When I post a new photo
On my public Instagram
With tools or mechanical items
People first think I’m a scam

Why does she wear that makeup?”
“Why does she look like that?”
“At least remove the identification”
“Take off your big hard hat

We are embarrassed for you”
“You surely aren’t in trades”
“Take off that silly photo”
“Quit collecting accolades”

The thing that you don’t realize
And this comes straight from me
That behind every new selfie
Is a person you don’t see

You haven’t seen me working
In the bottom of my mill
Holding measurement tools for my mentor
Or using my own drill

I’ve been inside a furnace
And a caster; up high too
I’ve seen inside a blast furnace
I ask you, please, have you?

I’ve hammered my hands plenty
I’ve got the scars to show
But I paint my nails a bright pink
So maybe you won’t know

Perhaps you don’t know me
But my writing will help that
Before you judge my photos
With me in a hard hat

Been working for so long now
It’s been almost a decade
I do it for the ones still trying
I will collect those accolades

To show that we can do it
To show we’re not the same
So the only thing you’re doing
Is showing me that you are lame

The lame ones judge too quickly
They can be real harsh, too
They say “Stop using hashtags!
For the words Millwright Apprentice too

I’ve earned those two damn titles
I’ve come such a long way
I worked my ass off for years
To make it in the skilled trades

It’s a lot harder for women
We are not built as strong
But that absolutely doesn’t mean
That my career is wrong

It took me a lot longer
To pass the physical test
Because I’m small in stature
Unlike all of the rest

I couldn’t lift the weight up
It felt as heavy as me
But something amazing happened
On my try number three

I passed the test the third time
It was my final try
I was so happy that day
That all I did was cry

I’d make it like the others
The guys who worked as hard
To land our apprenticeships
And to start working the yard

We went to change equipment
We all learned as a team
And then we graduated
From mechanical engineering

The technician program, mind you
We are way more hands on
But we can read mechanical drawings
That the engineers have drawn

At first I was intimidated
Steel-making’s very rough
The guys were big and scary
And I thought that they’d be tough

They were the nicest ever
I’d never had such fun
They’d show me how equipment worked
And sent me for tool runs

I learned all my foundation
From my apprenticeship
But now I am a planner
While pregnant, I jumped ship

I jumped into an office
Because I did not know
How the mill environment would affect
My growing embryo

We are still learning these things
But it’s not to say it’s unsafe
We keep our standards very high
And strict practices in place

So women who fall pregnant
Like what happened to me
Saw me rework my millwright career
To accommodate pregnancy

I will be licensed one day
I have not given up
But I need the flex time offered
By my new office setup

My career may look real different
Than the average apprentice
But I’ve been working and in school
For as long as I have lived

I went to Brock U first
Got my B.A. in Sociology
And then into the skilled trades
At Mohawk College in Stoney Creek

My education and experience
Are what have got me here
So if you’re worried about university
Because you’re not like all your peers

I’ll never use this paper”
“That I paid thousands for”
Trust me that one day soon
It will open up a door

That paper allowed me to progress
In ways that I couldn’t see
It equipped me with the skills
Required for computer proficiency

I have a real good skill-set
My employers tell me this
When they offer me my raises
And every time there’s a bonus

It pays off to work really hard
And work through all that fear
It kept me so confined once
I was unable to hear

I’m living my true passion
Manufacturing is a dream
Because I can keep learning
Though these days I’m very clean

Of course there’s grease and grit
It’s the trades for goodness sakes
But when I take a photo
I’ve washed my god damn face

I’ve removed all the aggression
From holding impact guns
I try to show the other side
And I’m nowhere close to done

I don’t look that glam at work
If it’s the makeup that you’re scolding
Please know that honey, you can bet
I know all about the tools I’m holding

Don’t @ me with your nonsense
I’ll throw a wrench at you
I’m trying to show other people
That you can persevere through

Through judgement like some offer
With each new selfie I post
But I’ll refer them here now
And perhaps turn them to ghosts

I look forward to more writing
About all sorts of things
From my career in the skilled trades
To mental health and all that brings

Thank you so much for reading
I appreciate the support
Until next time, my friends
To my toddler I report

I recite this poem on YouTube here.

Copyright © The Mindful Millwright 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Published by The Mindful Millwright

Kaila A. Notto

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