I grew up in an unkind household. This is not an ideal way to grow up; I don't recommend it. Unkind could mean a number of things here, but without going into sordid details, I'll say it wasn't just an absence of kindness, but an atmosphere of verbal and emotional abuse. These things were kept fairly well-hidden. I did not learn that the world was a safe place.
Of all my memories and all my recollections, the moments that have stood out in sharpest contrast in my life were when people went out of their way to be kind to me. There was one particularly difficult day in my early adulthood. Of all my hard times, I think that day stands out as the hardest. Knowing enough to put one foot in front of the other, I wandered through NYC, not sure what to do with myself or where to go. After walking aimlessly for several hours, I was surprised to run into a neighbor from Brooklyn, barely an acquaintance, sitting on a curb with his business partner. They invited me to sit down. After a few minutes of small talk, a company car pulled up to the curb and my neighbor was whisked away, leaving me sitting there with a stranger. For a few awkward moments, neither of us knew what to say, but then conversation came easily. A few minutes turned into a few hours, and in a most unexpected turn of events, we spent the entire afternoon sitting in Bryant Park talking about light-hearted things like classic rock and airplanes. As the hours wore on, I felt normal, and appreciated, and human again. I got a brief reprieve from the difficulty I was facing, and learned that simple kindness can bridge the gap between feeling hopeless and knowing everything will be okay.
It's been 16 years since I left my original household, almost as many as I spent there. But making that place GO AWAY is harder than you'd think. I've carried it around with me and been haunted by it. I think one of the biggest mistakes made by the people who raised me was the assumption that the little things didn't matter. They took no credit for the mean and critical and hurtful words they flung around so carelessly, the words I've spent most of my life trying not to still hear. Those words formed my reality, my impression of myself. They thought their words didn't count.
Words are powerful, and once they're released into the world, you can't get them back. They go on and live a life of their own.
And here we are on the internet, with all of its eternal, undying words. I know there are dark corners here, but it always surprises me to see hurtful words used against people in my own community. Offer your public opinion if you must, but remember: your words achieve a life of their own. You never know the ways in which you will move someone, completely shift the trajectory of their life, for better or worse. Choose your words with care.
The person I talked to in Bryant Park so many years ago? I only know his first name. He will never know how helpful he was that day. He never even knew I was suffering. But that's the thing: I've carried that kindness around with me for 10 years now. To have such an impact, by just being kind, is an unforgettable lesson.
One reason I love doing what I do is the abundance of kindness I've found in this little community. I dearly love the other designers who have reached out to me and included me in their world. And the crafters and sewists and bloggers and just-plain-lovely-people with their warmth and encouragement and creativity... you all are exactly the people I want in my life!
As I've said before, we're all struggling here, and my deepest struggle and greatest desire is to HEAL my little wounds, and to give back to others some of the kindness that's been given to me. One way I'll do that: I'll choose my words carefully.