Realizations Come in Strange Places

I think that doing (one of) the most mundane things in the world last week was probably the best thing I could have done for myself. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m interning at an engineering company for the summer, which has had its ups and downs, but overall it’s been pretty awesome. I guess interns also do a variety of unconventional things… namely tasks that other engineers don’t want to do… namely fit checking poorly machined parts by screwing it together by hand (gotta check each thread) and then unscrewing it, marking it ‘accept’ or ‘reject’, and moving on to the next part. Did you know I’ve only used a screwdriver twice during my time on earth thus far?

At any rate, I spent 6 hours of my life working on this. Doing something I detested. Dropping screws, taking forever to find the right screwdriver, only to misplace it again. Running my hands over the box to make sure everything was below flush. It made my fingers raw and my head light (water + electronics lab = not so good).

It didn’t help that I wasn’t able to dance for the entire week either. Waking up between 5 and 5:30 doesn’t really suit me, but then neither does 9 hours of work a day. I guess cumulatively everything wore down on me too much and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t even exercise in the morning like I normally do.

I guess I had kind of lost motivation for anything. Until the day I fit checked these parts. Because you see, after 3 hours of using a screwdriver I suddenly realized that I was becoming slightly more organized in my methodology of assembling and disassembling the boxes. After 4 hours I was unpacking, assembling, and disassembling the boxes in 15 minutes. By 5 hours it dropped to 6 minutes, and by the time I was finished I was practically a professional box assembler.

It was practice. I had scrunched the process of transforming from a beginner to a pro in 6 hours. I felt the frustration and anxiety at the beginning and the feelings of confidence and capability as the hours ticked by. It sounds stupid, but I think that living that process in such a short span made me realize that, while practice and repetition and work can get tedious and frustrating, progress does happen. Practicing isn’t just a cop-out reply to ‘how did you get so good?’. It is the answer, whether we like it or not. And here’s the kicker – after 6 hours of using a screwdriver, I actually began to enjoy it because I could work that tool like no ones business. I discovered that this feeling can translate to any other activity. I realized that when I work really hard at understanding an academic concept or drilling a dance sequence, the monotony eventually dissipates and I’m left with something I enjoy because I can do it so well.

So I guess that’s the moral to this experience: practice makes improvement. It can cause frustration and fatigue along the way, but that is merely a side effect. The true purpose is to make yourself better at something you want to do. It’s a means to allow you to achieve your goals. How good you get depends on perseverance and passion, but that’s an entirely different topic.

What do you want to practice?

Have a beautiful Saturday 🙂

P.S. I found the featured image here

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