My entire adult life (and really some time before) I’ve worked for a non-profit fishermen’s association. That’s over 22 years, plus a couple of summers as a student. Clearly it’s something I enjoy, at least most of the time. A colleague says you have to have “a fire in your belly” to do this type of work for any length of time.
The fishing industry is predominantly a male industry, though it is changing with more and more females getting involved. Nevertheless, it is not unusual to walk in a room and be one of the few, if not the only female in the room, especially on the non-government employee side of the table. As a young 20-something year old, it could be very intimidating to “lean in” at the table. Now, seeing the same faces over the years at meetings, it really is its own little community.
Thinking back, I can’t remember exactly how I started knitting during industry meetings. It probably was a science meeting in an effort to keep my mind from wandering (science is SO not my strong suit). I remember keeping my hands under the table to be less obvious about what I was doing. I didn’t want people to think I wasn’t paying attention. Oddly, it’s actually had the opposite effect. In my efforts to prove I’m engaged even if I’m knitting, I’ve ended up participating more. And for someone who’s normally quite shy, that’s definitely a good thing.
It’s had another side effect as well. In an industry full of men, having a girl come in and sit the table and start knitting has been an ice breaker. If they can’t remember my name, they know I’m “the one with the knitting”. There’s always a joke about what I’m knitting for them; it’s a conversation starter like talking about the weather. People tell me they can tell how interesting I find the discussion based on the speed of my knitting. Apparently I slow down when I’m really involved. I’ve also been told when I slap my knitting down on the table they know I’m ready to argue about what was just said; and me, I find knitting needles make excellent pointers.
That’s not say I knit all the time at work. It’s about knowing when you should, and when you shouldn’t. I’m fortunate to have that flexibility and I want to make sure I don’t take advantage of it.