“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I can’t recall the first time I held a hammer. It must have been in Dad’s basement workshop where I spent much of my childhood making things: a gymnastics set for my dolls, a birdhouse for Mother’s Day, a bed for my room. It was definitely before I was ten, when I asked for my very own black toolbox—filled with real tools—for Christmas.

My project-rich childhood laid the foundation for a lifelong passion for envisioning and creating something out of nothing. With time and experience, the scale of what I could build increased. I made cardboard models in architecture school. I studied the details of how building materials are made and used. I stood atop scaffolding in historic buildings in the middle of renovation.

Hard hats became my uniform; pink steel-toed boots, my signature.

I will wear my hat and boots with confidence and optimism. In a society that often views my chosen career as “man’s work,” I will stand tall as a woman. In an economy obsessed with data and dividends, I will create tangible things. And in a world that desperately needs more bridges built—rather than burned—I will be here, holding my hammer.

— Annie Fulton