Personal Growth

How Can I Do What I Do?

People have asked me how I know how to renovate the camper, and my answer is, “I DON’T!”. But I believe I can do it.

Before I started tearing it apart, I had no idea how it was constructed—a wood frame covered on the outside with a metal skin and on the inside with thin, laminate walls, with fiberglass insulation in between. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a three-way refrigerator, which can use propane and runs on a completely different principle than residential refrigerators. I didn’t know about black water tanks (from the toilet) and gray water tanks (from the sinks and shower). I didn’t know the terms “underbelly fabric” (the plastic, tarp-like fabric that goes under the camper and protects it from water and debris) or “fender skirt” (the trim that goes around the outside of the wheel well).

Side view of camper showing fender skirt
This is the fender skirt. One of them is missing on my camper but I can’t just order one, so will need to order a set.

So, one might ask, how can I renovate a camper when I really knew nothing about campers to start? And my answer is, I can because I think I can.

Beliefs from Childhood

Text image of phrase repeated by mother in childhood, what is wrong with you?

When I was nine-months old I had bacterial spinal meningitis and barely survived. The doctor told my parents I might be brain damaged. Throughout my childhood I heard my mother saying I might be “retarded” (a commonly-used term in the 1960s) and often asking me, “What is wrong with you?!” I had two very smart older sisters who always got straight As on their report cards. I got a lot of Bs and Cs. Naturally I thought I wasn’t very smart. From kindergarten through college, I never got straight As. I didn’t really think I had a lot of options in life since I wasn’t very smart.

By the time I turned 40 I had been in and out of a few different careers—always restless. Trying to figure out what to do next, I took several career aptitude tests and met with a career counselor to discuss the results. I did not know when I took the tests, but one of them was an intelligence test. Meeting with the career counselor, she told me I was very intelligent. My first reaction was to tell her she was wrong. I was not intelligent. As a matter of fact, I was probably brain damaged. She assured me that the test was accurate.

A Paradigm Shift

Text image of motto, I can because I think I can.

What does one do when presented with evidence that completely contradicts beliefs about oneself held for a lifetime? I cried. I got angry. (I still do sometimes.) And eventually I thought, “If I am smart, then I can go back to school and get a 4.0.” And I did. I went back to school for my first master’s degree, in music education, and graduated with a 4.0—because, for the first time in my life, I believed I could.

While academic achievement is not the same as mechanical, it stems from the same principle. If I believe I can do it, then I probably can. And so, most days I work on the trailer I really have no idea what I’m going to do. I take something apart and take lots of pictures so that, hopefully, I’ll be able to reconstruct it. I move forward to rebuild even though I really don’t know what I’m doing. But I think I can do it, and therefore I can.

When I went back to school AGAIN at 58, I believed I could and so I did. I was in a completely different field that was much more technical. I took statistics when the most recent math class I had taken was geometry 40 years prior. In the past I believed I couldn’t do math. But the statistics class was a requirement of the program. The instructor was TERRIBLE and I fought it the entire way. But I believed I could do it and so I completed that horrible class with an A.

Moving Forward

As I continue to apply for jobs and don’t get them, I want to say to the employers, “No, I don’t have direct experience in that area, but I think I can do it. And if you knew me then you would know that means I CAN do it.” So far that hasn’t helped me find employment. The bright side of that is that I have time to work on the camper. Since it doesn’t seem to have an opinion of whether or not I am able, I move forward BECAUSE I THINK I CAN.

13 replies on “How Can I Do What I Do?”

Just read your 1st and 2nd posts. Love it. I am so glad you are doing this blog. It will be really fun to follow along as you go. I know you can do it too because you are very smart and talented and not afraid to try anything. From you very proud big sister.

Kirsten— I love this and can tell you that grades are not a measure of intelligence. Like you, I had “smart” older siblings who got better grades than I did. But you and I both know that grit and intelligence are an unbeatable combination. When I figured out, after my first year in college, that if I didn’t start getting good grades I would be stuck in a boring, shitty, poorly-paid job I never got a B again. And I have had a far better, more intellectually-demanding and personally-fulfilling career than any of my Ivy League siblings. As for the two of us not being good at math: if I recall, your birthday is in October (or November?). Math is so completely developmental for the vast majority of people. They gave us algebra when we were too young; if we hadn’t been “accelerated” we would have been fine. I know you’ve raised kids and surely you witnessed that. Anyway— bravo to you for taking on this project. However it ends up, you’re starting your 60s in a fantastic way and I admire you greatly.

PS: I can still remember your trying to teach me how to pronounce Dawn differently from Don (your father’s name?)

Your story is so inspiring! Further proof that when we put our minds to it, and believe in ourselves, we can accomplish a lot! Our stories are similar in that math wasn’t my thing & I didn’t think I could make it thru college. But, I proved to myself I could, in my mid-40’s when I got my degree & an MBA. Curious about what field you are looking for a career in now that you have your 2nd graduate degree? Congratulations by the way! I know that was not an easy task.

Your story is truly inspiring! You are proof that we can accomplish something if we BELIEVE we can. Curious as to what field you are looking to find work in now.

I once read “you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”. It is so true! We all need to come to those realizations at different times in our lives! So inspired by your life story!

Kristen, I also wrote a reply for you on the forum.
I have come across a few RVs with major frame rot issues that the owner was not aware of, so maybe he didn’t plan this…..
For an event a few years back, we created some refrigerator magnets about 2″X3″ of Rosie. If you would like some, send me a note at the @ddress below. That is my @ddress for RV things.

Thank you! As I have dismantled it has become clear that just enough was done to make it look like it was okay on the surface. It was definitely an intentional cover up. But I have an exciting (?!?) project new and am learning a lot.

Kind of tracking your progress here and it occurred to me that you have some opportunities that you might take advantage of while you can.
First, Add insulation every place that is between the inside and the outside that you can fit any more in. This will make the unit more comfortable all the time.
Second, Add circuits both 12VDC and 120VAC. This will be easy to do with things all open and apart. If you can imagine wanting to power something somewhere, run the wire now. Even if you can’t imagine it, make a few extra runs to places that they might be used later.
We still have some “Rosie” magnets.

Good points- thanks. In the floor I’m planning to put foam board insulation. Thoughts? Maybe I should put both foam and fiberglass. I’m not pulling up all of the flooring. The middle of the camper seems to be in okay condition. The rats (or squirrels) chewed up most of the floor insulation. I’ll push the foam into the middle section and am vacuuming out what was left by the rats.

I never knew about your early childhood illness. But I could have told you that you are VERY intelligent, and, that coupled with effort, you could accomplish most anything.

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