The Journey series
This Is What I'll Do
As promised, this week I confess the trap I fell into after college.
At college, I longed to know. Once I graduated, I knew. I stopped seeking. It was time to apply my new-found wisdom. Where?
Helping my grandfather in his basement shop piqued my interest in carpentry. I honed my skills with high school shop classes and a year labouring for a house raising company. Hearing of this, a friend of a friend offered me a contract to rebuild her front porch and stairs. I had many bills to pay and empty pockets, so, with all the bravado of a freshly-graduated, barely-post-teen male, I accepted. It turned out raising houses off their foundation was a good foundation for a career in construction. I was away to the races as a general contractor.
My growing business, penchant for new tools, and large appetite kept my bank balance a bit below comfortable. My pledge to do what I could, when I could, for whoever I could succumbed to practicality — it didn’t pay bills. I set a fair price that was not negotiable.
My quotes were never the lowest. My first few years were very lean and I sometimes hired out to other contractors. I noticed some of their questionable practices. As I gave new estimates, I warned which shortcuts other contractors may take. I still didn’t get many contracts, but soon people began to see that my warnings were justified. They fired their original contractor when things went awry and hired me to finish the project. I got referrals. My new customers were happy to pay my rates, confident the job would be done properly.
Keeping abreast the latest trends in construction was a high priority. I’m still proud of adopting green construction technology in its early stages and of hiring one of BC’s first female apprentices. My work earned a solid reputation, a substantial client base, and a serious backlog of projects. I built my business on honesty, quality, and reliability.
Everything outside my work life, however, came to an end. I was always first on site and last on site. After that came shower; dinner; estimates; bookkeeping; and, eyelids allowing, trade periodicals. There was no time for faith or philosophy. I only saw the inside of a church at weddings and funerals. All the philosophical and religious books I devoured as a student sat on the shelf, as did most of what I learned from them. My relationships were, very much, one dimensional.
Then it happened. At work on a cold November morning I fell, shattering my ankle and elbow. The business I built over the last several years came crashing down with me. Some things we don’t include in our calculations remain in the equation. We are not as much in control as we like to think.
Next week: Waking up after my operation.
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Peter T Elliott