What did you want to do when you grew up?

When I was 16 I just kind of fell into the web. No, not some giant spider web, but that great world wide one that people keep blathering on about. It was the good ole dot com days, where anyone who knew what a <p> tag was could get hired. I’d always been a bit of a computer geek, it was a source of endless fascination with me and I remember many a childhood hour whiled away typing in DOS commands or other mindless pursuits. But I never really planned on being a professional geek.

By the time I was 18 I was already on the path to a career and a jagged hop through an assortment of gray cubicals, large corporations, small companies and everything in between. I’ve been a designer, a developer, a webmaster, and a code monkey (not my official title, but really, it should have been). It’s been a dozen years and until recently I never really stopped to think, is this what I want? It just was what it was. The bills were paid; some days my mind overflowed with excitement and ideas, and other days my feet had trouble moving I was so numb from the drudgery. It was work, basically. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I really sat down and thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up and even that didn’t go further than a constantly changing idea of “what could be” and an unused bachelor’s degree achieved while still working the same sort of jobs.

When I was a kid computers were always there (despite it being the early 80s), but they weren’t my overriding passion. From the time I was 6 I wanted to be a doctor (before that I wanted to be an actress/singer, I’d still take that job, if only for the paycheck). First a pediatric cardiologist (try asking most 6 year olds to pronounce that much less explain it!), then later a research biologist (but still a medical doctor) once someone introduced me to medical laboratories and let me play for a couple of days with centrifuges and other assorted equipment. The mysteries of the universe opened up before me, it was thrilling.

Now though, now I don’t know. I’m rushing towards 30 and I still don’t truly know what I want to be when I grow up. I can keep following the path I’m on and will likely continue to grow and enjoy my career or I can put on the brakes and completely change paths now, while I’m still young enough that I’m not that set in my ways.

So how about you? Are you doing what you’ve always wanted to do? Or did you fall into something that you really enjoy, but wasn’t an overriding passion or an intentional decision? What would you do if someone handed you 4-8 years worth of living expenses and said “go to school and study your heart’s passion, you just have to come out of it with a paying job and support yourself after”? What would you study?

Me, well I still don’t know. I know I’d miss what I’m doing now, it has become a passion. Maybe not my first passion, though. When do you give up on the what-ifs and what-could-have-been kind of thoughts? Is it when you finally grow up?

The Pain of Contractors

Remodeling, it’s a word many probably thought was left behind back in the dizzying housing boom when everyone used their houses as piggy banks and took out equity loans left and right, funding that new kitchen with a Sub-Zero fridge or that shiny new boat. Well, it wasn’t, at least not entirely. It’s never really been much of a word in our household actually, we bought a 1950s ranch a bit over 4 years ago and haven’t changed much. It’s small and cute, needed updating, but nothing pressing and we have slowly, but surely, made little updates here and there. A little paint, a little Spackle, a lot of wiring (computer nerds and 50s wiring do not get along) and it’s been a nice home.

Now though, now the first big change is about to occur, the first time I’ve had to hire more than a simple handyman and where the cost…well it’s when I start thinking of things in terms of how much of a Mini Cooper S (with the options I want) that would have bought me (roughly 1/6th of a Cooper in this case). We’re not doing anything luxurious, my dreams of new kitchen counters and a jacuzzi tub are still unfulfilled, but the sense of joy the idea of new siding and windows is bringing me is, quite frankly, weird. You never realize until you own a house just how much of “you” gets invested in it. And it doesn’t happen to everyone, Jer couldn’t care less, but me I’m wrapped up in U-factors and debating colors to paint. To each their own I guess.

The contractors though, that’s been the worse part. First, getting them to actually call or email me back was a trial. Of the 20 or so I actually contacted to get them to give me a bid only 9(!) actually responded. For such a down economy I guess business must be booming for them. And then the actual appointments, good grief.

First, there were the guys who talked down to me; pretty little girl, hasn’t a clue in her head about what she wants, so I’ll just tell her what she wants or ask if her husband will be home soon (next please!).

Then, there were the creepy ones, the ones where I wish I hadn’t been home alone during their bid (um, police?!).

Third, there was the salesy one, thankfully this was only one of the 9, but he made up for his minority status by pulling out every cliche there is. He started off asking me what he needed to say to get me to sign on the dotted line today (how about “I’ll do all the work and pay you $500 for the privilege.” No? Then I’m not committing during a bid). He then proceeded to tell me how they do everything differently and better than every other company out there. Then he told me how they’ll match the bid of any other company, as long as they’re using the same materials and exact process as they are…hmm what about how they’re completely different? I guess he didn’t think I’d catch on to that. He also insisted I sit down with him to go through his brochure (which was pages and pages about how they’re different, addresses of houses they’ve worked on, obviously as proof they’ve been hired before, their better business rating, etc), before he’d even get into the product OR the costs. All the while talking about how he’s not really a “salesy” type person and not at all pushy. And then of course he wanted an answer. Wasn’t too thrilled when I wouldn’t give him one OR when I said please don’t call me, I’ll call you (he said he WILL call within a week, um thanks). Listen, just take your measurements, listen to what I want and hand me your bid. Include a reference sheet if you want, if you don’t and I’m interested, I’ll ask for one. Otherwise, be on your way. You can ask questions, suggest products or methods you think would be better, but if the whole thing takes an hour you’re doing it wrong!

Fourth, there were the low pressure, listen to what I want, cheerfully respond and promptly give me my estimate ones. There were 2. Still trying to decide which of those 2 will get my business. Too bad I can’t hire them both.

I’m not sure which will be the tougher decision, which contractor to hire or what color to paint the house. Both won’t be easy. A bad contractor will be more expensive though.