Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Home Improvements and The Conundrum

I have been on a rampage lately. I think what it is really is that I'm nesting. Or co-nesting, I should say. Emily is due to deliver Rachel on December 31, so she has been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing lately. I got started a couple months ago with a fence building project and haven't stopped since. After I built the fence, I built some stairs for our back porch, erected a new compost bin, started on a straw bale dog house, moved our office into our bedroom and moved our son into the old office, overhauled our bedroom and closet, built two rocket stoves (neither of which has done any good rocketing, unfortunately) and, just today, removed my old bathtub and razed the rat apartment complex underneath the tub.

I have done a lot of soul-searching in the last couple months because I truly feel like I'm in my element when I'm working with my hands. I continually read magazines, watch YouTube videos, search the internet, and read books, all on "how-to" subjects. The latest vein I've been riding is about green building, and natural living. This is the stuff that really gets my motor running. I mean, when I'm reading about or working on something that I feel will improve my life by making it more sustainable, simple, or "off the grid", it's like I'm in my own personal church. This is where I feel close to God. The soul-searching comes in because right now I'm on a break from school.

College is great for me for a few reasons. I really am learning a lot about business and about the world we live in and the people we live with. But the most motivating payoff is the money I'm getting from the GI Bill. This is money that we've been using to get out of debt as well as pay some other bills. College is bad, however, because it takes a lot of time, and the team assignments cause an undue amount of stress. Also, when I was spending a lot of time reading about big business technology, competition, corporate culture and human motivation, etc, I could see myself starting to think and feel very "corporately".

As I've been doing all this wonderful reading and all these wonderful home improvement projects, the thought has been in the back of my head that I will soon have to start school again, and play time will be over.

But it's more than playtime. It's time for me to clean the rat mess out of the house my wife and children live in. It's time for me to erect a fence to keep my children safe. It's time for me to put my house in order so that my newborn child will have a place in our home. It's time for me to obtain knowledge and skills that I feel I must pass on to my children for them to be happy and successful. I'm doing one of the things I really want to be doing with my life, and I don't want to give that up.

On one hand, I could argue that temporarily setting aside my desire to be doing the things I want to do on a daily basis will yield more long-term freedom because I will be making additional money to get out of debt faster. Living debt free will dramatically enhance my ability to start a business of my own doing what I want to do. On the other hand, I could argue that a person could spend his entire life "temporarily" setting aside his true desires for long-term gain only to find that his "best-laid plans" have been frustrated by lack of passion and focus.

I have been kicking around this one idea that I could start school again and still have time left over for the fun things by managing my time better--a LOT better. My classes come in five-week blocks, and I have a syllabus at the start of the class that tells me exactly what I will be doing during the class. If I treat school like a part-time job, I could work on school one day a week for ten hours, then do minimal maintenance throughout the rest of the week for a total of about 12 hours per week. Sounds easy in theory, but I know from too much experience that when the time comes to work on school I've been up all night working or Emily has a doctor's appointment. In short, trying to have a family, work full-time, attend school full time, and become a successful self-sufficient homesteader is rather like a living hell. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the work. I love the work. It's just hard trying to fit 100 pounds of poopy in a 50-pound sack. Something's gotta give, and for now, school goes.

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