It was not always that way. For years, I wanted to learn how to solder. I could not find a class in my area and the classes I could find were one night a week over 6-8 weeks in cities other than mine – not practical. I tried doing so many things as substitutes for soldering and metal work, but none really satisfied me. I tried to get into Penland a few years ago and the class was full; I did not get in.
A couple of years later, I found another class elsewhere that was not really what I was looking for, but at least it included soldering. I was so excited to take the class and by the end of the first day felt like a remedial, soldering-impaired person with issues. I did not find the class to be friendly and I struggled. It did not help to be told how easy it was coming to others. It did not help to be told that people with poor eyesight maybe should not take the class. I finished the class as best I could and left with huge soldering angst.
For the two years that followed, I avoided working on metal and had to force myself to try it. I approached it with fear and anxiety – not a place where creativity flourishes. Not a place where shaky skills in need of nurturing and practice could take root and blossom. And so I let it go and made the same kind of jewelry I always did. And I knew there was artistic restlessness stirring around within me.
This year I applied for Penland again and was accepted. This class provided not just the technical instruction I so desperately needed, but also a fun and supportive environment for learning, mistakes, exploration, and growth. I can proudly say I am no longer soldering-impaired. I love using my torch and miss it if too many days go by without using it.
I have been fortunate in that I have been able to learn many things somewhat easily. Soldering definitely was not one of them. Yet I persevered. So what is the lesson in this? To overcome fear and persevere? To know how it feels so I can lend a hand to someone else who is having trouble learning something? Or is the lesson to accept with gratitude the hands that were offered to me?