Knowing what pushes your buttons, and what doesn't. What you want out of life and what you would rather do without.
Sometimes it comes to you through the daily grind. For example, I don't need to do another peak hour commute to know that I won't ever again live in a big city.
Nothing against the big smoke; we need big cities. It's just that I don't really feel at home there, not like I do in a small town.
At other times it creeps up on you slowly; gently edging into your unconscious mind. A brief flicker of recognition now and then, until it finally emerges into your awareness. Clear and bright.
And so it was that I discovered I wanted to be a machinist, and make clocks.
I went to the local hardware store to buy some paint. They're very clever at hardware stores you know. You have to walk in past all of the shiny stuff to get to the boring stuff at the back. And on that day they hooked me. There was a nice new mini-lathe sitting on the counter next to all the usual trade tools. I saw it out of the corner of my eye, and stopped for a quick look.
I gave the carriage hand-wheel a quick turn, read the decals, slid the tail-stock up and back a few times. It was all shiny and red, and surprisingly small. Not at all what I remembered a lathe looking like. But it got me thinking about how I had enjoyed working with metal at high school.
Then I kept walking to the paint department, without a backward glance.
That night I found myself thinking about my high school manual arts (shop) class. Which was odd, because I hadn't thought about it in years. The projects I'd made, my teacher, the tools and machines. When I left high school I went to university, and followed a number of professional career paths; none of them involved using my hands. And I kind of missed that. The feeling of messing around with tools and metal. Of making something.
Again it faded from my thoughts.
But then slowly over the next few days and weeks, the urge to follow this thought just grew, and grew. Colonising my mind, and getting me motivated. I started watching youtube video's on machining, checking out prices for tools, and reading forums. The outside shed was sized up as a potential shop. Even the spare room inside was given a once over... this was starting to get serious!
There was only one thing to decide before I took the plunge; what exactly was I going to make?
I saw some impressive projects online. Steam engines, beautiful locomotives and one guy who had made a series of scale aircraft engines. I mean truly spectacular stuff. But I figured most of that was way out of my league, and I had it in my head that whatever I made had to have a purpose in everyday life. A working purpose. I didn't want to spend all this time making a steam engine, to then put it on the shelf to collect dust. I wanted whatever I made to be something I could use.
I don't recall how or when, but at some point the thought arrived: What about a clock?
And just like that it began. A multi-year obsession with learning about all things that go tick. The science, art, history and everything in between. What a great journey it's been. I've learned so much, met so many amazing and generous people, and found a level of satisfaction working with my hands, that I didn't even know was possible.
And to think it all started with a tin of paint.
Thanks for dropping by,