August 01, 2011

To be (an Architect) or not to be, that is the question...

We sometimes get these days and moments of self doubt and questions of self worth in our lives. And we are always constantly questioning about the career path we have tread. Am I gonna be a licensed architect? Can I actually become a licencsed architect? Do I have what it takes to make it? and will I be able to go out and do a damn good job at what I do? (And from my setbacks and hard experiences in University, I do get at myself with these questions - ALOT, and it's sometimes disheartening). And usually, I would usually beat myself up for it, but for somehow this time it is different, and I had a positive experience and possibly might be scratching the surface that I might want to explore.

















I just arrived back in Toronto a few weeks ago from a conference on student leadership in Washington DC that was hosted by the American Institute of Architecture Students. There we received alot of seminars on management, selling, budgeting, as well as trends and the discourse in the future of architectural practice and architectural pedagogy. I learned so much, made friends from different parts of the United States, and was fortunate to get out of Toronto for a change. (I have never been able to go to various cities during the earlier years of degree - and the primary reason was time and money, it's only now that I have been blessed with these opportunities - I'm saddened to pass up on NYC, Chicago, and the other "Au Currant" cities of architecture, but I have been able to check out cities like Boston, Minneapolis , and DC - But hopefully soon I can go to NYC and Chi-Town).I think it was later in my degree and after my first AIAS Forum when I actually appreciated the AIAS and my local AIAS chapter in which I found a support system of friends that helped me trek through my degree. I have personally experienced some of the most bitter moments in my program, and I hope that as a chapter vice-president for this upcoming school year, I will be able to guide students and help them find the resources and support they need as they go through their education.

I guess, my epiphany of exploring non-traditional career plans was realized in a roundtable discussion on the last day of this year's Grassroots Conference. it was about the practice styles of different architects and how they saw their firms in terms of their ethic and values - seeing if we have similarities to these practioners. The facilitator for this roundtable brought up a question that really struck a chord in one of the questions. She was asking what kind of architects would we be like. Would we be professionals who come up with crazy designs, or the ones that were practical, the ones who see the big idea, the ones who took their time, the ones who valued process, product or business and e.t.c.

I opened up to the people in my roundtable group, I told those around me that I was a struggling student in my degree and how my strengths seem to be more on the leadership and organizational side of things than design. I love design, and I loved architecture to bits since I was young - but I knew that I was a struggling student - I suck at renderings and keeping up on track with the software, I suck at cranking out something quickly - but from helping out in student groups, youth groups, branding/graphics for the FORUM conference my AIAS chapter hosted - I realized that my strengths were more about looking at the process and picking out the overlooked items that have great impacts, I was strong in communication with diagrams/graphics/talking as well as coming up with big ideas.

...However, opening up and showing a vulnerable side of my life lead to the unexpected. I thought I was gonna get some disgusted eyes saying "then why the f**k are you here?" or like "c'mon now..." but the response was different. The others joined in and we all started sharing our commonalities with the challenges in architecture school that I brought up. Many people were talking about how they were better in having big ideas, but struggled in expressing it right since they were struggling with harnessing the computer software. others were saying how they were good at managing the process for group projects. I felt less alone in this, and started to realize the possibility that maybe I can swerve my career direction to use my architectural education background into something with what I am good at. ( I'm not sure what that is, it might just be procrastination from not finding time to work on my portfolio - but even friends have seen the stress and heartache that I've been through and maybe I need to rethink and reevaluate things. I'm not gonna drop school - just I wanna see what this education can do for me)The conference brought up how today we are seeing emerging professionals in the field of architecture who are choosing to take non-traditional paths. And maybe this might lead into something interesting. we had speakers and lectures of people with an architectural education that chose to go into business, computer software companies, to go into urban planning, interior design, and project management. I guess maybe this might be the direction I wanna take. I'm not really sure who to get advice on this, and I might know and might be shy to. I guess I'm in a point in my life starting to realize how far I can go.

I remembered I told a professor "I'm dedicated and passionate for this field" and the response was "(Don't fully rely on that) Dedication and passion can only take you so far man..." I guess now, I'm at another point in my life where I'm wondering how hard my efforts are, and if I'm hurting myself more than ever after numerous tries at being the best and at the end being disappointed in aiming high and not meeting the standards I set for myself - is it all worth it? In this conference, it made me start to question and reflect upon this more. The facilitator is an author who wrote about California-based architects and their practice and their stories of failure and sucess. She told us that she loved photography and studied it - however, she realized that she's good, her peers are wizards at photography and she began to discovered her strength in writing and communication - so she decided to use her strengths and passions and curtail her career into becoming a writer, using her photography in her work. I kinda feel like I might have to reconsider. I love architecture, I like what I've studied - I can have great ideas, but there are sooo many students before me that can do it much more well, so much more that are kick-ass in the software. I know I've invested 5 years (and now a final year) and maybe my strengths lay somewhere else?

I value the things I have gained in my architectural education - though daunting and stressful - it has made me become more of a hard-worker, a team-player, and is building a strong ethic in me, I guess now it is more of reflection if I wanna go far and aim high for an M.Arch or do I wanna go for an MBA or study Project Management or Planning or another design field after this like graphic design or something?

However, the challenge is this, I am interested in sooo many things and open to things that it might be hard to discover. I keep myself open to the world around me. My last years in high school as I've set my sights towards "RyeArch!"made me intrigued that there is a whole world outside of Rexdale (my home town). And this is reflected in the manner that I led my years in my degree. Now, I'm not your cavalier, wildchild, university student that chooses to get drunk and party like it's 1999, but even as I went to Ryerson - I enjoyed my electives that gave me a world outside of architecture. I enjoyed making friends with students outside of architecture just because I felt that architecture might get more insights from knowing the world around you and getting along with others outside the field - and for the sanity of realizing that life isn't just sexy buildings. I enjoyed singing in church choir twice a week. And though I'm obese, I enjoyed taking time at the gym to work out. And aversive to weight loss, I was always into culinary arts (though high school made me realized that I would not like this as a career). Though being busy and stretched in all of this had its cost - it was a reflection of my value to be well-rounded and not just overtly focused on architecture.

I guess, right now I'm just figuring out this along with the other things that might've hindered or struggled with over my degree and learning more about who I am more personally than ever. Can it be that now I am becoming a little more realistic...maybe at tad negative? - or possibly practical on what I know more about myself. I just hope that whatever will happen, I will be content. I'm just afraid to be disappointed in my 30s realizing that I wish I was that architect, or to be disappointed that I didn't attempt it or go all the way or likewise the disappointment or dislike of letting go of a career goal you had since you were in your sixth grade. But for now, this reconsideration is looking into who am I as a person, what are my strengths and weaknesses - and how I can make my career something I can be happy and content.


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Goodbye Undergrad, Thanks AIAS!
I Just Got (AIAS) FORUM'D

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