Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Consider it part of the relationship...

I live to love, but love to hate.

This sentence has become somewhat of a mantra as I’ve delved further into the Architecture world. And I think there are more than a few out there who feel the exact same way.

When I was young, I didn’t see myself as an architect, even though some of my friends now say it was an obvious future path. I was sketching out designs for buildings on napkins, on the back of homework assignments, on scrap pieces of paper while waiting for a class to end. Back then, I didn’t see it as my future, only as something to make down time in high school go by a little bit faster. But here I am.

During my undergraduate years, I was constantly struggling to define how I felt towards the field. There was something that drew me to the work, a fatal attraction that I recognized, even though I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. And, even when I had convinced myself that architecture wasn’t for me, when I was presented with a prime opportunity to jump ship, pack up and leave it all, I found myself resisting. I found myself choosing to go back.

At first I thought it was the challenge – I was conquering something new, something foreign – and I used this argument to convince myself to stay. I couldn’t quit, because if I did, I was a failure. And I don’t fail.

I have friends who would gladly own up to this mindset. We told ourselves that, while we might not want to be future architects, we couldn’t stop now, not mid-way through. And after second year, and third year, and fourth year, when you reach fifth year, you convince yourself it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing because you are too far in, too close to bother turning back. You repeat it to yourself after each semester, and soon it makes sense, even if you don’t want it to.

There are many reasons why only half of my first-year class made it to graduation. Some realized very quickly that this wasn’t what they wanted to do. Others decided that, even though they liked what they were doing, they weren’t going to do well, and ventured to other fields. A couple of classmates were told they wouldn’t do well and asked to leave. But, for the most part, those who left did so on their own accord. And, with those classmates that I kept in contact, not one regretted their decision.

Those that stayed, despite their concerns, were more than likely, like me, to occasionally reflect upon their decision. Those of us who weren’t one-hundred percent convinced of our place in architecture rarely had the solid confidence of those that left. We would eventually have a moment where we would once again ask ourselves incredulously, “why are we still here?” We couldn’t say definitely that, “yes…I am glad I stayed.” We would still hesitate when asked about our motivations to study architecture. I know I still do.

Amongst those whose unwavering confidence in their professional choice is, at times, frightening in its immovability, I find myself feeling rather alone. My hesitation is almost blasphemous. How could I not be committed, heart, mind and soul?

While this is unlikely true, I felt that, by questioning myself, I had marked myself, marginalized myself. I didn’t love my work, didn’t sacrifice myself the way others purported to. I wasn’t constantly reading new theory, the latest Architectural Record, familiar with the IT architects of the moment. I was engrossed in the work of studio, but not the culture of it, and in turn, the culture of architecture school. And because I wasn’t die-hard, I felt that somehow mad me a bad architect.

Maybe it is related to the starving artist syndrome – the idea that, as an artistic profession, your passion for the subject matter should drive you onward, should consume you. And maybe this is just a personal complex. But it sits with me, weighs on me. I feel like an imposter at times, a dilettante floating among a sea of experts, all waiting to show me my place, cut me down to size. And, while they intimidate me, with their over-bloated vocabularies, their cavernous libraries of references, they also make me want to dig in, and put up a good fight. Not only because I want to show them up, but because, somehow, I like what I do, even though I can’t explain why. I like the drawing, the modeling, the looking, the listening. I might even say I love the process, even if I haven’t loved the results, or the resulting professional world that I have come in contact with. And so I stay, and I struggle, and I question. In then end, it still comes down to that fact that I can’t imagine doing something else, even though I hate a lot of what I am doing right now.

Go figure.


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