In February of 2008, I bought my first home. My wife and I are schoolteachers and the downturn in the market provided us with an opportunity we were not certain would ever be available for us; particularly in a southern California coastal community.
Since my father was an officer in the Army, I grew up in military housing. When something broke, you called someone and they fixed it free of charge. As a result, I have no knowledge of how to fix anything and I take no pleasure in doing so. In the past year or so, I have been forced into service in my own home. I have replaced baseboards, painted extensively (although admittedly less than my wife), and ended up with masses of dirt under my fingernails from backyard duties. I have discovered that I am not one of those people who enjoys a Saturday morning at the local hardware store.
The reason I am reflecting on all of this right now is that I just finished doing my taxes. I did them by myself, if I do not count the “free” computer program that assisted me through the process. I am an English teacher, partially because I do not enjoy working with numbers. I did not take pleasure in the experience at all. The process reminded me of something I have told my students many times on the last day of the school year. I believe that one of the keys to a successful life is doing things you do not like doing, and doing them well.
It is not difficult for me to wake up in the morning and come to work. I love talking about rhetoric and literature with people who are going through the often-painful stage of adolescence. Today’s average student is more insightful, creative and technologically-advanced than the one who came in yesterday. They make amazing statements in class that I steal and use as my own with future classes. My job is not a job, it is a joy. It is easy to be diligent when working on something you love.
Where I am tested the most in life is when I am faced with the banal to excruciating tasks of everyday. If I do a poor job digging up weeds, it just means that I will have to return to the task sooner. If I do not clean out the cat litter, my life will be mildly less pleasant until I complete the job. If I had pawned the responsibility of my taxes onto a professional, I would have lost several hundred dollars in the process. If I had rushed through the process myself, I would have lost much more than several hundred dollars.
This may all seem self-explanatory to many of you, but if the young people I work with can grok that one piece of advice, I have helped to better the future in some way.
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