A New Plan, and Reflections So Far
It’s raining again today. I tried to go out and work on the insulation for a while, anyway, and I got one of the big wall panels mostly finished. Something about that just hits me hard. It’s not something I think I would have done a month ago. It feels like the life I’ve wanted to live for a long time, like the kind of person I’ve wanted to be. I don’t know if it’s because I finally feel like I’ve got momentum, or I’m more confident using power tools, or spring has arrived and it’s gotten a smidge warmer, or I’ve been a little more active in my social life lately due to having a birthday last week, or because of the progress I’ve made with the KonMari Method, or any number of other reasons.
I think that’s the most discouraging part of depression: the exhaustion. Feeling like you’re swimming through mud just by breathing. The sadness is the painful part, but the exhaustion is the thing that makes it feel like there’s no way out. Because when you get up in the morning, and there’s all these things you want to do, but just getting dressed feels like climbing Mt. Everest, you start to wonder how you’ll ever get out of the hole. It’s an uphill battle, and you’re struggling just to keep yourself from slipping further down.
That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to van life. Living with that exhaustion, it’s easy to say “the weather’s bad, so I’ll do it tomorrow” or “well, it’s already getting late, it can wait another day.” But with the van, there are some things that you have to do no matter how exhausted you are. I’m not building in a bathroom, so I’ll have to get dressed and go outside every day for at least that much. I’ll have to go to the grocery store often, because I won’t be able to store three-weeks worth of food. I’ll have to find places to park, or pay for another day at a campsite, or socialize with the people who are letting me park in front of their house. No matter how bad it gets, it will be completely impossible for me not to get up, get dressed, and do something. And sometimes that’s enough.
I’m not sure what to credit this new energy to. I’m afraid to put too much stock in it, because I’ve been back-and-forth on the depression spectrum for years. The upticks never seem to last. But at the same time, I’ve never been the kind of person who was happy to go outside and get to work. Not in good weather, and definitely not in bad weather, no matter how happy and energized I was. This doesn’t feel like a lull in my symptoms. It feels like an attitude shift. That, more than anything else, makes me hopeful.
I wanted this experience to change the way I live my life, to help me become the kind of person I want to be. Maybe it’s working.
A little bit of blog news:
I’ve decided to double post my blog posts to my website as well as Medium, because my mom mentioned to me that Medium was trying to get her to make an account. I was originally attracted to Medium because it gave me more of a gateway to a plethora of readers, but I don’t want there to be a barrier between the people I meet face-to-face and my blog.
The transition was a little rough, it looks like anything that was in bold had something weird happen with the formatting. Honestly, I don’t want to go back and fix it all, because I’ve got plenty of other things to do. Besides, I trust you all to know that I know to put a space after a period.
Meanwhile, on the actual build:
I’m still working on the insulation, but the fiberglass is done and the rest of it is slowly coming together. SuperDad and I are starting to look more closely at the wiring and talk about material for the walls and ceiling. I’ve got two massive (and ridiculously heavy) subfloor boards in the backyard, they’re covered with plastic and I’m hoping they don’t get too wet….. The sooner we get them in the van, the better.
I mentioned in the last post that “a whole category of van build tasks was wiped off the to-do list.” These categories are basically just figments of my imagination, but I thought I should probably explain them so you’ll get what I’m talking about. As I’ve researched and planned out the whole process, certain tasks have become linked in my head. A lot of them I can’t really say why they’ve been categorized the way they have, but I get an extra little thrill when one of these “categories” gets finished. For example, the ventilation fan, solar mounting brackets, and solar roof cap all became grouped together in my head because they all required getting on a ladder and punching holes in my roof. The vent fan install kind of became a category all by itself, but “Roof” was one of the major stages of the build, at least in my head.
Here’s how I categorize the rest of the van build:
Insulation: mostly what you’d think, but I also think of subfloor as part of this. I’m not really sure why. In my case, I’m using three kinds of insulation: fiberglass batting for the big cavities, polyiso foam board for the big flat panels, and Great Stuff expanding foam for the small cavities. I was thinking of the fiberglass as its own subcategory because it’s such a pain to work with, but the other subcategories here are “floor,” “walls,” and “ceiling.”
Electrical: hooking up the system, though I don’t think of the fridge as a part of this step. This is divided into laying the wiring, mounting and installing all the different electrical components, and then hooking it all up.
Paneling: I’m not entirely sure why I call this category “paneling,” but it’s basically putting up the walls and ceiling, and finishing them so that they look nice.
Bed: framing and building the platform, benches, and table that will make up the dinette/bed. I think of the platform, benches, and table each as a different sub-category, and framing and building as two stages of each.
Kitchen: this is also sub-divided into each of the two counters, with framing and building as different stages.
Finishing: putting in the subfloor, appliances (this is where I think about the fridge), painting anything that needs painting, and the other final touches that will make it look polished. This isn’t really subdivided, at least not yet. I think when I get this far I’ll have a more complex to-do list in my head, but for no this is just one big collection of little tasks.
Cabinet:For some reason, this piece didn’t get included in the kitchen. I think of it as its own category, and framing, building, and finishing it are three stages.
Decorating: putting up curtains, getting the cushions for the benches/bed, and moving in. This is another one that’s just a lot of little tasks grouped together.
I get the feeling that this explanation didn’t make much sense. I’m going to leave it here, though, because if you can decipher my ramblings it will give you a peek into what I see as the milestones of the build. Whenever I announce I’ve finished another category, you’ll know how big that feels to me.
A look back at my original plan, and adjusting a new one:
Buy the van.
Clean the van top to bottom.
Finalize the blueprint plans.
Research materials needed and locate available tools.
Decide which parts of the conversion (if any) to hire someone else to do.
I did buy the van in January, and since it was new, it kind of came pre-cleaned. Most of this, more or less, got done.
Complete all work that requires cutting into the van.
Make final decisions on electrical and insulation.
Purchase all materials for electrical and insulation.
Try to complete electrical and insulation.
None of this happened. Which already puts me a month behind schedule.
Complete electrical and insulation if needed.
Purchase and complete paneling work.
Finish floor, walls, and ceiling.
Final decisions on fixtures, furniture, and other components.
Purchase materials for furniture build (including mattress).
Begin construction of major furniture pieces.
This is when I got all the cutting-into-the-van work finished, and I did make progress on both the insulation and the electrical. I basically finished the February tasks, and most of those in a single weekend (thanks to SuperDad).
So, that still leaves me a month behind schedule. But since I did get most of the work for February finished in a single week, and I basically gave myself May as a “I know there will be delays” month, I’m still hopefully I’ll be able to drive off in June.
Paint or finish surfaces. I want it to feel like home, so I want to finish everything off like a nice, tidy little house.
Install kitchen items. The fridge will go in, the sink if I end up with one, the stove, and anything else that requires a permanent spot.
Put in the mattress. I changed my mind. This will definitely be the easiest part.
Add final decorative touches.
Here’s my new April:
Finish insulation. I should be able to get this done this week. ((I originally wrote this post on Monday, April 1st. The insulation still might get done this week, but I doubt it. It’s Thursday, and I think I’m about half way done. More on this after the weekend.))
Finish electrical. I should be able to start on this this week, and hopefully I can finish it by April 20th.
Finish floor, walls, and ceiling. In a perfect world, I would have this done by April 20th. It’s more likely It’ll be done by the end of April.
Purchase material for furniture build, make final decisions.
Nothing ever goes according to plan. It’s Murphey’s law: “Everything that can go wrong, will.” So May is Murphey’s month, and is my time to finish up when I inevitably end up off track.
And my new May:
Build the furniture and finish it all off. I’m cheating a little and lumping all of April together into this one heading. But that’s going to be me, every day in May: build, build, build. I think the framing, building, and polishing will all merge together a bit.
Which brings us to the final step:
Move in, and hit the road. Destination: Everywhere!
This will, hopefully, stay the same. I’m planning on heading out around June 15th, so I’ll have two weeks in June to finish up, clean the van top-to-bottom, decorate, and move in.
It’s going to be a crunch, but I think I can get it all done. Keep your eye on the blog for updates (which I’m going to try to post at least once a week) and follow me on Twitter and Instagram to see what’s happening live.
All my best,