Saturday, July 29, 2017

When is Enough?

“Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?"

- A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver


Work has rapidly become more than I can handle in addition to school. Longer hours compiled with increasingly difficult work has made focusing and being awake enough at night to study almost impossible. We worked 6 days a week for a while. 

Already, I barely make it to the gym to two classes a week total when I used to be there two classes a night, minimum. My beloved motorcycle, Sebastian, still sits half- road-ready in the shop in the old post office building on Cumberland St. There's not much else that can give. 

I, like many people in their twenties, still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I like many things. One of the guys at work who's been at the company for 30 years and I stopped at Burger King for lunch (I packed a lunch). Well, George makes more money than most of us since he's a class A operator and his father worked at the company his whole life and now George's son is there as well. I don't think he's ever seriously thought about anything else. He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and between bites of lettuce, I said I wasn't sure but nursing seemed like a good direction next but I liked who I've been so far. 

But now I am not sure where to head. This year I've cut back on or haven't done the two things I love and make me the happiest I've ever been: training and my motorcycle. For what? Money. A job that provides me the ability to live for another year of school that will also prevent me from having time/money to do those things next year. that bring a lot of joy and happiness in life. It's fine if it's in the future that I'll be able to do those things, but how could that end up being? And what if I didn't make it to that period of life, or "life happens"?

Do I really want to be a nurse or do I want the lifestyle it could potentially provide? Is there anything wrong with a job that pays the bills? People have lived fantastic lives that way. But not everyone is built for that. 


You get one life and by the time you'll have it remotely figured it out you'll be long dead. Which is a total crock in my opinion. 

I want to travel, fight, write, love, work with teenage girls, and ride my motorcycle at sunset into the darkness with the lightning bugs streaming by- a cacophony of crickets and cicadas as my escort. To be content with doing small things with someone I love and have meaningful work that isn't killing me like my current job. 

Unfortunately, this doesn't sound terribly like the path I'm currently on. 

I listen to The Mad Fientist podcast which is pretty great, it's on financial independence and interviews people from all kinds of circumstances and backgrounds about how they became FI. But this one hosted interview was a panel at Mr. Money Mustache's "Camp Mustache" and one lady said something I actually wrote down, "You can have anything but not everything and every dollar you spend is a trade off for something else." 

This goes for our time as well. It's good, right?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Steel Slivers & Chinese Cat Meat & Compass Tattoos

Heard at Work

Jimmy: You know that beef ain't right. Got a different texture than any beef you'll ever have. 
Greg: S'gotta be cat meat. But man, they cook that shit up good. 


Denny: Hey, you gotta pair of tweezers? Have a steel sliver.
Me: I have... a utility knife?
Denny: Is it sharp?
Me: Fresh blade. 
Denny: Here. Get it out. 
Me: Uh-
Denny: I trust you. OUCH! You found it all right. Looks like yer gettin' it too. 
Me: *rolls eyes* Got it. 
Denny: Shit, ya did! I'll buy you a drink. I'll buy you that whiskey you like. 

We've almost finished the deck for the big pour tomorrow night. By we, I mean largely the iron workers who killed it laying steel. They dance more than any laborers I've ever seen and randomly shout in deep voices to one another. Other times they sing like in-patients from an asylum under their breath as they pass by. Our guys have done a lot; everything besides the steel. 

Mercifully the thunderstorms haven't come and it's been cooler this week. 

I've noticed I've thinned out. Rather, my dad noticed and then I did. I weigh the same but have leaner muscle than ever and probably ever will have again. 

Another story about Marty the truck driver. He's also one of my favourites. 

Marty: You know, I wanna get a tattoo one day. A compass, right here on my forearm.
Me: You only live once, Marty. They're not bad.
Marty: Well, see, I like pain. Sometimes I'm standing in the kitchen and my back starts to hurt from, well, all this (gestures to the truck and stacked trailers he's hauling). And when it's botherin' me, I turn to my wife and I tell her to give me a good crack. 
Me: ...with a towel?
Marty: Aw, no bare handed right on the ass. Pain from my back doesn't hurt anymore after that. 
Me: Uhhhh, huh. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

(Shit) I'm Learning as a Construction Worker

"Hey Pigeon, I have another shit job for you."
"You mean me?"
"Yeah, Pigeon. Your tattoos are pigeons, right?"
"Pidge? Pidge is cool, right?"

That's it. This is my life. For the last five and a half months I've been working construction. It's been the hardest I've ever worked. Like the hardest day of work I've ever had is my whole day, every day for 10 hours if we only work a ten hour day. Two weeks ago was four nights of overnights with 12-13 hour shifts. Last week was mostly 10-12 hr. This week is looking like 12. 

Don't get me wrong, I make terrific money. But here's another conversation from last week with Clive the Jamaican:

"What are you going to do with all of the money you're making from this job?
"Save it so I can go back to school and get a different job." 

In January I should be (providing I manage to finish the last four pre-requisites I'm currently taking) starting an 11 month full-time program with the University of Rochester School of Nursing. I'll be an R.N. after I get out. I'm in the very middle of a long three years. Taking classes, trying to continue kickboxing and jiu jitsu at the same intensity, and working has proven to be a lot more than I could have anticipated. 

However, most of the time the job is great. The guys I work with and situations are unforgettable. I could write an entire comic strip or book on the shit I hear and do. I signed up for a cushy 7-4, Monday- Friday job as a flag person... Like what most women do in construction companies, annnnnd apparently most women at this company do. Somehow I've earned the honorary position of "working harder than most, eh, probably all, the other women" at the company. Which out of a hundred or so employees, is a grand total of about 8% of the company but I'll take it. I'm a laborer that sometimes gets to do carpentry work, sometimes drives the biggest dumptrucks I've ever seen, and even once learned to use the backhoe to dump stone into the dumptruck I was driving and haul it back and forth by myself. 

I can carry 2x4s, 2x6s, and 2x10s over my shoulder. I can drive a skidsteer pretty decently. I've driven trucks you almost need a CDL for. Thrown a few hundred barrels off the side of a moving truck into traffic, tossed and picked up a thousand cones, and almost fallen asleep standing nearly daily.

I can operate drills left and right handed and have been asked if my hammer was a hand-me-down because it's so beat up after only 4 months (my first hammer was deemed too small and I was ordered to get a real hammer). 

We're building a bridge over a highway now. We're tearing one down and putting a new one up. Until the same is done to this one many years down the road, I'll be able to drive under and over this bridge and know how it was built. I can tell you how many pieces of rebar are in the pedestals because I tied them in there. I know how many forms it took to pour the concrete because I was in a harness hanging off the wall beating the clamps on and inside crawling around picking up wire and tying rebar with Matt before it was solid concrete. 

As my dad said, I'll remember this year for the rest of my life. When I can't wait for work to be over some days, I remember it's financially giving me a lot but more than that is the intangible, priceless skills and memories I'll always have. I'll have a lot of pride for sticking it out, I imagine. And knowledge that if I could do this year, I could do almost any other year that comes down the pipe.

The thing I'm learning about life was worded best by Bruce Lee. A few years ago I was overwhelmed by far less than this. Felt physically hurt and weak by far less. If one presses on, one does not return to that state. You simply learn and are capable of more. And the harder a thing is, often the more worthwhile. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I don't know if I told you, I love the ocean more than almost anything.
The way I love a couple of people.
In an underlying, irrelevant-of-all-else fashion.

Yesterday, in a thaw, the air smelled of Dar and Zanzibar.
I spent the morning, measuring out steel in layers of clothes,
Walking barefoot through Stonetown.
Waving to the dark throbbing of the port.

The air slowly froze, the ground began to crust under our boots.
We sank in the mud, bursting beneath the frosted layer
Like the first plunge into a merengue.
In the afternoon, with the hammering rain, soaked through, I forgot
The smell of the morning.

But I remember when I lay down at night
And in the morning when I slip the ancient coin
That hangs on the silver chain
That I once picked out of the shop,
Nine years ago.

A decade goes by quickly.
But when you love something,
As I love the sea,
Deep as the current,

What is time to wait for something you love, really.

The smell of fish and ancient concrete,
Reminded me of another place, another truer self.
Timing is everything, and timing has dealt brutal lessons.
What matters, is that one continues on.

And on.
And on.
And on.

Until one day, you find yourself again in the sun.


I started a new job last week. It's not easy. But it's good. And it will help me get to where I am heading.