As I have gotten older and look back on my life, I realize that I was a weird kid.
Just this morning, I was telling my favorite person a story from my childhood.
It starts this way…
I was ten years old and I was climbing around the junk pile on my grandparent's property. (What? Your grandparents didn’t have a giant junk pile??) As I climbed around the pile, (trying to avoid spiders and tetanus) over old pickup truck bumpers, broken irrigation pipes, faded & cracked Tupperware, random cabinet doors with hinges still attached, and a variety of other rusty/dirty treasures, I happened to spot something interesting. It was an old Kirby vacuum cleaner! It was filthy, the bag was gone and the electric cord was severed. I dug it out from the pile, brushed it off with the sleeves of my giant hand-me-down sweatshirt, and began to drag it up the dusty driveway. I reached the road and continued to push my new toy down the gravelly street towards my home... and by ‘home’, I am referring to the camping trailer where I lived with my parents, and 5 siblings.
So, the setting was perfect. A 10-year-old girl in a baggy, dirty sweatshirt trying to lift an old vacuum up the rickety, folding, metal steps leading to the aluminum and fiberglass camping trailer. :) Classy!
As you can probably imagine, my mom was not excited about the addition to the already cramped space, and kindly let me know that it should be returned to the junk pile. I told her that I wanted to fix it up and she again told me that it needed to be returned to the junk pile. The temporary compromise was leaving it outside, next to the shed.
The following Monday morning as I headed out to catch the bus, I retrieved my vacuum and rolled it to the bus stop. Oddly, I was the only kid waiting for the bus with an old, decrepit vacuum. (strange) When the bus arrived, Gary (the bus driver and my friend) helped me hoist it up the steps. I sat just behind him and told him all about how I found it and was planning to fix it up.
We arrived at school and Gary helped me lower the vacuum out of the bus. I began to push it down the sidewalks until I reached the steps of my fifth-grade classroom. (It was one of those portable buildings and had 4 steps to reach the door) I used my scrawny arms to lift it, one step at a time. I got inside and rolled it to my desk. My teacher came over to inquire about my unusual accessory and to my delight, he was about as excited as I was! I told him that I wanted to fix it up and I asked him if he would help me. He said that he would and we spent that morning recess on the sidewalk in front of the classroom cleaning the dirt and grime away. We also spent the lunch hour cleaning and then beginning to dismantle the beast.
I look back now and I realize that my teacher was giving up his time to rest and get away from his students. He was a good teacher. We spent many more recesses and lunch hours working on this vacuum. He even ordered the parts that we needed to get it working. I (of course, being 10) did not reimburse him for the cost of parts or labor, and I have no clue how much it all cost. All that I remember is being ecstatic to open the packages containing the parts necessary to get that vacuum to run. Teachers are the best!
The first time I turned it on and it hummed to life, I was beyond excited! I vacuumed the whole classroom and the entry rug outside. This is one of my favorite memories.
Thus began my lifelong love for learning how, and why things work.
There is a beauty in fixing something, especially when that something has been tossed into the junk pile.
Not that long ago I felt like I was that vacuum left in a junk-pile. I had not been discarded by anyone else, but by myself. I had put myself into that junk pile. I thought I was never going to break beyond entry-level work, never going to be allowed to gain leadership skills or do anything noteworthy. And then I had a conversation with my favorite person! (At that time, my favorite person was just a newly acquired friend) We sat in a coffee shop and talked about software development and how computers work below the surface. I was encouraged by this person to try, and that I could learn anything if I was willing to put in the effort.
Fast forward to this lovely new year! My favorite person and I sat down over a couple of evenings and rebuilt the old computer game PONG… just for fun! And even though I am not employed yet, I no longer feel like a vacuum in a junk-pile. I am refurbished and ready to work.
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