Building Fences and Doing Things

Aug 19, 2009

A week ago last Saturday, I helped my family build a fence.

Picture of a fence

The design is a fairly straightforward one, with the nice feature of giving each property an equal share of the nice side of the fence. I think it turned out pretty well, due in no small part to my dad’s do-it-yourself skill. I didn’t come here to write about the fence, though.

What I really noticed while helping out with the fence was that I was seriously enjoying myself. The simple act of measuring, cutting, and assembling a bunch of wood was easily one of the best parts of my trip. And I think that that’s all due to the pleasure that comes from achieving something meaningful.

One of the facts about my life, and the lives of many people in the industrialized world, is that I probably won’t ever go hungry or homeless. In my current job, I’m sufficiently well-situated that I probably wouldn’t get fired even if I put in half the effort that I currently do — I wouldn’t get promoted, but I wouldn’t be out of a job, and I could easily survive for the rest of my life on my current pay. In basically all ways, I could achieve very little of importance and still manage to live a long and healthy life. What this all amounts to is that there aren’t any external pressures on me to go out and do anything.

When I’m at home, I usually spend most of my time either chatting with my roommates, playing videogames, or reading things on the Internet. All of these things are enjoyable in the short term, but none of them are really doing something. At the end of the day, I’ve got just as much under my belt as I did when I woke up in the morning.

So, I plan to start really doing things in my free time, though I haven’t decided just what yet. I’m considering learning the drums. I could brush up on my German or Japanese. But whatever I end up doing, I want to be able to look back at my day, my week, or my year, and be proud of what I’ve achieved.