Earlier this week I had a couple really cool experiences at work. Monday I was working with Dan Regier, a longtime CHRPA worker, and we visited a house with both a swamp cooler problem and a toilet/tile problem in the bathroom. Dan and I looked at the two jobs, and then he looked at me, and asked “Do you feel comfortable working on the cooler by yourself?” And I was able to say yes.
Tuesday I was working with Kristi and she wasn't feeling well, so after we built a new banister for a client and stopped to eat lunch, she went home to rest and recover. Scott (my director) turned me loose for the afternoon to finish the job that Kristi and I were originally going to do. It wasn't something I'd done before, but Scott explained what I needed to do and felt comfortable sending me, so away I went!
There's a certain pride about working on a job (or even an aspect of a job) by yourself. I noticed that I felt a great deal more ownership of the jobs, taking full responsibility, rather than being a helper for the more experienced employees. Suddenly I became a lot more of a perfectionist. I questioned everything I did: Is this good enough? And, without anyone else there to sign off on the work I was doing, I had to have confidence in what I had done before I could walk away.
I'm still learning, but it was a great feeling to be adequate enough at my job to go do it alone. I've been here just over a month now, but I've already learned so much.
I think we all have a lot to learn, if we are willing to put ourselves in positions where we are bad at things. I tend to avoid things I'm bad at. As I've gotten older, this has only become more prevalent—I see people that are really, really good at things, mostly because they've been doing them a long time, and rather than admit I don't have experience, or am scared to try, I simply avoid the activity altogether. How ridiculous is that? How much of life am I missing out on?
I know that it is uncomfortable to not be good at things. I know that I really enjoy being good at something, known for something, just to have that one unique way in which you are an authority (for me, I look at tennis. I love tennis, but if I really critique myself, I think a prominent reason for my playing tennis is that it was something I did that not very many other folks did, something that I could be the best at, and known for). I think the challenge I'm learning through my early time here at CHRPA is that presence is more important than competence. Even if we are terrible at something, incapable of helping out in any real way, our very presence can speak to a great deal. We grow through things that are uncomfortable and difficult.
I'm trying to grow. I recently started reading a new Paulo Coelho book (the author of the Alchemist) in a thrift store, and in the very first chapter the character stated that there is one moment in every day in which we can either choose to really live life to its fullest or simply live life. Sometimes we seize the opportunity and sometimes we watch it go by. The first step is recognizing the moment for what it is. The next step is jumping into those situations where we are struggle and embrace them as something new and life-giving. Honestly, I think that most of the time I miss those opportunities, every day.
No more. I want to be more willing to lose at games, to be incompetent with a new tool, to make an fool of myself in a unfamiliar social situation. And why? Because those are the situations in which I have the most to learn, and have the most room to grow. I only hope I have the courage to follow through.