Measured Twice, Cut Once

A man much wiser than I once told me, “Experience is something you only get right after you needed it.”  So very true. 

As handy men go I rank somewhere between a coma patient and a 10 year old.  Yesterday I helped install a window mounted air conditioner (in our second floor apartment), hang two curtain rods and then a rather large mirror.  It was all very educational.  It was also very humbling because I thought I could do all that stuff with few problems.  There’s something in men that says, “You should be able to handle any task that comes your way, especially if it’s heavy and technical.”  If I’m walking through the woods and meet a bear, it should never even occur to me that I won’t be able to wrestle it into submission until it taps out. 

It’s daunting to think about all the things men are expected to know how to do in life.  If the car is broken, I’m supposed to be able to at least trouble shoot it enough to find the problem if not fix it myself.  If I’m camping, I should know how to make fire, cook food, pitch a tent and roll up a sleeping bag.  If I’m helping a friend move, I’m supposed to be able to lift my end of the dresser while negotiating a narrow hallway.  If my family needs ANYthing, I’m supposed to be able to provide them with it, all the while being a positive Christian role model for my children (which to me is the most terrifying thing about parenting). 

The truth is I feel unequipped for life at times.  I don’t know jack about air conditioners.  I’m in my late twenties and can’t drive a stick shift.  I have average math skills. It took me twenty minutes and a phone call to my dad to get my wireless internet set up on a Mac (supposedly the most user friendly computer on the market).  I remember many men from my youth that just seem to be able to do it all.  I wonder if and how I’ll ever get to a point where young men feel that way about me.

If you gain wisdom and knowledge through experience, and you get experience by doing, then does this mean that I haven’t done enough with my life?   In grade school it’s pretty easy to gauge what your abilities should be.  It makes sense that in high school you should be able to do algebra and in first grade you should be able color the clown blue.  Same in college.  But once you’re out in the real world where’s the yardstick?  How do you measure success in your life when there’s nobody telling you what you should be able to accomplish?

I suppose the catch is that there is no instant gratification.  If you take a test and you get an ‘A’ then you know you’ve done well.  But in life, let’s say you have a child.  It’s born and then you get to wait 18 years to see if they survive.  THEN you kick them out of the house and spend the rest of your life watching to see how they do.  When they are able to repeat the process I suppose you’ve done alright.  So the only way you can see how you did in life is by looking back at the end of it.  And if God is pleased with your work then you’ve done okay.  Living to please Him.  Maybe that’s the yardstick.

I have a feeling that if took that yardstick and broke it over my ego’s pridefull head I’d be a lot better off in life.  I also have a feeling that I’m reading WAY to much into an air conditioner installation…

Life’s a journey, not a destination” (author unknown)

– J

4 Responses to “Measured Twice, Cut Once”

  1. TexanNewYorker Says:

    I don’t know where the yardstick is, either. It seems cliché, I suppose, that we’re both in our 20’s wondering “What am I doing with my life? What am I SUPPOSED to be doing? How do I know if I’m doing it the right way?” But then, I guess that’s why God gives us friends, to be able to have someone who says, “Man, I know what you mean.”

    Oh, and this is well-written and thought-provoking. 🙂

  2. Popgun Says:

    Hi, Son;

    Good post. Competence comes from experience, just as you say. You may be thinking in terms of what you’ve seen me do. But, the financially handicapped world I grew up in lead me to get a lot of experience early on. When a lawn mower broke down, I got to fix it – and this required learning how an internal combustion engine works; and a car engine works the same way as a lawn mower engine. And I worked on a lot of automotive junk trying to keep it alive. And so forth. I learned how to hang pictures by hanging all those pictures in the hall. I learned how to install window units by watching my Dad learn to do it several times. It’s not what you know, it’s that you learn. Next time you see a window A/C, you will be a bit more prepared and knowledgeable. And it is notable that you finished the job, did you not? Success.

    When you raise kids, it’s not a crap shoot whether they will do well in life. You know what you taught them, and you have confidence in that. I knew when you and your brother went out into the world that you were prepared; not necessarily in any individual thing, but that you have the tools to learn and succeed. Of course, what you do with them is up to you. But so far I am pleased with the results I see. It is no small thing to be on your own that far from home, either.

    As regards to whether you’ve done enough with your life – I’ll remind you that you’re not through, yet.


  3. Tx Grandma Says:

    I’m in my early 50’s and I can’t drive a stick shift. As far as the yard stick goes. We always measure ourselves different than others do. And we all feel unequipped in life sometimes. I am proud of you just the way you are. Continue to learn and experience, face your challenges head on and head strong. And remember you are never to old to learn.

  4. sford Says:

    Just wait until you buy a house and realize how much more you do not know how to do. Or better yet – wait until you get married and all of the sudden you are responsible for another person’a vehicle in addition to your own. For some reason, we are expected to just know how to do certain things. There is no shame in reading the instructional manual more than once.

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