It was a near perfect day weather-wise in Pittsburgh yesterday.. . I spent the day painting at the Project with the windows open, iPOD kickin’ my favorite tunes, occasionally singing along (which probably made all the neighbors shut their windows 😉 ). As I was up on the ladder doin’ my thing, my thoughts turned to my neighbors at my current house… They’re students, and able to live in a nice townhome because a father bought the house for his son. Now I have the son and 2 of his buddies living next door and I occasionally leave the house on a Sunday morning to find used paper cups with remnants of beer strewed upon the lawn after an evening of partying, no doubt. They’re good kids, and that cup is always gone by the time I return (townhouse fairy, perhaps?), but I can’t help but wonder how much they value their gorgeous kitchen (that the previous owner renovated) or the rooftop deck (which is one of my favorite places in my own house) when they didn’t technically work for it.
Then my thoughts wandered to a conversation I had with my sister. When I was stressing about all the things I have on my plate and mentioned I was taking on some of the labor (e.g. painting) on the project myself, she asked, “Why? Why didn’t you just hire someone to do the painting?” Sure, I could have. Of course I could have. But I was driven by a need to contribute. I needed to put a bit of my own sweat into this place. Why? I’m not sure, I just wanted to. Since my construction skills are limited, painting it was.
When I was finally done for the day, after working into the wee hours of the night, I folded up the tarp, threw that last used paint roller in the trash, and looked around. What I saw was a bland shell taking on life, a stark room turned into a blue jewel, and the beginnings of a serene retreat. Then I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, happiness and satisfaction (and also relief that the paint colors I picked actually worked!). So I had my answer — I did it for this feeling. This feeling you get when something is earned, not given. That is the true value of sweat equity. And how do you put a price on a feeling? You just can’t — it’s priceless.