Wise Women Wednesday: Monica Barnett

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Q. Who are you? What is your background? 
A. I’m a proud ‘Sconnie (that’s what we call folks from Wisconsin) currently living in North Carolina.  I love to travel, go to concerts, sew, knit, and draw.  I am continuing to learn to speak Italian, which is probably one of the hardest things I have done as an adult.  Hats off to anyone who speaks more than one language!  I studied Textile & Apparel Design in college, where I learned to sew, draft patterns, and dye fabric.  I currently work an 8-5 day job as a technical designer for a large apparel company. Bonus points if you know what a technical designer is.  I used to always talk about my day job, but I don’t let it define me any longer.  It has given me some great skills and experiences, along with the opportunity to meet some amazing people.

Q. What is your work?
A. Teaching and creating!  I have been teaching yoga for the last eight years.  I love to see my students disconnect from outside distractions and learn to slow down.  I’ve taught knitting lessons, bra fit classes, and have started to teach garment sewing classes.  I’m also in the process of getting certified to teach English as a foreign language.  So you could say I feel pretty comfortable in a teacher role!  I especially love teaching women to sew.  It’s an empowering experience to make a garment that specifically fits your body and lifestyle, as well as your creative vision.  Once you learn the basics, the possibilities really are endless.  And in a world of fast fashion, it’s an investment to make yourself a quality garment you can be proud to wear.  I also do a lot of custom sewing/making for people, usually baby clothes, bibs & quilts.  Earlier this year I made some custom jumpsuits for a friend and she looks absolutely amazing in them.  It’s a great feeling to see someone not only looking good in something you’ve made, but to see them feeling confident as well.

Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. I’m working on making some fun products out of fabrics from my stash.  Zipper bags, totes & reusable grocery bags (I hate single use plastics), and simple tees and tanks.  Some things will even be made from fabric that I’ve dyed myself.  I’m hoping everything is well received!  I’m also working to curate my closet, moving toward a goal of 75% of my wardrobe being me-made. 

Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. I recently took a 2 month unpaid leave of absence from my job to travel alone in Italy. One of my yoga students dubbed it my “radical sabbatical”!  I was so nervous to ask for the time off, but I’m so glad I did.  Just because something hasn’t done before, especially in a day job/corporate atmosphere, doesn’t mean you can’t ask. It might be uncomfortable and the powers that be might say no, but hey, they might also say yes!  I think sometimes we are more afraid of getting the “yes” than the “no”.  Also, traveling alone for an extended period of time can be incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly challenging.  It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and I really feel that it helped me to grow as a person.

Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not why not what's stopping you? 
A. I would love to make my living from teaching and creating.  I haven’t made the leap yet for a few reasons, one of them being fear, the other being financial.  It takes a lot of courage to walk away from the“should” of a steady, predictable corporate job. I’m feeling a lot more brave and capable after my radical sabbatical, though!  And I’ve never really been one to do what is expected of me. (I was the girl with pink and purple hair in high school…!)

Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. Don’t worry about it!  I spent a lot of time worrying about so many things when I was younger, and it was such a waste of time & energy.  Show up, do your best, and be content with that.  And never for a second doubt your worth!

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Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. “No is a complete sentence.”  This one has been a hard concept for me, as I’m sure it is for many others.  Growing up in Wisconsin, people are nice. REALLY nice.  You learn to go along with things to be polite or to not rock the boat.  I used to say yes to a lot of things I just wasn’t really in to, but I didn’t have the heart to say no.  I’m learning to take a stand and only say yes to the things that really resonate with me.  It’s a constant practice that challenges me, but it’s really freeing.

Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. There are some times that I just have to step away from my sewing machine. Usually it’s when I’ve sewn a sleeve on backwards (sometimes for the second time..!) or I’m getting ready to make buttonholes.  In those times when I need a break or I’m feeling stuck, I like to switch to drawing or painting.  It takes away all the pressure for me.  I started painting with watercolor when I was in Italy, and although I’m still at a beginner level and watercolor is HARD, it’s an amazing creative outlet.  I find that when I am not so tied up to the outcome of whatever I’m making, it’s easier to try new things and let creativity exist on its own.  I can get very wrapped up in making garments “perfect”, but when I paint or draw, I like to just see what happens.  Usually it’s not great, but it’s the process, not the outcome, that matters. 

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Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. Take time to appreciate the people in your life.  If they are important to you, tell them. If you’re thinking of them, tell them.  If you love them, tell them.  Reach out and make those connections. Life is too short and one day they won’t be here to receive that message. 

Q. What's your favorite yoga pose? 
A. I couldn’t narrow it down to just one! My favorite standing pose is half moon (love a balance pose!) and I end every class with a reclined twist. It’s such a great release for the low back, especially after spending hours at a desk.   

Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. Abundance to me means appreciating the little things, showing gratitude, and spreading joy to others.  This week that meant buying myself flowers to have on my desk.  Sometimes it means sending letters or drawings to friends, or buying coffee for the person behind me in line at the coffee shop.  It might be as simple as giving someone a genuine compliment or calling a friend to ask how they’re doing. It means taking the time to write in my journal about all the good things, no matter how small, that happened in my day.  It can be easy to focus on the negative, but a little shift in perspective goes a long way.

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