For Better or Worse
After the past couple of weeks, one question seems pretty appropriate. Why am still here? After all, I’ve had opportunities to escape – leave this frustrating and confusing world for places more, well, logical. But I didn’t, still haven’t. And I can’t help but wonder.
There is always the masochist rationale, which I have to say, just doesn’t pan out for me. I don’t derive a lot of pleasure from pain, so I’ll just leave that one out. There is the god-complex argument, but, well, omnipotence just isn’t one of my personal goals. There is the starving artist syndrome, but if you saw me, starving is not an adjective that you’d probably think of. So, those reasons eliminated, what is left?
After my horrible foray into the world of Architecture, I was ready to walk away. That winter break, I spent most of my time gathering applications for transfer, and, when I returned for my second semester, I had a plan of action. I was going to work hard, lift my grades, and use my new found success to get me somewhere else.
To my surprise, everything went according to plan. Faced with the possibility of no escape, I worked even harder than my first semester, which was a feat, given my already long hours. But I kept at it, the four to five hours of sleep, the overload of credit hours. Fear was my high-octane fuel, and I used it to its greatest advantage.
By mid-semester, I had my applications lined up, my reports ordered, my essays written. I just had one minor problem – recommendation letters. I had one, from my history professor, who, funny enough, wanted me to change my major, and join the ranks of those who researched the past as a way to better define the present. But I needed one from a professor teaching a class in my chosen major. And, well, given my relationship with my first term studio professors, I decided they were out.
That left my current studio professors, a pair who couldn’t be more different in personality. One intimidated me; a perfectionist, he was a great proponent of clarity, rigor, and details. He picked apart our drafted drawings with a fine tooth comb, with even the slightest variation in line density caught by his critical eye. He wasn’t afraid of writing a big fat “F” across something he found unsatisfactory. He was also fair, articulate, and patient. He took time to explain the expectations he had and his own methods for practice. I admired the hell out of him.
The other professor was, well, in one word, fabulous. How else could you describe a refined, silver-haired lady who wore designer frames with ice-blue lenses and drove a Porsche Boxster? She was open-minded, funny, easy to relate to. She lived a life we all dreamed architects should, and made it seem effortless. Needless to say, I also admired the hell out of her. And, I felt I could talk to her. So I did.
As I expected, she was happy to write me a recommendation. But, in asking, I had to, somewhat awkwardly, explain the purpose of the recommendation; I mean, what is the appropriate protocol for asking someone you admire to help you get out of their field of expertise? It’s like telling a French Chef how much you’ve enjoyed their cooking, and then, in the following sentence, absently remarking how much you dislike French cuisine.
My professor was gracious, kind, and lent me an open ear. And, unexpectedly, she told me how surprised she was to hear how I felt. How she had assumed I was enamored with the work, with the profession. How she expected me to roll right along to the end, without hesitation. Needless to say, that was a shock to me.
Whether we admit to it or not, we are all in need of validation at times, especially when we are in doubt of ourselves and our abilities. And, that day, that’s what my professor provided. She was the first person to encourage me, to counter my own assessment of failure. For the first time in that long, first frustrating year of school, I finally felt like I deserved to be there – that I had enough talent to make it through.
I still sent off my applications, and when the semester came to a close, I even packed up everything I owned and shipped it home. But my professor’s words had planted seeds. I never again doubted whether I should be in architecture school, I only doubted if I wanted to be in architecture school. And, ultimately, here I am.
Sure, I am still wondering if I want to do this, if I think the end game is worth the effort. And, yes, this year here, in this program that has confounded me, frustrated me, made me revert to feelings of inadequacy not felt since that fateful first year, has challenged my desire to maintain a relationship with this profession I’ve invested so much time into. But, that comes with the territory. What is that quote…“this too, shall pass”.
So why am I still here? Is there an answer? I can’t place my finger on it, yet. Hopefully, one day soon. But, this much I know. I will forever be grateful to my professor for that one gift she gave me: the confidence to push forward, for better or worse.