Sunday, January 22, 2012

The real first phase of our career

I have already reflected on the phases on my career. And I have forecasted the next phase on the horizon, which is largely in line with - while still an aggressive development of - my current phase.

But beyond that, I know that at some point, I will return to The Real First Phase – the one we suppress before we even realize it’s a phase at all – let alone the most important.

It's the phase we develop as children.

I know, at my core, what my purpose is: I am meant to be an architect.

I  loved combining my brother's Legos and cars to design cities in our basement. I later designed entire worlds for my toy horses - spaces sprawling across my bedroom floor - out of everyday objects. I obsessively sketched dream homes when I was nine. Gazing out the window while driving through low-income areas as a child, I recall informing my dad that "if I were ever the governor, I would build everyone better places to live." ("You can't," he told me, "those people own those houses.") I am exceedingly affected by my environment - my first criteria in choosing a college, after four years in a high school built to withstand bombing, was a "beautiful campus." I feel the psychological impact of space and light. I see beyond the superficial, and I love architecture not for the crown molding and "cool" floorplans, but for designing an enriching experience and beautiful lives.

My ambition was originally stifled because I was (and frankly, still am) repulsed by the salaries associated with the field – which I assert is one of the most invaluable to mankind. Isn't it? We certainly don’t treat it that way. We pay doctors millions to save us in the few moments we need them, but shaft the folks who design the very environments that influence our long-term wellbeing to begin with.

I also felt discouraged by the stifling reality of the field: it's highly hierarchical , and you can spend a decade with a firm without designing much more than a bathroom. You could spend a lifetime never doing anything more meaningful than track homes. I wanted more for myself. And, quite frankly, the field at large.

And, to be honest, I didn't relate to my peers who were pursuing the field, and resented their reasons - ranging from "I want to build houses with slides!" to "I'm gonna build mansions!" It's not the stuff on which society should be built. (Maybe that's why they're tasked with bathrooms for ten years.)

But one day I'll pursue the field. And one day I’ll change the way it’s done.

We all have that real first phase. The one before we understand what a career is supposed to be. What was yours?

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