Friday, May 2, 2014

Hanging in there...

Wow, been a while since I posted, huh?  Guess I should say something, huh?

I am indeed still alive and feeling better. Six months of antidepressants, frequent chats with Vinnie (my erstwhile antiques-dealer-and-therapist pal), and some serious changes at work have started me on the road to recovery, or at least the road towards Giving A Fuck Again. I've been getting the support I need to do my job well and properly, and I've generally been given the space I need to do the stuff I like doing. (I think I scared the shit out of Howie, my long-time boss, during my meltdown. I think he might be a little more willing to back off from me so I don't just quit Design Associates in a desk-flipping-and-burning blaze of glory.)

I've had a hard time coming up with anything to say here on WAD, and when I do think of something, I don't feel like writing it down.  The biggest change in my life that I'm finding is a lack of my former energy and what I call sudden onset procrastination. Vinnie, however, has diagnosed it as "how everyone else feels all the goddamn time". I don't know if it's my late-thirties doing this to me, or if this is how I'm supposed to feel when I peel away the layers of depression and anxiety. Either way, I'm adjusting to a New Normal.

I'm still committed in some way to continuing to share with the world Why Architecture is Still Fucked Up and Needs to Fix Its Shit. Having been broken and chased into a black hole by my job and profession, I cannot stand by and watch it eat its young and itself. When I can, I'll muster up the energy to blog-n-bitch about what I see and what the profession's future can be.  Word.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

So, uh...yeah.

So, it's been awhile, and with good reason. Turns out my burnout was deeper than originally thought: it was depression.

It became clear after a wonderful vacation with Guy that I was constantly irritated and angry and felt like everything was stupid and pointless. It became clear during the Big Design Associates Partner & Associate Retreat when we were talking about the future of the firm for the next ten years, and all I could think was that this whole thing was a pointless fart-sniffing exercise in stupid futility. It became clear when I said I hated my job and I'd wasted my life at Design Associates, but when anyone asked what I'd rather do instead, my response was "nothing" or "it doesn't matter, it's gonna suck anyway". I called my dear pal, the antique dealer turned psychologist Vinnie, and after a long chat at the Oxford Hotel's Cruise Room, he observed that this looked like agitated depression and I needed to talk with my doctor about some medication stat.

Now, a couple of months later, I'm feeling better.  I'm not out of this and I'm not done, but I'm better. I think I could stand to go up on my meds a bit (I'm still pretty cranky and easily set off by the slightest thing), but I'm starting to be able to dissect when my irritation is work-related versus depression-related. I've also had a couple of successes at work, including a few professional speaking gigs involving a research project that I started working on in the late summer. 

I don't know if it's the depression or just where I am in life, but I find that I'm less and less willing to pull my punches when confronted with nonsense and bullshittery. Multiple times in the past few months, I've said aloud in meetings with the partners that the emperor in fact is nekkid as a jaybird and may in fact also be shitting himself. I have fumed to my colleagues and bosses that our refusal to engage our clients like adults will be our undoing, whether through fees or through burning out good staff because we charge too little and work good people way too hard to meet unreasonable requests time and time again. I have exhorted my colleagues to engage each other like adults and to look in the mirror at themselves, because the way we work isn't working anymore, and the way we conduct ourselves is counterproductive. If we're going to have a respectful, forthright firm culture, we're going to have to be respectful and forthright ourselves.  

We'll see if any of these comments get through. I know personal and organizational change is hard and takes time, so God/Allah/Budda/Shiva grant a bitch some patience while I wait for the emperor to get a bathrobe and flip-flops and maybe even a diaper or something.

Here's hoping 2014 is an improvement over 2013.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The worst architect in the world

Nope, it's not Frank Lloyd Wright, nor is it Peter Eisenmann. (zing!) It's this brilliant Old Spice commercial. See if you can figure out all the horrible, tragic mistakes he's made in his house in the last scene.

Monday, September 23, 2013

So what would I like for my birthday?

This week, Guy and I turn 45 and 38 respectively (for those new to WAD, my husband and I have the same birthday). I have a few professional engagements to attend to the first half of the week, and then we'll be in Paris, Bruges, and London for about a week and a half. As is our custom, we prefer to take a trip together rather than buy each other something for our birthdays.

We're all familiar with the trouble of buying gifts for other adults. What do you get someone that would be useful, and they'd like it, and it's not too expensive for you to buy? And what do you get someone like Guy and me, who try really hard not to have a lot of stuff around? (Living in a condo will make you edit your possessions, though not as much as we probably should edit them.) Guy and I get out of this conundrum with each other by taking a trip for our birthday, but Christmas becomes more problematic. Usually, we either get the other person a gift card, or we send each other a web link to the exact thing we like. Yes, it's anticlimactic and totally expected, but what it lacks in surprise, it makes up for in appreciation for the effort and follow-through.

But in my personal and professional malaise this summer (for which I am indeed receiving professional help, thanks for asking, but for which I'm also trying desperately not to have to take medication), I've been wondering what I want, what I really really want (thanks, Spice Girls). A gift should be unexpected, delightful, and useful, and it should be appreciated all the time, not just on the day of its receipt. So what gift would I most like to receive?

I'd like to see my profession rise back to a level of real respect and respectability. 

I'd like to see us get paid what we're worth and not constantly be worn down by the pressures of clients that can't figure out why it costs so much to have a skilled professional design a building such that you won't have leaks, get sued, or have huge utility bills, and so you'll be able to use it for decades to come (or sell it easily if you need to do so). I'd like to see clients stop asking us to shave off our services like doing a full assessment of your existing building is optional. I'd like to see clients stop thinking they can do my job because they watched a three-day marathon of Trading Spaces. The doctors I work with hate it when you come to them with your pre-diagnosed disease that you got off of WebMD, but they can't see the irony when they come to me having done the same thing with a crude sketch they made from a free download of Google SketchUp; nothing you just drew meets any building code known to the state of Wyoming, so knock it off. I'm drawing what I'm drawing because it's the right thing to do to give you a space that meets codes as well as human comfort and ease of use. I'm not trying to draw "fancy" stuff and indicate "fancy" finishes because I want to turn your building's lobby into the Waldorf Astoria--it's because these are the right finishes for the space that will wear well and that align with your original vision of having a hospitality-like "classy" building.  And speaking of building costs, I'd like to see the contractors I work with not turn every goddamn project into design-build. Every time I insist that the finishes and designs really are going to be the best in the long run, I get accused of jacking up the price to the owner.  And I know who's gonna win that little pointing contest. So much for being "team players."

But the biggest thing I'd like to see is architects themselves taking the reins back. I'd like to see us stop writing, speaking, and designing for other architects and start writing, speaking, and designing for the world. I'd like to see us really reach out to people who have never heard the work "architectonics" and don't give a fuck who Kenneth Frampton is. I'd like to see us use words that an 11th grader would use, not because I think the average non-architect is dumb, but because we need to use real, clear language with the world if we're going to explain to them (and convince them) why what we do is important and more relevant than ever, and why we need to be paid accordingly and respected and given the space to do that work.

Seeing architecture truly own the 21st century: that's the gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Soggy but safe

The rains here in Colorado are supposed to end today, fingers crossed. There are some parts of the Front Range and east side of the Rockies that have gotten a year's worth of rain in one week. As some of y'all have probably heard, the entire town of Lyons is cut off from the rest of civilization because the roads in and out of it have been washed out. Literally--washed out. Gone.

Being in Denver proper has protected Guy and me from a lot of flooding problems, though my friends who live in Aurora and the outskirts of Denver have had to pump water out of their basements. Cherry Creek (the main waterway that runs through the heart of Denver) was way over its banks last week, which made bike travel problematic but not impossible. The flooding also affected some schools, so some of my coworkers had to stay home last Thursday and Friday because their kids' schools were closed.

Please donate what you can to the Red Cross to help out. Things should start drying out tomorrow, but it will be along haul to get some folks back in their houses and put their lives back together.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Architect undergoing radical transformation, please stand by

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I've had a very good reason for my relative silence:

I'm burned out.

After working on St. Ermahgerd for over a year, and especially after the last few months on it being nothing but stressballs, I finally had a meltdown at work. Not a screaming and cursing meltdown (I already had three of those in April and two or three in May), but a Skinner-box-learned-helplessness-shaking-and-weeping meltdown. It was bad enough that Howie actually pulled me into a conference room and acknowledged that he had done this to me.  (It wasn't just him, per se; my condition is partially my responsibility but also lays to a great degree at the feet of Bosley and all of Design Associates' management.)

To keep myself employed while working through the burnout, I came up with an alternate project that involves reviewing DA's processes on design projects, and Howie and Bosley were behind it, though I must say I'm not entirely sure they a) understand it and b) are fully going to be behind the results of my research.  Either way, it's keeping me busy and mostly motivated and getting out of bed in the morning...mostly.

I must confess that even with this non-billable project I'm on, my heart speeds up while my stomach sinks when I see either Howie or Bosley in my periphery, especially if they're slowing down or pausing at my desk. Whenever I'm asked a random question about St. Ermahgerd, my reflexive reaction is exasperation and profanity. When I'm asked to work on any other issue that's reasonably required of me as an associate, I sag and sigh and respond with irritated brevity.  And more profanity.

So, posting is going to be irregular for a while as I figure out what my problem is and how to adjust my li'l attitude here. But I also need rest, which is hard for me to a) accept and b) do.  Wish me luck, and thanks for your patience.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Breakfast with Mom



[Mom on phone with El Seebeno]
Where are you? Are you in town?...again?!...*tsk* I made you some leftovers for lun--...it's raining? Again!?!?...if you let the dogs out in that weather, I'm going to beat your eyes out when I get home...no, we're going to the Cherry Creek Arts Festival today...the Cherry. Creek. Arts--...no, not the Titty Creek, the Cherry Creek......



Mom is a Zen teacher for me. She moves at a steady pace, not fast but deliberate and purposeful. She reminds me to take a moment before you go rushing off into whatever nonsense you think is "urgent". She's been nursing a messed-up right shoulder, with some osteoarthritis and partially torn rotator cuff and partially torn biceps in it. For all I know, she's been using her shoulder joint as a fanny pack, and there's a pack of gum, a notepad, and a chap-stick in there, along with a Starbucks gift card. So she spent the week with me moving very deliberately, pacing herself and using her energy at elevation, plus trying not to re-injure the shoulder while slogging through PT, which was sometimes easy and sometimes made her wince.