Stilettos for Steel Toe Boots

By:  Talyn Terzian-Gilmour

I’m trading in my stilettos for steel toe boots. What can I say?  Stilettos have been a staple in my closet for as long as I’ve been on a career path. Whether I’ve collected them because while wearing them, I could imagine myself to be a high-rolling international spy or diplomat, or whether I needed them for a once-in-a-lifetime event, or more likely, to match my RW & Co. or Banana Republic suit for my high-flying downtown job – stilettos were part of my uniform.

It’s been over 4 years since I left my downtown skyscraper and since then, my collection has changed in composition – a few more flip flops and sneakers, sandals and ballet flats yet, I’ve managed to add the odd black jeweled or gold snakeskin high heels (they are my absolute favourites and wearing them always transports me to my spirit era – the time of glitter, big hair and disco, and the start of MTV).

Now, the latest addition to my collection:  Steel Toe Boots.

A little over two months ago, my father approached me and said:

Dad: “Daughter, I’ve watched how well you manage all of your commitments – your volunteer work, etc.”

Me: **Beaming with pride because I’m an addict for praise** “Thanks dad.”

Dad: “You’ve done an excellent job caring for your family – your children, your husband, your mom and me.” 

Me: **I know, I know, there’s no one quite like me – keep that praise coming** “Uh-huh.”

Dad: “But it’s time. You’re coming to work with me.”

Me: **GULP**

For those of you who don’t know, my family is made up of a long list of engineers and entrepreneurs who may as well be, engineers – like my dad.  It just so happens, that Mr. Niceguy’s family are also a family of engineers…for the most part.  Permit me some latitude as I indulge (nay, brag). Oftentimes, when I’ve had a brainchild about how to put something together, how to fix something, or how to create, I declare, “should’ve been an engineer.”  It’s in my blood. I think the ability to look at something, break it all apart in one’s mind, and then put it all back together so that it is comprehensible, maintainable, and better than what it was before is a true gift.  One that I’ve often claimed to have but now this is for real!  This is real life and I’M NOT AN ENGINEER!!!  I’m hardly an ENTREPRENEUR!  The last time I tried to sell something on Kijiji I ended up practically hyperventilating from all the stress of potentially being accosted by an axe murderer! Let me tell you I was not thinking about what the extra $50 would buy me…or what empire I might build with it.

No.  I’m a lottery ticket buyer (but only when the prize is big), a finger crosser, a day dreamer and my greatest discovery last year was that I’m the best number 2 you could ever ask for.  Unless of course, we’re in an emergency situation – like a subway stuck on the tracks or a power outage – then I’m the one you want to follow because I know how to stay CRAZY calm…so long as someone else is freaking out.

Still, I had to go to work. My dad was not in any negotiating mood. He laid it out at my feet without so much as a question as to whether I agreed with his plan or not. He had absolute faith in me. And his first instruction, “you’ll need a pair of steel toe boots.”

We’ve all heard that adage – “To understand someone you must first walk a mile in their shoes” – or some version thereof.  Now I was being asked to walk a mile in steel toe boots. Try as I might to represent myself, like buy a cute pair maybe with a little bit of pink or with a little bit of bling, I scoured the town (ok, two stores neither of which were in a mall because where on EARTH does one find, budget approved, cute steel toe boots?).  Let’s just say that try as I might, there is NO SUCH THING.

Before I knew it, I was wearing said not-so-cute steel toe boots, was strapped into a giant orange and yellow safety vest, with a gigantic white hard hat on top of my head (FYI, no hairstyle can tame the look of a white safety helmet hovering on top of your skull), and climbing on top of buildings with no walls, no safety rails, and certainly no elevators.

It was pure magic.

While I’ve never felt more out of my element than the moment I stepped out of my dad’s car at the construction site in that getup, on top of the roof of that soon-to-be medical building, I was part of creation. I was part to something new. And I could practically reach up and touch the sky. 

For years I would point out company signs to my kids and tell them, “mommy got that company the money to build a new factory” or “mommy devised the plan for that university to get all those students a new residence building.”  I would point to different landmarks around town taking pride in the work I did from behind a computer in my tall, glittering skyscraper. And now, for the first time in a long time, I was given the opportunity to take pride in the actual guts of the buildings that continue to grow in our city…from ground zero.

So…this is all new. Every day, my brain expands just a little bit more. Every day, I learn a little bit more. Every day, I walk a little bit further in my steel toe boots. And while the best part of the job is sharing an office with my own superhero, I will declare that despite it all, the stilettos will continue to make an appearance in this new chapter.