As the back to school preparations took place for school, I sent Cole to his room to pick out his first day of school outfit. We had done some back to school shopping, but all his new things are for cooler weather. I gave him my suggestions of what to wear, and he responded with his suggestions. I wanted him to wear a nice pair of shorts, a new t-shirt, and a new flannel to start off the day. He wanted to wear his “comfy shorts” and “soft t-shirts”. I sighed.
The mom in me wanted him to look his best on his first day. I wanted him to make a good impression on is first day of school. I expressed these desires to him. He responded in his typical Cole fashion:
But Mom. It doesn’t matter what I look like on the outside. I’m smart and I’m funny. The teacher will get to know that about me. Who cares what I wear?
I think he is part saint and part smart. He knows I won’t argue with this point. It’s true. It doesn’t matter. I then tried to explain the theory behind a first impression. I explained how people make an assessments based on what they see. So he showered, combed his hair, brushed his teeth, and went to school wearing his comfy shorts and soft t-shirt. He is smart, and he is funny. I don’t want him to care about anything else.
As I photographed him on our front porch and in front of the tree by our driveway, a van full of laborers waited two houses down to begin work on our new roof (because I asked them to move). They were unannounced, and at this point, unwelcomed by me. The unannounced arrival did not set a first good impression. I was angry at the process. I was furious that the first day of school was being balanced with roofers. The ripples created by this disruption soon settled, and I settled back into my day.
When I left work at 2pm that same day, the skies opened up. My roof! All I could think about was that a bunch of people had my home open and exposed to the world and rain. If they didn’t care enough to announce their arrival, would they respect that this home is the heart of a family? I got home to work site. Things were everywhere, and people were scurrying to get tar paper in place to protect our house from the storm. When the storms didn’t subside, the workers left. They left behind them a mess. I had nails on my front steps. Scraps of frayed metal in my backyard. Metal Snips in the bushes. Piles and piles of debris were left everywhere. This doesn’t even begin to describe the mess they left behind. This is not what we agreed to. I was furious. When my husband got home, he was furious. The contractor returned after dinner, and he was furious. This is not the impression a company wants to represent their company. The roof could be the best roof ever constructed, but the appearance of their craftsmanship is now a reflection of how they clean up the job.
While I try to tell my child to not worry about how he looks, I am fighting with a contractor over how our house looks. It is what’s inside the person or on top of the house that matters most. That is where the real work happens and the focus should lie, but appearance does matter. Maybe the lesson I need to teach my children is that attention to detail matters. Attention to presentation matters. It’s not about being perfect or the best. It’s not about brand new clothes or the most expensive shingles, but it’s about putting your best foot forward. If wearing comfy shorts and a soft t-shirt gives you the confidence needed on the first day of school to let your smarts and your humor shine, wear a pair of comfy shorts and a soft t-shirt. If cleaning up behind yourself is what is need so that your customer can feel confident in the quality of your work, clean up behind yourself. These impressions matter. One day Cole’s wardrobe will be replace by a nice pair of pants and confident shirt as he tackles other life adventures. Those will become his comfort items. One day he will tackle a project such as installing a new roof. I want him to know that the attention to details and the presentation of the project can’t be forgotten. You have to focus on the details that are visible and understandable to everyone.
No one will notice the quality in your work or in you if you are hiding behind a mess.
The past 24 hours in our home have been incredibly stressful. I stood in my kitchen and cried this morning as the roofers arrived for their second day of work. I trust that we will have a quality roof when everything is done, but I feel like my home has been disrespected. Add to the layer of stress a night of no sleep and tears were bound to happen. Chet was awake from 2am – 5am (molars, I think?). Since I was already working another abbreviated day at work, I decided I needed to run. I dropped Chet off with my mom, and I ran from her house. No plan. No destination. I wanted comfort miles.
The first mile was mentally comforting. It was nice and easy, but this slower pace made my hip ache. My knee ached too. If I was going to run, I needed to get my stride back to its comfort zone. I opened up and the hip and knee pain disappeared, but all the stress from the last 24 hours bubbled right on up to surface. After a few more tears and a lot of doubt, I realized that maybe I’m focusing on the wrong thing too. I’m doing a lot of quality work on my running behind the scenes, but I’m only looking at the appearance of my goal race, the Richmond Marathon. That race really doesn’t matter. It’s the details leading up to that race that matter, so I need to put on my comfy shorts and soft t-shirt. I need to find whatever it is that gives me the confidence to bravely tackle this journey both mentally and physically, so who I am as a person and as a runner can shine. That is what matters.
No one will notice the quality in your work or in you if you are hiding behind a mess – As I embrace all these fears that are circling around me about life and running, I need to remember this too. I’m putting in quality work to achieve these goals of mine. I will never reach them if I allow this mess, these fears, these stresses to take over! How do I do this? I’m not sure, but I’m on the path to figuring it out.