Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, in an impoverished neighborhood, attending college never seemed like a realistic option for me. My parents only attended a few community college courses prior to my birth, and no one in my family had ever finished a college program. While I was in grade school, education didn’t interest me much, and despite my later proven potential, I was not a kid who excelled in academics or sports, and I had no hope of obtaining a college scholarship.
I recall during my high school years, occasionally, various professionals would visit my class and present the details of their career path. I remember one such individual who told the classroom that regardless of the career we might hope to pursue, and even if we receive training or education in preparation for that career, many times, an individual will find that they will have many careers throughout their lives. Someone can change careers due to many factors; job loss, a networking opportunity, or just accepting a job that is available at the time they are searching for employment.
I found that interesting, since many people will ask children and young adults, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” As if we only have one choice.
Right now, as I write this, I am 33 years old. I have worked many jobs, some longer than others. I have worked as an animal shelter employee, a tele-marketer selling magazine subscriptions, a retail customer service representative, a bank teller, a call center representative, a waitress, a voter register, a hotel front desk receptionist, a dress maker, a fashion designer, a tailor shop administrator, a lip-balm crafter, and an insurance agent! I have even once worked as a construction worker!
Traditionally, a woman working on the construction worksite is a rarity. Now-a- days, with the progression of women’s rights, it seems as if there is no job that a man can do that a woman cannot. However, construction work can be very physical, and although there are many strong women, not many seem to enjoy carrying 4x4’s, tools, and climbing roofs. Maybe some do, but I am sure there are not many.
In the fall of 2011, I had un-expectantly lost my job at the local credit union, and was offered a position at my father’s construction company. It was a very different work environment from what I had been used to up to that point. My previous job at the credit union was with a team of all women. My new job at the construction work site was on a crew of all men. The jokes were more crude and perverted, but I am not one to easily take offence. I am also certain, that the fella’s held back, due to the fact I was the boss’s daughter.
My work duties primarily included administrative paperwork: typing workman’s comp reports, and payroll, as well as keeping an inventory of all of my father’s tools. I cleaned the wallpaper machine, I moved furniture, installed curtains, and carried 4 x 4 beams of wood from one location to another. I got muscle tone. I learned to use some power tools. I re-upholstered benches. During that time, my step-mother surprised me with a gift: a sewing machine and sewing lessons.
Wearing my pink construction boots daily, I decided that when the job we were working on, a remodel project of a hotel that my dad had built 10 years prior, was completed, I would enroll in a college program and get training in a field that I enjoyed. I did enjoy learning about construction, and the process of how buildings are constructed. I also loved learning sewing techniques, and how to read commercial patterns. I knew for a certainty that going back to a career in the financial industry was not what I wanted, nor did I want a career in a medical field like many of my college-going peers were pursuing.
Eventually, I decided that if there was such a thing as a sewing college out there somewhere, that is where I would enroll. I Googled “Sewing College” and, slap my head, it was called… Fashion Design School! I enrolled, and started my courses immediately.
During my year as a construction worker, I took hundreds of photos of the crew and job site. Perhaps because I grew up having very little, or perhaps because I have always loved and appreciated art, I tend to see the artistic beauty in many every day scenes. I appreciate a cool breeze on a hot day, a fresh rose blooming in the rain, and a hot fresh baked pastry. I appreciate the luxurious beauty in simple things; such as the contrast of color and shadow as the sun beams down on an ordinary object. As I would walk briskly around the job site doing this, or doing that, I would see intriguing images that I could not help but snap a picture of. I have sifted through these images and compiled my favorite photos for your viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoy the photos I have taken documenting my experience as a construction worker!
4/25/2016 10:29:10 pm
Roxanne, life is about overcoming struggles, we all get knocked down, it's the getting up that makes us who we are, it builds a strong foundation of character. You are an exceptional lady, gifted with many talents and I am so proud of you! Not because I'm your father, but because your a blessing to all who know you, you radiate light, lift spirits and put a smile in many hearts.
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Hello Readers! Welcome to my Blog! I am Roxanne Rodriguez Rangel, a Fashion Designer from Northern California. I love all things Fashion, particularly historical fashion! Join me, as I take you around Northern California, covering fashion events and related topics!