Living the Manual Life


By Henri J Boulanger

The act of creating, disassembling, or modifying something is what tells the child inside of me that there isn’t a monster under the bed. When everything in life is handed to me pre-made, guaranteed, and safe as can be, I begin to feel something akin to claustrophobia; it’s like watching somebody play Monopoly for me. I feel robbed of the opportunity to expand, simplify, or simply tinker. This poking, prodding, construction, deconstruction, and overall exploration of the resources at hand and the structures of my mind is how I breathe, how I exercise, and how I live. It’s the Manual Life.

Living a manual lifestyle and sometimes taking the long way ’round brings me a deep satisfaction that many people feel but often don’t realize they can pursue. It can come from replacing the flat tire yourself instead of taking it to the shop, making a meal from scratch, or just choosing to ‘fix it myself, dammit.’ A hands-on life makes one more adaptable and much more versatile. There’s little better than the feeling you get when you realize that you can do it yourself (or that you can—and will—learn how to do it).

Sometimes it’s a way to save money, sometimes it’s a way to save time. Most of the time, however, the Manual Life is simply how I choose to experience the world and better connect to my thoughts and insatiable need to know how things work, because to know how things in my life works helps me to understand how I work.

About the author: Boulanger is an artist, actor, musician and motorcyclist (and the editor’s son) who splits his time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Mountain View, California. This is his first art submission to Bicycle Times, which will appear in Issue #29, arriving later this month.


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