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Up Through The Rabbit Hole

April 9, 2014

One foot by one foot.

One square foot.

Not big enough to hardly reach into. Certainly not big enough to climb through. And the concrete ceiling was only about 2 feet above the acoustical tile ceiling that I needed to climb into.

I was a making more money than I had ever made in the past. In addition to my campus job working in the telephone office, I had picked up a summer job working for a company hired to rewire the entire BYU campus. Three things stick out in my memory about the wiring job.

First, it was the first job that I ever got a paid holiday. No one worked on the 4th of July, but we all got paid. As a 24 year old newlywed who’s first car was $500, a paid holiday was an amazing gift.

Second, we got to see parts of BYU campus that none of my classmates even knew existed. And that led to the third thing that stood out.

I spent most of my days crawling around in ceilings. . . and hoping to not fall out of them.

How much of our daily lives do we take for granted? Do you remember how excited you were to buy your first car? I do. It was that $500 Mazda. We bought it used from a less reputable dealer with money that my inlaws gave us for a wedding present. In fact, the car had no catalytic converter, even though it was supposed to. We didn’t know to check. Oh to be that young and naive again.

The car died in a scary crash as my lovely wife was bringing me a homemade apple pie. She was turning right and someone turned in front of her. In our view she had the right of way. However, the guy that hit her was the radio announcer for BYU’s basketball team. And the accident happened on campus. There was no way he was going to be found at fault.

I still remember how I felt when she called me. . .Helpless.

Lots of memories in that car.

Today, I have three cars and while each has a history, I doubt that 25 years from now I will be remembering the times we had with them.

Many of you know I recently started a new job. It’s a very interesting and challenging job and I’m excited to have it. But, it’s a job. Now, my FIRST job? Stable boy. I told the story in The Cow In The Cemetery.

Finally, I remember the first time I came to Utah. I was a missionary at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT. (The Day I Found Out I Was A Jerk.) The mountains were awe inspiring. They still inspire me. (Rocky Mountains Of Perspective.) But, not like they did those two months back in 1984.

So, that first paid holiday really meant a lot.

My time in the ceiling was both exciting and at times scary. First, to fit through a one square foot hole, I had to take off all my tools. I had to remove my belt. Then, I would put my arms above my head and cross my wrists to pull my shoulders in. My waist was 32″. If you do the math (Circumference = pi * diameter) if my waist were a perfect circle the diameter would be 11″. It was a TIGHT fit.

After getting through the hole, it was a challenge to remain in the ceiling. Those acoustical ceilings have a deceptively solid look. I would balance on the 1″ wide metal supports. I eventually learned that I couldn’t crawl through any space smaller than my head. (That situation actually came up on a frequent basis.)

None of the other students on our crew would do it. And in hindsight, that was pretty memorable too.

So, if you are starting out on your career. Or even if you have an established career and you are making a change to a new company or a new area. Remember to look for and enjoy those firsts. I think the real tragedy of growing old is when we no longer can recognize “firsts” in our lives.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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