To understand why becoming a welder is part of my future, we have to take a look back at my past, my family, and the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. I grew up in a typical southern family, the oldest of six kids, and the “example” for my younger siblings. My parents did a great job helping each of us understand what the expectation was – for example: if you start something, you finish it; if you say you are going to do something, you do it; if you are asked to do something, you do it; you are going to do good in school, and you are going to go to a university and get a degree.
I worked very hard both on the softball field and in the classroom, graduating from Carrollton High in 2008 with high honors, and a full athletic scholarship to Southern Union Community College. This was a feeling of great success for me because, in a sense, I had begun the journey of fulfilling one of my parents biggest expectations, getting that college degree that neither of them had. This is also the point where “oh crap!” sets in, “I have no idea what I want to do, who am I really?” So I decided I wanted to coach softball and teach biology because I had proven myself as a good ball player and I worked summers coaching and umpiring little league in high school, so why not? I was good at science, so why not? I completed my four year degree at Huntingdon College earning a BA in Biology and a conference championship season my senior year.
And, again, here we are at a crossroads. At this point, I had already decided teaching was not for me. I hated student teaching, so at 22 and a college graduate, I was a cook at Cracker Barrel wondering, “what am I going to do with my life?” I landed a career job at 24 working for Steritech, a company you have probably never heard of unless you have worked in the food industry; they are the largest 3rd party quality assurance company and service most of the major brands here in the US and Canada. I was going to be a food safety auditor, I thought I had really made it, and this was going to be the company I worked for until I retired. My career at Steritech really flourished earning numerous Specialist of the Year awards, and several promotions, working my way up to Program Coordinator for one of our largest clients.
Fast forward to April 1, 2020 – April Fools day, and one of the toughest days of my adult life. I was laid off from Steritech due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of their clients suspended their audit programs causing revenue to plummet, and to save the business they let go over half of their workforce. So here we are, 30 years old, and sitting at yet another crossroads, “what do I want to do with my life?” I really never imagined I would be trying to answer this question again, but I am also a firm believer that if you are in a bad situation you have two choices, lay in it or change your circumstances, so the first thing I did was I went fishing. If you don’t like fishing, well, you probably wouldn’t get it. On the river that day I was able to be mad, sad, frustrated, and eventually all that negativity turned into drive. I was going to dig in and make something good out of this situation. I decided to start woodworking again, a childhood hobby that was something I spent doing with my grandfather. The first thing I built was a door sign for my sister-in-law, then an outdoor dining table for my brother, and the list goes on for the next few months I built one or more piece of furniture a week, but at the end of the day it was time to make another decision; I knew that my business could not support me long term, so I needed to decide what I was going to do and how I was going to get there.
I had been struggling with what I wanted to do, because all I had been able to figure out was what I did not want to do, which I know is half the battle, but still did not give me any clarity. I was visiting my girlfriend, and she said “how about welding?” It was something I had never mentioned to her as something I had been interested in as a kid growing up; my great grandfather and grandfather were both welders, and I loved watching American Choppers, but out of nowhere she asked me about it.
The really amazing thing about being at this crossroads in your 30s is you no longer really have to account for what your parents are going to think of your decision. At this point I was completely independent and could truly do and become anything I wanted to be. It did not matter that girls do not become welders anymore, or that it was too hard of a job, or that I needed to have a job in my degree field. What mattered was that I wanted to do it. I knew welding was a good fit for me because it is all of the things I enjoy in one package, it is physically hard, mentally hard, and at the end of the day when after joining pieces together I can look at it and see that I accomplished something with my two hands. I want to be able to do something that gives me the same feeling as completing a built-in mudroom storage unit, and also gives me job security. Welding is one of those jobs where no matter where you end up; if you are good at it you will always have a job. I will never have to answer the question “what am I gonna do with my life?” ever again because I will be a welder.
- Posted by Creative Juice
- On June 17, 2021
- 0 Comment