Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The story of the welder: or, more background

I used to work at a local A/V retailer/installer. I built home theaters. There is hardly a more wasteful enterprise than the home theater. It takes up an entire room, costs a lot of money, and provides little more than bragging rights (I know it provides entertainment, but its sole purpose is for show).

I digress.

While working at said retailer, it came to be that many customers would be upgrading their system and would get rid of old equipment. This is how it came to be that I had a "BOSE Lifestyle whatever" speaker system in my garage. With some clever pictures and craigslist skill, I turned that pile of crap speakers (this is opinion) into a brand new welder.

A BRAND NEW welder.

The manager of a local welding shop had received a welder on return (un-opened Millermatic140 mig welder), bought it at a great discount to himself, threw in a hood/mask with auto-darkening glass, wire, and a ton of extra supplies. In return for his generosity, I gave him a wonderful set ;) of expensive speakers.


"The cynic knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing" Oscar Wilde

I would argue today, that most consumers are cynics.

I know the price of the things we traded. We came out straight across, give or take a hundred bucks.

Mine was free, value.
His was probably cheap, value.

I knew/know little about welding, but wanted to have this as an option in my tools (the one thing that every home should have is good tools). Now I can, if I choose, weld metal together. What I have been doing is not good welding in the sense it is ugly. But I have managed to get the two pieces to bond with good penetration (meaning it will hold). I am taking a welding class this summer at the college. Hopefully this will help with quality of my welds.

That is the story of the welder.

A little background

Why am I writing this series?
Who am I to give advice?
"You have a bunch of stuff and still talk about simplicity, what's with that?"

Well, I have accumulated a few things in my life. I used to make a lot of money (relatively speaking). I bought the Mercedes, the toys, the stuff.

I have gotten rid of a lot, and am trying to learn to get rid of the rest. I want to keep only what I need, and maybe a few wants. It is hard. I grew up with little, so when I was making decent money, I wanted to buy the stuff I never had. Over time I have come to the realisation the stuff never made me happy. I found the doing is better than the having.

I have acquired many of the things I have by coincidence or luck. I am not afraid to dumpster-dive. I take my kids if I can, we make it a game. I have stopped on the side of the road to pick up something that someone else is tossing out. My wheelbarrow came from the dump, some guy was tossing it because "it's annoying", whatever that means.

I have traded a lot. Craigslist is my friend when it comes to trading.

Value is the governing factor with the things I possess. I was going to say own, but I don't think I own anything, I just possess it until it leaves my possession. I still have trouble letting go though, some things just have too much potential.

I feel qualified to share my experiences and tips with the world because I am actually doing every one of the steps on my list. I have been unemployed for 16 months (I did work for two months in the middle there). For ten of those months I collected no unemployment benefits. I now am collecting unemployment benefits (I felt that I shouldn't do it, but someone reminded me that it was my money). I am going to school on the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and making it work on the little money I get from these two sources. My wife is a nurse and can make good money, but we choose for her to work less so she can be home for the summer with the kids. During the rest of the year she works and we save, we have eliminated most of our bills to make this a possibility. I am now unemployed by choice because juggling school, work, and kids is too much for anyone person and my heart goes out to those that manage to do it. My wife was in that position when we met and I quickly convinced her to stop working and let me handle the money part so she could continue her schooling. I saw how hard it can be, and do not want to do that myself (she is definitely stronger than me).

I like stuff, it is programmed into me from my childhood, from TV, from the outside forces of the media and U.S. culture. I am trying to de-program myself.

Instead of working hard just so we can pay the credit card bills and loans for the stuff we don't need, we work what we need to, just so we can do the things that give us the one thing we truly own, memories.