Saturday, September 27, 2003

"What was I thinking?"

At nearly the same point in every semester (especially semesters when I'm considered a full-time student) these words cross my brain: "What on earth was I thinking?" I'm overwhelmed, unenthusiastic, and would rather do dishes than another quiz or essay. Me doing any sort of housework voluntarily is considered a sign of impending Armageddon among my friends and family.

So I grit my teeth and remind myself why I'm doing what I'm doing when there are times I rather be doing anything else.

Reason number 1: Survival.
This was formed in 1997 when I came close to losing everything I'd worked most of my adult life to achieve. I'd worked hard; I was a Journeyman Boilermaker, a certified welder, and there was no work to be had at all. The unemployment had run out and I was unable to pay bills. I remember looking into a cupboard and thinking that in a couple of weeks that food would run out and I didn't know how I was going to eat. Mind you, I was and still am a lucky individual. I have a family, both by blood and by marriage, that would take me in and take care of me until I got back on my feet. I readily acknowledge that this is a great alternative to starving in the streets. But I will never forget the embarrassment, the helplessness, the loss of every bit of independance that I'd been striving for since I was 14. I love construction. I have dreams about having a heliarc rig in my hands again. I never again want to wonder where my next meal is coming from.

Reason number 2: Intellectual growth.
I may have mentioned that I love construction. I do. I love the people I work with -- mostly men, and mostly good people -- I love the jobsites (okay, except for oil refineries), all grungy and gritty and challenging -- I love the work, the rigging and welding and fitting and boilermaking that make up a day. The major caveat: there is little room for learning anything outside of the world of construction. I don't drink with the guys (can you think of a better recipe for disaster?), I don't hunt, I'm not in the least bit interested in women from a...romantic...angle, and there's only so much I want to discuss about welding day in and day out. I know that there is so much out there to learn, and there are different ways of thinking that I want to know. In some ways this relates to survival; the more you know the better your odds are. More than this, though, I don't ever want to get to the point where I'm doing the same routine day in and day out. I want to learn, I want to know, I want to understand -- if not everything, then everything that I can. It's my form of exploration and most of the time it's my idea of high adventure. Shortly put, the minute you stop learning is the minute you start dying. I've seen it happen, and it is one of the most awful and tragic situations I've ever witnessed. Not for me. Not if I can help it.

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