“Two outta sight years” -John Waters from Hairspray the film, not the stage play.
This year marks two outta sight years since I ‘lost’ my job. No, it’s not lost, I know exactly where it is and who has it. But it’s not me, which makes for the outta sight joy. I hated that job. Each day was progressively the most miserable day of my life (paraphrased from the film Office Space). I was going to leave anyway for fear of going postal, when an early retirement incentive was offered and I took it and ran.
Since then, each moment has been filled with wonder. There is a bit of lurking paranoia that the work police will come and drag me away for not working. I just can’t believe that life can be this darn good.
Here’s the creepy part. I started having dreams recently, dreams about work. The dreams are so sad and filled with grief. In the dreams I’m wandering around looking for my office and someone else is there. There is no place for me there anymore. Nobody recognizes me. Typical anxiety dreams. In waking life, I have no tinge of regret. So clearly there is some part of my psyche that I am not in touch with and it is suffering.
My tactic to comfort this silent suffering side, was to somehow bring it into reality in a symbolic way. Words were not helping. I have told the work horror stories to anyone who would listen for years. So I was thinking I had to do something with my hands. Something that I could imbue with meaning and gradually build up as a monument. Something my mute psyche would recognize. I hoped that by creating a testimony we (everyone is a we, don’t you think?) would be set free.
And so here it is. I made a quilt entitled Adieu to XRD.
The quilt is made up of only one repeating block, called Flying Geese. To me, the Flying Geese always symbolized escape. So I’m trying to tell myself that I have escaped this awful life and awful job.
The repeating unit is a pinwheel constructed of 8 flying geese. Each of the patterned fabrics reminds me of the details of the work I did. I worked with crystals and their diffraction patterns. The pink patterned fabric shows rotational symmetry. The red fabric (below) is reminiscent of the ball-and-stick models used to represent the chemical composition of the crystals. Crystal fragments are shown in the yellow fabric. Other fabrics represent crystal forms (green pattern below), refraction, and crystal planes (third picture below).
Taken as a whole, the pinwheels exhibit alternating absolute configuration. That is, one pinwheel spins to the right and the next one spins to the left. This pairing creates even more flying geese in purple between the pinwheel blocks.
Being a functional piece, this was not meant to be pretty. In fact, it could be described as garish. But whose psyche is not garish?
The loss of work can be seriously devastating. Mine was a male-dominated profession, and I saw plenty of men take it hard when they retired. At any age, the loss of a job means the loss of money, security, structure, friends, status, career and identity.
For me, it’s been two outta sight years! My identity was never that tied up in work, and I had better things to do. And now that I’ve “testified” in fabric, maybe we can all rest.
“This place is not my home I’m just a-passin through” -Tom Waits