The Lie I Told Myself

I spent most of my first real job in a state of fear. There are various stories I could tell to justify that fear.

I could talk about the first time my boss had me back hang a commercial garage door. He was in a terrible rush and demanded a similar state of hurry from me. So while I was 15 feet in the air on a ladder, he was throwing me nuts and bolts and other such stuff from the other end of the garage and telling me not to drop them on the brand new car that was right below me. As if that was not enough, it was my first time drilling through steel and all I had was a drill without variable speed and bunch of dull drill bits. I can’t remember how many bits I broke.

Or I could talk about how I had just got my driver’s license and I was driving a 1-ton service truck that was older than I was and had bad brakes to boot. And I was doing this in heavy traffic while driving at speeds above the speed limit with my boss next to me yelling at me because I was not driving fast and aggressively enough for him.

I could tell a lot of stories like those, but they would all be lies. Not because they are not true, but because they mislead people as to why I was always afraid. They would make it seem like the problem was my boss when really the problem was me.

My boss did everything in his power to make things easy for me. Granted, his powers were rather limited. But he treated me twice as good as he was treated when he was first starting in the trades. He honestly wanted to set me on the road to prosperity and he did everything in his power to accomplish that end. The only thing that kept him from treating me even better is that he just did not know any other way of doing things.

In America, you don’t get much in the way of training when you start out in the trades (unless you start out in a union, but few in America have that luxury). In America, the people in the trades generally get their education via the time honored sink or swim method. And my boss just could not conceive of any other way of teaching someone.

And if I had been remotely talented, this would not have been a problem. But I did not have any talent for what he needed me to do, and that is what caused me to spend my time in a state of fear.

Before my first real job, I was not used to being someone who was slow on the uptake. All my life up to that point I had learned most things very fast and with hardly any effort. But when I got my first real job, even the simplest things took me forever to learn. There was nothing about my job that I learned fast.

And so the fear that I lived with was fear that once again I would demonstrate that I was incompetent. I hated being incompetent. I hated being the fool. I hated being slow. And the feeling that every working day was going to reveal me as being one of those things was enough to make me feel like I was trapped in a living nightmare.

I guess you could argue that I should have quit my job. But I did not feel that I had that option.

I had always known that if I wanted to do something that I was really good at, I would have to go to college. But I wanted to help my family now, not wait four years. And besides, I felt that any college degree that I would be interested in would require me to take a job out of the area. And that would make it tough to help my family out.

You could argue that my reasoning was poor. But regardless of what the truth was, I did not feel that I could quit my first job. But as much as it embarrasses me to admit it, I did pray that I could find some way out of the job. Or even more pathetically, I would pray that I would get out of something or other that I feared I would do poorly at. Sometimes I even prayed that I would become good at what I was trying to do. But somehow I could never bring myself to believe that would happen.

I went along like this for a while. But at some point I remember rolling down the road in the work truck praying my usual pathetic prayers and suddenly it dawned on me that what I really needed to be praying for was the ability not to be ruled by fear. And though I did not stop praying for a way out of the job that I could take with a clean conscience, I did start praying that I would not be ruled by fear.

And while I am not an objective observer, I would say that those prayers were answered. I did not become competent. But that no longer caused me to operate in a state of fear.

Not too long after this, I quit that job. I spent just a little over two years working there. I thought that those two years were a waste of time because I did not learn much to speak of. What I did not know at the time was that if I had spent any less time in that job, I would not have qualified for the job I have now. Anything less than two years, and I would not have qualified.

But even if those two years had not qualified me for a much better job down the road, those two years were not a waste. I learned things that had a value all their own.

When another man who did his best to help me committed suicide, I thought back to this time. I thought of how much like him I was. The focus of my fears were all centered around my ridiculous self regard. I thought if I was good at everything, I would be happy.

But the real cause of my unhappiness was not my inability to be good at everything I tried to do. Rather, my unhappiness was caused by my inability to rule my own fears. All the powers of a demigod would not do me any good if I could not rule myself. But I preferred to lie to myself and focus on the outward things as being the cause of my unhappiness.

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