we can do.
On the one hand, this helps us empathize … both for those who are coming along behind us and for ourselves. We don’t have to be (and probably never will be) perfect.
On the other hand, learning something new reminds us how much we still don’t know about all those other skills and tasks in our lives that we mistakenly believed we’ve mastered. There’s more to learn. We can keep growing and developing. We should keep growing and developing, in fact.
So, don’t look for this beginner in a homemade dress anytime soon, though I am hoping to expand my pillow-making efforts into accessories we can actually use around the house. And I’m also going to keep working at being a better writer, baker, cook, business owner, wife, and mother, too.
I’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much more to learn.
Have you tried something new recently? How’s it going? How do you feel about being a beginner?
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Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.