Why I Can’t Do Everything

There was a time when I genuinely believed that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything (that was around the time I watched Back to the Future for the first time, for those who may know the reference).

Any challenge accepted, I'd think.

But now I’m older, and I can safely assert that mere willpower won’t get you everything. Your expectations have to be realistic.

To that self, I now say "get outta here," euphemistically speaking.

A few days ago, I posted about some car trouble I had. The car broke down, and I had to drive it back home. It was a rattling, clunking mess. There was no way I was going to be driving it anywhere else; it had to be fixed. I called a couple of mechanics over, who determined that the problem was with the brake shoes, and said they would come back to take care of it within a week. When they came back, I watched as they fixed the problem. It entailed taking the brake assembly apart, replacing the faulty component, and putting it back. Simple to write, but for me to have done it myself would have been ridiculous.

I have a book at home. It’s called “How to Repair Your Car.” I bought the book during my “I can accomplish anything” phase, and hardly read it nowadays. On the cover, there’s a smiling man with a wrench, and inside were fairly easy-to-understand diagrams of the innards of a car. The book’s central thesis is simple: if you know the inner workings of your car, and have the right tools, you can fix certain problems yourself and save money.

Watching the two mechanics work on my brakes, I realized that that’s a bunch of hooey. I could fix the problem myself, theoretically; borrow the right tools, buy the right parts, set aside a day or so to figure out how to take the brakes apart and put them back together. But I was worried by the loudness of it all. They had to bang on the brake assembly with a hammer to remove the drum. They had to pry the whole thing apart too, eliciting some whining and screeching from the springs within. But at times, they would take great care. It was a random ritual to me, a strange mixture of force and finesse. I wouldn’t know the difference if I tried it myself.

Afterwards, they lay the pieces on the ground in no order I could recognize. The parts looked different from one another, for sure, but ask me how they came together, and there would be an awkward silence, after which I would exclaim “witchcraft!”

There’s also one basic physical requirement that I somehow failed to account for: strength. Somehow, I had thought that tools were talismans of power. In my mind, simply holding a tire iron would give you infinite leverage. Of course, now I realize that yes, there is a physical element to it. There’s a reason why Thor could lift Mjolnir*, while my girl-like figure could easily be defeated by a P206/60R15 tire.

It took them just over 30 minutes to replace the brake shoes on both back tires, while I probably would have broken down and cried a quarter of the way into the job. So there’s my big epiphany. I can’t do everything myself, and I’ll have to pay someone else to do things sometimes. Perfectly acceptable to me now, no matter how disappointed my past self would be about it.

*Yes, it’s because he’s worthy. But for the purpose of making me right, let’s say it’s because of his strength.


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