This summer has been the most I’ve been outside since I was a young man mowing lawns with my parents. In fact I swore that I would get an education so I’d never have to be out in the heat again. This posture has decayed a bit over the years. When I became a homeowner I took a hidden joy that I would be required to own a lawnmower and maintain my lawn. I can’t help but reminiscence about the time that I spent with my family working in the oppressive sun, getting up in the wee hours to avoid it, and the comfort of air-conditioned restaurants. As a kid all I could focus on was the intensity of the work. It ate up my summer. I didn’t get to do anything fun. I wanted to be free!
While I knew how to work hard from the years I spent in the family business I was happy to take a break at my first opportunity. I think that’s what college was for. And the years following that. And a few more for good measure. I got my degree and I had now insured that I wouldn’t have to be out in the sun again, a fact that I was proud of. The funny thing about life is that you don’t know that it’s started until you’re a few years into the race. Or as Roger Waters so elegantly stated, “No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. ”
One of the regrets I’ve always had was the time and attention I gave to college and my post college career. I went into graphic design thinking that I would easily find a career and that would eventually fund everything that I wanted to do. I realized perhaps too late that you have to hit the ground running. My career has stalled and I’m no where near where I expected to be in life. The startling fact is that I would probably make more working at a fast food restaurant.
So when I starting thinking that it might be a good idea to get our house ready to sell (should we ever need to move) I knew that I would need to take the self-improvements head on because we simply could not afford to have a professional to get the work done.
Over the years my fear of the unknown has diminished. If I don’t know how to do something I can just get on youtube and somebody has probably made a video about it. I always tell people that learning how to work on HTML and CSS is kinda like learning how to work on a car. You may not understand everything at first but after a while it all starts to come together. So with complex tasks I’ve learned to be patient and plow ahead. At some point in the process I eventually get it. With our home repair I just decided to go with it. The majority of the work hasn’t been too complicated but it might be intimidating. Attached to our house is a storage shed that was added on after the fact. The previous owner did not put guttering above the shed and as a result the baseboards rotted. I had to clear all that out and replace it with new boards. With a strange intensity I sat about to renovate the shed a bit by bit.
I can remember the exact moment when I embraced the joy of working outside. The power was out due to a down line and it was a hot and muggy night. We had borrowed electricity from our neighbor and we working by lamp light. The radio was on. My wife was reading a book. I sat down — exhausted and sweating profusely. Grasped in my hand, like a prized possession, was an ice pop. I gazed up at the night sky experiencing an almost child like joy, consuming the last bit of a half thawed popsicle and starring outwardly without a single thought. I just felt good. Satisfied.
I craved that simplicity more than I had realized. That satisfaction of labor had been long gone in my life.
I realized too that I could keep working on this project without worrying about who’s watching the kids so much. Another “reason” to stay indoors. Make sure the kids have plenty of entertainment. Make sure they’re safe and bug bite free. I realized too that this was not always a good thing. They need to be out. They need to get dirty. My son has been a real surprise to me because when my daughter was his age we never let her have a minute alone. We wanted to make sure she was safe and entertained the whole time. But the boy wanders about exploring and doing and doesn’t care if it’s hot. Anytime I put on my shoes he squeals, “outside!”
Then something magical happened. A little app called “Pokemon Go” was released into the wild. If you haven’t heard of it or if you’re simply living under a rock it’s an app that augments reality by using GPS and your phone’s built in camera to insert fictional characters into a real world setting . Within a weeks time it’s taken the world by storm, forcing mild mannered folks like me to go outside and do stuff. The game has incentives that encourage the player to walk and for some reason that is all the motivation I need to go outside. I absolutely love it.
Where many exercise programs and video games have failed is that it assumes that the player is motivated by logic to better themselves. But in retrospect it only makes sense that motivating people by feelings (the joy of capturing that hi-level Pokemon) is in fact super effective. Think about it. It’s not logic that keeps us sitting still or eating more than what we need. It’s feelings. We will try to feed feelings with food or leisure. Pokemon Go gives the player a purpose besides “I want to stop being fat”, which is a terrible motivation to do anything. People will run to something they love but they will inch up to something they hate. Exercise has such a negative emotion attached it that many people give up on the idea of being fit. They get used to who they are as they are. And for many people that’s ok. That’s where I was for so long. I was worried that once I started I would give up again. I was afraid that my resolve would crumble and all my progress would evaporate. But no, not now. Now I need to catch ’em all.