I built a small deck out behind the townhouse I rent over a recent long weekend. I’m not much of a carpenter, but I have what I’d call decent ‘common-sense’ skills, and plenty of knowledge gained from watching and helping others who are very good carpenters. One of them was my Dad, whom I spent many years of my youth watching (at first), then later helping him with projects. That mentorship has continued in more recent years with opportunities to help friends with various projects.
It is such that I came to do this small project to enhance my home. I deliberately kept it limited in scope and as low in cost as possible. After all, I just rent this place, so it’s not an investment that’s going to pay financial dividends for anyone except my landlord. The dividends for me are strictly quality of life–the importance of which should never be underestimated.
I went about the planning and execution of the
project quite meticulously. I carefully measured things out, and drew up detailed plans. From these plans, came a shopping list. I set my goal to keep the project under $100.00 in materials, and at the highest end, no more than $160.00. I’m proud to say that I came in at around $163.00, and actually returned extra boards I didn’t need. The project only required one return trip to the building supply store before completion, as I had underestimated one set of boards, but that mistake was off-set by a surplus of another kind. I suspect the error was due to a simple miscalculation.
A deck, but also a deeper lesson in life…
The finished product is something I feel quite proud of. I felt uneasy going into this, wondering if I’d truly be able to pull it off. I’ve never done a project like this by myself from start to finish. I had a few offers of help, but I purposefully wanted to do this one on my own. In a way, I guess I wanted to prove something to myself. I’ve always felt in so many ways that I lack the ability to manage and execute projects on my own, despite the fact that I know I do have the knowledge, and others who know me and work with me feel the same. I’ve just never felt that way myself. I really wanted to do this one on my own, and see if I could get the job done; done right; done within budget; and done according to plan.
I’ve often wondered over the years where this lack of self-confidence comes from. Through conversations with others who have the same religious background as I do, I think some of it comes from my upbringing and subsequent adult life spent in Christian Science. You see, Christian Science theology beats into you a constant mantra, if you will, of perfection, and the relentless pursuit of perfection. This is a pursuit that always leads to disappointment. This world is not a perfect place, and nobody in it is perfect. However, when you fail to meet the standard of perfection, at least in my mind, my Christian Science-think puts a bit of a beat-down on me.
At work, I’ve been put in charge of a project that, while the nature of it is perfectly suited to my skills and interests, makes me uneasy. There’s that little part of me that says, “you can’t do this; you’ll screw it up…” Even though it’s moving forward very well, and my colleagues and superiors are very happy with how things are going, I’ve still felt that somehow I won’t deliver. Building my deck this weekend has helped me realize that I can get the job done, and I’m excited to get back to work and move the project at work forward towards completion.
No imaginary friends in the sky get credit…
So, the deck I built, besides just being a nice project I’ve been thinking about for a number of years, has been a big proving-ground for me in ways I never really thought it would. I accomplished something that is, frankly, a big deal to me, and it feels good that it turned out well. It’s not perfect, but it is a very solid piece of construction, and it will stand the test of time, I think.
The bigger picture is that this project has helped tremendously to crack a shell of self-doubt I’ve been wrapped in for most of my life. I can do stuff, and I can do it well, and right. Carrying this forward into other aspects of my life is only going to make things better. No ‘god’ or other supernatural imaginary friend gets credit for this one. I didn’t pray about it. I thought it through, I planned it, I researched and priced out the materials, and I used skills that were taught to me by others to get this done. I’m proud of myself, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not an egotistical “I’m better than you” proud, it’s simply pride in a job well done. Many people have felt this many times in their lives. For me, it’s a new feeling.