How We Challenge Ourselves

Bibliotheca January 2023 – Challenge: What is the Gift I Should Bring to the World?

How cool is this? I feel like I would have been friends with these women, as we each sew clothes from each other’s cultural backgrounds! ❤

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! This month’s theme for the Bay Area Kei Bibliotheca blog circle is “challenge,” and this post isn’t specifically about fashion or history, but it’s something I wanted to talk about anyway because (like so many things on this blog) it’s a topic I find fascinating. 😀

“What does it mean that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

Mary Oliver

Do you know anyone who has successfully answered this question? I am fortunate enough to know a couple humans who consistently express the conviction of doing exactly what they were both meant to do and desperately want to do, but I certainly haven’t answered it myself. I do, however, find a tremendous amount of meaning in pursuing challenge.

Definitely not me examining their outfits as much as their fighting stance. 😀 Also the article this was sourced from is called Pugilism in Petticoats which might be my new band name.

A lot of the things I do here look like challenges, but it’s more complex than that for me. In many cases, they’re things I don’t really have a lot of doubt in my ability to achieve, as long as I do enough research/spend enough time on them. If I put in the work, I’ll get the outcome I expect. So for me, a challenge is more something that I could put my entire effort into, but still not get the result I’m aiming for. It has factors out of my control that force me to be comfortable with uncertainty – to grow as a person. Or it may be something for which I can’t tell if my efforts will bear fruit – or even matter at all.

I’m not certain if Inami-san is my new best friend or deadly rival, but either way I’m pretty happy that there’s another lolita-wearing martial artist out there in the world! ❤

Fencing with swords is a tremendous challenge for me because there’s another human involved and I can’t predict what they’ll do (outside of certain agreed-upon parameters). So it takes immense courage just to step up to the line, not to mention trying to defend myself/strike my training partner. This blog is another huge challenge – less the projects themselves, but more the act of putting myself out into the world. I do my best with photography, research, sewing, etc – but I have no control over how you, my friendly reader, will react to what I post. Wearing lolita/kimono in public can be a challenge for me too – generally people are friendly, but it still creates a LOT of complex interactions with others that this introvert has to be braced for. 😀 I have to answer the same question over and over for people with a genuine smile because it’s the first time they’ve asked it even if it’s the hundredth time I’ve answered.

So, a working theory of how I perceive challenge, then, is that it’s something that either provides me with an opportunity to grow as a person (such as gaining more capacity for discipline or empathy or the like), or that allows me to empirically test my beliefs about who I am as a person (such as “I believe I can control my fear or anger in such-and-such type of situation – now let’s validate this hypothesis”).

Yuki Yuuna is a Hero is both a depressing and inspiring take on the typical magical girl trope; I highly recommend it!

Ultimately what I want is to be a person who always acts in accordance with my values in any given situation. I want my values to become my habits rather than my fears. Basically, I want to be a hero. ❤ I was having a conversation with my beloved friend Emily about this, and she pointed out that challenges seem to be my way of building or reinforcing these “good” habits. Challenges can be a struggle, but struggle does not equal challenge – if my values aren’t involved, I’m probably just making life harder on myself for no reason.

Speaking of characters who make life harder on themselves…please, Wei Ying & Lan Zhan, just talk to each other for like five minutes. 😀 If you like Chinese magical fantasies you really can’t do much better than this series – I just finished it and it was SO GOOD.

So, perhaps, if you’d like to challenge yourself with me, we can think about these things together:

What brings me joy? What makes my body feel better? My heart? My soul?
What seizes my attention and won’t let go until I pursue it?
In what ways do I wish to grow or change? What “good” habits do I wish to build?
What are my values, and how do I express them?

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

Check out what other members of Bibliotheca had to say about this month’s topic!
Wear Your Bows Takes on the Challenge of Reviewing Local Tea Spots
Lovelylaceandlies Shares the Challenges of Storing Lolita Fashion
kelp Points out the Challenge of Wardrobe Posts When Your Wardrobe Isn’t Just Full Sets
Dearie Dawn Reveals the Challenges of Wearing J-Fashion

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4 thoughts on “How We Challenge Ourselves

    1. I really might have to send her a message through her website contact form. I’m nowhere near her level but I just think it’s so amazing that there’s another person out there with my same interests!


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