I Was Always Afraid...
I was scared. I was always scared. I was driving to work and crying my eyes out because I felt like the weight of the world rested on my shoulders. What could bring about such a sense of responsibility in a teenager? Was my girlfriend pregnant? No I didn’t even have a girlfriend. Was I the oldest sibling in a poor family and being relied upon to provide for the others? No I was the youngest child and the only one still living at home. My parents were middle class and I wanted for nothing.
It was much less dramatic than all that. I was eighteen years old and trying to find a course in life, and it was terrifying. The only things I had to worry about up until this time in my life had been what time dinner was and getting good grades in school.
Why was I such a fearful teenager? You’re supposed to just have fun and let life happen at that age. Instead I was worried about what I was going to do with my life. I wanted a plan and felt like I had to have one right away. I was even losing sleep over this.
I would lie awake at night tossing and turning and then drift off to a fitful sleep. When I woke up I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I would literally pray for hours just to try to find peace, but it never came. I was scared of life and scared of growing up.
When I was sixteen I worked for a local trash company and liked that job a lot. I rode the back of the truck for five dollars an hour and thought that I had an amazing job. Now at eighteen I was wishing I could go back and do that.
Being a trash man was pretty low stress. Not nearly as high stress as installing ductwork for a heating and air-conditioning company. I was slow. I didn’t try to be slow but I just couldn’t work as fast as my boss wanted me to. He called me into his office to tell me I needed to work faster and I cried. I cried in front of another man. In my world, at that time, that was the ultimate shame.
He thought I was crying because I was angry at him for asking me to work faster but I was crying because I was a failure. I had failed him by not working as fast as he wanted and I was devastated.
Ironically I had taken this job as an escape from the high pressure job at a printing company that I had before it. I hated running a press. Looking back now I think hiring an eighteen year old kid to run a crash imprint press, where productions is everything, was a terrible business decision. You need men and women who are seasoned to work in high stress environments.
I was not at all seasoned. I was a rookie in every sense of the word. I remember being completely embarrassed when one of the guys at the press next to me found out I was still a virgin. His name was Dallas and he was absolutely astounded by this discovery. He quickly told the other guys, who didn’t seem to care as much as he did about it. He also made a disturbing offer to set me up with a girl who could “take care of that” for me; as if it was some sort of medical procedure.
I was really embarrassed to seem uncool when I turned him down and told him I was saving it for marriage. He was even more shocked by this and told me that was a mistake. According to this pony-tailed sage, who was named after a large city in Texas, it was best to sow my wild oats while I was young.
Soon after that incident I began to be persecuted by one of the other press operators. That is what intelligent people do; they persecute those with different lifestyles from their own. If you act differently or have differing views you are always going to be persecuted by those people in society that are highly intelligent.
The high school drop-out who has had three children out of wedlock by the time he is twenty-five, has a beer gut and uses the word ain’t all the time. This is the man who deems himself better than you because you have decided to wait until you are married to have sex. He does have a GED after all and it only took him three tries to get it. He is practically a prophet and people should listen to him.
I did something I have never done again at that place. I called in and told my boss I was quitting and never went back. Within two days I was working at the heating and air-conditioning company.
It was my father’s reputation that got me that job. My dad was a respected man in the community and had even been asked to run for mayor of our small town. He had respectfully declined. He just wasn’t that kind of guy. He worked hard and provided for his family and when he came home from work he always had a project going on at home. I had some big shoes to fill.
I admired my dad a lot and wanted to be just like him in every way. That is probably where all the pressure came from. He didn’t put any pressure on me but I put it all on myself to be just like him.
I was about to learn the hard way that I needed to be myself. I started to work for the heating and air company on a Thursday and within two weeks I had broken my fist high dollar tool. Within two months I had broken two more. Then came the fateful day when I fell through a ceiling while working in an attic.
It was in the middle of December and we had been hired to install a high efficiency heat pump for an older couple in their current home. This wasn’t that big of a job and our boss expected us to finish it in one day.
My coworker Darren was working outside and I was in the attic installing ductwork. Darren had told me to be very careful and to make sure I stepped on the rafters or I would fall through the ceiling.
I was working along in that attic without a care in the world when suddenly my life turned into a dream. I stepped forward and missed the rafter completely. All my weight came down on the flimsy sheet-rock and I crashed through the ceiling into the living room where the elderly couple who lived in the home was sitting watching TV.
I distinctly remember the elderly gentleman yelling “Hey!”. I don’t know if he thought the Russians had dropped the bomb or if he was reliving a scene from his past but he moved very quickly to the door before he realized that the leg dangling from his ceiling belonged to that dumb kid who was putting ductwork in his attic.
The couple was very gracious to me though and just wanted to make sure I was alright. I can remember climbing down out of that attic and going to find Darren. Everything was like a dream. As soon as he saw me he said “You didn’t!”. It must have been written all over my face. We were both terrified of what our boss was going to say.
I don’t remember his exact words but I was replaced and let go within a couple months. I held no hard feelings toward him for letting me go. I had cost him far more than I was worth. I often think back and laugh at how it must have looked to see a leg protruding from the ceiling. It’s really a wonder that I didn’t give that old couple a set of heart attacks. I guess I wasn’t the only person who was scared back then. That couple was probably terrified of me.