I got a new roof put on my house yesterday. I mean, it's not something you rush into. The old roof had been on my house since 1990-ish. So I guess it was fully amortized. Someone must have paid off the inspector, because said old roof had neither a ridge vent or a bathroom fan vent. And this is where the story starts to resemble "for want of a nail..." Because for want of a ridge vent, the plywood on the southern face of the roof started to warp and buckle from nearly 30 years of overheating and no way to vent the heat.
My roof, my roof
My roof was expired
Anyhow, I didn't want to tell the story of the many lacking features of my old roof. But rather how things went awry in the quest to replace the roof.
I bought my house in 2000. The home inspection detailed the lack of a ridge vent, and probable leak at the waste stack vent. No problem! says I. I can save up a couple thousand and get it done. After all, I was working a good contract for a major chemical company. And a week after I closed and moved into the house my contract got cancelled. Panic. Unemployment, scrape by for a couple months, get another contract with a major electrical supplier, nice raise. All is hunky dory. A few months later, a different contract, this time with a internation financial institution. That contract wraps up in July of 2001, but there's a follow-on contract in October in Dallas.
9/11 happens. Plane flies into my employer's building (WTC 1) and it falls on my client's building (WTC 7). And I get to watch it on live TV. Stress. Not a patch on the people who were there. And God bless the people trapped in the buildings and on the planes. But still, stress.
Dallas contract gets cancelled. A year and a half of unemployment, punctuated at odd intervals with small contracts and a last minute reprieve with the same company and same client. Do good work and people remember you when there's more work. Thank you Matt. You know who you are.
Then a couple of months later, just as a third unemployment extension is going to run out, the light at the end of the tunnel. I land a job with a local IT body shop. They farm me out to a local convenience store chain for their ops center. That works for a couple of years, but at a significant cut in pay. Hey, the bills are getting paid.
That job turns into another gig at a local bank and in 2009 I'm nearly back to where I was back in 2000. And then the compay that bought the local IT body shop decides to tell my client that the stuff they contracted to do, they weren't going to do. My client tells them that the contract they have? Yeah, we're not goint to do that any longer.
My last day at the bank, my oldest niece dies. I get told at lunchtime. I had to go back and work the afternoon. It's a testament to my fortitude that I didn't freak out. But yeah, more stress.
And more unemployment in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Job prospects are non-existant in the Carter-esque economic malaise. I get a lifeline from my brother that keeps me afloat, if barely. But the bills are getting paid (mostly) and the wolf is only at the garden gate, not the front door.
And then I get into a hit and run accident in 2015. Yeah, 6 years of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and a drunk hits my vehicle and bolts. Made me wish I had a dashcam (I do now). My right shoulder is screwed up. I start sleeping on my left side exclusively.
For the next two years.
Revolving door doctors. More physical therapy than I've ever had before. And finally I found a good orthopedist who went through all the steps, and found the problem. Surgery, more physical therapy and eventually, 3 years to the day I was hit, I'm through with medical care.
Small settlement from my insurance (but that's another story). And I can finally pay off my house. Oh yeah, I've never replaced my roof.
So, finally, the roof is done.
The point of writing this all down?
At my lowest, in what I call "The Years of Suck", I re-watched Castaway. It was a good movie. Tom Hanks in the period when he could do no wrong. His character was helpless in that movie. He had no agency to change his situation, or even to kill himself. Until apparent random chance, wind and tide, brought him the tools for his salvation. And even then it was a struggle.
He says, "...And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back..."
In no way was I a castaway. But I have refered to my house as my lifeboat over the years.
I have to say this to you, and take what comfort from it that you may. Keep treading water. Keep struggling, even when you don't think you can change your course or make a goal you desire. Because your ability to conceive of events outside your grasp, and how those events may impact the arc of your own little story, is insufficient to the task. Sometimes, it's just the ability to hang in there, keep breathing, keep putting one foot in front of the other even though you believe you'll never get where you want, that makes the difference that gets you to your goal.
The improbable can happen and it can happen to you. And that's not a bad thing.
But for tonight I shall sleep under my new roof. And for a change, the pitter patter of rain on my roof won't make me grind my teeth.