White ruffled dress
August 9, 2020

My inner child's regrets

This look is my rebellion against all the academic papers, documents and diplomas.

These dungarees are one of my favorites out of all the clothes I’ve sewn so far, and maybe the most practical one. It’s still rather childish and playful for a grown woman, but at the same time it emphasizes the figure of the female body.

Dungarees are the signature look of babies or little kids and in spite of the fact that I’m 24, I often feel like one. Or maybe I’m just treated like one? I’m not sure I can tell the difference. When I was a kid I was told to sit down, study, and read because that’s the best thing I can do. I should educate myself. So I did. Now I lay on all these books and I ask myself: was it worth it? How much of my studying ended up as actual knowledge in my head? How much of it made me smarter and how much of it was a purposeless struggle? The majority of the world will tell you that is was all worth it… I’m not one of them. I like reflecting on my past self and there’s no point in it if I don’t admit my mistakes.

So here are my two big mistakes and my solutions:

100 Papers and dungarees

My inner child's regrets

This look is my rebellion against all the academic papers, documents and diplomas.

These dungarees are one of my favorites out of all the clothes I’ve sewn so far, and maybe the most practical one. It’s still rather childish and playful for a grown woman, but at the same time it emphasizes the figure of the female body.

Dungarees are the signature look of babies or little kids and in spite of the fact that I’m 24, I often feel like one. Or maybe I’m just treated like one? I’m not sure I can tell the difference. When I was a kid I was told to sit down, study, and read because that’s the best thing I can do. I should educate myself. So I did. Now I lay on all these books and I ask myself: was it worth it? How much of my studying ended up as actual knowledge in my head? How much of it made me smarter and how much of it was a purposeless struggle? The majority of the world will tell you that is was all worth it… I’m not one of them. I like reflecting on my past self and there’s no point in it if I don’t admit my mistakes.

So here are my two big mistakes and my solutions:

1. I studied for papers, not for myself

By papers I mean all the documents which measure your worth as you grow up: your grade book in school, at university, the diplomas you get, and later on your resume. Honestly, I did my best, I studied a lot. I spent 16 years in school which is common and normal. As I reached each cross-road over these years, the decision of choosing the next school and specialization seemed huge and heavy. I put a lot of effort in doing my research, making the best decision and then acting on it. I never felt that I chose the easier way. I’ve spent my first 8 years of school by almost exclusively studying. I finished with pretty near perfect grades. I was sitting by my notebooks in almost all my free time (except vacations). It felt like I’m following the most straightforward plan about my education to have a good career later on.

Yet I’m here now feeling a little lost and worthless. In spite of all the hard work, I feel like it’s not appreciated and it doesn’t make me happy.

It seemed like my choices made the world (by that I mean my parents, teachers and adults who can hire me later) happy, at least. As I look back, it turns out that the world doesn’t genuinely care at all about abilities, just the evidence on paper. Vainly do I know something, if there is no official documentation about it, it simply doesn’t exist. Like there can’t be any knowledge or experience out there without a diploma. Therefore, I studied for good grades, for my diploma and I concentrated on it so well, that in the mean time I forgot to study for knowledge and most importantly to study for myself, my aspirations.
I ended up not knowing anything about the things I really care about doing.

2. I ignored the signs that I’m changing

You might say: it seems like I knew all this early enough: If I want my knowledge to be accepted and hired I need to complete my studies, collect as many activities and papers in my cv as I possibly can and everything will be fine. Why do you complain, Vanessza? This was no surprise to you, we all grow up knowing this thing.

This is true. But we don’t know if we will change, we don’t know when and how many times. I always envied my classmates who knew that they wanted to be doctors already at the age of 14. I had no idea about my career choice and I involuntarily chose to turn a blind eye to my honest interests. Funny, because now as I look back it’s so clear that I was only truly interested in artistic things. But schools and parents in Romania are not the ones to encourage you in that field. I can’t blame them.
 

I studied chemical engineering

Institutional studying provides a diploma- so it gives you a job and recognition (acknowledgment) but the same Institutional studying wasted my time, didn’t let me focus on what I wanted to be when I grow up and I felt like it forced me to take in but not to create.

I hit the road with a strong plan and in the meantime, I realized that this wasn’t even my plan. This is not me. It’s useless to collect more and more papers to support my chemical engineering career when I’m dreaming about completely different things.

I started sewing

I stopped caring about my grades at university and decided to spend my time with other things: learning about sewing, fashion design, photography and graphic design. I put away my determination of meeting the expectations (at this time for me these were: attend every class at university, complete your projects as fast and as well as you can, reach the highest possible grades at tests, be part of a research group, spend your time in a laboratory by doing research and experiments). Once I gave up my clinging to my previous plans and I accepted that my desires changed I started to feel a new, previously unknown relief and happiness: I was finally pleased with the things I created, I stopped questioning if this is the right thing to do or not. When I couldn’t do something perfectly well (If my skirt turned out wrong or my pictures were not how I imagined) I couldn’t wait to learn more about the topic and improve myself. I never felt this way with any chemistry exercise, and I honestly didn’t believe that I could ever feel the excitement of learning ever again. But when I started drawing, sewing and creating blog posts I found out that learning can be fun if I’m trying to improve myself in something that I actually care about.
I love designing clothes and this makes a difference in my everyday life So here is the part when the whining and the introduction part ends and the dungarees- the initial protagonist of the story- comes in. I made this overall right after the month I graduated from university. It was not my first piece of clothing I made, just the first one after freedom. I finally didn’t have work towards any more papers, laboratory work reports, presentations and this gave me a rush of creativity and inspiration.

Sewing my dungarees gave me so much headache at first, you can’t imagine. I was all alone with my trouble, I didn’t have a teacher who could tutor me when I got stuck. I had to calm myself down, take a break, and then start to figure it out again. Nobody asked me to finish it, I didn’t get any grade on it and there was no deadline. But I still wanted to complete it and to do it as flawlessly as my skills let me. Creating my dungarees and then wearing it made me feel like… I’m valuable. I can accomplish things and I can have a good result. I say that these pants are the main character of my story because they represent my free learning curve. If studying in school is north, making my garment is south. Here I make all the decisions about zippers, seams, silhouette, little ruffles. I sometimes spend hours on the tiniest detail but in the end, it feels like it’s my child. For my pants a barely had enough fabric, and I used even the last centimeters to create the small ruffle as a fake pocket. Since I worked a lot with it I wanted to create an everlasting piece, useable in every season. It’s neutral but playful with the print, it matches all my sweaters, T-shirts and cardigans, but on warmer summer days I can wear it with only a bralette. It was an empowering feeling that I could make it without a teacher giving me instructions and steps to follow. I started and finished it and I think I learned more with it than in a university semester.

 
However, I don’t have a paper about it. It didn’t make me a fashion designer. I can’t write it in my CV and recruiters most of such big firms deploy applicant tracking systems designed to filter applicants by different keywords such as the previous workplace, schooling, academics etc.

I wish I could tell you that I already made tons of money out of my passion. I didn’t. I hope one day (and I hope pretty soon) I can give you an update about how I monetized my creative passions. Right now all I can say: I’m more satisfied and calm than ever before. All those tens from school (which is the highest grade in Romania) meant almost nothing to me and left me constantly doubting myself. Teachers and parents gave me the feedback that I’m doing well but I never felt it that way. I only did what I was asked to do. I didn’t feel like it was my merit because I never chose to resolve those given math exercises and I never decided that I want to perfect my knowledge in that exact history lesson. In school, I was following commands and when I followed them well, they complimented me.

What a difference it makes to give yourself a command, decide what kind of knowledge you want to improve on, work hard for it, and then reach Your goal. After doing that you don’t need anybody else’s compliment to feel valuable. You will thrive and rejoice without needing reassurance.