Most college students spend their summers lounging by the pool working on their tans or serving fast food to annoying children.
That was never me.
Even though I am an aspiring writer, I got my tan on top of two story homes while repairing gutters or tearing off shingles.
I would make a quick stop at some fast food chain to grab some lunch and be thankful for the five minutes or so of air conditioning I got before heading back into the summer heat.
While many of my friends took to retail and food to make money after school, I took to my father’s construction company.
When I told people this, they often imagined me sitting behind a desk, taking phone calls and doing other secretarial work.
That was never the case.
At 20-years-old, I know more about how to make home repairs than most grown men. I can build walls, pour concrete, and lay flooring with the best of them.
I’ve helped on many projects, including entire home renovations, additions and single room renovations.
Working in construction also has more hazards than your typical job.
I’ve had my fair share of bumps and bruises in the field, but my most memorable injury came last summer when I was distracted while working on gutters and drilled a hole in my thumb.
Luckily, I didn’t lose the fingernail and it only took a couple of months for it to grow out and look normal again.
With all of my minor injuries, I’ve definitely learned a lot. I have a painfully vast knowledge of tools and I know how to make things level and square.
While the things that I’ve learned in the last seven years will help me take care of my home someday in the future, the lesson that has been most valuable is that you can’t let labels define who you are.
Everyday that I go to work, there is someone doubting my strength and abilities simply because I am a young woman. They doubt that I can carry 50 pound bags of mortar. They doubt that I can hang drywall. They doubt my strength.
But I don’t worry. I know I can do whatever I set my mind to.
If I had listened to the doubt-filled voices at work that questioned my strength, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
But because I told them I could and didn’t ask for help along the way, I know I can, and I know to never let anyone tell me I can’t.
Many questioned my dad’s decision to let his 13-year-old daughter come to work for him, but I think that he knew that it wouldn’t be a mistake.
He always taught me to believe in myself, and to not let other people’s opinions change the way I felt.
If I failed, I learned how to succeed on the second try. If I conquered, I knew that I could do that and much more the next time.
Working in construction has been one of the most beneficial experiences in my life because I know not to let people doubt me, and I know that I am capable of whatever I put my mind to.