I’ve never been quite like the other girls. A damsel in distress, I am not. The latest fashion trends are not on my list of priorities, and I’ve never understood spending precious time trying to make toes look glamorous. My fifties find me relaxing in the serene blissfulness of floating in a sea of acceptance having embraced my individuality long ago. During the dawning of my distinctiveness in high school, seas were much more unpredictable and treacherous. Heading down the corridor to my next class, my nerves began to kick in as the realization of my differences began to isolate me from my peers. There were other girls in my vicinity, but none were with me as I walked through the hallway of the older part of the high school. Rounding the corner, I continued into the more modern addition of the building. My gait slowed as my destination approached on the left. With stomach-churning, I swallowed, took a deep breath, and mentally prepared myself for the impending harassment I would surely endure upon entering the classroom door looming in front of me.
Am I ready for this? Are the boys on the opposite side of this large slab of pale wood ready for this?
It was the early 1980’s and I was about to begin drafting class. Me and a room full of boys. I suspect I may have been the first girl to ever sign up for drafting at my high school. Don’t misunderstand my motives. I wasn’t doing this to make a statement for womanhood. This is where I wanted to be. I am not quite like the other girls. Looking over my shoulder, I felt doubt following me down the hall. My rebellion against the status quo could be taking things too far. Am I ready for this? Are the boys on the opposite side of this large slab of pale wood ready for this? The once ordinary classroom door I walked towards had become a behemoth to the eyes of my tenuous self-esteem. My practical nature calmed my nerves with reason. This is where I wanted to be. Conviction strengthened my spine as I stood as tall as my 5’6” frame would allow and pushed the door open with an air of what I hoped would appear as confidence.
The room was immediately filled with questioning faces as boyish attitudes were fired in my direction.
“Home Ec is down the hall,” instructed the self-elected spokesman for the group. I smiled and gave the humor a nod of appreciation. I had not entered the room unprepared; shields were up and ready to deflect. The teacher quieted the boys and got down to the business of drafting. His job was not to defend me that day or any other day of class. If I wanted to be here, then I had to pursue that desire with unwavering certainty and stand strong on my own behalf.
No one knows me better than me. The boys didn’t see the nervous anxiety hiding in the pit of my stomach waiting for doubt to create an opening through which it could swallow my conviction. Glancing around the room, my deflection shield was reinforced by the awareness that the boys were not privy to the knowledge that kept my doubt at bay. There was much we had to learn about each other.
My thoughts returned to a little girl’s room inside the three-bedroom brick house on 9th Street. Chairs confiscated from the dining room were precisely positioned to form the double door perfect for making a grand entrance into my sheet mansion. My creation was not merely a tent, but a house, a home. Have a cup of tea in the dining room, read a book in the living room or retire to the bedroom for a brief nap. A creative textile masterpiece, until Mom’s zoning regulations, required the chairs be returned to the dining room and the bed be restored to its intended purpose.
Fast forward a few years and my parents decided to build a house. Perusing a myriad of house plans, my mind envisioned walking up the front steps through the doorway into the living room. Hanging out in my bedroom, waking to breakfast in the kitchen, and sitting down to family dinners in the dining room. The lines on the page became walls in my mind. Windows allowed sunshine to flood the rooms. My mind descended the stairs into the basement that was divided into long thin rectangles. The basement was wrong, too confining, and dysfunctional.
With an assurance comparable to that of an adult working in the construction industry, I asked my dad, “Can the basement be opened up into an L-shaped room for a combination TV area and rec room?” Dad did not dismiss my suggestion based on my age or sex. Dad was a more progressive thinker than any of us gave him credit for back then. He shared my idea with the professionals and, voila! An I-beam was installed to carry the weight of the structure and the open concept L-shaped basement became a reality. The basement was fixed.
Blueprints are intoxicatingly interesting to me. Furniture layouts and traffic paths advance into view as I visualize the space coming to life with people going about their day-to-day activities.
The boys of the drafting class didn’t know the history of me. They didn’t know that I had made a model of a house plan in that home economics class down the hall. Mine was off a foot somewhere. It was wrong and wrong was unacceptable. Wrongs must be fixed. I needed to figure out how to do it right and where better to do that than drafting class. As nervous and out of place as I felt that first day, I knew this was exactly where I belonged.
The boys of the drafting class didn’t know who I was that first day. Our journey together began, and we learned much about each other. It was okay that they frequently took my eraser and passed it around the room. I rarely needed the eraser anyway. I earned respect from the boys and myself by being one of the top students in the class. We all worked through the awkward uneasiness of uncharted territory and found our way together. I was never quite like the other girls and the drafting boys came to accept my uniqueness.
No, I didn’t become an architect or an interior designer. The apprehension hiding in the pit of my stomach escaped through a slit of doubt cut by the fear of failure and lack of faith in my own power to succeed. Too timid to pass the pilot car guiding me toward a more traditional fit for a woman, I stayed in the slow steady lane of practicality. I have taken the scenic route a few times, drawing up house plans and constructing family homes three times. Incorporating my functional interior design style into my homes has been a fun and rewarding hobby.
“Home Economics is down the hall.” Yeah, I know where Home Ec is. I’m good at that, too. The brick house on 9th Street was not just the architectural birthplace of sheet mansions. It was also the origin of culinary delights served piping hot from my olive-green Easy Bake Oven and I know my way around a sewing machine, too. I don’t have to pick one or the other. Success doesn’t have to live in only one passion per lifetime. As I follow my next dream, I hope I learn from my youth and remind myself to keep doubt securely stowed away as I move into the left lane, push down on the pedal, and pass those skeptics placing rejection on the road to my success.
Those skeptics don’t know the history of me … yet.