Many installation professionals get paid piecework. That is a certain amount of money per foot of floor covered. I got a whole 25 cents per yard when I started helping to install carpet. As years went by, I had to become more and more efficient to maintain any level of income as prices had stagnated over most of my flooring career. The “going rate” was $2 per yard for half the ‘70s and all of the ‘80s. So, I piled on more work and became efficient, extremely efficient. Additionally, I started adding weekend jobs and the occasional really long day. I had become a workaholic (and an alcoholic and drug addict too).
My girlfriend became my wife and along came a couple kids too. I found myself in debt to the IRS. More work was the only answer I could come up with. A good friend said to me, “Nate, you’re going to work yourself to death. What are they going to write on your tombstone? ‘He was a good worker.’”
For the first time, I looked at my life path, and it was grim. I had to start scheduling downtime. I took my family camping and on nature hikes because it was as far from flooring as I could get, and it was affordable.
“Sorry I can’t work for you this weekend. I have plans” was strange and difficult as was “no” or “no thank you”—at first. However, I saw an upside to it. I could now perform my flooring duties much better after some “green time.” From there I started to value myself more. I realized I was the most important tool I had! All my tools are worthless without me.
I cleaned up my diet. I quit drinking and using drugs and started taking vitamins.
I don’t want you to think this happened over a long weekend. It took me years to change my diet. It took over a year just to quit drugs, and the drinking was a long journey of successes and failures. During that time, I discovered a few things about me.
Having come from an abusive past, I consider chaos normal and if no one was abusing me, I’d start abusing myself. That’s where the ridiculous work schedule comes into play. I would catch myself thinking, “I don’t have time for lunch. I have to finish today so I can start another ridiculous workload tomorrow.”
I was being taken advantage of too. The stores were calling me a “subcontractor,” but I had no contract and no option but to take whatever work and/or wage they gave me. That’s another article. Heck, that’s a book!
The main reason I’m writing all this is to warn all of you. It’s never too late to improve your relationship with yourself. No one knows your thoughts, hopes, dreams and desires as well as you do. You should know right from wrong by now so go ahead and take a step or two towards treating yourself right.
For me it was “green time.” Your “green time” may be wrenching on a transmission in the garage or any number of things that are not flooring. Just take one step. That is the start of a thousand-mile journey towards being whole—a fully functional human being and not a worker drone. If it feels weird or strange, it just goes to show you how overdue you are for it.
For more from Nate Hall, check out his Contractor Spotlight interview.
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