The Journey Begins

Posted on Thu 30 August 2018 in misc

Welcome, and thanks for joining me on my maker journey. My intention is to write about the stuff that interests me as I re-immerse myself in making stuff. I know electronics and microcontrollers (CircuitPython, Arduino, etc.) are going to be a major focus. I want to learn to use the cool tools in my local Makerspace: 3-D printer, laser cutter, CNC router. What else might be included? We’ll find out as we journey together.

My history with making things is long and complicated. It’s ironic, in a way, because making stuff is something that runs in my family. Some of my earliest childhood comfort memories are tied to the smell of sawdust and my grandfather’s workshop with him. My grandmother spun wool and knit and wove fabric, and my mom’s been knitting for as long as I can remember. I have multiple published writers in my family.

Since I was small, I was forever taking things apart to try to understand how they worked. I took a machine shop class in 8th grade and an electronics class in my sophomore year of high school. I designed and built a darkroom timer for the photo darkroom I made in my dad’s basement. Heck, I’ve made my living in the software and high tech industry for most of my adult life.

But then, although I retained my interest in building and making and creating things, I drifted away from pursuing it. I stopped making things.

Why? Because of all the people who told me “that’s not something girls are interested in.” Sometimes when I did try, it was “I’d be glad to help you with your project – what are you wearing right now?” Sometimes it was “here are 30 questions about your knowledge while I condescendingly explain the basics to you and treat you like crap, because it’s clearly not possible for girls to know anything about this.” Often, I was simply ignored and excluded.

The messages were clear, unambiguous, and invalidating: People can be makers or women, but not both. And if I dared to try, what was in store for me was invalidation, condescension, disbelief, and sexism. Message received, loud and clear. For far too long and in too many parts of my life, I internalized those messages and took them to heart and let them become barriers. For far too long, I let society’s sexist messages squelch my desire to create, to build, to MAKE.

And you know what? All of that is garbage. There are TONS of women, nonbinary people, and men who build stuff. Who know how to use tools. Who weld, who run a CNC mill and a 3-D printer. Who create robots and electronic stuff and mechanical gizmos. Just look at E. Louise Larson (Prototype), Limor Fried (Adafruit), or Gina Lujan (Hacker Lab).

So, I’m going to learn the skills I want to learn, explore, create, make. I’m going to encourage other women, non-binary people, kiddos, and really everyone to follow your passions and interests wherever they lead, with reckless abandon. And I’m emphatically and unequivocally rejecting all that ridiculous and toxic gender stereotyping and norm setting. It’s nonsense, and I refuse to play. If I want to learn how to make things out of wires and circuits, or metal, or wood, or use a laser cutter, I’m not letting “girls can’t” or “girls shouldn’t” stand in my way. Not ever again.

What do I want to create? Right now, I just want to learn about the universe of what’s possible. All engines, ahead full!