Still here, still alive: Alex of Arabia (@alexofarabia)
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Differentiating personal passion and craft from work in the office isn’t usually something we were taught in school, especially when both are tied together. The joy we get from creating personal work fuels our passion, but burnout from work from meeting deadlines, and overworking ourselves, often crosses the fine line that separates the two.
I remember there was a saying that went around that “if you do what you love, it’ll never be considered work.” Whoever said that should add that we also need to be aware that sometimes the jobs we love can be mentally draining; we need to learn when to take a pause, tend to the strain burnouts cause us, and take the time to immerse ourselves in our personal craft that brings us joy. I want to introduce you to someone whose work revolves around his passion; his name is Alex Andronescu.
Alexander Andronescu started Alex of Arabia in 2017 as a clothing brand and slowly grew it into a garment factory that produced all types of apparel and custom clothes. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Alex of Arabia shifted production from clothing to masks and PPE. As the number of COVID-19 cases began to shrink nationwide, gears shifted back to fashion with an emphasis on quality garments and the idea that clothing should mean something to everyone. This year, Alexander teamed up with costume designer Lynn Brannelly to start Sewn Adaptive, a platform to educate tailors, designers and home sewers about adaptive alterations for people with disabilities.
When it comes to freelance, it’s often hard to separate work and personal time. Even enjoying what we’re passionate about can be hard if our same passion revolves around our job. There’s a fine line that separates the job and our personal pleasure to enjoy our craft which can allow us to lose our passion. What has brought you fulfillment working during the pandemic? What has sustained your mental health for you both to come into the “office,” and not “hate” what you love doing?
I can say honestly that I never hated anything about my job during the pandemic. I loved the late hours and the deadlines because I felt like we were making a difference. Sewing thousands on thousands of masks late into the night meant we were helping keep people safe and I know everyone I worked with shared that sentiment. However, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t stressful. The demand for masks was incredibly high and the deadlines, emails, and phone calls requesting quotes and rush orders came in at all hours. I watched the stress of deadlines and the monotony of sewing take a toll on everyone I worked with. I had to learn to set boundaries and hours for myself to function otherwise I knew burnout was imminent. I decided to take things slower and spend more time on activities that were not challenged by the pandemic. I joined a hiking group and have gone twice a week for most weeks since. Getting out especially with exercise in the outdoors allowed me to really sever the poisonous crossover of work into my personal life and helped me relax which is so important for mental health. Practicing the ability to create that separation continued as the intensity of the pandemic declined and life began to resume somewhat normally. Now that I have resumed my work making clothing and launching a new chapter with Sewn Adaptive, I feel like I can come home and have a place that is unbothered by stresses and allows me to think clearly and even solve problems related to work without overthinking. I learned to slow down which was never easy for me but was the best thing I could have done.