Do It Yourself?

I dropped off a pair of my jeans with a local embroidery/sewing/alterations shop yesterday. The jeans need a repair; my predilection for pulling on a belt loop to hike up my jeans before they slip over my hips and fall to the floor caused injury to the fabric. It wasn’t that the threads attaching the belt loop to the jeans fabric had broken or frayed. Rather, my habit of pulling up on the belt loop tore a hole in the underlying denim. The belt loop remained firmly affixed to the piece of cloth torn from the jeans. The cost will be only a couple of dollars; I thought to myself as I was leaving the shop, “if you knew how to sew and had a sewing machine, you could have fixed this without paying someone else.”  And it’s true.

But it’s also true that, if I had the requisite equipment and knew how to use it, I could repair the weld on the metal potting table I’ve been trying to refurbish. And if I had the necessary supplies, and could boast the expertise to use them, I could weave my over-used and badly abused belts into works of art. I could, if properly equipped and trained, do all the maintenance work on our cars and could diagnose and treat diseases and injuries that might befall either my wife or me.

So, the questions bubble to the surface. At what point does the “what if” question become ludicrous? At what stage of the process of deciding whether to “do it yourself” or hire someone else to do it for you does the scale tilt? And what mechanism triggers the decision either way?

I tried to put the matter in another context by asking myself: at what point would I hire someone else to write this blog or write short stories? I couldn’t conceive of asking anyone to do this work for me. I asked: when might I commission someone else to create masks for me, instead of making them myself? That was a more difficult question to answer. I don’t have a kiln, so the question involved assessing whether I would hire someone for the entire process, or just to fire the pieces. And that question remains unanswered. Incidentally, I won’t be making masks (or at least firing them) for awhile; I opted to withdraw from the fifth sculpture/pottery class in which I had enrolled (my reasons have nothing to do with the topic of this rambling diatribe).

The answers to these and a thousand other questions are not as simple and straightforward as I might have thought. There’s a lot involved in deciding whether the investment in time, practice, equipment, education, etc., etc., etc. required to become self-sufficient in any sphere of endeavor is worthwhile. It’s an organic process that, I think, is unique to each of us.

Ultimately, I suppose the answers for each of us arise from a complex, and possibly convoluted, assessment of the costs versus benefits involved in such spheres. Here, I refer to costs and benefits not merely in the concrete, material sense; instead, the assessment also involves estimating the value of satisfaction against the various costs of attaining it.

What an odd set of concepts to give myself over to this morning. I wonder if I have enough to do. I wonder if I have enough to think. I wonder if I am occupying my mind with drivel to avoid dwelling on something painful and important…or something painful and meaningless.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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