Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

January 13, 2014

Contemplating my mid-life crisis options

Filed under: fitter/happier,news of the day,the renovated life — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 3:45 pm

At the moment my state of employment remains risibly unresolved, despite the several months that have passed since the government decision that changed everything [1]. I don’t have a lot to do, which has given me a lot of time to think about what I might want to do instead.

Number one on the list is, of course, to become a full-time writer. The major flaw in that plan is that I still have not only mortgage on my own house, but also a would-be-crippling debt on a range of investment properties. Gotta have at least some money trickling in. Regular readers will understand why I might not be ready to bet my family’s wellbeing going all-in on artistic productivity that more closely resembles a leaking tap.

So, given that my desire to continue in the public service has begun to wane of late, I’ve started thinking about what else I might like to do with myself. The thing that I keep coming back to is construction work.

I am thinking about starting an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Yes, I am completely serious. Somehow, the thought of four years on minimum wage, labouring in baking heat or murderous cold, hold a greater attraction than running down the clock to retirement in an office. It’s an urge that’s been coming on for a while now.

I’ve got to be honest, it would be a means to an end rather than an ambition in itself. I am certain I could find a great deal of joy and satisfaction in working as part of a team to build something tangible, to deal with crises and solve problems. (That’s where most of the joy in my administrative career has come from, after all). But at some point the dream is to be able to work for myself, with Fiona, as a builder/renovator, taking old things and making them new, or even building houses from scratch. It’s taken most of my life to learn to appreciate how satisfying and fulfilling is can be to make something new that will (hopefully) outlive you.

(It’s possible that having kids has helped with this revelation.)

The other reason that working outdoors has so much appeal at the moment is that it gets me away from a keyboard. Decades of sitting at a workstation all day have rubbed a bit of the gloss off the idea of further sitting at a computer writing fiction for half the night. But I know that if I’m separated from my writing tools for any significant length of time I start to get twitchy. Spending much of the day not being able to write is likely to make me very hungry indeed to get down everything I’ve been mulling over.

Finally, moving about a lot and lugging great big slabs of lumber ought to be great for toning my rock-hard delts and abs and…um, other muscles. Right, ladies? [2]

At the moment I’m not in a position to make any formal decisions, but I’m doing the research, making appropriate contacts and getting registered with the right organisations. From what I can tell, the slow economy is going to be the main impediment to me finding a place. Group training programs are being cut to the bone and nobody seems to be hiring.

On the other hand, when they do hire, older applicants (see also: white and male, if I were to guess) tend to be favourably considered because they are less likely to turn up late or drunk or just drop out mysteriously. That seems to be a thing among straight-out-of-school apprentices. Being financially stable and relatively fit and healthy seems to be an advantage from what i hear.

I’m at the stage where none of this might happen. Industry jobs are scarce, I may be offered a compelling position by my current employer that is not the wall of gloom and misery I seem to be in line for, or I may not be offered sufficient enticement to quit the service.

On the other hand, another week or two like the last couple, and that might not matter. Pass me a hammer and step back, please.


[1] Specifics elided because I am at least technically still a government employee, although it doesn’t seem like it most days. I intend to remain aloof and professionally distant with regards to the subject right up to the moment that I no longer have to.

[2] The supposed health benefits will presumably expire the first time I contract pneumonia working for a week in late autumn sleet getting the room on a half-finished frame so the boss doesn’t forfeit a completion bonus…


  1. Go for it!

    I don’t know that you need to do an apprenticeship, depending on what sort of carpentry you were most keen on. F’rinstance, you could make rustic hand-carved wooden furniture at home and sell it on ebay, and as your skills improved you could omit the ‘rustic’.

    (I am just thinking of my own physical tolerance for manual labour now vs. 25 years ago- and that although it was vastly much higher I did literally sleep from 6 pm to 6 am the first week of my labouring job)

    Comment by Dr Clam — January 14, 2014 @ 10:15 am

  2. If I attempt to carve anything without a eight-week intensive training course, I am likely to chisel off a thumb. Also I assume that the apprenticeship will help me to finally understand what the hell an architrave is.

    I know what you mean about manual labour, but at this point in my life I am strangely craving it. I don’t have any illusions that there won’t be a cruel period of adjustment, not to mention aches and pains all up and down the street. Gyms don’t do it for me – I reach my boredom threshold a long time before I get any significant physical benefit. Actual outdoorsy physical labour is my preferred option for fitness, and so much the better if it comes while in the pursuit of some further goal (like a trade qualification).

    Comment by Lexifab — January 14, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

  3. Well, your Grandfather and name-sake was a dab hand with a chisel, remember the pedal tractors? I think it is a great idea, and I would start with building your core, sit ups and planking (Not the stupid craze thingo) and crunches. With a strong core your back should blow out too soon, and you’ll find it easier to do the ‘lifting of heavy things repeatedly’ part of the job more comfortably. Probably. Go for it!

    Comment by Ian — January 18, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

  4. As it happens that’s pretty much exactly what I’m working on. I can plank for almost a minute now. then I suffer for almost an hour.

    You know, I hadn’t actually forgotten that Grandfather Versace was a carpenter, but at the same time it didn’t register at all while I was thinking about this stuff. But obviously I have a genetic heritage to play up at the interview I’m about to go to.

    Comment by lexifab — January 20, 2014 @ 10:18 am

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