Let us get personal
Allow me to divulge.
Some secrets about me
Why I am who I’ve become.
One time when I was fifteen
I went to an underage party.
The cops had been called
Everyone decided to run.
My drunk and stupid-ass
Hid foolishly in plain sight.
Two uniformed police officers
Told me to get in their car.
I was so belligerent
Yelling at the male officer.
The entire car ride home
I yelled obscenities at him.
The female police officer
Told me that this felt personal.
She quieted me down
With her calm and gentle voice.
Her stern and stoic voice
Reminded me of who I was.
Of how utterly embarrassed
That I was to have this happen.
They drove me home
Knocked on my door.
Talked with my sister
Told her what happened.
They told her to tell my parents
Who had been out on a date-night.
They didn’t want to wait
They had other things to do.
My parents did not know
That I was at an underage party.
The entire situation
Was completely out of character.
Just like many other people
Who make one stupid mistake.
But that one stupid mistake
Ends up costing others their lives.
“I am so sorry, I’m an idiot,”
I said to the police while I sat there.
The vodka had me spinning
Oscillating between panic and nausea.
The female officer spoke some more
I hope she knows she made a difference.
“You remind me of my sister,”
“Please, watch what you are doing!”
“If something happened to her,”
“I’d never forgive myself,”
“I know your sister feels the same,”
“She would be devastated, too.”
The look on my sister’s face
Told me she wasn’t wrong.
I was not taken in
I was not charged.
I was not hurt
I was not handcuffed.
I was reprimanded much worse
By my own parents later on.
The entire experience
Made me re-think my ways.
It affected my entire future
I thought twice after that experience.
At the time, I did not know
That I held a certain privilege.
Those two cops were nice
They were also white like me.
Would it have been different?
If the colour of my skin was?
It illuminated for me
Exactly what privilege is.
Some middle-class white girl
Who deserved a second chance.
Some people are robbed of that
Other races are robbed of that.
What will I do, then?
With that second chance?
I will write to the world
About how I received one.
About how everybody should
Be treated like someone’s sister.
Father, brother, mother or friend
We are all human beings.
Now let us fast-forward
To my working student life.
Part-time minimum wage jobs
Where people treated me like shit.
Not just me, either
But my coworkers, too.
We worked in a coffee shop
Inside of a big shopping mall.
People regularly disrespected
All of us that worked there.
My favorite request from a customer
Was to talk to my manager about me.
Because I refused to serve them
If they talked to me that way.
I would gladly tell them my name
Knowing my manager would support me.
She did not believe in the rule
Where the customers were right.
She believed in the other rule:
Treat one another with dignity.
“If you cannot follow that,”
“We do not want you in our store.”
I took her leadership example
Bringing it with me to my career.
Fast-forward some more time
I work in steel manufacturing.
As a female millwright apprentice
I’m considered a minority in industry.
My goal is to make change there
By acting as a positive influence.
Traditionally, it is straight white men
Who obtain the role I hold at work.
Steel-making is known to be rough, historically
Attracting the biggest of the brutes for work.
There were so many advancements
That new opportunities were created.
Allowing people like me and others to work
With the aid of technology and upgraded tools.
The culture is much different now
Than it was way, way back then.
In comes me, a young, petite millwright apprentice
Who reminded some men of their daughters.
My presence also affronted industry history
That some wished adamantly to preserve.
Conversations upon conversations
Justifying why I should be there.
Trying to tell them that I can
While they looked at me like: “No!”
The majority of guys are good
They taught me what they knew.
The ones who were offended
Were the hardest mentors on me.
Giving me the shittiest jobs
Trying to prove me wrong.
I took it all in stride and kept smiling
Because there will be others after me.
I’ve had uncomfortable conversations
So that hopefully they don’t have to.
Knowing that I can’t change the world
But that I can directly influence my own.
“This industry is not a place for women,”
Is an actual, real-life quote said to me.
Someone asked me if I was gay, once
When I shaved my hair into a pixie cut.
I did it because long hair and hard-hats
Can be a very annoying combination.
My company policies are strict
Immediately people apologize.
Perhaps not because they’ve offended me
But because they’re scared of HR.
“But you’re not that kind of girl,”
“The one who runs to HR,” they say.
I will if you’re still an asshole
After I tell you to cut it out.
But I have yet to approach HR
Because conversations do work.
Knock on wood, at least
From the ones that I have had.
There has never been a recurrence
Once I illuminate the issue.
Most people just do not know
They have been blinded for years.
Complacent or “brought-up that way”
Though neither are good excuses.
It’s that no one has said “Hey, man!”
“What you’re saying makes you sound dumb!”
Instead, they were afraid
Of becoming the next target.
Jokes on you, racist bigots!
2020 is our tower year.
We are re-shaping our world
The enlightened people have had enough.
Our silence did not work
So now we’re screaming loudly.
My workplace culture is improving daily
It is very, very tolerant and diverse.
Seemingly reflective of our society
Making the necessary adjustments in time.
Those backwards, prehistoric thinkers
Who speak disrespectfully are gone.
Replaced with eager youths
Who have been taught better.
Because we are working upon them
Changing what is acceptable behavior.
Because we have been taught
That the future is our responsibility.
The lives of our children
Depend on what we do now.
We are calling out for change
Following it through with action.
Having the conversations
To illuminate inappropriate behavior.
It can be uncomfortable
It can be anxiety-inducing.
It is important to know
Where your boundaries lie.
Will you get hurt?
If you speak out?
Will others be hurt?
If you remain silent?
We must govern ourselves
To act like the leaders.
To act like the leaders
That we want to lead us.
Then we will see
Change start to happen.
No one is truly immune
To the wrath of strangers.
Whether real life or social media
There is always that one guy.
Remember who you are
Remember who you affect.
We are snowballing ourselves
Creating a giant enlightened world.
Eventually sweeping the people
Into one big ball of acceptance.
Acceptance and praise of uniqueness
Of the qualities that makes us human.
Because at the end of the day
We are all human beings.
It is time
We are here.
As we oscillate between love and war
Which future do you choose?
Kaila A. Notto
Copyright © The Mindful Millwright 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Let us get personal