Full disclosure, I did not have welding on my life list (which is what I am calling my bucket list so as not to confuse people who think I’m dying). But, when the opportunity presented itself to try welding, I thought about it for a bit, then said, “Abso-fucking-lutely!”
Growing up with a single father, I learned a lot of things my female classmates did not learn. My father sometimes needed an assistant, and I was comfortable in the tool room, so I learned to be very handy around the house.
I mastered soldering in grade five when I crafted a fabulous 3D art project by wrapping copper wire around objects and gently removing the forms to leave a spring-like baseball player, complete with a bat. My dad taught me how to solder it together. It was majestic, and I couldn’t wait to hand it in for grading.
I put my art with all the other students’ projects on a table for evaluation by the teacher. My bully had made a doll that I knew was from a kit because I had seen it at the fabric store earlier that week. I thought she was cheating, but the teacher did not because my bully got the highest mark in the class.
I got a C.
I worked my ass off for that project, and it deserved something in the B range at least. It may not have been all the girly doll-type stuff my female classmates had submitted, but it was pretty cool. It bobbled around when you knocked the table like it was ready for the pitch and it made me laugh.
I cried when my teacher told me that I had not done it myself. I tried to explain how my dad had taught me how to solder and the methods I used to wrap the wire. He didn’t buy it. C was my mark, and it was taped directly to my batter on that craft table as a reminder to my classmates that I was different.
I learned two lessons that I am now ‘unpacking’ because it was close to the bottom of my emotional suitcase and it took almost four decades to get past the crap. First, gender roles are a waste of time and second, different is better than conforming.
I could have made those dolls. I had all those skills. What I didn’t know how to do was use the soldering gun, so I chose the hard way in favour of learning something new. I still do that. That is why welding seemed a natural yes.
What did I learn from welding? I was overdue in proving to myself that doing something that is not-traditionally for women is most assuredly a female characteristic. My group of friends all said, “absolutely,” when asked if they wanted to weld. They didn’t hesitate. I’m not going to lie; I waited for others to say yes for fear of judgment. Don’t you despise when your childhood traumas weave their way into the fabric of your adulthood?
I will not hesitate any longer. I said a hard and fast no to recommendations like getting Botox, jumping out of a plane, or eating haggis for my life list. (Not all of those people I can still call friends, by the way.) Those items didn’t make me want to say abso-fucking-lutely. Period. But just like last week’s adventure in teaching my dog a new trick, I’m trying not to be scared of what others think of me, my soldering project, my wrinkles, or my ideas. I’m not afraid of being me.
Getting back to our dragonflies, all were normal, beautiful and different. I’d give us all an A+.
My Turning 50 Like a Boss Tip: Don’t be nervous to say yes, or to say no. Make decisions to fuel you to keep your engine running on high.
Next week my friends and I enter a car rally.