the self-discovery metaphor i learned in elementary school woodshop

from 4th-6th grade at my tiny Quaker elementary school, every student participated in woodshop class, or “shop” by those in the know.  

although no one predicted it, no one found it odd, either, that post-modern American schoolchildren were building their own paper towel holders, benches, and decorative wooden crap in the name of a private school education. 

looking back, it was a spectacularly dangerous curriculumhow do 10-12-year-olds + hand tools = a wise choice?

but the elbow grease required slowed us down from doing too much damage and miraculously everyone graduated with original extremities intact.

we’d use hand drills, for example, requiring you to lean heavily on the top of the drill and turn a handle in the center.  slowly, curlicues of wood would spew from the hole you created. 

sounds boring, right?  but it’s a fantastic metaphor for self-discovery.  burrowing deeper into the wood is akin to plumbing the depths of your self

and the process can move as slowly as an 11-year-old using a manual drill on a plank of wood.  because just as there was no expensive Black & Decker power drill to speed up the process, there’s no shortcut to understanding who you are. 

although the way ahead is obvious, how much time, strength, and attention you devote to it is your decision.  

time + strength + attention = personal depth

the good news is that just like drilling makes space in the wood, increased self-knowledge cleans your insides.  after removing the unnecessary, you’re free to explore, spread out, and find answers.

as in shop class, you’ll inevitably encounter knots.  and when you do you’ll negotiate them.  frankly, we probably revised our measurements to avoid knots in the wood as kids, but we’re all older now.  and for adults, the only way out is through, be it a 2x4 or your emotional life.   

stay focused but take breaks when you need to, watch what you no longer need as it falls away, and sweep the mess into a neat pile.  the gritty work is always rewarded—but luckily with more than a lopsided napkin holder

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