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).
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
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
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.
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.