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A Bag of Tools

“Each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass and a book of rules.” – R.L. Sharpe

* * *

When I was in college my brother got into Reggae music. Being a metalhead that was studying classical music that hailed from the Tampa suburbs, my knowledge of reggae pretty much began and ended with Bob Marley’s greatest hits.

So my brother made me a mixed tape.

The tape didn’t immediately change my life but I loved it and it certainly broadened my musical scope.

* * *

I have a local group of friends that tries to get together once a month for dinner. It sounds simple, but with five busy people it ends up being fairly complicated to try to find a date and time when we can all meet. I had to bow out of our late October dinner. I explained that between rehearsals, volunteering for the holiday parties at school, writing assignments and general Halloween madness I couldn’t make it this time. One of the replays was something like “Couldn’t you try underachieving for once?”

First I laughed. Then I was surprised. Then I was flattered. She sees me an overachiever?

I don’t think of myself as an overachiever. I always had decent grades but I was never in the top 10 in my class. (I had a friend who graduated high school with a 5.1 GPA and graduated 11th, weighted grades are so weird.) I was never terribly athletic. I was in plays but I never had the lead. I had a garage band but the only time we played out was at a summer camp. I went to a state university. I volunteer at school a lot but I am not the homeroom mother.

I did have two babies at one time. I’ve had people perceive that as something I tried to one up them on, but the truth is I was just trying to have a baby and my body released two eggs and they both got fertilized. We didn’t do anything any different. It just happened.

Now that I am thinking about it, I tend to be the worst person in the best group. I even have the cheapest house in an awesome neighborhood. This is just how I roll.

I do, however, do a lot of things. Maybe she perceives that as overachieving. I just really want to do everything.

* * *

On the tape my brother made me there was a song by a band called The Heptones called “Book of Rules”. This is where I first heard the quote “Each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass and a book of rules” I actually thought they wrote it until I looked it up, but apparently the lyrics are from a poem by R.L. Sharpe that is called “Bag of Tools”.

 

A Bag Of Tools
By: R. L. Sharpe

Isn’t it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each must make – ere life has flown –
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

* * *

I have been thinking a lot about this lately.

When you are born you are given a bag of tools. This is different for each one of us, but we all get one. Some people don’t get much and some people get a whole set of Craftsmans.  I am lucky. My bag was full. Mine is still full. My parents provided me with many, many tools. Some of these were financial and some were emotional, but the best thing they did for me was teach me how to make my own tools.

Our rule books aren’t all the same either. Your book will vary depending on where and when you are born. The rule books are different for men and for women. Religion, family, race and health all have influence on what goes in your volume. The thing is we are all given this life and within the seemingly random parameters we get, we can do whatever we want with it. Your life is the shapeless mass. You can go to a mind numbing job and come home and play Angry Birds or you can go do the things that matter to you. You can do anything if you are willing to make the sacrifice. The sacrifice could be time or money or sleep or all three. You can challenge yourself or you can watch The Real Housewives. If you have a TV in your kitchen you can probably do both. You can make things happen or not. It is up to you.

We have each been given a bad of tools, a shapeless mass and a book of rules; and each must make – ere life has flown – a stumbling block or a stepping stone.

Indeed.

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