Let’s talk about self-reliance.
Life is different now with the coronavirus, and no doubt it will not be the same when the pandemic is at last overcome. Social distancing has left most of us practicing new habits to compensate for things we took for granted: where to find toilet paper; how to fix a leaky faucet when you can’t get a plumber, or how to repair a broken doorbell, so you know when the poor package-delivery guy is outside. Whether or not you need to, there is a great satisfaction in doing things for yourself.
I am NOT advocating any version of survivalist mentality: the “I’ll protect my clan and forget about the rest of humanity” selfishness that some idealize as individualism. I’m suggesting instead a pursuit of personal growth that recognizes the reality that we are all more capable than we realize.
Let me suggest that you make a virtue out of necessity. What can you learn or do differently as a result of the new normal, that will make YOU better? Can YOU come out of this unique chapter in all our lives and say, “That was a crazy time. And I learned I could do a lot more things than I thought I could.”
Let’s share some ideas of interesting ways we all might be a bit more self-reliant. This doesn’t need to be something that you’ve just learned, because we need to trade ideas, and hearing of an interesting self-reliant skill from someone who has already learned it might just send you after a new challenge.
I’ve mentioned that I’ve written a speculative fiction novel, taking place in the year 2161. Perhaps surprisingly, a portion of it traces the story of folks dealing with the basics of life, figuring out how to be self-reliant in a challenging landscape, learning how to survive “out there.” At any age and in every time, we can use these skills.
Let me start with something I learned to do. As a younger man I learned many “handyman” skills from my father and uncles, and could fix a few things around the house and under the hood of a car. Then a professional career intervened, and those skills atrophied. A couple of years ago I had the chance to reacquaint myself with a hammer. I decided to build a special tree house for the grandkids. Well, we only had one then, a babe still in arms. But I realized the time to construct a tree house is when the child is still in that magical time when dragons can still be real and everyone is a prince and princess. (That age I think ends by puberty, when interests turn elsewhere.)
That was my skill to relearn. The photo is the near-finish of the project—the castle tree house. I think that many of you won’t wish to take on a project of quite this scope. I hadn’t intended to either, but I had so much fun that it grew and grew (taking a year to complete) and became something magical for me also. I built the foundation, the walls, the roof, one piece at a time, mostly by myself. I’ll tell you more about how I did this in future posts, as this particular story continues, but in this process I challenged my abilities and learned new things, because crucial to self-reliance is adapting, learning and changing.
I encourage you to start thinking about your personal journey—a story of a skill you learned—to encourage us all to learn this year.
Be well, and stay calm.
We all have many journeys. Gary’s began in a small Midwest town, where he could play unfettered in the woods, finding an early love for nature and learning self-reliance. The space program and the night skies hooked him on astronomy. After finishing college, the wide world beckoned, and his fascination with science drew him to California to participate in the booming tech industry. Now he still stares upward, wondering what it all is about.