Take for example an article in The New York Times titled, Young Food Entrepreneurs Make Their Future by Hand, that details how young entrepreneurs are making and selling food products at New York food markets.
"They carry home-grown radishes and red-cooked pork. They transport dozens of empanadas, juggling sheet pans on the G train. They pack boxes of butterscotch cupcakes, Sichuan-spiced beef jerky and grapefruit marmalade. They haul boiled peanuts, ice-grinding machines, sandwich presses and at least one toaster oven painted hot pink."
This is a living for the lucky few, the only income for some, and the dream life of nearly all of them, depsite the hardships and hard work.
Then there was the article in The Seattle Times -- Seattle yards become farms: Business grows from the ground up -- that describes how urban farming works for those who have opted out of the traditional route.
The thing that ties these stories together and allows me to draw parallels with my own life is the impact of the current recession on ordinary people's lives. Some of these people have been laid off from good jobs. Some are looking for a way to reinvent their lives in a way that doesn't rely on the illusion of security offered by a full time brick and mortar job, opting instead for the illusion of freedom that entrepreneurship offers. (By the way, I didn't make that clever thought up completely on my own, I read a version of it somewhere). Some are just trying to survive any way they can.
I am a writer. You have no idea how many dreams, ambitions, struggles, disappointments, sacrifices and hopes are loaded into that simple statement. Well, maybe you do now. I was laid off from a good job at the very end of 2008 and spent 2009 trying to figure out how to reinvent my life when it became clear that I'm far less employable now than I've ever been in the past. I've traded security for freedom and health insurance for creativity and personal fulfillment. Most days I think those are fair trades.
Of course, there is always the alluring and tempting greener pasture on the other side of the fence that beckons out of the corner of my eye even when I deliberately look away. Someone very dear to me makes a really good living doing a job she's very good at. The flip side of the heavily weighted material coin is that she doesn't feel like she's doing something that she loves and is personally enriching or fulfilling. She is very gifted artistically, and quite brilliant, so from her side of the fence, my pasture is greener. Most days that helps me to know that.
You can read the words in plenty of places, written by plenty of economists and sociologists and psychologists, that segments of our society have always been marginalized, and with the current recession more are becoming marginalized. As a poor, multi-ethnic, single mother, it would be natural to assume I occupy a place in the mass of the marginalized. I don't accept that.
Being marginalized is a passive role. It implies victimization by forces beyond control. I refuse. Instead, I, like the people who are selling home made empanadas in New York, and the people who are selling carrots grown on city lots in Seattle, are taking control of our own lives and -- dare I use the clichéd and overworked phrase -- thinking out of the box. We are making our lives over one magazine article, one empanada and one carrot at a time. That is the handmade life.