The Satisfaction of Fixing the Broken

I'm not exactly what one would call "handy."

There's something about the real world's lack of an "undo" button that has always given me more than a little bit of anxiety when it comes to trying to do things with my own two hands. When you screw up writing a piece of software, recovery is generally quick and painless, but a mistake made working on a car or home could cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. It's two different worlds with two vastly different consequences for incompetence, and I hate it.

I suppose makes me a pretty stereotypical millennial, but given the choice between paying someone to fix something and trying (and probably failing) to do it myself, I have almost always chosen to shell out some cash to let a "professional" do it right the first time around.

It's not because I don't want to be good with my hands. It's just that I never developed that skill set growing up, and as a result suffer from some serious self confidence problems. But the last few years have been punctuated by a ton of personal growth opportunities, and that lack of handiness is something I have been trying to break out of my comfort zone to improve.

Within reason, of course.

So, a few months ago, my wife and I noticed that our washing machine was leaking water from under the door. Like... a lot of water. So, what did we as responsible homeowners do? Shoved a towel under it and finished washing the kids' clothes.

I may not be handy, but my programmer's brain has made me particularly adept at designing workarounds, so through some minor trial and error I was able to keep the water contained in the laundry room and funneled into the drain while we assessed our options. After some inspection, I felt confident that the issue was caused by a big chunk of rubber that seemed to have been torn out of the gasket that kept all the water in the big spinny thing (that's the technical term, I looked it up) when the door was shut.

But, despite my efforts to learn what all the tools in my shiny tool belt are called, appliance repair felt just a little out of my depth, so I made a few calls and was able to get a professional out to take a look at our new in-home water fountain and tell me how frugal of a Christmas I should plan.

A lot, as it turns out.

According to the nice gentleman with very calloused hands, replacing the door gasket on our washer was a surprisingly involved task that would cost almost as much as a brand new washer... so I bid him farewell and took to YouTube University to learn how to rough my own hands up. After all, if I screwed up the repair, I'd be out just over what I would have spent paying someone else to do it.

What did I have to lose?

It didn't take long to find a video that outlined the steps and equipment necessary to fix my washer, and after an hour or so of hyperventilating, I had the parts ordered and on the way.

And then I waited.

I am what you might call a master of procrastination. It's not laziness that keeps me from doing things in a timely manner, it's fear. Fear that I might screw something up, or fear that I might fail. It's a defense mechanism that has been honed over decades of overwhelming school, work, and chores. So when the replacement gasket arrived, I waited for almost two weeks before I built up the courage to actually try installing it.

But, try I did, and as of just a few hours ago, I officially have a working washing machine that definitely probably keeps all the water inside! And, in case you were wondering, it cost me less than 1/10th what I would have spent on a repair man.

This story isn't about my personal triumph over self-doubt, though. It's about the allure of simply throwing money at a problem (even if you don't have that money to begin with) at the expense of self-sufficiency. I hate that I know how to run and maintain my entire digital life with my eyes closed, but not how to maintain my snowblower, or install drywall, or change my oil.

I'm working to learn those things, but it's been a slow journey, filled with peril and fear. I still have a long way to go, but the big takeaway from this particular experience has been that the cost of trying to do something can be mitigated by study (thanks again YouTube), caution (measure twice, cut once), and patience (slow is steady and steady is fast).

To some, this is probably pretty small potatoes, but to me it has been pretty rewarding. While I still don't know what all the tools in my toolbelt are for (I'm pretty sure at least one of them is a screwdriver), they're at least starting to look a little less intimidating.


This is post 022 of #100DaysToOffload


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