Stop trying to keep me bottled and speechless...
Updated: Jul 4
After the first two (2) years of working for the first residential home builder that hired me, I realized that I wanted more meaning in my career and it was not just to sit behind a typewriter and only do what I was hired to do. I felt if I understood things better, I would be able to bring much more to the table.
Opening up and taking a leap of Faith
One day I got the courage to ask one of our superintendents if he would teach me how to build a house, jokingly he answered "sure, stop at the trailer one day", little did he know that I was stone-cold serious. That weekend, I went to his trailer and the first thing out of his mouth when I knocked on the door was "What the #@*k are you doing here?" I thought I was going to die and get fired. I felt like I had just jumped off a cliff with no parachute. It was the worse feeling ever. But I was able to utter the words "you said you would teach me how to build a house" Boy did he lose it, he bleeped words here and there and again, I felt like I was ready to pass out.
After he had a moment to bleep his words into the air, he looked at me with that pathetic look on my face and took a deep breath and said, "You want to learn how to build a house? I'll show you the way I was taught" He handed me a rolled-up ammonia smelling blueprints and told me to pick a lot and open the plans and learn. I went across the street to a house that had just been framed and I sat on the staircase and cried for about an hour. While I was crying and looking at a skeleton of a house, I started to imaging what that home would look like, who would be living in it and the great times they will have in that house and here I was crying on their future staircase. I fell even more in love with the industry that day while crying because I imagined how awesome it was to be a part of someone's future. Of course, not crying, but being able to do something good for those that will be making their lives in that home.
The superintendent came out to go home when he realized my car was still parked in front of his trailer and he came looking for me. He saw me with the plans opened to the first page and blood-shot eyes. He took another deep breath and this time with empathy he said, "I am going to show you only one (1) thing and that is all, you are on your own from there" I took it, I was willing to take any lesson. He showed me the concrete stage and the importance of the Title 24 notes when it came to concrete. I went home happy because I learned something and was grateful that even though I was a thorn in this man's side today, he was still willing to give me the time of day to show me a little something from his experience.
Sink or Swim
I finally dared to get a divorce from my horrible husband and decided I wanted more out of life. I wanted to learn so much, and while I was with him, I was not able to do anything, but stay home on the weekends. So when I left him, I spent the next two (2) years, every other weekend, driving an hour to the job-site. I took pictures of specific stages of the houses being built in a large master-planned community with my 35mm Kodak camera. I paid extra to have the pictured developed in 2 days so when the next week came and the superintendents were in the office, I would show them pictures and they would tell me what stage of the house those pictures reflected. They never questioned why I had those pictures, but were happy to answer my questions and it was not like I was asking a lot of questions, just one, what is the stage of the house being built in this picture?
After a while, they were so used to it, that it was the first thing they asked to see as if it was a game to play before they had to sit down and approve their paperwork. I started to feel a little more confident in myself and my self-esteem started to grow slowly, but I was still not confident enough to protect myself from my counterparts taking credit for the work I did. When I tried to talk to my boss about it, he would quickly shut me up and start yelling. It was every week that I would be in the bathroom at least 2 to 3 times crying because he would yell at me for no reason.
I felt like I was intentionally kept inside a container, sealed away from the world, without any opportunity to look out and dream. I learned something new during that fourth year, why did he only yell at me and not the rest of the ladies. I was the only one exceeding the expectations of the work that was being done buy he would only yell at me. Was I being judge? I was the only Hispanic woman working there and I did not dress like the rest of the secretaries because I did not have the money to buy such a wardrobe. Could that have been the reason why he would take things out on me?? I never knew why until later when I left that place.
I was done, I decided that I was not going to let them keep me quiet, nor were they going to keep me from growing in my career. That fourth year I learned what a glass ceiling was, I learned that I would not be taken seriously because I was a Hispanic girl working in a male-dominated white-collar office and that if I wanted to follow my hearts' true desire, that I would need to change.