Monday, July 11, 2011

The Journey

This story begins about thirty years ago. I was working as a journeyman electrician for my good friend and employer, Wilford, and had been doing so for quite a few years. I was the foreman on a fairly large project in downtown Salt Lake City and found satisfaction in the fact that the project was making money for the company.
One day while driving to work, as I was stopped waiting for a light to change, a thought forced its way into my head. It wasn't something I had been thinking about or otherwise been preparing for. Perhaps it was a spiritual prompting...something I have since determined was the case.
It was as if a voice spoke to me. It told me to get my master electrician license and my electrical contractor license. I had not planned to be a contractor and hadn't even planned on educating myself to be such. I hadn't studied for the master electrician license, but subsequently determined to do so.
After months of study, preparation and filling out forms, The time came for me to take the master electrician license. The preparation paid off as I passed the test. After the master license was acquired, then the state would let me take the contractor test. It was a long and difficult time of preparation. The test was given in a large room where they had people from many different contractor classifications...all taking their respective tests. I can't remember for sure, but If I remember it right, there was a time limit of 5 hours to take the test. I got so involved in my test and trying to get it done on time and correctly, that I didn't watch the clock. When I finished the test, I looked up and the only people left in the room were the proctor who administered the test and myself. I looked at the clock and had less than a half hour left. The person proctoring the test was also the person who checked the tests and graded them. He said that since no one else was there, he would tell me my grade...even though the state would send out the results sometime in the next two weeks. I passed!
Although I still worked for Wilford, I began to bid little jobs on the side and would do them in the evenings. I didn't bid the market or large jobs that Wilford was, so I wasn't taking work from him. Eventually, I started getting enough work that It was time for me to strike out on my own. I had to obtain insurance, Federal ID number and make sure that I had all my legal bases covered.
Wilford was understanding and to this day...we are still friends.
The market that I was in was wiring houses and small commercial buildings. It was in the early eighties, and for some, times were difficult. I didn't have any capital to work with, but it increased as I found and completed jobs. Nancy was understanding when we had to tighten our belts. Before too long, I had enough capital and work to have a couple of employees. This continued for a few years and then, when things got slow, I went back to work by myself. Some of the work was out of state, but eventually, I found some work at Hill AFB that lasted over 12 years.
It was around 1998 and I was still working at the AFB. I was still able to get jobs there, but for some reason, the bureaucracy was having a difficult time getting their paperwork processed in a timely manner. The contractor I was sub-contracting to, blamed it on the government office we worked through. When I went and asked them, they blamed it on the contractor. Long story-short, my payments were getting to me anywhere from three to five months after I completed a project.
As I pondered my situation, I thought that perhaps it was time for me to change my situation. Nan and I discussed it and prayed that we might know what to do. We made our decision and took it to the Lord.
There is a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants Section 9 verse 8 that says
”But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."
Never before had I had such a strong feeling that what we had decided was the right decision. I was at peace.
Even though we didn't have work at the time, I felt good about pulling away from 12 years of job security that had sustained us while we raised our family.
Almost immediately, I began to find work and lots of it. I employed my son-in-law and others and continued to grow the business.
The current economic crisis blind-sided many contractors...myself included. The work I had procured sustained us for a period of time, but as the jobs were completed, I was unable to replace them with new work. So many people were bidding the projects so low...I couldn't compete. My overhead was low and I continued to lower my labor rates, but to no avail. Over a period of time I let all my employees go. Fortunately, they all were able to find other jobs.
Not wanting to close the doors, I continued to bid jobs at a lower rate and was able to find a few small jobs. These jobs I did by myself. If there was something I needed help with, I would hire someone for a day or an evening.
The factor I hadn't figured on was my health. Over the years, I had worn my body out along with other health issues. It wasn't so bad when I had some "medical procedure” when I had employees to cover for me. Now I was alone and it was an entire different situation.
I suffered through the last year with my knees getting worse all the time. I continued to work through the pain but was slow and worn out by day's end.
I let the work dwindle to nothing by the end of the year so I could get a knee replacement on one knee and the other knee repaired. These procedures happened the middle of February. I had money saved up to help us through this time, and it was used carefully. When It ran out, we only had what Nan was bringing in.
Now is where the water gets murky at times. I turned 62 in April and in May, we decided that I should take an early retirement. All this means is that I collect social security every month. I can still earn a small amount, so I kept my business open. Work is still scarce and hard to obtain, so the little jobs I'm doing don't amount to what I could earn under the social security cap.
I'm still recovering from the February surgeries. I still have pain, but for the most part, I just haven't recovered all my strength.
I keep busy with my yard, and what little work I have obtained.
I'm not too keen on the idea of being considered "elderly" but do enjoy the "senior discounts" that some places offer to people of my age.
I wasn't ready for the journey to take the turn that it has. Mostly because I'm not sure where it's headed and where it'll end. I only know that I have to be happy that I can do what I am able, and find joy in the doing of it.