I’m holding a huge piece of plywood. I’m trying to cut it with a teeny-tiny saw. Plywood wobbles, and I’m not a physicist, but I know it’s not good for the thing you’re trying to cut to be wobbling when you’re trying to cut it.
I’m 30 years old. It’s the summer of 2000. I’m trying to redo the downstairs bathroom.
I have no skills. Crap tools. And practically zero knowledge of carpentry, plumbing, and tiling. I hate painting.
Why am I doing this? We bought an old house just at the top of our budget. We love it, but there’s a lot of work to be done. Before we bought we saw all the needed updates, but we were like “we’ll just get this redone.” But when you buy a house you have a lot less money. We started getting quotes from contractors and just the bathroom was out of our budget.
The project was hard for me. I would get stuck on a part of it, and then sometimes not return to it for a week or more. Soon enough I was back to teaching, and that dragged it out further. It took me over a year to complete, which is a pretty poor timeline.
But I learned a lot. Typical of life, the lessons extended beyond doing DIY projects. Two are positive lessons, and one is a negative lesson. Unfortunately for the way I like to grow, I seem to want to learn positive things from difficult situations.
Get the right tools. This isn’t just true about bathrooms, but life. I mean the saw I was using to cut the plywood was pathetic. As I continued to do projects, I got better tools. But this can be true of anything. Like if you are on your feet a lot, get good shoes.
If you get daunted by obstacles, you’re kinda screwed. This one took me a long time to learn. I would avoid thinking about what I needed to overcome problems in all parts of my life. But when I realized that obstacles are a constant part of life, I started to get less stressed. Then I noticed that adapting, learning and overcoming problems is a skill that can be generalized to all types of work.
Liking and embracing challenge changes the game. Now, when I am facing something new or difficult, I put my mind to finding solutions. I enjoy playing with the potential in my mind, and really appreciate the aha moment when it comes. What used to be burdensome work is now another creative expression.
Despite delays, I love the result. Next time I’ll talk about how this bathroom revealed my aesthetic.