The Toilet Paper Holder Lesson

My nemesis.

I have a toilet paper holder in my master bathroom that drives me insane. I put it up about two years ago, and the stupid thing eventually pushed itself out of the wall, leaving a couple of nasty holes in the sheetrock which made me look as inept at home maintenance as I really am. Because of its mockery of me, I took the sucker down and stashed it in the back of a closet (I’m too cheap to throw away what should be a perfectly good fixture). It stayed in that closet for almost a year and half.

Recently, we repainted our bathroom and Rachel wanted to put it back up. I agreed, thinking that I had found the perfect solution to keep the holder affixed to the wall. I bought a substitute roll holder (the little springy tube you put the toilet paper on), reasoning that it’s weaker spring wouldn’t push the actual holders apart as much, and thus keep the holder on the wall.

Trust me, I know how insane this sounds. It is insane.

Anyway, I put the holder back up with the screws and wall anchors required. Everything looked great. I put in the new paper holder, complete with a fresh roll. It fit snugly, with no signs of strain. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Two days later, I thought I noticed the sucker starting to bow a little bit. I wiggled the holder, and it seemed to still be tight against the wall, so I chalked it up to paranoia. Two days after that, the sucker had almost pushed itself out of the wall again.

It’s still there, hanging on by a thread, making an otherwise elegant bathroom look like a 70s camper john. I’ve been tempted to rip it out and toss it across the room, but I’ve resisted. I am going to take it down today probably, and replace it with something else. I’m just tired of looking at it.

There’s a lot of lessons I could draw from this illustration – I suck as a handyman being the first. Maybe something about the need to learn from past experience being another. But what I really come away with is that some things just don’t go like you planned. And no matter how much you try and work out a solution, no matter how many compromises or substitutions you make, you will never beat the flawed design. When that happens, you simply have to take things back to the start and try another direction – in life as in toilet paper holders, I suppose.

I interviewed a friend yesterday who recently made a big change career-wise, and we exchanged emails about the similarities of our work situations: both of us have left behind everything we’ve ever known professionally in order to pursue something new, but strangely meant to be. We’ve gone back to the start in an attempt to find a true fit.

It’s scary. It’s unknown territory. It brings new challenges each day, whether it’s networking or resume writing or just trying to keep faith when God seems silent beyond just repeating, “This is what I mean for you to do.” Some days I do well. Some days, I wonder if I shouldn’t have just left things as they were, even though I know – like that toilet paper holder – eventually, it would’ve all fallen apart.

Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you’re wondering if the unrest you’ve been feeling about work, or church, or your purpose in life, is the nudging for you to step out in faith and rebuild. I can’t tell you for sure, but I can say this: take a good long look at your life and consider which path offers you the chance to be the person you were meant to be.

Then take that path. It’ll be scary, but it’ll be worth it.

Personally, I’m looking forward to having some balance in my life – both professionally and when I go to spin the toilet paper in my bathroom. Here’s hoping you find it too.

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