Cheesy enough to adorn a poster of a kitten clinging to a tree branch, it provided mild solace for the fact that we had just fried an extension cord and blown the classroom lights with a failed attempt at wiring a circuitboard. (See photo.) But it actually captured something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
For the last year in construction school, I have often found myself standing back, waiting to attempt a project until I have complete understanding of it. Meanwhile, my male classmates dive in fearlessly, hammers blazing, unafraid to change course or redo things as they fail along the way.
I have admired that fearlessness, and this week I began to see a glimmer of it in myself. I was trying to make a prototype for a garden cold frame, using a salvaged window and some scrap lumber. (I have dozens of salvaged windows and would like to find an efficient use for them.) While there are no fewer than 7 million cold frames on Pinterest, I decided to launch out on my own, sans plan, to design my own.
I screwed some boards together, then unscrewed them, screwed different boards together, cut them, attached the window, removed it, recut the boards at different angles, then undid it all and did it all over again. In a series of tiny cheerful failures, my project got better and better.
Three things occurred to me:
First, after years of working on deadline, I’m just getting used to the idea that there’s plenty of time to work and rework a project.
Second, it’s becoming easier to risk failure, because it is easier to recover from it, now that I am more familiar with tools and materials.
Third, Failure is a much nicer F-word than we usually use in construction school.