“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” — James Clear
This has been my mentality the past two years. If I wasn’t laying bricks almost every day, I felt that I was failing at being a good mason and I would never reach my goal. I pushed myself to do better each day and if my projects weren’t as good or better than the day, before I would be upset with myself. I took my craft seriously and I wanted to be the best that I could be each day.
I am a first-generation mason. I didn’t know what masonry was until my sophomore year of high school. I had been invited to go to the SkillsUSA North Carolina state competition with a friend of mine that was competing. I watched about a hundred masons compete and they grabbed my attention instantly. They had built a brick and block panel in three hours from the ground up. I was so enticed and thought to myself, “It would be so cool if I got to do this one day.”
My junior year I enrolled in the masonry class at my high school. At first the instructor said, “You can just grade papers and be like my intern.” He wasn’t being sexist, I promise. I told him, “No, I want to lay brick.” He smiled and said, “Okay, we can do that.” Little did I know I had a knack for it. I was the only girl in there and I'm pretty sure all the guys thought I had somehow ended up in the wrong class. All the guys joked that there was no way a girl could ever beat a guy laying brick. I gained a lot of respect when I beat all the guys in our class competition.
I became part of the competition team that year. I started at masonry 1 and made it in the top 10. My senior year, I competed in the masonry 2 division and finished 14th out of about 60. I realize those first two years didn’t turn out like I wanted them to because I didn’t take it serious enough. I wasn’t practicing as much as I should’ve even though I knew I wanted to be good. I also know that it was because God had a bigger plan for me in the following years.
After graduating high school, I knew I didn’t want to stop competing. I told my instructor I wanted to continue competing in college. He looked at me and said, “Alright, but you’ve got to work for it.” My first time back in the shop after summer break I built a project and knew then that things were going to be different. Everything had clicked for me in that moment. I had improved so much my instructor even asked me if I had laid brick all summer. I was determined to be the best that I could be to hopefully win the state competition and go on to nationals.
I now get to say that I am the first female to win the National SkillsUSA masonry postsecondary competition two years in a row. When I started, I didn’t know that this was my future and that it was going to be my passion. It wasn’t always easy, trust me. I struggled sometimes, but it took a lot of hard work and patience. Sometimes I would get so frustrated and someone would say, “You know Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s ok if you take a break sometimes.” I would think to myself, “How am I going to be better if I’m not practicing?” I had to realize that everything was going to be ok and that it would work out the way it was supposed to because God had a plan for me.
What enticed me to pursue masonry was that I wanted to be like those guys I had watched compete that first year. I wanted to do something on my own and get to build something myself. It was independent and just amazing how they could build something so intricate with only their knowledge and nobody else’s. I’m a tomboy and want to show the guys that I can do what they do too. Just because it was predominantly male didn’t mean that I couldn’t do it too. I loved that it was hands-on, and you have to really analyze things. You have to work through problems and figure out the best way to fix them. It’s not always easy, even though it looks like it. You run into problems sometimes and you have to learn how to fix them.
Through this journey I’ve wanted to show females that they can do it too. Nothing should stop you from pursuing your passion. Your gender doesn’t confine you to specific careers and just because they say “it’s a man’s job” shouldn’t stop you. You can do whatever you want. Not everyone’s going to accept you and that’s ok. You have to learn to take people’s crap and give it right back to them. Guys like to joke around a lot and usually they’re just picking with you but understand the difference between joking and being rude. Stand up for yourself. For me personally, I’ve only had one person say something sexist to me and the guys that I work with stood up for me. I’ve been accepted pretty well, and I hope that’s the case for you too. You can do it! I believe in you and know that there are people out there who support you and your passion!