One of the things I struggle with in my life is my need to help people. I have seen people suffer, I have felt suffering myself, and knowing how destructive it is, I have always strived to help people move beyond that suffering.
I had begun to work with beads very early in my life, my family is very artistic and my counselors encouraged me to seek emotional outlets in safe and healthy ways. Beads allowed me to work through my depressions and sort out my frustrations. The repetitive nature helped me to focus and calm down when things got too intense. I had worked my way through drawing comics to crochet and painting, but when it all comes down to it, it is the precision and color of beads that drew me to bead work. It allowed me to satisfy my need for ‘perfection’ by being perfect for me. You can count on the shapes of the beads and plan your pattern around them. All it takes is some thread and time and eventually you will have a thing of beauty.
The problem quickly became a question of how did creating jewelry help others? Let’s be honest it’s an expensive hobby and not nearly as important as food or shelter when it comes down to basic human needs. Many of the people I found myself surrounded by early in my life were struggling to make ends meet. They couldn’t buy jewelry and it was selfish to want something pretty when you had to save up just to pay rent. Believing I could make a living by creating jewelry was a dream that I couldn’t afford to strive for. So believing beads held no value for anyone but myself I pursued a career in the medical field. It fulfilled my need to help people, but at the expense of my own sanity. The hours were long, the work thankless and dirty. While I enjoyed helping people, I burnt out quickly.
I make jewelry because I have walked through darkness. I have felt despair like ice beneath my skin. Whether it be negative criticism about the quality of my work, or complaints about who I am ‘supposed’ to be or even the isolation of being in an abusive relationship. I have felt the deep depression of one who has spent way to much time staring into the abyss. I believed the lies that because I enjoyed girlie things I was lesser in some ways. I believed that by wanting beauty in my life I was selfish and greedy.
The thing about the abyss is once you are in ensconced in the darkness, it’s easy to remain there. It’s misery can be deceptively comfortable. The idea of hope suddenly becomes foolish because the bullies tell you it is. The darkness becomes your new accepted reality.
“Creating beauty isn’t helping people.”
I believed that for a very long time.
But for me making beautiful things allows me to drive away the sorrow and pain of daily life so that I can see that the world isn’t a horrible place. There is beauty still out there, there is still a reason to hope for the best, even if it is just for today, even if it is for just one, more, day.
If my jewelry can do that for me, then perhaps it can do that for others. If it gives even one other person the ability to hope for a better day, then surely that person sees it as helpful. Surely it can be their talisman for hope in a better life.
Through all my careers, through a failed marriage, through the ups and downs in life, beads have helped carry me over the troubled waters. They have become an armor I wear against the darkness, who’s hateful lies tell me that suffering is the only thing I can do in this life. It drives away the thought that being called ‘girly’ means you are weaker, dumber, or of less value, that seeking out positive things means you aren’t focused on ‘the reality of the world’ when, in fact, reality includes those positive things too. Creating jewelry, for me, drives away the thought that I am not good enough to be loved for who I am simply because I don’t meet some ephemeral set of societal ‘standards’. I wear jewelry because it makes me feel pretty in a world that says I am not pretty enough.
For me, life has gotten so much better. I have beauty I can wear on the outside that reminds me that it is the light that we have on the inside that makes us truly beautiful. I have someone who loves me to remind me that I had to love myself first. I have compassion for those who suffer because I have suffered and seek to ease their pain in the best way I can.
To you who read this I want you to know: It is not foolish to hope. No matter what society says, you don’t have to focus on the negativity in the world. Bad things happen, but they aren’t the ONLY things happening. Good works are going on all around you, they are just quieter and usually more humble. I want you to know that you are beautiful and it is okay to think yourself as such. Even if your hair isn’t the right color or your teeth don’t line up or your ‘too fat’ or you don’t make enough money. If you are constantly working on who you are as a person, your light will shine through.
In this world, hope is not a luxury we can take for granted.
And that, my friends, is why I create jewelry.