Measuring With a Yardstick

Growing up in my generation, a yardstick was something that everyone had in their house. But in my experience, it was hardly ever used. Now for those reading this and are unfamiliar with a yardstick, it is a unit of measurement that is 3 feet, or approximately 1 meter, in length. 

Yardsticks could be found everywhere growing up. Stores would give them away for free with their name on them. Hardware stores, grocery stores, the local bank, and even car dealerships (yes it’s true) would give them away for free. Today you might get a free pen at one of those establishments. But back then you would get a 3-foot long wooden stick to hit your sibling with or use it as a sword for some pirate swashbuckling adventure. How awesome is that! 

Like I said, in any home, you could find a yardstick. In my childhood home, our yardstick could be found just behind the basement door resting on the first step. For as long as I can remember it was always there, and yet never used.  A ruler was used when it came to something small and a tape measure was used for something big. So what use was there for a yardstick? It took exactly 50 years before I figured out the reason for a yardstick, but it may not be the reason you are thinking.

My sister and I live on opposite sides of the world. She married and moved to Australia over 20 years ago. But thanks to modern-day technology, we are able to talk to each other almost daily. We are very close. In fact, we have the same birthday. I am one year older than her and this year she is turning 50.  This has been slightly difficult for her to handle. I totally understand because I felt the same way a year before. A lot of things went through my head at that time. I realized there were more years behind me than in front of me. I looked in the mirror and saw an old man instead of a young kid.  My joints made more noise climbing out of bed. My strength and speed were diminishing. Somehow I thought I would be smarter as I got older, but I realize I’m forgetting things more often now. Honestly, all of those things I could actually accept. But then I did the worst thing any one of us could do. I compared myself to others.

I started looking at others my age, and even people younger than me. I started asking myself why don’t I have what they have? Why don’t I have a new car and a big house? Why don’t I have more money and better vacations? Why am I not successful? Why am I a nobody?!?!?!

This was something that I truly struggled with. I felt like I couldn’t say anything to anyone because if I did, they would say.”What are you complaining about? You do what you love for a living!” And that is true, but at the time, that didn’t seem like much.

I spent weeks tormenting myself and finally, I had to open up to someone.  I figured I would go to someone older and wiser so I told my good friend and mentor, Dennis Laney. Dennis has a few years on me and has pretty much seen and done it all in life. 

Dennis listened to me ramble on about all the things I envy about others. Big houses, new cars, motorcycles, boats, vacations blah blah blah. Finally, after I exhausted myself in self-pity, Dennis looked at me and asked a simple question. “Chad, could you afford a new motorcycle?”

 I was kind of taken aback by this question. This seemed odd. I didn’t really think I was talking about my financial income. But maybe I was. So my answer was, “I think I probably could.”

 “Then why don’t you buy one?”

 I replied, “ I didn’t really want one.” 

“Then why be envious of someone with one?”

As simple of an answer that was, it made a lot of sense to me. Dennis then went on to ask me something that changed my whole world. He said, “Why are you measuring your life with someone else’s yardstick?”  

And right then and there the reason for a yardstick became crystal clear to me. The yardstick is not just a unit to measure feet or meters. It’s a unit of measurement for our OWN life. Each mark on the yardstick is an experience and a memory in our life that defines who we are as an individual. Each mark on that yardstick has different meanings, values, and moments in our lives. These marks could have been something good, and they could have been something bad. But it most likely the moments could be forgettable. 

All yardsticks have numbers on them. Each number is a notable, worthwhile, memory in life. It’s a person or event that has true meaning and helped shape who we are today. The numbers are much more noticeable than the marks.

  Unlike a ruler, yardsticks have a scale on both sides. I’m not sure why that is, but I view it as a second chance to remeasure. We can reflect on our own life and rememasure or change the direction we are going.

It is true, a yardstick is just a unit of measurement. It does have a specific length. It is exactly 3 feet long. Likewise, our lives have a specific length. We may not know how long we have, but do know that there is a limit to our time here. 

Ultimately, each of us has created our own yardstick and it’s impossible to measure ourselves to someone else’s yardstick. Absolutely impossible!

 Looking at all the marks in my life I finally realized I’m exactly where I am meant to be in life. Every step, every mark, has put me in the unique place I am. In the end, it’s true, I can never measure up to anyone else’s yardstick. But then again, they also can’t measure up to mine.

Chad Stanton- Professional Craftsman of Furniture Making 6-27-2021