Back to Engineering!
The time has come,
To pick up my tools!
Biography of a nobody day 53. February 22nd 2021.
Busy day for me today! I dropped Bee off at work as she finally felt well enough and has stopped coughing... somewhat. As before, she has had 3 negative covid tests, so it isn't that. I then dropped Alex off at nursery- That means a whole week without her now... unhappy- but... I have things to do today!
Getting back into using my brain- Engineering style!
I have had a little under 3 months off the tools, that is the longest time without a welder, a measuring device or a scribe in my hand since I was 16. Even including the first lockdown, as a key-worker, I still either attended site for at-risk students or I worked on things at home. I have not been remotely tempted to manually work at all since I was signed off.
The job at hand...
A couple of weeks ago I was requested to check whether or not I could repair the base for a machine for my friend. The friend asked me on behalf of her company and since the company works for the NHS- I was able to visit the site during the lockdown as it is classed as repair for key equipment. The picking up of the machine base I am working on today can be found here.
Why didn't I work on it last week?
So, I picked this up a couple of weeks ago, and since I had my daughter last week and had some pretty heavy things to process- I didn't get the opportunity to work on it yet. This week... I feel pretty amazing. I feel like my brain has finally snapped back into place. Don't get me wrong, I do not feel perfect- but the fact I can concentrate on one thing consistently with no invasive thoughts- that is amazing. Today I have decided I will concentrate on this project- and the company needs its equipment back together.
What exactly do I need to do?
The base of the machine (on the left of the picture above) is an aluminium casting.
Cast metal- Iron, aluminium, whatever- does not weld particularly well. Well, it does, but often once a cast has broken it is replaced because it does not maintain its strength once reheated when welded. There are many technical details to go into here- but effectively- I am going to weld the broken leg back on- then add a strengthening plate on too.
That requires precise measurements, precise designing, precise welding, precise work. I am not going into any more detail than that here- I am more a mental health blog than an engineering blog I suppose... (Though please let me know if you would like more detailed engineering posts!)
Precise, precise, precise...
I could barely spell that word a month ago. The level of concentration that this relatively simple job, in the scheme of things, requires was still far too much for me a few weeks back. I could not concentrate on one thing for more than 10-20 minutes. I was too tired, due to worries at night giving me a lack of sleep. My mind would throw up random old arguments or bad memories. I would tell myself that I was not skilled enough to make it. I am faking my skills. Self-doubt, old but not forgotten meaningless issues, sleep deprivation. It is a dangerous cocktail that results in a foggy brain and the inability to do anything productive well.
Now I am smashing out a technical engineering task for a 30-40 thousand pound machine (believe it or not- I know the base looks super simple!)... It hasn't even taken me long to sort a solution. I have also really really enjoyed it. Maybe I am ready to be back at work next week. I am, I know I am.
This engineering job is important as I can take my time on it. If I had a normal deadline as with my job- it would have been infinitely more stressful and that would have removed the enjoyment. It also wouldn't have offered me the same clarity on how I feel or assisted me to recover some passion for my actual job.
Perhaps there is something important there.
Rather than waiting for your return to work, try a related bitesize task to see if you can handle it without the time constraints or pressure to perform of your daily job. If you can't handle it with excess time- then you have an idea that work is possibly going to add to your stress.
Well, it has really helped me. Practice makes perfect. It has also lead to more work- tomorrow I am helping write some risk assessments/COVID Safe working procedures. I will share what I create for you to use should you soon be returning to work and need some stuff for your employees if you drop me a message/email using the contact form below- but I do not think I will post it on the site as that isn't really what my site is for at the moment.