I met Caitlin at a gigantic fabric store in Maryland, just outside DC. She was working behind the desk, cutting the right length off those big bolts, and I was deciding on a bundle of fat quarters for an upcoming quilting class - my first.
In an uncharacteristically outgoing moment, I brought a few fat quarter bundles up to the counter and asked for her opinion. As we got to chatting about the various patterns and what I was making, we discovered we were registered for the same class.
She had already made a few simple quilts and sold some cross-stitched pieces on Etsy, and she told me right then that she wanted to sew and own her own fabric shop one day. I remember thinking at the time, Wow. That's what she wants, so she's working in a fabric store. Smart.
It's stupidly simple - almost. Sure, it makes sense to do things that will move you toward what you want. But I've always been deeply envious of people who know what they want. Or, maybe more accurately, people who can tap into a place of honesty about what they want and then go for it.
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted a zillion different things and, sometimes more than I wanted the things themselves, I've wanted affirmation that the things I want are the right things to want, the smart things to want. I've wanted them to be things I could be sure of, which can mean never getting to the threshold question - what do I want?
Caitlin and I crafted together a few times, and then she got a job at Spoonflower and moved down to North Carolina and we eventually lost touch.
She's begun popping up in my Instagram feed again recently with these incredibly beautiful quilts, so I headed over to her blog to see more. And lo and behold, she's selling her gorgeous quilts and her fabric on Etsy and at craft shows.
She's doing it. In 2010, she told me she wanted to make quilts and sell fabric. And she is. I don't know what the rest of her life looks like, but I'm struck by the seemingly simple nature of the formula. You want to do X? Put down everything else, and start doing X. If you can't do X yet, work for someone who does X. Surround yourself with X. Eventually, you will do X.
And I'm struck by how incomprehensible that formula seems to me. I want to become an actor? I watch a lot of television and learn to crochet. I want to become a teacher? I go to law school. I want to do public interest law? I go to work at a big firm. I want to become awesome at photography? I learn to knit. I want to focus my time on becoming a better writer? I take on more responsibility at work.
Of course, we know all about hindsight, but looking back on all these decisions feels a little like watching a tiny mouse version of myself running through a maze but constantly going the wrong way, like I'm standing there, shouting incredulously from outside the box Hey! What are you doing?! The cheese is THAT WAY!!
I don't know what the answer is here. I don't know if there is an answer.
I have a lot of interests. I always have, and I'd say that my task here is to just accept that as who I am - a person with a zillion hobbies and no expertise. Except that there's something deeper underneath. There are longings and desires that I think I keep hidden even from myself most of the time. I have the sense often that I'm standing in my own way, but I don't know which direction to move. Or how.
And fear. There is so much fear - often masquerading as confusion or overwhelm.
Comparison is a tricky game - it's not that I'm trying to look at one person's success and ask why I'm not there. But I am trying to ask myself what is your X? Really, seriously, right now. What is your X?