Monday, June 26, 2017

(Shit) I'm Learning as a Construction Worker

"Hey Pigeon, I have another shit job for you."
"You mean me?"
"Yeah, Pigeon. Your tattoos are pigeons, right?"
"Pidge? Pidge is cool, right?"

That's it. This is my life. For the last five and a half months I've been working construction. It's been the hardest I've ever worked. Like the hardest day of work I've ever had is my whole day, every day for 10 hours if we only work a ten hour day. Two weeks ago was four nights of overnights with 12-13 hour shifts. Last week was mostly 10-12 hr. This week is looking like 12. 

Don't get me wrong, I make terrific money. But here's another conversation from last week with Clive the Jamaican:

"What are you going to do with all of the money you're making from this job?
"Save it so I can go back to school and get a different job." 

In January I should be (providing I manage to finish the last four pre-requisites I'm currently taking) starting an 11 month full-time program with the University of Rochester School of Nursing. I'll be an R.N. after I get out. I'm in the very middle of a long three years. Taking classes, trying to continue kickboxing and jiu jitsu at the same intensity, and working has proven to be a lot more than I could have anticipated. 

However, most of the time the job is great. The guys I work with and situations are unforgettable. I could write an entire comic strip or book on the shit I hear and do. I signed up for a cushy 7-4, Monday- Friday job as a flag person... Like what most women do in construction companies, annnnnd apparently most women at this company do. Somehow I've earned the honorary position of "working harder than most, eh, probably all, the other women" at the company. Which out of a hundred or so employees, is a grand total of about 8% of the company but I'll take it. I'm a laborer that sometimes gets to do carpentry work, sometimes drives the biggest dumptrucks I've ever seen, and even once learned to use the backhoe to dump stone into the dumptruck I was driving and haul it back and forth by myself. 

I can carry 2x4s, 2x6s, and 2x10s over my shoulder. I can drive a skidsteer pretty decently. I've driven trucks you almost need a CDL for. Thrown a few hundred barrels off the side of a moving truck into traffic, tossed and picked up a thousand cones, and almost fallen asleep standing nearly daily.

I can operate drills left and right handed and have been asked if my hammer was a hand-me-down because it's so beat up after only 4 months (my first hammer was deemed too small and I was ordered to get a real hammer). 

We're building a bridge over a highway now. We're tearing one down and putting a new one up. Until the same is done to this one many years down the road, I'll be able to drive under and over this bridge and know how it was built. I can tell you how many pieces of rebar are in the pedestals because I tied them in there. I know how many forms it took to pour the concrete because I was in a harness hanging off the wall beating the clamps on and inside crawling around picking up wire and tying rebar with Matt before it was solid concrete. 

As my dad said, I'll remember this year for the rest of my life. When I can't wait for work to be over some days, I remember it's financially giving me a lot but more than that is the intangible, priceless skills and memories I'll always have. I'll have a lot of pride for sticking it out, I imagine. And knowledge that if I could do this year, I could do almost any other year that comes down the pipe.

The thing I'm learning about life was worded best by Bruce Lee. A few years ago I was overwhelmed by far less than this. Felt physically hurt and weak by far less. If one presses on, one does not return to that state. You simply learn and are capable of more. And the harder a thing is, often the more worthwhile. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."

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