Carmen Sutton, 44, is a builder. She lives in Ashburton with her partner, Frith.
Join us through March as a diverse group of New Zealanders share what makes them happy.
I think I’ve always been a happy sort of person. I was just born that way. I have a twin sister and she’s the opposite. She struggles with depression, but I’m happy and cheery and I just get on with things.
My reading and writing were never that good when I was growing up. I was never a book person and I always did physical jobs. When I was in my late 30s I decided I wanted to become a builder. I got help with my reading and writing because I wanted to go to polytech and I knew I’d have to do paperwork. I was diagnosed with dyslexia and Irlin syndrome, which means it’s hard for me to read black print on white paper. Going through Seabrook McKenzie and getting a tutor was one of the best things I could have done. It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was great for me.
Even so, going to polytech was hard. I’d be crying over my homework at night because I couldn’t understand it. I’d be tearing my hair out. We had tests each week and I’d be nervous as, but I got through it and I ended up second top in my class. I was passionate and I had that drive. Doing a builder’s apprenticeship at 40 is pretty out there, most people would say, ‘bugger that!’ But I thought, ‘bring it on!’
I’m kinaesthetic; I have to be doing something with my hands. If I haven’t got a project on the go I’m not that happy. It doesn’t matter if it takes six months or three years, as long as I’ve got something I can go out and do. I read much more than I used to but I still wouldn’t pick up a book for fun. Books to me are such a big task, whereas I’m happy to read short stories on my smartphone that I know I can get through in five minutes. Reading a novel is just not me.
Work is always work, but when you’re doing something for yourself, there’s something else about it. You can sit back and admire it and know you have done it yourself. I’m always proud of what I’ve done, but when it’s for you it’s special because you know how far you’ve come. Me and my partner Frith have bought a couple of sections in the Sounds and I can’t wait to get up there and start building. Knowing what I can accomplish now makes me feel really proud of myself.
Frith and I met in a gay bar in Christchurch. We’ve been together for 12 years and our 10-year civil union anniversary will be in December. We’ve done lots together. Frith struggles with depression, which is one of the reasons that we are shifting to the Sounds, because that’s her happy place. I think you have to follow your dreams in life. There’s no point in worrying what other people think, you have to do what makes you happy. I’m lucky because my dream was always to build my own house. I’d be happy to stay and do it here, but I’ve realised that I can build a house anywhere. If I can build one in a place where she feels happy, then that’s all that matters to me.
As told to Lucy Corry.
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