Sunday, November 17, 2013

Magnum Opus

The one thing I fault myself with is my inability to be patient and persistent when things get tough. I generally am very impatient and hate the idea of not getting it right the first time. The first time I was made chronically aware of it was in a feedback from a friend.

The story goes that I once went for an interview based on a recommendation from a friend. After the interview my friend called up and said that they had reviewed by interview and one of the interviewers had provided the feedback that I seem to give up very easily. Since he mentioned who it was, I remember the incident very clearly and my version is that he had asked me a question and I had given it a try. But when I realized that I did not answer the question, I told him I don't know. The reason I do that in interviews is that I don't like to come across as a person who keeps talking when he doesn't really know the answer. But tuns out the take away for the interviewer was that I gave up too easily.

When I heard that I was shocked. But once I got over it I realized that it was a fair point indeed. After that day I made it a point to observe myself and realized that it was indeed very true. I do give up easily. I do not like it when I do not have the answers and I dont really like to dwell on it after that point.

With that in mind I am looking to prove myself wrong. It is in that context that I ventured into the task of rebuilding my deck. What is the relationship you ask? I wanted to see if a task completely unrelated to work has the same effect on me. The job of building the deck was not a small one and after my brief intro to carpentry in my engineer school 20 years ago, I have never touched a carpentry tool in my life. So the experiment was to really see if I was willing to learn and really learn from my mistakes and improvise and patiently build something substantial.

The deck was a true study in endurance. I started over the memorial day weekend of 2013 and began breaking down the existing boards. As I broke through it I could see the underlying framework and was already intimidated. It was not looking good and a number of beams looks rather dilapidated. Once I was done removing all the boards I realized that this was not an exercise of just adding new boards and that I would have to rebuild some of them. The project had already taken an unexpected turn. But I continued on. I got myself some support beams and shaped them as best as I could. I then got myself some support joints and nailed them into all the joints to reinforce them. After four days of 8 hours hard labor, all the joints were reinforced and the new beams were in place.

That is when I realized there were a lot of nails sticking out from the beams from the old boards and I had to pry them out one by one. A true test in patience and strength. Once they were out, I painted each one of the beams with paint to avoid further degradation of the existing beams and filled them up with putty. That was when I was ready to put the boards back.

Finding good redwood boards  the real test in patience. I remember going to the store and seeing a pile of 200 boards sitting there and I thought to myself this should be really easy. But then it was when I began spiffing through the pile that I realized that the yield was more like 2%. So for every new pile of boards I would find 5 boards. Each one had to be nailed it and painted with a water proofer. The yield finally worked out well for me because that was really the amount of boards I need for a days worth of work. I would collect three days worth of boards and work on a Saturday trying to nail them into the structure. This was the stage that was really a test in patience. The job was mundane and really needed very little thinking, except for the challenges in leveling the boards.

Building the steps was the most challenging part of the project and was the one stage my endeavor that I failed and had to improvise to finish it off. But 6 months and endless hours of sawing and drilling and the deck was done just in time for winter and the rainfall to start.

Though this is not a real test of if I am really capable of patience and determination, it has gone a very long way in reinforcing my confidence in myself and my ability to stick to something till it is done. It was truly my magnum opus because even though it was not obvious to many, there were times when I thought that it was not worth the effort.

Here is to something I finished....

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