An Unconventional Education

An Unconventional Education

“Life is my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors.” —Louisa May Alcott

I saw this quote this morning on Paul Mark Sutherland’s wonderful blog, and couldn’t help thinking it’s so appropriate for me, not only with reference to my educational background, but also my ongoing process of learning. Make that learning-slash-living.

Since I’m currently working on an update to my résumé, I’d already been thinking about my educational and work experience. I have to say, because I have been involved in many different endeavors, I tend to think I won’t make the right impression on paper, but maybe I need to think outside the typical-résumé template. Here’s my brief history (in chronological order, although many overlap):

  • Starting teaching myself to sew and knit from the age of 5, and was selling custom clothes to my friends by 5th grade;
  • First jobs: switchboard operator at an answering service, followed by phlebotomist (blood-sample taker), and commercial rater at a large insurance company;
  • took 6 quarters at the University of Washington, where I had auditioned for the piano performance program (easily the most grueling audition of my life), and took classes ranging from calculus to music theory;
  • moved across the country (Seattle to Dayton), got married, had a baby;
  • started custom-making clothes for individual clients;
  • after buying my first Macintosh (c. 1990), I started teaching myself about graphic design, which ultimately led to a number of years of freelancing;
  • started teaching myself about photography (in the film-camera era);
  • traveled a lot, especially to Greece and France, and became fairly skilled in the French language;
  • taught myself video production, which combined my photography skills with graphic design and writing;
  • earned my private pilot’s license;
  • I started publishing my writing (first credit: an article on wedding videos for Videomaker Magazine);
  • started a retail yarn shop, which I ran successfully for 4 years, and during which time I started developing my own line of yarns and knitwear patterns;
  • moved back to the Northwest (Portland this time), taking my yarn business with me in online form;
  • worked as costume designer and head of wardrobe for a film shot on location;
  • worked part-time as a nanny;
  • added jewelry made by incorporating my yarns with beads and semi-precious stones to my online yarn shop;
  • started writing my first blog, a Musing;
  • began focusing on color-palette development and writing as my main areas of interest;
  • started my Changing Your Clothes blog;
  • started developing my photography work into photo montages, a collection of which (printed on canvas) has been exhibited twice this year, and started selling them in my second Etsy shop in early December;
  • started my third blog, Lindy Hops (which you’re reading right now) just last week!

And that’s just off the top of my head! I’ll probably think of more, but that’s really enough for now. (If I went into even a little more detail on these items, it would make a great start on my autobiography.)

I would guess that practically everyone could make a similar (if not longer) list, but when I’m working on a résumé, how many of these are even remotely relevant? Obviously that depends on what type of job I’m targeting, but even so, isn’t the very fact of all this diversity of skills and experiences valuable in itself? For example, having a pilot’s license, the license itself, may not matter to someone wanting to hire me as an office manager, but the discipline, commitment, and sheer persistence it took to earn that license surely contributes to making me a better employee. Not to mention piloting skills like decision-making. Hmm… I think this gives me an idea for formatting my new résumé…

My tendency in the past, when working on my résumé, has been to start self-censoring my legitimate skills and achievements because I think a prospective employer would be turned off by a list like this, i.e. it might give the impression that I never make a commitment to any one thing. But what if there’s a company out there who would love to have someone like me (read: diversity of skills and experience, open to trying anything) on their team? Surely that’s not completely unrealistic.

Outside of noticing how many times I use the word “started” on the above list, what also strikes me now is that all those different things, from when I was a little girl, have all been pointing me, directly or indirectly, toward a career as a writer. Not surprisingly, especially with all my experience writing my knitwear patterns, my favorite things to write are tutorials— what better way to rationalize trying new things as often as possible? Such a great prospect for the rest of my life, isn’t it, to just keep trying new things, learning all I can about them, and writing about them?

To get back to Louisa’s quote: I suppose, at this point in the college course of my life, I’m somewhere near the end of my sophomore year. Perhaps that’s why I’ve finally made the decision to pursue writing as my major career path: it’s time to declare my major!

May I also graduate with honors.

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