Where to even begin? Today is a new day, a new year. I think back over not just the past year, but the last fourteen. I don’t know why a particular memory keeps coming to the fore, but the memory is of me sitting on the steps leading up to our bedrooms in our old house in Ohio, with my head in my hands, wondering how I was going to make everything work, how I was going to continue on the way I was. I remember looking through our picture window, seeing that it was wintertime, cold and damp outside, the leaves stripped from the trees in our front yard. A bleak picture matching how I felt on the inside. At that time I was working not only full-time as an engineer, but I was also working a second job as a handyman on the weekends. I was even working my second job on some nights during the week, after already putting in a full day at my ‘real’ job. During one particular stretch, I realized I had worked seven straight weeks without taking a single day off.
Some of the things I did to make ends meet seem incredible to me now. Putting a new roof on a dilapidated garage, hoping I don’t fall through the roofing slats, and then seeing my partner plunge through the roof up to his armpits. Working on rental properties inhabited by tenants with bad personal habits and even worse hygiene. One job had me replacing the wax ring that goes between the toilet and floor, only to find out the floor underneath was rotten, and the joists underneath infested with termites. In the middle of that job I was standing on the dirt floor of the cellar, the entire floor and supporting joists of the bathroom removed, and the floor of the adjacent hallway at about the height of my chest. Meanwhile, the tenant was tying one on, drinking Red Bull and vodka in the middle of the day, smoking like a chimney.
I remember working many jobs solo. Long, lonely days, lost in my thoughts as I slogged away at hanging, finishing, primering, and painting drywall. Cutting down trees, clearing brush, rendering it all into chips, in all kinds of weather. Never nice weather it seems, whenever I worked outside. It was always either infernally hot, or bitterly cold.
You name it, I probably have done it. If I was asked if I could do a job I’d never done before, I would read about it before going to do the job. From doing drywall to laying foundations for new homes, to being so tired at the end of the day I literally fell asleep on my feet one time, leaned up against a pickup truck.
Even in my professional career I have pushed myself, and done things many would not normally consider. I studied and prepared for months on end to obtain two rather prestigious certifications. Obtaining those certifications certainly enabled better opportunities for me. At one point I was even considering working out of Hong Kong, which would have required me to be away from my family six months out of the year. The company I worked for at the time sent me there, as a sort of trial run. I wanted to get down on my hands and knees when I returned to American soil, and kiss the ground upon which I was standing. When I walked into my parent’s house (where my family was visiting) after being gone for almost two weeks, the first thing that occurred after sitting down is that my daughter Gracie walked over to me, sat in my lap, and then put her arms around me. Needless to say, I didn’t take the gig with Hong Kong.
Maybe some of you are wondering what does any of the above have to do with Gracie. I think it’s fairly obvious, don’t you? And, of course, all that I’ve gone through is only part of our story. Someone else had to be there to take care of our girls, and that person was Kristine. The things she has gone through to support our family, well, let’s leave that for another post. Anyway, just some of the things that went through my mind this morning while greeting the dawn of another new year…