"Each day is filled with thousands of opportunities to change the story of our lives."
I grew up around an extended family of entrepreneurial tradesmen—everything from brick layers to general contractors for high-rise residential and commercial buildings. After my brother went on to pursue a corporate career, there was no male left in our family to manage my Dad’s construction business. It died with him. That always saddens me to think about it. In those days, as a female, I didn’t feel I could be a contender.
Yet, looking back, it was clear that construction had my attention. On Saturdays, I was the one my Dad took to help him with a variety of clean up tasks on the job site; like picking up loose nails, sorting lumber and removing nails out of the pieces that could be used again. I stacked Quick-set drywall bags and roofing shingles, sorted tools, picked up garbage, coiled electrical wires and cables, and washed trucks. As a teenager, I progressed to demolition and managed work schedules and supply flow during the summer.
A big part of the workday for me was the discovery of great finds. Invariably, there was stuff left on site by workers or abandoned by former tenants: crates of giant seashells (craft supplies), original paintings (acid driven, but colourful all the same), suitcases full of clothes, discarded lunch boxes, tools and paint supplies. I loved exploring the diversity of the many interlocking rooms, hallways and staircases.
I remember raking piles of leaves into floor plans and constructing storage boxes out of left-over lumber. I even had my own tool box. Rain or shine, I just worked it like an energizer bunny.
I also collected and read architectural plans like some people read books. I imagined what the traffic flow would be like and how I would improve it, if I lived there. At times, I would question why the architect didn’t put more storage in the kitchen or why it was necessary to have so many interior doors. I even dreamt about floor plans! (I still do today!)
Yet, despite all those positive experiences and my enduring interest, I became a teacher. It didn’t occur to me that my gender—not my ability—prevented me from pursuing a career in the trades.
Occasionally on days like today—with a developer’s issue in play—it occurs to me, that had times been different, I know I would have jumped at a chance to contribute to the legacy my Dad had to abandon so many years ago. I often imagine what that would have been like for me as a career. What kind of buildings would I have built? How would being a woman have influenced the functional design of those spaces? What legacy would I have left behind?
Sometimes, I wonder how that career would have influenced the kind of person I have become.