Thursday, February 3, 2011

A moment's pause....

2010 was an unbelievably busy year for me, especially professionally. Yet I find myself in the early days of 2011 feeling like I've worked my ass off for ten years only to achieve the mediocre goal of not getting fired or laid off. I've been rewarded by being given a big chunk of the interior planning on Gestalt HMO's Uber MOB, and I now find myself sitting in contentious meetings with clients who have been looking at the same floor plan for almost three months, and now all of a sudden they don't like where they are in the building and they need to move to a different floor now! and I find myself thinking is this really what I set out to do? My brain tickled with this a few weeks ago when it was announced that three associates in our office were being promoted to senior associate. I don't begrudge them the advancement--they're good, hardworking folks, but what of the rest of us? As my good pal Norman (who is an associate) mused, "The partners say they're worried about office morale, so they promote three people who are technically already promoted?" It then made me wonder what do I really want out of work, out of my architectural career. Do I want to be an associate? Do I even want to keep doing this? I never imagined, fair WAD readers, that I would be an architect until I was 70, but do I even want to be one when I'm 50? 40 (which is in five years, by the way)?

I suppose that now might not be the best time to muse on these things, and not because I have a job and many people don't have one. I've seen architecture when it's good, and it's not good right now because the economy's hard. And when the economy is hard, it frays everyone's nerves, even the nerves of people that have jobs. And those frayed nerves come into my user group meetings and leak out onto Howie and me when people are furious that Gestalt National didn't program their department with a vitals alcove for weighing patients and getting their blood pressures and temperatures, or they're pissed because their department is in the back corner of the basement and they feel like they got the short end of a stick that technically they were holding when we and Gestalt National put them in the basement four months ago and they acted fine with it. So for me to judge how I feel about my profession when things are hard for that profession would be like judging your entire marriage on the one day when your spouse is in a super-foul funk caused by five different horrible things at once.

But still, it feels like the learning curve on what I do every day, every week, every month is leveling out to near-flat. I'm doing different iterations of the same thing, the same tasks. To paraphrase George W. Bush, is our architect really learning? It doesn't feel much like it. But then I consider the whole notion of happiness: while work shouldn't be miserable and shouldn't make you miserable, should it also be euphoria-inducing, or should it just tolerable with momentary patches of small victories and small defeats? Am I asking too much of my job, my career, my profession? I don't think I am. There have been many many times between June 2000 and September 2008 in which I really liked my job and found it interesting or at least tolerable, with comparatively fewer moments in which it sucked canal water. Knowing that I've felt that before makes me think I at least need to be patient with this dissatisfaction I'm feeling. I can acknowledge it and deal with it, but I'm not going to act on it--architecture is fine for now, and I'm sure it will improve as the economy improves. However, I'm not going to push this feeling aside either. It means that I'm finding a lack of something not just in my life but in my profession, and improving things is always motivating for me.

Failing that, I could reorganize my closet.

9 comments:

amr said...

Well Pixie, every architect has that thought and as I'm a 'tad' older I can tell you it weighed heavily on me a while ago. Compounding the issue was the fact I started late... to architecture school that is.
If you can't change jobs to one a little more rewarding than one where clients aren't whinging about their lot in life, which by the sounds of things, you can't, then add some architecture to your life which is rewarding.
Such as, becoming active in the AIA perhaps in an area that interests you or perhaps joining something like Architecture for Humanity etc. Don't know enough about your fair city to offer more, being from the other side of the planet, other than passing through once on a snowboarding expedition.

For me, I left the office I worked for and started out on my own. Now I am about to start becoming active in talking about and promoting good design in my corner of the world. As a volunteer of course, but at least I want to do it.

Or you could design someone's deck or clean your shoe collection.

Mile High Pixie said...

Well stated, amr! The closet calls!

ms. kitty said...

I think everyone gets disenchanted with the humdrummity (?a word?) of a career, especially if it feels like some of it is questionably fair or ethical. When that happens to me (and it always does, regardless of how much I love my work), I find a place where ministry is needed and is more to my liking. Not by finding a new job, mind you, but by a new ministry-related task. Sometimes it's easy to find that new task and sometimes not. Right now the volunteer chaplaincy is filling the bill, but I think I will have to find something else before long, as it's losing its ability to help me deal with the humdrum. Good luck!

Ellen said...

It got so bad for me at one point that I had to walk away from architecture and be a snowboard instructor for ten years. I've recently gotten back into architecture, and I feel much better about it now.

Miss Kitty said...

I hear ya. It seems 2011 will be the Year I Get Out of Teaching. Back to PT status in the fall at D2U = $125/week. Umm, NO. It's not worth it anymore. No more martyrdom here.

Scarlett said...

come to vegas. we make all better.

Wilderness Gina said...

Jeeze! Everyone's leaving their jobs! El Sebano wnats to stop driving and get something at home. That won't last, but he won't listen. I don't see him at KIA for any period of time. I understand they're ass-holes there. Big turn over. Has Miss K tried there? At least she wouldn't be taller than them like most of us.

Anonymous said...

I found a good way to deal with this was to take up a hobby that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to think about work. And to have to dedicate time to that hobby, so that you *have to step away from work, periodically. In my case, I took up flying. Honestly, I'm so busy in the cockpit, trying to ensure everything remains "in the green" that I literally don't have time to think about work. And, to remain proficient, so I don't risk bending the airplane, myself, or any passengers, I *have to go flying at least once every couple of weeks. It really helps to maintain perspective. Contrast that with going hiking, for example, where only part of your brain is dedicated to the current task. What's left over seems to find its way wandering back to the stresses of work. True diversions are always worth their weight in Gold.

Sarge.

Wilderness Gina said...

I think I'll leave my job. Cats and Dogs- yur on yur own!