Admittedly I have never been the greatest ‘handyman’. A lot of my deficiencies stem from the fact that my parents divorced when I was young and that I never really had a ‘handyman’ mentor to learn from while growing up. Essentially what I know how to do I’ve either learned on my own or through some sort of observational osmosis. I’m not inept by any stretch but by the same token my handyman skills are comparably pathetic to many others I’m sure.
About 5 years ago, my father in law decided to help us out by installing a pair of fluorescent light fixtures in our basement. Given that our new and unfinished basement was rather dim, it was evident that something had to be installed to brighten it up. So my father in law, who was an architect in his professional life, used his handyman skills to install a pair of fluorescent light fixtures to help out.
One of the good things about this type of lighting is that these low voltage bulbs last a long time. However they eventually run their course and burn out, such as was the case with both of our basement fixtures over the past several months. Sadly about 3 years ago my father in law left this earth far too soon, and a significant gap suddenly appeared in many aspects of our family life. While certainly not the most significant aspect, the one that affected me the most was the loss of my default ‘handyman mentor’ and I’d never gotten the chance to ask him how to change those bulbs when they eventually burn out.
Human nature is such that if there is something that you know you need to do but don’t know how to do it, you put it off. One of the fixtures in need of replacing was situated right above my basement home office and with it not working the space I worked in was rather dim. While one would think that the obvious solution would then be to get new bulbs and replace them, I was inhibited by the fact that I didn’t know anything about these types of bulbs, or even how to change them.
Suddenly the male ego began to take over and instead of admitting I didn’t know what to do, I grabbed an unused floor lamp we had and placed it beside my desk. It didn’t produce anywhere near the same amount of light, but I decided to settle and accept it…for several months.
The other fixture that needed changing was directly over our washer and dryer. Despite the inconvenience of having to find suitable light somewhere to measure things like detergent plus the constant venting of frustration from my wife, I could only answer that I’d change them…eventually.
However yesterday something inside of me finally snapped, and I could hear myself saying “enough is enough”. Since I had to visit our local Home Depot to buy a new furnace filter (which I DO know how to change) I decided to visit the lighting section and finally ask for some help. Before heading off I carefully copied down everything that was on the light bulb so I could show it to an associate. When I arrived and found an associate, I sheepishly admitted to him that “I needed help and I need to be a hero to my wife again”.
The funny thing about what happened next is that is was quite the opposite of what I expected. Instead of having some handyman guy look at me with bemusement and laugh at my ineptitude, I was actually provided with a reassuring nod and an understanding that this guy was only too happy to help. What was even more amazing is that all it took for me to feel comfortable doing something that I had no idea how to do was for him to show me what the socket looked like and to show how installing the bulb simply required a push and a twist…and that was it.
At that moment I had a ‘handyman epiphany’. At that moment, for the first time in my life, I finally knew how to change a freaking fluorescent light bulb.
Armed with my new knowledge and supplies I rushed home and sneaked in the bulbs without my wife seeing them. I didn’t tell her what I had done but waited instead for her to find out. I didn’t expect her to take two hours to head to the basement but when she did I followed behind and the surprised look on her face was worth every bit of anxiety and embarrassment I had to endure. I didn’t even mind when her next words were “Wow, now that I can see down here I realize just how dirty it is.”
So why am I sharing this embarrassing story with all of you? It’s not because I’m eager to get ribbed and chided by my more ‘handy’ counterparts, that’s for sure. Rather it’s because within these lines is a lesson that’s applicable to far more than changing light bulbs.
Fear of the unknown is one of the most dominating and controlling inhibitors in being able to live one’s life to its fullest. For whatever reason, many of us are programmed to allow our lack of knowledge or fear of admitting that we don’t know something to get in the way of achieving all that we can. Mark Twain once said “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, but rather what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” We all have fears within us that inhibit our ability or our willingness to change. While they are hard to face and even harder to overcome, the conviction to finally address and defeat our fears, is something that can pay huge dividends down the line.
Yesterday I finally changed a fluorescent light bulb and I feel so much better for taking the time to learn how to do it. In fact it has me inspired to tackle other things which have weighed me down for too long and as I shed these elements one by one, I’m going to embrace all the opportunities that will soon await me. Today my basement is brighter and I can’t wait to see what happens next!