Confidence and Curiosity

On the 16th day, I ‘m grateful for confidence and curiosity.

Let me explain.

As I said on day 12, my dad could do anything. Build a house, wire a lamp, fix an air conditioner, network your printer, rebuild an engine.

I inherited none of those skills.

At least, that is what everyone said when I was growing up.

I had poor hand to eye coordination, for one thing. And I would have much rather been alone in my room with a book than outside building something – mostly because I was uncoordinated and I hated being bad at a thing he was good at, and I was very good at reading books.

My younger brothers both loved working outside with him, and loved the tools and the dirt and the grime and all of it. I did not. So the story developed that I was the nerdy son and my brothers were the useful sons.

I want to be really clear that I was never put down or chastised for not being into what he was into – I was given a lot of room to be me, and I was accepted for being me. If I was the nerdy bookworm kid, he was OK with that. Which is its own sort of gift.

But over time, my hand to eye coordination got better. And my interests changed. And I became responsible for the maintenance of cars, and then a house, and because I had grown up watching Dad fix the alternator when it went out, I knew it was the sort of thing that could be done in your driveway with not many tools. So you look it up on YouTube and you buy the tools and Hey Presto, you just changed an alternator.

I think the biggest gift was not learning how to do things from him – because I didn’t – but learning that a lot of the things other people pay people to do are actually doable by a normal person. A lot of what passes for DIY skill is actually just confidence. I’m not always confident in my skills, but I’m confident that I can do it, or learn how to do it.

Because I learned that most things are not specialties that require arcane knowledge. Most things are learnable skills, and in fact, most things are actually just a discrete series of steps, and when people say they don’t know how to do a thing, what the really mean is, they don’t know the steps.

For example, if you have never replaced a toilet, it can seem overwhelming. But really, it’s super simple. It’s actually less about knowing how and more about being confident you can figure it out. Because nobody is born with toilet replacement knowledge. But if you believe  you can learn how to do it, you just need to find out what steps are involved.

And most common tasks can be done with about 20 tools. Then you just fill in around the edges as you need them.

And so, because I came to believe I too could be handy, could fix things, could build things, I did. Over the years I have built several different kinds of fences, put a metal roof on a house, gutted and remodeled a kitchen, put down multiple types of flooring, sanded hardwood floors, painted, wired outlets and circuits, built tons of bookshelves, built 5 different chicken coops, built a hell of a workshop, rebuilt a transmission, built walls, torn down walls, hung doors and windows, replaced alternators and radiators and water pumps and built decks and sheds and lots, lots more. Not because I knew how, but because I believed I could learn how.

I really wish I could have had stories about learning those things from Dad. It was a part of out life we did not share, and a way I was unlike him, this man I resemble in so many ways. But he did give me confidence and curiosity, and those were by far the bigger gift, and they led to all the rest.