So, I posted my article the other day about taking another exam - I got the results today (shockingly, since I took the test less than a week ago and they told me to expect to wait 4-6 weeks for results)…
This winter has felt like it’s lasted FOR-EV-ER. I know it’s still February and I shouldn’t complain, but I’m really tired of cold weather. It’s got me down. We got teased last week with a couple of days where the temperatures got into the 50s (close to 60 on Saturday), and those were great, but now we’re right back into mid 20s for high temperatures and dealing with snow and ice all over the place. It’s making me wish we could take a vacation someplace warm. Unfortunately, the family is way to busy right now to pick up and go somewhere warm. My wife is working again (yay!) and loves her job, but has been there less than 6 months, so it’s hard for her to get time off. My job has been steadily increasing in volume for the past few months - so that’s great, but a vacation would be nice. Our sons are all busy with school and in turn keeping us busy trying to make sure they stay current on their assignments (side note - why does it feel like when they get homework, we get homework?)
I haven’t had much time to write into this internet journal - but to get things caught up from the last [real] entry in May of last year:
I’m still here - things have been very hectic for the past few months. Work has been steady - we’re all working harder than ever (still not getting as much new work as we’d hope, but trying). The office is relocating tomorrow to a smaller space in reaction to the lack of growth we’ve experienced. It’s always exciting to move, but always stressful at the same time. Trying to pack for a move while still maintaining daily work responsibilities is trying, but we’re all managing.
I’m moving forward with registration exams - I passed another earlier this month and am scheduling the next one for the end of June. Hopefully I’ll go three for three.
Lots going on, not a lot of time to write. I hope to pick this back up soon and not go 8 months between posts!
6 to go… I got my first pass letter yesterday for the CDS portion of the ARE. Needless to say, that was an exhilarating moment to open the envelope and see that my efforts were not in vain. Now on to the next section - Programming, Planning, Practice. I have a feeling these things will get progressively more difficult just because things will start to run together. BUT at least now, I’ve got the experience of one under my belt - combined with the confidence from passing.
Last Saturday, I gained valuable experience: I took my first section of the Architecture Registration Exam (ARE) - the first of seven. I feel like I did okay - I left the testing center with a feeling of, uh, relief - I guess that’s the best way to describe it. I had plenty of time to double check my answers on the multiple choice portion and triple check my graphic vignette solution. I guess that either means I did well; or maybe really had no clue what I was doing. I hope it’s the former.
The best part though is that pass or fail, I know now what the experience is like. I will be able to go to my next exam and take it with the little bit of confidence that comes with experience. So, as soon as I can afford it - the programming, planning, practice section of the series… And hopefully I’ll be writing here in a couple weeks about getting my first pass letter!
Ok architecture peeps - it’s time for me to take the plunge and start taking exams… Obviously that makes me nervous - I hate taking tests. But getting past the psychology of it, I want to ask advice on the recommended studying techniques and ordering the exams. None of the sections stands out to me as a particularly easy one but things like structural systems have always been hard for me (I get the basic concepts but the math always throws me).
So, I would like feedback and advice if you’re willing. Anything and everything will be considered, short of telling me “don’t do it!” (‘cause I’m way past that point…)
I’m committed and due to my family schedule I’m giving myself what I think is a realistic goal of 14 months to complete the exams… Unless I hear that I’m crazy for expecting to do that.
It’s my first slow afternoon in weeks (although it feels like months). I have a couple of shop drawings to review, but really just feel like taking a nap under the desk, Costanza style. Doesn’t help that the cold weather decided to show up at the exact same time as the blower in the heat pump of the office decided to go out, so it’s been crazy cold in the office all week. I think I spent all my energy just by my body trying to keep itself warm, not to mention still recovering from whatever illness I had over the weekend…
Needless to say, this afternoon is dragging. I would like to head home for the day, but I really want to leave early tomorrow instead, so I’m working through it… just using the blog as a momentary respite for my brain.
While the time has flown by, the end of the year snuck up on me. I can’t believe we’re a little more than 3 weeks away from 2012. I’ve still got 3 vacation days to use in 2011, since we can’t carry them over and accumulate them, so I foresee some short weeks coming up.
I like the idea of Christmas, but don’t really like the reality of the Christmas season for the simple reason that it’s become such a hassle for me and my family. It’s like everything speeds up - we always have good intentions of doing the things that people do during the holidays: bake cookies, visit friends & family, go on excursions to view holiday decorations, send cards, etc… But somehow we end up scrapping half of our plans just due to lack of time to do it all. There are now two weekends between now and Christmas. We have done very little in the way of those planned family experiences. This weekend is already booked with company Christmas parties - one tomorrow night and one Saturday night. The following weekend is not booked yet, but I would bet dollars to donuts that we’ll be using that to catch up on some last minute Christmas shopping. And that (I think) is what really takes me out of the Christmas spirit - shopping. I hate shopping to begin with - I’m a guy - but during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, I feel especially Grinchy if I have to step foot in any establishment that is not a grocery store (and even those get bad). It’s not necessarily the act of shopping, it’s the other people that bother me.
Starting on Thanksgiving Day (thanks, retailers, for ruining that day and starting door-buster sales then - couldn’t just stick to Black Friday?) everyone seems to forget what the hell it means to be a decent human being for the last 6 weeks of the year. It’s like Lord of the Flies rules have defined shopping during the holiday season - “Jack was the first to make himself heard. He had not got the conch and thus spoke against the rules; but nobody minded”. Every year, without fail, we hear stories of people getting trampled at the doors to stores, fights breaking out, and this year a woman pepper sprayed a crowd to get into a store faster. "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" People just devolve into these primitive savages while pushing through the crowd to get that last sale item that nobody really needs; the giant TV that is ridiculously cheap, the hot toy of the year, one of the limited-stock of flavor-of-the-minute gadget, etc. And mostly they just have to have these things only so they can brag to their friends: “I got Johnny a new XXXX - you know the things that just came out?”
I long for a time when it wasn’t about getting all these shiny new things to give people - when the thought truly was what counted when it came to gift giving - not keeping up with the Jones’… Unfortunately I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
If you don’t recognize the quote from the title of the post and the ones used above from Lord of the Flies by William Golding, I highly recommend reading it - it was one of the best books I remember reading in school…
So, I know you’ve been breathlessly awaiting my next entry in my blog and I’ve let you down the last few weeks (has it been months?).
Wait. That would imply that I have regular readers. And I’m not sure I do. If I do have regular readers, thank you for taking the time to see my voice.
I started this blog to document my progress toward reaching my goal of becoming a fully registered architect. I’m making progress (got my letter from Prometric in the mail yesterday with my testing number on it), but in the process, work has gotten kind of busy and - as usual - home life is busy. I would like to be able to take more time to update this site with ground shaking thoughts and musings, but at this point, I just don’t have the energy to put in the work.
I am going to try to keep updating this web-log (did you know that’s why it’s called ‘blog’?) but if you actually do read this regularly, don’t go thinking I’m dead or anything if you don’t hear from me for months at a time…
So, that being said, have a Happy Halloween next week!
So, in addition to today being my youngest son’s fourth birthday, congratulations are in order: my sister and brother-in-law welcomed their first child (and my first niece) Hadley Jeanne into the world this afternoon! Can’t wait to go meet the new addition to our family.
Now I guess I have to follow through on the promise I made to my sister that if she had a girl, I was buying her an Architect Barbie… baby’s first Christmas present?
If you really want privacy, how do you ensure that? My answer would be that you can never truly have it.
Privacy is something that is hard to define - to one person, privacy is thinking that only they know ATM pin code, so they don’t tell anyone what it is - not even a spouse; to someone else privacy may mean they can sunbathe without their neighbors ogling them, so they put up a so-called ‘privacy fence’. In either case, that privacy is an illusion. Even if you never tell your pin code to another human being, the bank has it on record - and could access it if they chose to do so. Anytime you’re outdoors, you can’t expect privacy - if the sun can shine on you, someone, somewhere can see you if they try hard enough.
However, with varying definitions of privacy, it’s hard to say what it actually entails.
We get bombarded with privacy notices in daily life; from our banks saying that they won’t sell our information to outside sources; we have to sign a privacy notice at the doctor’s office stating that we understand the HIPAA laws; and then there are tons of privacy notices on the internet whenever you use a webpage that might include information about yourself - all notices that nobody really reads… or maybe that’s just me. All these “statements of privacy” are to make us feel secure about giving out information that we feel should be protected. Do we really think that they are looking out for our interests though (maybe in the HIPAA case, yes)? In these cases, privacy involves information about our identity - much like the ATM pin code I mentioned above, it’s something that we feel is personal and only known to us (and our bank or doctor or to Facebook); until it’s not due to an information leak. Then we cry “invasion of privacy!” Which may be legally true, but the fact that we provided the information first means that we made it somewhat public. The only way to truly keep something private is to never let it leave your own mind. Then, as long as we don’t have Inception-style idea thieves out there, information can really be private.
Physical privacy is a whole other issue. People like the illusion of privacy through separation - like a disconnection of the senses. In buildings, people want screens, barriers, and filters to shield visually and acoustically, creating a sense of varying levels of privacy. This essentially is part of an architect’s job. In designing buildings, we have to take into account how an individual can have a space feel ‘private’ but still exist within a larger public realm. So, while you may feel at ease to walk around your bedroom with nothing but your birthday suit on because it’s ‘private’, you’re only within a compartment of a public space (the world around you) and you can’t control what’s going on outside of your private compartment’s walls. Every form of screening and filtering we use to create a sense of individual privacy has its limitations. In order to create these screens for privacy, we need to think of all the possibilities for the ‘invasion of privacy’ and sometimes, we just can’t anticipate the lengths some people go to in order to violate other’s sense of privacy - some people are just sick, and will go to extremes to get a thrill. The privacy fence mentioned at the beginning of this post does a good job of obscuring the view of others when they are on ground level, but as soon as your next door neighbor is standing on their second floor looking out the window, they can see almost everything that happens within the bounds of the fence - and the only way to avoid it is through some methods that could defeat the purpose of trying to sunbathe outside (you could plant some really big shade trees to block views from above, or you could do something totally crazy and build a dome over the back yard - either way you’re not getting your sunbathing in). We could all build medieval castles I suppose, with moats and draw bridges and giant stone walls to make us feel safe inside them because nobody could get in or see in without our knowledge, but that doesn’t work so well to create a neighborly feeling on the street. Plus, the Jones’s down the street will build a taller wall than everyone else, and before you know it, Joe Smith is going to try to keep up with them or outdo it by building an even taller tower on his castle just to prove he can… and we’re right back where we started until the planning commission and zoning board get involved, and we all know how much everyone loves them.
Sorry, I got a little side tracked… Bottom line is, being in a small compartment within the larger public space means you can’t control what happens outside of your small compartment - you can only work within your property lines (and within the zoning code) to limit your visual/acoustic exposure to all that’s happening around you.
As with almost everything in life, moderation is key. For some people, living in a glass box would be fine, and for others, there’s never enough cover to feel comfortable and private. However, I can’t see how living in a windowless box that completely isolates one from the world is any kind of living.
I remember hearing on the radio, while on my way into work (woke up late that morning) that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers and that there was a fire. I remember thinking, without knowing the scope of the damage and the way the DJ was talking about it, that it must have been a small plane and an accident. After all, until that point in my life, I didn’t think much about planes getting hi-jacked - it had happened but not hardly ever in the US. And even when planes were hi-jacked other places, they weren’t usually intentionally crashed - the hi-jackers usually had some demands that they wanted to be met. So I drove along not giving much a thought to what happened, parked my car, and was about to turn it off when the DJ said, “Wow, we are hearing that another plane just hit the other tower!” and I thought that was bizarre, but I still thought it was just a weird accident. So, I was in downtown Cincinnati at that point, and waiting for the shuttle from the parking lot to take me to the center of the city and my office and a guy waiting for the shuttle with me said “did you hear about the WTC? Sounds like we’re under attack by terrorists”. That was the first time that terrorism really crossed my mind - maybe I was naive to not have thought about that, but for whatever reason, I hadn’t.
I got to my office, and it was tough to get any work done. I got a call from my fiancée, asking if I had seen what was happening (I hadn’t - no TVs around, and with everyone trying to access the internet, it was bogged down). She told me how she had access to watch the news and the images on the TV were horrible. My next thought was my friend from school - who was working in NYC on a co-op assignment. We were poor college kids, so no cell phones at the time (although now that I think about it, it might not have worked anyway due to the networks being overwhelmed that day with people trying to contact loved ones) and this was pre-Facebook. He was the only one I had a personal connection to who might have been close to the tragedy. My only way of finding out he was okay was to email him and then wait around for a response. Days later I would hear back from him, saying he too was late for work that day because he had overslept at his Aunt’s house in New Jersey, or he would have probably been stuck in Manhattan with many other people because of the surge of scared people trying to flee the area.
The morning went on and anyone who had a radio at their desk had it on - we all were waiting to hear updates and hear that the fires had been put out. At my office, there was a German exchange student working, and she mentioned that she heard one of the towers had fallen. Again, I wasn’t aware of the extent of the damage, so between my lack of information and the fact that sometimes her English didn’t translate completely, I imagined that maybe she meant pieces of the building were falling off - I couldn’t fathom a whole building of that size falling down from a plane hitting it. I don’t remember how I finally learned that her English was totally correct when she said the building fell down or how I heard about the second building collapse and the crash into the Pentagon and the plane crash in Shanksville, PA… I just remember thinking how scary it all was. Our office was in the Federal Reserve Bank building in downtown Cincinnati - a likely target for terrorists if they decided to hit one in Cincinnati. I couldn’t believe that we weren’t all told to leave. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day - it was a blur of news reports and a general feeling that the whole world just changed.
I do remember hearing how there were other planes that were flying around hi-jacked, beyond the four that crashed. I remember hearing about how one was heading for the White House and the Capitol Building. People were concerned about a plane hitting every major city. It was information like that which stays with me to this day - conflicting reports all morning and throughout the day - causing most of the country to feel confused and fearful that something was happening that we couldn’t control. I will never forget the sadness I felt that day, not only for those that were lost and their families, but for my whole outlook on the world. I was always fairly optimistic to that point: I always believed that people who truly hated the US were a small group and generally were able to be held at bay by our military and that through goodwill and diplomacy we could eventually change their minds. After September 11, I realized that just wasn’t true.
The other night, my family was out running errands in the car. I was listening to the news on NPR, and there was a story about a suicide bombing somewhere in the middle east. While we didn’t think the kids were paying any attention to the radio, our middle son (6 years old) asked my wife “Mom, did that happen close to here, or someplace else?” That question made me realize how different this world is that my kids are growing up in than the one I grew up in. My wife said “when I was 6, I never would have given a thought about something like that” - I agreed, when we were kids, that kind of stuff always happened ‘someplace else’. Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore.
Here, a decade after the events that changed my outlook on the world, I hope that someday, this world will find peace. Until that day comes, I pray for those that lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and all souls lost before and after that due to hatred and ignorance. I will never forget the fear I felt that day, and the anger that developed after that eventually turned to sadness - for both what happened and for the realization that the world is a harsh place - but I hope that someday nobody has to feel that way ever again.
Paraphrasing Lays chips: "Betcha can't [read] just one"
I got my love of reading from my mom - she always has a book that she’s reading. I used to read a lot. That is, when I had time for it. In the past five or six years, I haven’t had as much time to just sit and enjoy a book as I would like. However, before college, I used to read like books were going out of style. (Side note, little did I know back then that books were going out of style - it seems now more people use ‘e-readers’ and iPads to read books than physical books). When I was growing up, I don’t recall my dad ever reading a book for fun. He only read four things that I remember: the newspaper, magazines, technical manuals for the equipment he was using at work (he’s a mechanical engineer), and occasionally an instruction manual for stuff around the house. I used to think how boring that was and how I would never end up that way - I was always going to have a good book to read. I was wrong. It’s not that I lost my love of reading, I just have not been able to find as much time for it as I used to. However, I recently (last spring) read my first recreational book in two and a half years: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.
I loved that book - it encompassed all that I like in a piece of literature. It had suspense, action, mystery, and Architecture… and best of all, it was true, or at least historically accurate. I find it very interesting to read true stories and compare the scenes in the book to how things are done today.
In the book, the architects Burnham and Root make trips to NYC and Boston to meet with other architects about the grand undertaking that was planning the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago… and it takes them days or weeks to make the trip via train or horse and carriage. Now, not only does it only take a few hours to get on a plane and fly from Chicago to Boston or New York, people don’t even need to make the trip - Web-ex video conference anyone?
Burnham lived at the site during the construction of the fairgrounds - even though his family lived in a suburb of Chicago, it would have taken too much time to go home each night. Now, we have construction sites that are hundreds of miles away and we only have to visit occasionally (provided there are reliable contractors working on the project), let alone spend most of our time out there.
While Devil in the White City is the latest book I’ve read and appreciated, it’s so hard to say what’s the best book I’ve ever read. I think for different points in my life, there are different books which would fit that description. As I was beginning to read as a child, Hop on Pop and Red Fish Blue Fish One Fish Two Fish by Dr. Seuss were favorites, and I still love to read them with my kids today as they learn to read. As I grew a little more (probably around ages 8 through 10), the Encyclopedia Brown series and Choose Your Own Adventure series were staples of my reading list. Further down the road into my teens, Beast by Peter Benchley and Jurassic Park held special places for me as I learned to appreciate that science fiction didn’t have to involve blasting off into space or through a time warp or super powers. College brought The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - probably not a surprise given what I career path I had chosen to pursue (what architecture student didn’t wonder while reading about Howard Rourke whether their career would follow his path or Peter Keating’s?).
So, most of my life, I have loved to read and to ask me which one book meant the most to me or was the so-called “best” is almost like asking me to choose which one of my senses I like best. I just can’t imagine narrowing it down to any one that stands above the rest.
In the US, except on the west coast, I don’t think the general public takes seismic design as seriously as architects & engineers do (and are sort of forced to by code). We don’t get shakers like we did on Tuesday all the time, so I think most people think that’s a west coast problem… but it’s probably not a bad idea to design for both extreme wind and seismic events together to make the most durable building we can, every time - not just because code requires it, but because in the long run, our clients will appreciate the way their building will stand the test of time (and the elements).
Tuesday will mark the official (ok, only officially in my household) ending of summer. My kids are heading back to school, and that’s got me reflecting on things.
Summer had a good run - we took the kids to Disney World for the first time (my first time too); they had adventures with their grandparents, and the boys just generally had fun this summer - I hope.
I think they had fun…
We now have a 4th grader and a 1st grader in our house, and our youngest son is starting preschool on Tuesday. They’re all so excited, and I’m excited for them - I don’t ever want them to lose that excitement about starting a new school year or to develop a dread of heading into the classroom - I’m happy that they still find school fun.
The beginning of the school year is both exciting and stressful - we have to get out of our relaxed summer schedules and start running all over the place again. The past two nights have been registration and pictures at school, yesterday morning was registration at preschool. Saturday is registration at the church for PSR (we used to call it CCD when I was a kid) - aka Sunday School. I’ve just volunteered to be on the Emerging Professionals committee for the Columbus AIA, so I’ll have meetings to go to for that. My wife works both a full time and part time job. And our kids (for now) aren’t even into any sports yet during the school year. Trying to juggle the schedule for five of us can be pretty intense for my wife and me. I can’t imagine how it will be as the boys get older and become more socially involved, or how we will handle it. But somehow, through all the excitement that is our schedule, we manage. We flex and bend, but we never break. We make it work. That’s a trait that we hope we are passing on to the boys.
Another thing that I have preached to my oldest son (the only one old enough so far to really get it) is that you’re never done learning - you can always gather more information and you can always do better. There’s no such thing as knowing everything there is to know. I don’t want my kids to ever be satisfied when it comes to learning, I want their thirst for knowledge to drive them to constantly seek out new information. So far, our son is excelling at this. He loves to learn, and I’m very happy about that.
I worry sometimes though that this mindset of always working for more has caused them to think I have unrealistic expectations for them. Our oldest son tries so hard to make sure he does his best and to make his mom and I proud, and as expected, sometimes (as everyone does) he fails at what he’s doing. I don’t want him to feel like he let me down because he failed to do what he set out to do, so I try to balance my preaching of always doing better with the mantra: if you give something your best effort, that’s all I can ask of you. If somehow you fail, you learn from your failure, and that’s how you do better next time.
This is something I have to remind myself a lot - because I feel like I need reminding that I can do better sometimes. If I feel like I’ve given something everything I’ve got and I still haven’t reached the goal, and I tend to feel exhausted. I should feel exhilarated though, because giving it all I’ve got and not succeeding only means that there’s more I could do, and that’s an exciting thought - imagine the possibilities if you can go beyond your preconceived limits! It really helps to make the impossible seem possible; and the mountains that we all have to climb in our daily lives seem a lot less treacherous and a lot more beautiful.
Twenty years from now, I’ll be 51 years old. I’ll have three kids in their mid-twenties (one will be almost 30!). Beyond that, I know nothing else. It’s hard to look to the future and try to predict what will happen. I gave up on that a while ago.
Twenty years ago, I was 11. I had no idea then what I would be doing now, but I knew then that I wanted to be an architect, even though at the time I had no idea what an architect did other than draw buildings. At that point all I knew was just that my grandpa (who studied architecture briefly in college before switching to the dark side - aka engineering) said that I would make a good architect after he had seen an assignment from 1st grade where the teacher asked us to draw our classroom and I unknowingly drew a perspective floor plan - like I was glued to the ceiling looking down, showing the correct layout of the desks and doors and even the ceiling fans that would have been below me in the room - I was told that what I was drew was nice, but it wasn’t the point of the exercise at the time by the teacher, and I vaguely remember thinking, “how else would you draw a room?”. Looking back, I suppose I could have drawn a perspective from the door or an axonometric… but then again, it was first grade. Grandpa died when I was 8 so I never got to ask him any more about it, but architecture stuck with me. I always knew from that point on it was what I wanted to do forever. As I progressed through high school, I kept that goal in mind and when it came time to start making plans after graduation, I narrowed my choices of colleges down based on their architecture schools, with Cincinnati (go Bearcats!) winning out because of the co-op program. Not many other places offered the opportunity to build real world work experience into my education. So, I began my new journey studying architecture, and I remember setting lofty goals for myself (“in 6 years, I’ll have graduated and then 3 years after that, I’ll do whatever I need to do to be a fully licensed architect”.) The first two years were tough - everyone who’s gone through architecture school knows those are the ones they use to weed out the people who don’t really want to be there. It tested me and I doubted myself - maybe I should switch to engineering? But the more I thought about it, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Two years after I started college, I met the girl who would become my wife. We fell in love quickly and everything was going great, and I asked her to marry me after only 6 months of dating (this was February 2001)! That certainly wasn’t part of my plan, but no matter, it was a good detour. We planned a wedding for June of 2002, and everything else just kept moving along as intended.
Then September 11, 2001 came along. I remember feeling angry that someone would do that to us as a nation - so much so that I was ready to take the leap that I had only briefly considered 3 years earlier when thinking about college - the military. I struggled with it internally: what would this mean for my fiancé; what would this do to my plan to become an architect? A month went by and my decision became easier - my fiancé told me she was pregnant. I am not the most coordinated person and I knew that IF I followed through and joined the military, I’d probably be the guy who got killed as soon as I stepped off the plane, and I didn’t want to make an single mother out of my fiancé.
So, 2002 was a special year for me - my first son was born and my wife and I got married. It was at that point, struggling to start our family as 22 year olds, that my career goals got their first reality check. I decided that in order to be the best husband and father that I could be, I needed to bring more income to the table than part time jobs during school were providing; so I decided to forgo the last two years of college which would have provided the ‘professional’ degree I would need to continue on the path to my goal. I had reached a fork in the road, and took the path of (what looked like) least resistance by taking my Bachelor of Science in Architecture and looking for full time work. Staying in school for two more years seemed financially impossible at the time, but looking back we probably could have done it. While I regret that now (as it’s been 9 years since I made that decision and I probably could have been a lot further along to accomplishing my goal had I just stuck it out), I don’t regret the side adventures that occurred along the way.
My wife and I went on to have two more wonderful little boys that we are privileged to spend our time raising, I finally went back to school beginning in 2009 to get my masters degree (that elusive ‘professional’ degree) through the Boston Architectural College and since I finished my degree in January, I am back on track to accomplishing my goal of becoming a licensed architect. I just took the scenic route to get here.
20 years ago, I never would have guessed that by the time I was 31 I’d be married and have three kids. While I’m not exactly where I would have guessed in my career arc, I’m on the way - I have a job (which now a days is an accomplishment in itself) where I work for a great architecture firm that supports me in pursuit of my goals, allows me to learn from great architects, and gives me many opportunities for professional development.
What all that proves is that in 20 years, like I said at the top, I have no idea what I’ll be doing. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way - life would be pretty boring if we all knew exactly where we were headed!
This post is part of a series from #letsblogoff where individual bloggers are given a topic and can then expand on that topic in any direction they see fit. Click the image for more information!
Today was one more step toward my goal of becoming a licensed architect. I sent in all the necessary information for the application to begin my exams yesterday. I got the notice today from the state of Ohio that they received my application and I would hear back when they receive my transcripts and my record from NCARB…
So I mentioned in my last post that I didn’t like that our financial futures are all tied (directly or indirectly) to this foolish game we call the stock market.
On Twitter, I follow Jim Cramer (@jimcramer) - you know, the “Mad Money” guy. Not because I play the stock market, but because I’ve come to believe that he can give an honest assessment of what is actually happening in the stock market and I like to stay informed. So, this morning, he tweeted:
Jim Cramer (@jimcramer) 8/11/11 5:06 AM Just watch gold.. If it stays down we can rally.. the rumor mongers will try to reverse it
That got me thinking… why would anyone want the market NOT to rally? I mean people making money is a good thing for the economy. I guess if you’re totally dependent on gold, then you’d want it to go up, but on false information? (Uh-Oh, is my naivety showing again?) People really will start rumors to keep the entire stock market down?
Apparently. Two minutes later, Mr. Cramer tweeted:
Jim Cramer (@jimcramer) 8/11/11 5:08 AM I want to be real clear about his. Many people want this market down. They spread things all day that are not true. You need to know that
That we are all so dependent on some people who could not care less about the economy as a whole, and that those people actually would try to wreck the stock market for personal gain just floors me.
On top of that, to have 401k’s and other investments that people are hoping to use to retire on tied to that system just seems crazy. I’ve got a long time before I’ll be able to retire (if ever), so there’ll be plenty of opportunity to make up for these fluctuations in the market. But it still sucks to get my statement and see 15-20% of my savings lost because of some jerks who are rich already trying to get richer by keeping the market down. It’s a big game to these guys. It’s like playing with monopoly money apparently, because they have so much real money that they don’t need to worry about whether they’re causing the next great recession/depression - they’ll be okay either way.
It seems shortsightedness is an issue with a lot of people when it comes to how their actions affect others financial well-being. The oil prices are based on speculation a lot of the time and fantasy the rest of the time. Because someone sneezed in Kuwait, our price per gallon will go up $0.25. The big oil companies are still pulling in profits far greater than some corporations can ever imagine, even when they’re making huge mistakes and polluting the environment. Pretty charmed life they’re living. And it all comes on the backs of the middle class & poor. We have to work harder to get ahead because these giants of industry need to add another ship to their fleet of yachts.*
Like I said yesterday, my opinion of the markets may be misguided, but I just feel like we’re just passengers in a giant game of high stakes chicken sometimes… and I never felt more so than during the debt ceiling debate. There were no good options, and the fact that our government played around so long made us all look foolish. However, I’ve never heard so much political debate in general conversation, so perhaps it will cause more of us to get involved to try to make a change (the little bit of optimism I have left is showing through in that sentence).
Or we’ll all forget about this once the next season of American Idol starts and just go back to being blissfully ignorant…
*I’d like to make a disclaimer statement: as much as it sounds like I’m angry toward the people who have done well for themselves and struck it rich or became influential, I’m not. I just do not like to be affected by their decisions; but I don’t think that they’re bad people because they are wealthy. If what you do makes you so rich that you use $100 bills as toilet paper, good for you… just don’t try to make more money by taking it from what little I have.
Do you ever feel like you’re constantly climbing stairs and not getting anywhere? Like you’re on the stair stepper machine at the gym? (I hate that thing).
Lately, I’ve kind of felt like I’m stuck in an M.C. Escher drawing when it comes to my career…
Image found at emma557.blogspot.com
I feel like I’m ascending the stairs of the profession of architecture, but as soon as I look around, I realize I’m really no further than I used to be - I can’t find the way that leads to the goal. For every step that I’ve taken to advance, there’s been many more that seem to have materialized. Most of those steps involve money that I don’t have. This is an expensive venture.
I finished undergrad with my Bachelor of Science in Architecture, but couldn’t get my license because I needed a graduate degree. I couldn’t afford to stay in school at the time for another two years, so I worked & struggled to support my growing family for six years before I went to grad school to get my masters degree. So, after two years of that (and so much student loan debt that my grand-kids will feel it) I earned my ‘professional degree’, thinking maybe I’d reach that next level. Not quite there yet.
I’m almost done with IDP (NCARB made sure to get their cut in fees), but will have to pay to renew my record next spring (fees). So now, I will be eligible to take the exams as soon as I send in my paperwork to the state (application fee involved for that too), but I don’t have enough money to schedule the exams - 7 parts at about $180 $210 (they changed the price on me) each. Cha-ching!
On top of all that, the world economy keeps going further into the tank, causing the outlook for our collective financial future to feel more and more bleak; I’ve got plenty of opinions on the stock market and its affects on those of us who have no influence on it - many of which are probably grossly misinformed: finance is not my strong suit - but that’s another post for another day. People are afraid to build right now, (or even if they want to, they can’t get financing) so very few architects/firms are getting work around here - nobody is rolling in the dough in the architecture field.
That said, I’m not someone who wants to become filthy rich doing this - I didn’t pursue architecture for the money (not that I would turn away a good paycheck). I just want to make enough to pay my bills, feed my kids, have a reliable mode of transportation, and save a little for retirement so that maybe I don’t have to work at Home Depot when I’m 85. Basically, live a semi-decent life, and stop living paycheck to paycheck. I’m doing this because I love the art of getting a building built. I like the fact that even if they don’t notice it, the general population is affected by the work we do as architects.
Maybe I’m naive, but I expected by the time I was into my thirties, I wouldn’t feel so anxious all the time about this stuff, that maybe I’d have an idea where I would end up, or if my goals were even attainable. Right now, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to where I want to be; and it gets harder and harder every day to not become a cynical d-bag all the time. I know I’ve made mistakes along the way that have made it harder for myself. I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to blame someone else for my struggles. However, it’s gotten to the point where I wonder sometimes if I should even bother trying anymore though, because it seems like the harder I try, the harder it becomes to move forward. But then I think about why I’m doing this (because I love architecture), and what I would rather be doing (nothing), and I decide I’ll be damned if I’m going to just give up.
So, I keep climbing the stairs, looking for that top landing…