DeWitt says: When you’re young, it’s fun to break things. You realize how easily stuff can be destroyed. And that’s exciting. Until the day you break something you love, like a fish you try to take out of the tank to pet and, coincidentally, its fin falls off. At those times, you find yourself seeking an adult for a fish bandaid, except none of the adults can help you because, turns out, in spite of consumer demand, they don’t make fish bandaids. Then you don’t know what to do; so you cry and cradle that stupid fish with your stupid fish ruining hands.
Fast forward twenty years later and that describes most of my relationships.
The point is that as adults we are as fascinated by repairing as children are with destroying. Grown-ups stand in front of open car hoods and stare at a problem they know they cannot solve. People try to fix tables and stereos. People try to fix people. Get your pets spayed and neutered.
We devote a lot of time to trying make things better, even when we know they don’t sell make-things-better bandaids. We find more efficient routes to work. While shaving a few seconds off a commute might seem like an accomplishment, it’s really only worth the one high-five.
The old saying is “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” I’d add that even if it is broke, maybe you still don’t fix it. Not all that’s broken needs fixing. Sometimes you should just learn to enjoy the chipped paint in your apartment, sometimes you have to settle for a broken heart. Sometimes problems do solve themselves. Sometimes they don’t need to be solved. Your favorite pair of shoes aren’t shiny and new. Your car drives fine with the engine light on.
Figure out what doesn’t work and needs to, enjoy the rest for what it is.
Or remember the youthful glee of destruction and buy a very large hammer.
Alison says: Yes. A lot of my students turned in personal essays last week and 95% of them were about someone breaking something of theirs–trust, confidence, love, or the worst, a dream they had. And then grading them felt horrible–like, here’s a C for this incredible act of vulnerability.
I’m a fixer. I tried to fix something until I had to stop because I was forgetting who I was. I felt like a storage carton. I felt like a rough tote.
And then I found this valentine from elementary school when I was picking up the remains of a large rubbermaid trunk filled to the brim with my childhood diaries and notes. I tugged at it, from where it sat in a deep shelf above a closet, and I yanked, and I let it fall to the floor and crack open. Even rough totes weren’t built for that.
I have never felt like a babyface. But to someone, about 25 years ago, I was.