Incomplete

Collectively, knitters seem to believe one of the worst parts of any project is finishing it – particularly seaming something you’ve knit in pieces (people who like seaming usually confess this with some degree of embarrassment). I’ve reached the seaming stage at the first sweater I’ve knit that requires seaming, and I think there’s something else to the distaste: seaming is the point at which you finally determine once and for all whether the sweater’s going to 1) look and fit as you intended, and 2) look good on you or not. I think putting off seaming is putting off that moment of truth, when you have face whether your hunch that this sweater would look ADORABLE on you was correct.

Which is to say that my latest project is only partially seamed:

purple sweater

You can’t quite tell from this picture, but this is knit in a sort of huge cross shape, with the criss-cross open stitches in the center. Then you fold the sweater in half across the open stitches and sew up the sides – et voila, a sweater. I’ve seamed one side, then tried it on, and had two thoughts: “This looks…okay?”, and “The neck needs to be bigger.” I started picking apart the bind-off around the neck, which was going reallllly sloooooowwwly – and then stuffed it in its project bag and started something new.

I will finish it. I WANT to finish it. But maybe not right this moment.

purple sweater shoulder

(For the record, it’s the Lea pullover from the Summer 2014 Knitscene, and it’s an easy and lovely pattern [I found the drop-stitch criss-crosses tedious, but then, I find anything more complex than stockinette tedious].  And the recommended yarn, Classic Elite’s Firefly, blocks out into a lovely cool drapey fabric. The wrinkles in the picture are just from me stuffing it back in its project bag – it washes up very nicely.)

Now, if you knit a sweater in the round, you don’t generally have to seam it at all. And if you knit in-the-round from the top down, you can try it on as you go. You may not get a completely accurate assessment of how well it fits you, since most yarns are a little different after you wash them, and so if you use unwashed/blocked yarn to assess size, you’re not going to get the most accurate results. But the plus of trying on as you go is that you largely avoid that fatal moment of “so THAT’s what this looks like!”

So, for instance, there’s this:

green sweater 1

Knitting this was less of a leap of faith than knitting the sweater above. You start at the top with the shoulders, knit down through the body, then add the sleeves and the collar (can’t remember which order I did them in). You see the sweater taking shape bit by bit as you knit, rather than in one fell swoop at the end when you assemble. So there is no great reveal at the end, which is maybe why this sweater is complete, and just waiting for cooler weather (to the extent we get cool weather here).

* * * *

Knitting is my current free-time obsession. It’s an extremely zen occupation, except when it’s not, when there’s quite a lot of cursing. It’s a little bit like music, in that it’s physical without being exercies, requires pleasant concentration, and is completely different from what I do for a living. It’s pretty much how I’ve been spending my time, in the time that I haven’t been posting here.

I’ve spent most of my blogging time writing about negotiating a work identity, in part because I never had any real boundary between work and life. But now, I’m trying really hard to keep work and home separate. In my current job, I have worked at home, but not very often; I work late, and sometimes I work on the weekends. But I would rather stay late at the office or go in on the weekend than bring work home these days. And I would rather not think about or worry about or puzzle over work unless I’m at work.

(Besides, according to lawyerly ethics, I really can’t talk very much about the work I do. Which is sort of a shame because I’m collecting some funny stories, but they also might seem sort of callous to non-prosecutors, so I’ll just stay away from all that.)

So instead, today I offer you observations about what happens when you manipulate pretty string with sticks.

Out of place

The other afternoon, NLDDH and I were driving back from seeing a movie (we always go to the matinees) and he said, “It’s really beautiful here.” And I said, “It’s really beautiful here NOW.”

It is beautiful here now – it was about in the mid-70s this afternoon, clear sky, bright sun, the land around us golden and sage. But I ruin my beautiful days bracing for summer, when it will hit 110 easily. I find myself thinking of the sun as my enemy. And I stop and linger over the catalogs that show up in my mailbox selling winter clothes, to gaze again and again at snow, slush, bare trees, gray skies. 

My sister just recently joined LinkedIn, and I got asked if I wanted to “connect” with her. Out of idle curiosity I googled her employer, then went to Google maps and street-viewed it. (She works for a stable, and lives on-site.) The photos are all from spring or summer, or some time when the grass is a deep damp green and the trees are bushy with leaves. I’ve never been there, and don’t know that I’ll ever go there, but it looks like home, the way places are supposed to look.

The above all seems to point in one direction. But in the other direction lies my job, my apartment, all the things – real and imagined – that we carry with us when we move and that tie us down in place. I have no critical mass of friends and family to pull me in another direction (they’re scattered all over) – just the imagined memory of what I want the world around me to look like. That’s not enough, but it’s also ineradicable.

2014

Happy New Year’s to everyone! Today I bring you reflections from the Ghosts of Christmas the New Year’s Past, Present, and Future.

I.    PAST

Obviously it’s been a while since I posted anything here — in fact, since just before I started my new job. In part, the silence is because that new job has been kicking my ass.

It’s interesting, and I’ve been learning a TON, and I think I like the job: I like the people a lot, and it’s fascinating to get a sense of how this part of our legal system actually works in practice. (Everything everyone has ever said about how law school doesn’t teach you to practice: completely, utterly, entirely true. It teaches you reasonably well how to be a law clerk, but not how to practice. I’m still not convinced it could really do so without turning into a co-op program – for instance, I have no idea how law school could be changed to better prepare someone to do my current job – but the gap is nonetheless breathtaking.)

But the amount of new information has been overwhelming, and I remember almost nothing about my first couple of weeks besides a blur of panic, not even knowing what questions to ask, and wandering the halls of the office trying to figure out where the hell I am.

(My workplace is seriously a maze. It keeps making me thinking of the way earlier cultures would build their towns/settlements to be hard to penetrate, to foil invading outsiders.)

I’ve absorbed enough by now to feel a little bit like I’m getting a handle on things, but mostly that’s shown me how simple and straightforward the case I’ve worked on so far are, and how much I have to learn.

Also, every time I think I’ve figured stuff out, I screw something up. Like a case I have a hearing on tomorrow – yesterday afternoon, so, New Year’s Eve afternoon, I suddenly blindingly realized there was a step I should have taken that I had not. ARGHH.

I mean, nothing they give me to do can be screwed up beyond repair if I make a mistake; the case isn’t going away or anything. But the mistakes make me feel stupid nonetheless. The panic of realizing I’ve erred, with its “oh, SHIT” feeling of recognizing my stupidity, is actually a good learning tool, in that I know I will never make this mistake again. But it doesn’t make learning fun.

What I’m not sure is to what extent this job is so overwhelming and terrifying, and to what extent I simply get overwhelmed and terrified at the prospect of Not Getting Things Right. (There’s another new person there, who started about six months before I did, who has talked about also experiencing the sheer terror of getting things wrong, but I still don’t know if it’s the job per se, or if we both suffer from the same Perfectionist Syndrome endemic among over-educated career-changing women, or a mix of both.)

The other thing that’s terrifying is that I don’t really have any idea how well I am (or am not) doing at this job. Here, there’s a bit of an identity crisis going on: from early on in law school I carved out a niche as a good writer and researcher. I cultivated that identity, hard, both as a means of getting judicial clerkships, and then by virtue of having had clerkships. That identity was what set me apart from other aspiring lawyers.

And of course, currently, my job involves almost no research and writing. So to be any good at it depends on other skills – general smarts, strategy, knowledge of areas of law that I didn’t spend much time on in school – about which I feel much less confident. Even simply being organized and responsible is important; and the irony is that while I felt like one of the more organized and responsible folk when I worked in academia, now that I’m out, I’ve absorbed enough of the popular perception of the ivory tower that I worry about being that absent-minded head-in-the-clouds academic type.

So anyway. A good experience; but stressful.

II.    PRESENT

This is just the opportunity for me to pause and whine that I’m sick; I have that sore throat/head clogged with gunk thing going on, and when I woke up this morning, I had to bolt out of bed because lying down made me feel like I was going to choke. Blech. Happy New Year, indeed.

III.     FUTURE

This is the first year in a long time where I’ve felt like the New Year is actually a time for reflection and setting goals. Perhaps this is because it’s gradually dawned on me that for the first time in a long time, I find myself rudderless: I have no major goal to accomplish.

When I decided to leave academia, my goal was to get into law school; after I got in, my goal was to survive each semester and accomplish as much as I could; and after I graduated, my goal was to get a permanent job. Which I did. So now… I’m done??

I mean, I certainly want to learn how to do this job, and to get good at it; that’s a goal, but it’s frustratingly amorphous right now. It’s also not a life-encompassing goal: I feel very strongly about not reproducing academia in my new profession, and try really hard to leave my job at work.

I’m paid to work 40 hours a week, and sure, there will be times when I will have to work more than that (e.g. when I’m preparing for trial and the like), and when I have work that actually has to get done, I will do it cheerfully. But especially now, while I don’t yet have a full caseload, I refuse to give time to my job that I’m not getting paid for, and that doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Spending my time off worrying about my job does not get anything more done, and steals time away from the rest of my life. I don’t want to fall into the trap of believing that worrying about stuff is someone the same as being productive, which seemed to govern my time in academia. (Maybe because “thinking” was an actual part of my job description in a way it isn’t now? I am no longer paid to Think Deep Thoughts in any way.)

So even though I’ve always vaguely wanted to get fit, be healthier, etc. etc., this is the first year where I really feel the need for specific goals, for which I can chart out a path to make myself better and happier. Without them, I tend to spend the time on weekends just….passing time, not actually DOING things.

I haven’t yet worked out entirely what those goals will be, but even figuring out what they are is in itself a purpose that’s providing some satisfaction. They will probably involve knitting, exercise/health, and possibly cats and/or continuing to study Spanish. But whatever they are, they will add meaning to my life that has nothing to do with what I get paid to do, 8:30-5, M-F, and I think that will be a good thing for 2014.

 

(Edited to add: this is apparently my 1066th post, which I think is kind of hysterical.)

New world

This is probably going to come out sounding ridiculously maudlin or the like, but is there something about the place where you grow up that imprints a particular climate and weather patterns into your bones? I grew up outside of Boston, and New England/northeastern weather still just makes sense to me. I see pictures of winter and I know that winter. I watch TV shows set in NYC in November, and I know those Novembers – I know the feeling of cold air rushing in your nose, the raw cold on your cheeks while your torso is warm, even hot, under your layers of clothing, the look of your breath turning into frost as it hits the air. I know the gray of low-hanging clouds. I know the sloshy dirty puddles of slush pooling in every low part of the path. (I know the peculiarly crisp crunch of snow compressed under your feet when it’s far too cold to melt, too, but mostly I know that from Minnesota, not the northeast.) I know the look of the empty trees, and the riot of pale green when spring comes around again. I know the mosquitos, too, that harass you in summer, as well as the deerflies that used to land on our dogs’ noses. I know summer as hot and humid, broken up by cool gray days when you have to wear long sleeves.

Which is to say that I’m not really sure why I’ve moved to a place where I’m not likely ever to experience those things again. The first day of autumn is Saturday, and my friends in northern climes are talking about breaking out the boots and the sweaters; the high here today was 101 degrees.

I mean, I will adjust; I think the desert is beautiful, and it’s not like you can get both the desert and the deep dark woods together in one place – you have to give up one of those things. There’s a lot to be said for being able to walk out the door most of the year without having to drag on coats and scarves and hats and boots, and for plentiful sunshine, and spectacular sunsets, and eye-searingly bright flowers. I like the mesquite trees that surround our apartment, as well as the butterflies and hummingbirds that live in them. And I hope this doesn’t make me sound too much like an AARP member, but as I get older, I’m less and less interested in dealing with the cold. I miss it in a theoretical way, as a central part of the part of the weather that I grew up considering “normal,” but a little dose goes a long way – I’m happy enough not to spend November through April snowbound (or at least mudbound).

But anyway, here we are. It still feels pretty foreign, but not in a bad way; it’s just not our place yet.

*Well, I won’t miss the mosquitoes, but my luck with the desert has run out: my last two cities were blessedly free of insects, but here I’ve seen a furry brown spider the size of my hand, climbing the wall next to my head, and been told by NLLDH that he’s twice seen what he thinks is a black widow outside our door. I think the brown spider was a giant crab spider and they’re harmless – it was actually gorgeous in its way – but I’ve never been that close to such a large arachnid in real life and the lizard brain took over and I jumped up and down and flailed like a baby.

Saturday night

I’m sitting listening to the rain fall outside my window, which is wide open, as is the door to my balcony. The drought plaguing my state hasn’t broken, but the monsoon has arrived, and the verge between the street and the retaining wall defining the boundary of the apartment complex has changed color, from tawny sand to sagey, silvery green. The desert bushes reach happily to the sky, their long fingery leaves a pale green tinged with blue. I thought summer in the desert would be a burning furnace, but today as most days, as the sun has sunk low, the apartment is filled with a cool breeze. The day began bright blue and gold and clear, so one day offers the best of all worlds.

The physical landscape is what I will miss most about this state. Where I’m going isn’t radically different, but with fewer/smaller trees and more/bigger cacti. The sunsets are supposed to be even more beautiful. My beloved desert cottontails should be there as they are here, although here, my apartment company irrigates the complex, and the the rabbits flock to the green green grass like it’s a Vegas buffet. There, you also get tall, rawboned, long-legged hares, much tougher and meaner looking than the fluffy bunnies I greet when I leave the apartment or return home. It makes me feel like I know somebody here.

My complex overlooks a major north/south road, running along the base of the mountains. A gaggle of motorcycles swoop past my window, roaring and buzzing. They travel in packs, loud and obnoxious and social, enjoying how fast they can go, ripping through the clear evening air, gone before the noise of their exhaust reaches me.

Thursday evening thoughts

So my time in this job/city is winding down. I had a really nice little thing happen today – I answered the phone when everyone else was out over lunch, and it was someone doing the job here that I will be doing in the fall elsewhere, with a question about the case they have before the court. This person was very friendly (and had clerked in the past), we fell into conversation, and I mentioned that I was going to be doing the same job. We then had a lovely chat for at least 20 minutes about clerking, working their current/my future job, and related stuff. It was just really, really nice, and made me excited all over again for starting the new gig. In particular, it reminded me how nice and welcoming everyone doing Future Job has been when they find out that’s what I’m going to be doing, too – like there’s a professional community out there waiting for me.

I mean, that community might be horrible once I get into it, who knows – but for now it all seems very encouraging. 

And in something only a little bit related, I haven’t really had any length cut off my hair since I moved here (just the ends trimmed slightly) and as of my last haircut or so, it has moved from generic-mid-shoulder-length to LONG. It’s kind of like caring for a pet. All at once it’s become a carpet sitting around my shoulders on a hot day, but I can put it back really easily and it doesn’t need a lot of styling because it pretty much does its own thing anyway. The dilemma: Do I keep it this long, or chop off 3-4 inches? I’m trying to decide if the latter would create a slightly more “professional” image for the new job. So far, indecision = maintaining the status quo.

(And now it’s raining here… ah, petrichor! I love the desert.)

Anyway. That’s it for now.

You know what I really really hate?

I hate when people are like, “Ugh, I just saw FAT PEOPLE in shorts, how DARE they be fat in my presence.” Whatever you think about this country’s “obsesity epidemic” and the various alleged health risks of being overweight, fat people are in fact members of the human race, and it’s fucking hot in vast swathes of the country right now, and humans are entitled to wear shorts when it’s fucking hot. If you’re really so aesthetically sensitive that looking at fat people in shorts gives you pain, I have to wonder how you make it through the day.